Friday, March 25, 2016

#19 Chuck Diering - Baltimore Orioles


Charles Edward Allen Diering
Baltimore Orioles
Outfield

Bats:  Right  Throws:  Right  Height:  5'10"  Weight:  165
Born:  February 5, 1923, St. Louis, MO
Signed:  Signed by the St. Louise Cardinals as an amateur free agent in 1941
Major League Teams:  St. Louis Cardinals 1947-1951; New York Giants 1952; Baltimore Orioles 1954-1956
Died:  November 23, 2012, St. Louis, MO (age 89)

Chuck Diering was signed by his hometown Cardinals in 1941, but his three years of service during World War II postponed his big league debut until 1947.  He became a regular with the Cardinals in 1949, splitting time in center field with Stan Musial.  The Cardinals traded him to the Giants following the 1951 season and he came to the Orioles following the 1953 season via the Rule 5 draft. As the starting center fielder for the Orioles in their inaugural 1954 season, Diering hit .258 and was known more for his glove and steady defense than for his bat.  He was chosen as the MVP of that first Orioles team.

Building the Set
Summer of 1983 or 1984 in Millville, NJ - Card #1
Diering's card has the honor of being the symbolic first card in our 1956 Topps set.  I've previously posted this recollection over at The Phillies Room, but I'll repeat that post here to tell the story of how my Dad and I first started collecting the 1956 Topps set.  Technically speaking, we actually began collecting the set in the summer of 1987, but this card (along with the other Original 44) first entered my collection three or four years before that.

I think it was either the summer of 1983 or 1984 when a shoebox of vintage baseball cards, football cards and a few non-sports cards arrived into my world.  The box contained about a hundred cards dating between 1950 and 1956, and for the most part, they were all in excellent shape.  A friend of the family was in the process of cleaning up and moving into her new house when she found the old shoebox and she wondered if the only kid she knew who collected baseball cards (me) would be interested in looking through it – maybe even taking the box off her hands.

She dropped the box off to my parents and asked them to have me look through the box and take what I was interested in. Turns out, I was interested in everything.  Up to that point, the oldest cards in my collection were cards from the early '70s I had obtained through trades or cards that my Dad had picked up for me at yard sales or small baseball card shows.  (My Dad had given me a few dog-earred ’59 Topps cards – Juan Pizzaro and Jim Busby – a few years prior, and I completely forget how or why he had purchased these cards for me.)

My parents asked me to pick out a few cards from the box, and then we’d return the rest to the family friend.  Problem was, I wanted them all.  I really wanted them all.  I diligently and meticulously went through one of my price guides and determined the “value” of the treasure chest. I probably used my Sport Americana Baseball Card Price Guide No. 4, edited by Dr. James Beckett, and I had no way to value the football or non-sports cards.  My memory is fuzzy, and I can't find the original tally, but I think I came up with the box being worth somewhere in the neighborhood of $300 to $400, which I knew my parents definitely did not have in their discretionary spending budget.  But they could tell how much I wanted those cards, as I lovingly studied each and every one and handled each as if it were some long-lost artifact.

I don’t know the exact details, but I believe my Dad went back to the friend and told her we’d take the whole box, but only if she let him give her some money for it.  I believe she was genuinely shocked that the box of old cardboard pictures had some value, and that someone was willing to give her cash for it.  My Dad shared the list I had created showing the “book value” of the cards and he mentioned how it was going to be close to impossible to get me to pick and choose which ones I wanted.  When all was said and done, the family friend, who had absolutely no intention of making money on this endeavor, walked away with (I think) something in the neighborhood of $100 for the whole lot.

Within the spoils were 44 cards from the 1956 Topps set – by far the most cards from any one set.  I studied them, I sorted them, and I pretty much memorized every detail of those 44 cards.  

And so a few years later, in the summer of 1987 while on a family vacation, I was giddy with excitement when we came across a few ’56 Topps cards in the Walker Gallery on the main drag in Cooperstown, New York.  My Dad and I studied the cards for sale and he casually asked me the question, “Why don’t we try to put together the whole set?” We bought four cards that day for $9.25.  Those cards, along with the 44 from the magic shoebox, became the basis for our 1956 Topps set.

The Card
Since this is one of Original 44, I've probably studied and appreciated this card more than most of the cards in the set.  For that reason, whenever I come across Diering's name or one of his other baseball cards, I instantly think of the smiling young man from the back of this card wearing a crown.

Diering wore #32 with the Orioles, so it's very likely that the action photo actually features him sliding into second in a game against the Yankees.  (Or maybe the White Sox?)

1956 Season
Relegated to a bench position in 1956, Diering played his last major league game on June 24th.  In 50 games, Diering hit .186 (18 for 97) with a home run and four RBIs.  It appears as if he was loaned to the Dodgers' organization at some point during the season, as he appeared in 57 for their Triple-A club in Montreal.  Diering split time between the Orioles and Cardinals organizations in 1957, appearing in a total of 143 minor league games before calling it a career.

1950 Bowman #179
 
1952 Topps #265
 
2005 Topps Heritage Real
One Autographs #RO-CD
Other Notable Baseball Cards
First Mainstream Card:  1950 Bowman #179
First Topps Card:  1952 Topps #265
Last Topps Card:  1956 Topps #19
Most Recent Mainstream Card:  2011 Topps Lineage Autographs #CD

Diering appeared within the 1947 Tip Top and 1949 Eureka Stamps sets, but I consider his 1950 Bowman card to be his first mainstream baseball card appearance.  He also had an autographed card within the 2005 Topps Heritage Real One Autographs set, which reprinted his original 1956 Topps card.

25 - Diering non-parallel baseball cards in the Beckett online database as of 3/24/16

Sources:  
Baseball Reference
Beckett Database
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.