Monday, February 22, 2016

#18 Dick Donovan - Chicago White Sox


Richard Edward Donovan
Chicago White Sox
Pitcher

Bats:  Left  Throws:  Right  Height:  6'3"  Weight:  190
Born:  December 7, 1927, Boston, MA
Signed:  Signed by the Boston Braves as an amateur free agent in 1947
Major League Teams:  Boston Braves 1950-1952; Detroit Tigers 1954; Chicago White Sox 1955-1960; Washington Senators 1961; Cleveland Indians 1962-1965
Died:  January 6, 1997, Weymouth, MA (age 69)

Dick Donovan appeared in parts of four seasons with the Braves and Tigers in the early 1950s before establishing himself as one of the American League's best pitchers in 1955.  That season saw him win 15 games and make his first All-Star team.  One of his best seasons was 1957 when he went 16-6 with a league leading 16 complete games. He made two more All-Star teams in his career - in 1961 when he led the league with a 2.40 ERA and in 1962 when he won 20 games.  His stellar 1962 season gave him a placing of fifth in that year's league MVP voting.

Building the Set
December 3, 2005 in Ft. Washington, PA - Card #270
This was one of eight cards I purchased at the 93rd Philadelphia Sports Card Show, held in the Ft. Washington Expo Center.  I imagine most of my budget for this show went towards completing the 2005 Topps Heritage set, which used the 1956 Topps design.  My wife Jenna and I attended this show together and we would have been married less than six months at this point.

The Card
The back of this card contains an uncorrected error, indicating that Donovan threw left-handed. Donovan was in fact a righty, as evidenced by his photo on the front of the card.  Also, Donovan changed his number with the White Sox from 31 to 22 in 1955, meaning that that the action photo on the front of the card was taken during the 1955 season.

The final panel on the back mentions Donovan's hitting prowess.  In 1955, he finished the season with a .224 average (17 for 76) with a home run and five RBIs.  He'd finish his career with a .163 average and 15 career home runs.

1956 Season
Donovan was the White Sox number two starter in 1956 behind staff ace Billy Pierce (#160).  In 34 games, he compiled a record of 12-10 with a 3.64 ERA.  His WHIP of 1.155 led the entire American League.

1955 Topps #146
1963 Topps #370
Other Notable Baseball Cards
First Mainstream Card:  1955 Topps #146
First Topps Card:  1955 Topps #146
Last Topps Card:  1963 Topps #370
Most Recent Mainstream Card:  1963 Topps #370

This most recent mainstream card is definitely subjective here.  Donovan has appeared on a number of extremely short-printed cut autograph cards over the past 15-plus years.  He appeared in a few TCMA collector sets following his playing days - 1979 TCMA 50's and 1981 White Sox 1959 TCMA.  Finally, as his career winded down with the Indians, Donovan was featured in the 1964 and 1965 Jay Publishing Indians sets and the 1964 Kahn's sets.  I'd consider all those sets to be more oddball than mainstream.

66 - Donovan non-parallel baseball cards in the Beckett online database as of 2/21/16

Sources:  
Baseball Reference
Beckett Database
SABR
The Trading Card Database

In some cases, the first and last cards listed above are subjective and chosen by me if multiple cards were released within the same year.  Most recent mainstream card may also be subjective and does not include extremely low serial numbered cards, buybacks or cut autograph cards.

Tuesday, February 2, 2016

#17 Gene Conley - Milwaukee Braves


Donald Eugene Conley
Milwaukee Braves
Pitcher


Bats:  Right  Throws:  Right  Height:  6'8"  Weight:  225
Born:  November 10, 1930, Muskogee, OK
Signed:  Signed by the Boston Braves as an amateur free agent in 1950
Major League Teams:  Boston Braves 1952; Milwaukee Braves 1954-1958; Philadelphia Phillies 1959-1960; Boston Red Sox 1961-1963

Gene Conley, all 6 feet and 8 inches of him, won a World Series ring with the Braves in 1957 and helped the Boston Celtics win three NBA titles in 1959, 1960 and 1961.  His SABR biography notes that he played 12 seasons in the NBA and MLB over six years without a day off in between seasons. A two time Minor League Player of the Year (in 1951 and 1953), Conley was also named to three All-Star teams.

In 11 seasons with the Braves, Phillies and Red Sox, Conley went 91-96 with a 3.82 ERA.  He also played six seasons in the NBA with the Celtics and New York Knicks.

Building the Set
June 20, 1992 in Ocean City, NJ - Card #101
This is one of 11 cards my Dad I bought in June 1992 at the Ocean City baseball card show held on the boardwalk at the Music Pier.  We paid $60 for the lot of 11 cards, which at the time was most likely a steal.  Chronologically, I have this listed as the 101st card we added to the set.

I would have just graduated high school when we attended this show, and I'd be heading off to college in the fall.  If I had to guess, I'd say we purchased this lot of 11 cards from a baseball card dealer who had a store called Diamond Dust.  His cards were always nicely displayed in binders and I remember his table would be positioned in the back right of the lower level of the Music Pier.

After purchasing these cards, Dad and I undoubtedly sat at the counter of Mack & Manco's, enjoying a few slices with birch beer.

The Card
As is the case with most of these first series cards, this is the third time collectors would have seen Conley's head shot photo.  The same photo is used on his 1954 and 1955 Topps cards. All three panels on the back of Conley's card paint him as a larger than life athlete.

1956 Season
Shoulder problems hampered Conley throughout the 1956 season, although he still appeared in 31 games with the Braves.  Appearing primarily as a relief pitcher as the season wore on, Conley went 8-9 with a 3.13 ERA for the second place Braves.

Phillies Career
Right before the start of the 1959 season, on March 31st, the Phillies traded Ted Kazanski, Stan Lopata (#183) and Johnny O'Brien (#65) to the Braves for Conley, Harry Hanebrink and Joe Koppe. The new Phillies general manager was John Quinn.  Quinn had spent the previous 13 years as GM for the Braves so he was familiar with the players he was acquiring.  Conley reported late to spring training following the trade as his Celtics were busy wrapping up their second NBA title.

Conley enjoyed one of his finest baseball seasons in 1959, making the N.L. All-Star team and finishing the season with a 12-7 record and a 3.00 ERA.  He pitched two perfect innings in the All-Star Game, striking out both Ted Williams (#5) and Yogi Berra (#110).  At the end of the season, he was named the N.L. Comeback Player of the Year.

Conley's second and final season with the Phillies saw him post a record of 8-14.  When he refused to end his basketball career to focus solely on baseball, the Phillies sent Conley to the Red Sox on December 15, 1960 for Frank Sullivan (#71).  Conley appeared on two Topps cards and within three oddball issues to mark his time in Philadelphia.  He's in the 1959 and 1960 Topps sets, as well as the 1960 Armour Coins and 1961 Post sets as a member of the Phillies.  He also has a postcard within the multi-year set released by the club throughout the 1950s and 1960s.

1953 Topps #215
 
1959 Topps #492
 
1964 Topps #571
 
2013 Topps Heritage Real
One Autographs #ROA-GC
Other Notable Baseball Cards
First Mainstream Card:  1953 Topps #215
First Topps Card:  1953 Topps #215
Representative Phillies Card:  1959 Topps #492
Last Topps Card:  1964 Topps #571
Most Recent Mainstream Card:  2013 Topps Heritage Real One Autographs #ROA-GC

50 - Conley non-parallel baseball cards in the Beckett online database as of 2/1/16

Conley's final Topps card features him as a member of the Cleveland Indians.  He had signed with the Indians on April 22, 1964, following his release by the Red Sox.  He pitched two minor league games with the Indians before deciding his long lingering shoulder injury couldn't take any more strain.  He retired from baseball at the age of 33.

Granted, I know absolutely nothing about basketball cards, but I find it strange that Conley didn't appear on any basketball cards during his six-year NBA career.

Sources:  
Baseball Reference
Beckett Database
The Phillies Room
SABR
The Trading Card Database

In some cases, the first and last cards listed above are subjective and chosen by me if multiple cards were released within the same year.  Most recent mainstream card may also be subjective and does not include extremely low serial numbered cards, buybacks or cut autograph cards.