Thursday, June 30, 2016

#21 Joe Collins - New York Yankees


Joseph Edward Collins
New York Yankees
First Base

Bats:  Left  Throws:  Left  Height:  6'0"  Weight:  185
Born:  December 3, 1922, Scranton, PA
Signed:  Signed by the New York Yankees as an amateur free agent in 1939
Major League Teams:  New York Yankees 1948-1957
Died:  August 30, 1989, Union, NJ (age 66)

Joe Collins played in parts of 10 seasons with the Yankees, serving as their starting first baseman between 1951 and 1954 and winning five World Championships with the club.  He hit four key World Series home runs, including a pair in Game One of the 1955 World Series to give the Yankees a 6-5 win over the Dodgers.  Wearing #15 during his formidable years with the Bronx Bombers, Collins appeared in 908 career games and had a .256 lifetime average.  He finished his career with 86 home runs and 329 RBIs.

Building the Set
January 10, 1999 in Raleigh, NC - Card #175
I indicate clearly in my notes that this card (along with two others) was purchased at the Raleigh Sports Card & NASCAR Collectibles Show, not to be confused with the more benign Raleigh Sports Card & Memorabilia Show.  In any event, the card set me back only $6, which is an absolute bargain considered the card is in pristine shape and it's a card from the highly coveted Yankees team set.

I don't miss my time living in Raleigh, but I do miss these semi-regular baseball card shows which were held at the North Carolina State Fairgrounds.

The Card
What's happening in the action photo?  My best guess is that Collins is bending over to stop an errant pick-off throw and the runner has scampered back, balancing himself on the corner of the bag.  The portrait of Collins was used on his 1955 Topps card, but not his 1954 Topps card.

On the back of the card, the 14 seasons referenced also include his time playing in the Yankees minor league system.  There's also mention of his two home runs in Game One of the 1955 World Series, perhaps his most memorable feat on the diamond.

1956 Season
By 1956, Collins had lost the every day job as the Yankees starting first baseman to Moose Skowron (#61).  Platooning with Skowron, and starting most games in which the opponent started a right-handed pitcher, Collins still appeared in 100 games that season, hitting just .225.  In the 1956 World Series, Collins hit .238 (5 for 21) with two RBIs.

Phillies Connection
After his 10th season with the Yankees, at the age of 35, Collins was sold to the Phillies.  With Ed Bouchee suspended for the duration of the season, the Phils were in need of a regular first baseman and their hope was that Collins would fill the void.  Rather than report to the Phillies for the 1958 season, Collins announced his retirement, and it was reported by the New York media that he declared, "I want to be remembered as a Yankee."  Collins forfeited a $100,000 salary by declining to report to the Phillies.

1952 Bowman #181
 
1952 Topps #202
 
1957 Topps #295
 
2002 Topps Chrome
1952 Reprints #52R18
Other Notable Baseball Cards
First Mainstream Card:  1952 Bowman #181
First Topps Card:  1952 Topps #202
Last Topps Card:  1957 Topps #295
Most Recent Mainstream Card:  2002 Topps Chrome 1952 Reprints #52R18

40 - Collins non-parallel baseball cards in the Beckett online database as of 6/29/16

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.

Wednesday, June 15, 2016

#20 Al Kaline - Detroit Tigers


Albert William Kaline
Detroit Tigers
Outfield


Bats:  Right  Throws:  Right  Height:  6'1"  Weight:  175
Born:  December 19, 1934, Baltimore, MD
Signed:  Signed by the Detroit Tigers as an amateur free agent in 1953
Major League Teams:  Detroit Tigers 1953-1974
Hall of Fame Induction:  1980

Al Kaline, "Mr. Tiger," became the regular right fielder for the Tigers in 1954 at the age of 19.  He'd stay with the franchise for parts of three decades, eventually retiring at the age of 39 following the 1974 season.  At just 20 years old in 1955, Kaline led the American League in hitting with a .340 average becoming the youngest player to accomplish that feat.  He'd finish his impressive career with 15 All-Star Game selections, 10 Gold Gloves, a .297 lifetime average, 399 home runs and 1,582 RBIs.  His ability to serve as the Tigers' designated hitter in 1974 allowed him to achieve the 3,000 hit plateau, and he'd retire with 3,007 career hits.

Kaline helped lead the Tigers to a World Series title in 1968 and he was inducted into the Hall of Fame in 1980.

Building the Set
December 25, 1995 from San Diego, CA - Card #142
Kaline wasn't really on my radar growing up, and the first time I became aware of him was because he was a favorite of Thomas Magnum, the title character in the amazing Magnum P.I. television show.  In one of my favorite episodes from the series, the season eight premier episode, Magnum's friend Rick brings him a 1954 Topps Kaline rookie card in an effort to reach a comatose Magnum.

That episode aired in October 1987, and this 1956 Topps Kaline card entered my collection eight years later as a Christmas present from my parents.  I was a senior in college in 1995, and my records show that this is the one and only 1956 Topps card we added to our set that year.  The last cards added to set before I received this Kaline card were the cards I received from my parents for Christmas in 1994.  Such was life for a college junior/senior where there were bigger fish to fry (and bills to pay) in lieu of obtaining vintage baseball cards.

As was the norm for big ticket purchases, Dad purchased this card from Kit Young Cards in San Diego and he paid $60 for it.

Christmas 1995 with my sister Carol

The Card
This is Kaline's third Topps card, all of which use the same portrait photo.  In the action photo, it looks as if Kaline just misses tripping on a glove and a bat as he crosses home plate.

The back of the card references Kaline's status as a bonus baby, meaning the amount the Tigers paid to sign him was high enough that they had to keep him in the majors rather than send him directly to the minors.  Evidently, the Topps artist felt that Kaline would have bought some weird truck/tank combo vehicle with his bonus money.  His two home runs in one inning feat came on April 17, 1955 against the Athletics in the sixth inning.

1956 Season
At just 21 years old, Kaline was already the Tigers franchise player.  Sharing starting outfield duties with left fielder Jim Delsing (#338) and center fielder Bill Tuttle (#203), Kaline started all but three games for the Tigers in right field.  He was named to his second All-Star team and hit .314 with 27 home runs and 128 RBIs.  His outstanding season helped him to finish third in the American League MVP voting behind Yogi Berra (#110) and triple crown winner Mickey Mantle (#135).

1954 Topps #201
1974 Topps #215
1975 Topps #4
2016 Topps Archives #304
Other Notable Baseball Cards
First Mainstream Card:  1954 Topps #201
First Topps Card:  1954 Topps #201
Last Topps Card (as a player):  1974 Topps #215
Most Recent Topps Card (post-career):  1975 Topps #4
Most Recent Mainstream Card:  2016 Topps Archives #304 SP

Kaline received a card in the 1975 Topps highlights subset, celebrating his 3,000th hit.  His final base card as a player appears within the 1974 Topps set.

1,548 - Kaline non-parallel baseball cards in the Beckett online database as of 6/14/16

Sources:  
Baseball Reference
Beckett Database
National Baseball Hall of Fame
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.