Thursday, October 20, 2016

#25 Ted Kluszewski - Cincinnati Redlegs


Theodore Bernard Kluszewski
Cincinnati Redlegs
First Base

Bats:  Left  Throws:  Left  Height:  6'2"  Weight:  225
Born:  September 10, 1924, Argo, IL
Signed:  Signed by the Cincinnati Reds as an amateur free agent in 1946
Major League Teams:  Cincinnati Reds 1947-1957; Pittsburgh Pirates 1958-1959; Chicago White Sox 1959-1960; Los Angeles Angels 1961
Died:  March 29, 1988, Cincinnati, OH (age 63)

Ted "Big Klu" Kluszewski was a powerful slugger with the Reds throughout the 1950s, known as much for his huge biceps and his sleeveless jerseys as his home run totals.  A four-time All-Star, Kluszewski enjoyed his best season in 1954, leading the National League in home runs (49) and RBIs (141), while striking out only 35 times.  He finished second in the 1954 N.L. MVP voting behind Willie Mays (#130).

Kluszewski played 15 years in the Majors, tallying 279 home runs.  His sole postseason appearance came in the 1959 World Series when he hit .391 and launched three home runs for the White Sox in a losing effort against the Dodgers.  Following his playing days, Kluszewski served as a Reds coach during the Big Red Machine years between 1970 and 1978.

Building the Set
August 30, 1988 in Millville, NJ - Card #65
There were two baseball card stores located on High Street of my hometown Millville, NJ while I was growing up.  The first was affectionately known as the "Card Doctor's" and I have no idea as to the official store name or any details on the store's owner.  The second was Brokell's, located in a small stand-alone building.  After a quick Google Maps search, I believe the former location of Brokell's is now a Tae Kwon Do studio?  (I honestly don't know if this is right building or not, but it seems right.)

I'm also not sure what would have led to my Dad and me to head over to Brokell's on this late summer Tuesday.  Dad worked over the summer, so the fact that this card was purchased on a Tuesday is even more mysterious to me.  This was the only card we purchased that day and we weren't doing much to help pay Mr. Brokell's rent as my records show we paid only $2 for the card. This is one of four cards we acquired for the set from Brokell's, all purchased between April and October 1988.

The Card
As this is the first Reds card in the set, we need to talk about the use of the "Redlegs" name on all the Reds cards.  The Reds adopted the Redlegs moniker in 1953 at the height of the nation's Red Scare for fear of being associated with the threat of Communism.  Topps followed suit until the "Reds" name was restored for the 1959 baseball season.  All Topps Reds baseball cards issued between 1954 and 1959 include Redlegs as the team name.

Kluszewski's portrait on this card is the same as his 1955 Topps card.  The action shot shows him presumably crossing home plate after hitting a home run and shaking hands with #23, who I had thought was most likely his former teammate Jim Greengrass (#275).  A review of his Home Run Log courtesy of Baseball Reference shows that Greengrass was never on base during one of Kluszewski's 251 home runs while with the Reds.  However Stan Palys, who assumed #23 after Greengrass had been traded to the Phillies on April 30, 1955, was on base for three of Big Klu's home runs.

This action photo was most likely taken after one of three home runs in 1955 - June 24th off Murry Dickson (#211), July 1st off Bob Buhl (#244) or July 2nd again off Buhl - all of which occurred when Palys was on base.

1956 Season
1956 was to be Kluszewski's last great season, as he hit 35 home runs and knocked in 102 runs.  He'd never again come close to those marks, as a bad back hampered him the rest of his career.  According to his SABR biography, the bad back resulted from a 1956 clubhouse scuffle.  Other sources quote Big Klu as saying the bad back was a result of a sudden movement to field a ball at first on opening day.  His biography, Big Klu: The Baseball Life of Ted Kluszewski, seems to conclude once and for all that the clubhouse fight was nothing but a rumor.  Both Kluszewskii and the alleged antagonist, infielder Chuck Harmon (#308), deny any fight ever occurred.

1957 was to be the slugger's final season with the Reds as he was traded to the Pirates on December 28, 1957 for first baseman Dee Fondy (#112).

1949 Leaf #38
1951 Topps Red Backs #39
1961 Topps #65
1974 Topps #326
Other Notable Baseball Cards
First Mainstream Card:  1949 Leaf #38
First Topps Card:  1951 Topps Red Backs #39
Last Topps Card (as a player):  1961 Topps #65
First Topps Card (as a coach):  1973 Topps #296
Last Topps Card (as a coach):  1974 Topps #326
Most Recent Mainstream Card:  2015 Diamond Kings #128

234 - Kluszewski non-parallel baseball cards in the Beckett online database as of 10/12/16

Sources:  
Baseball Reference
Beckett Database
Big Klu: The Baseball Life of Ted Kluszewski - pages 75 and 76
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.

Thursday, October 13, 2016

#24 Dick Groat - Pittsburgh Pirates


Richard Morrow Groat
Pittsburgh Pirates
Shortstop


Bats:  Right  Throws:  Right  Height:  5'11"  Weight:  180
Born:  November 4, 1930, Wilkinsburg, PA
Signed:  Signed by the Pittsburgh Pirates as an amateur free agent in 1952
Major League Teams:  Pittsburgh Pirates 1952, 1955-1962; St. Louis Cardinals 1963-1965; Philadelphia Phillies 1966-1967; San Francisco Giants 1967

Dick Groat was a five-time All-Star and the National League MVP in 1960, enjoying an extended period of success in the early 1960s.  He finished second in N.L. MVP voting in 1963 behind Sandy Koufax (#79) and he earned two World Series rings with the Pirates (in 1960) and Cardinals (1964). Groat made his debut with the Pirates in 1952, spending no time in the minor leagues.

He missed two seasons while serving in the military and he also briefly played in the NBA in 1953 for the Fort Wayne Pistons.  Groat was elected to the College Basketball Hall of Fame in 2007 for his All-American career at Duke University.

Dad on his 62nd birthday, January 2006
Building the Set
December 3, 2005 in Ft. Washington, PA - Card #271
This was a relatively late edition to our set and one of eight cards we purchased at the 93rd Philadelphia Sports Card Show held at the convention center in Ft. Washington. With the Ocean City baseball card shows long gone by now, our only options for local baseball card shows were the "Philly Shows" held in Ft. Washington or the occasional mall baseball card show.

My Dad didn't like the drive to Ft. Washington, and this would have been one of only a few shows we attended together in this location.  Looking at my records of when and where we purchased our cards, a full year would go by before we'd add any more cards to the set.

The year-long hiatus in collecting the set came at a time my wife and I were expecting our first son and as we moved into our first real house.

The Card
I always thought this card looked slightly out of place with the other cards in the set for the sole reason that you can see Groat's shoulders, chest and left arm.  As Topps produced later series of the 1956 Topps set, the card designers got a bit more liberal with showing the players' shoulders in the large profile picture.  But in series one, Groat is truly an anomaly as most of the cards cut the players' portraits off at the neck.

We may never know if Groat was safe or out in the action shot, featuring a fantastic play at the plate with perhaps Roy Campanella (#101).  The aforementioned head and shoulders picture was previously used on Groat's 1954 and 1955 Topps cards.

1956 Season
In his second full season as the starting shortstop for the Pirates, Groat hit .273.  The rebuilding Pirates would finish in seventh place in 1956 and again in 1957 before reaching the World Series in 1960 behind Groat and fellow stars Roberto Clemente (#33), Bill Mazeroski, Vern Law (#252) and Roy Face (#13).

Phillies Career
Groat was traded to the Phillies from the Cardinals on October 27, 1965 with catcher Bob Uecker and first baseman Bill White for pitcher Art Mahaffey, outfielder Alex Johnson and catcher Pat Corrales. The starting shortstop for the Phillies in 1966, Groat appeared in 155 games and hit a respectable .260 with 53 RBIs.  On May 18, 1966, Groat collected his 2,000th career hit off former teammate Bob Gibson.

Groat appears on a few oddball issues with the Phillies (1966 Sports Service Phillies, 1967 Dexter Press Phillies, 1992 Action Packed ASG) but his only mainstream Phillies baseball card can be found within the 1967 Topps set.  That card is reprinted within the 2001 Topps Archives set.

Groat's 1967 season would be the last of his 14-year career.  Limited to only 10 games with the Phillies due to an ankle infection, he was sold to the Giants on June 22nd.  He appeared in 34 games for the Giants, hitting .171 and retiring following the season.

1952 Topps #369
 
1967 Topps #205
 
1975 Topps #198
 
2013 Topps Heritage
Real One Autographs #ROA-DG
Other Notable Baseball Cards
First Mainstream Card:  1952 Topps #369
First Topps Card:  1952 Topps #369
Representative Phillies Card:  1967 Topps #205
Last Topps Card (as a player):  1967 Topps #205
Most Recent Topps Card (post-career):  1975 Topps #198 (with Roger Maris)
Most Recent Mainstream Card:  2013 Topps Heritage Real One Autographs #ROA-DG

183 - Groat non-parallel baseball cards in the Beckett online database as of 10/12/16

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.

Sunday, October 9, 2016

#23 Freddie Marsh - Baltimore Orioles


Fred Francis Marsh
Baltimore Orioles
Infield

Bats:  Right  Throws:  Right  Height:  5'10"  Weight:  180
Born:  January 5, 1924, Valley Falls, KS
Signed:  Signed by the Chicago Cubs as an amateur free agent in 1942
Major League Teams:  Cleveland Indians 1949; St. Louis Browns 1951-1952; Washington Senators 1952; Chicago White Sox 1953-1954; Baltimore Orioles 1955-1956
Died:  October 26, 2006, Corry, PA (age 82)

Fred Marsh was a middle infielder who spent his entire seven-year career playing in the American League.  He served as the regular third baseman for the Browns in 1951, appearing in 130 games and hitting .243.  He wouldn't crack the 100-game plateau in any other season, and he'd finish his career with a .239 average.

In 1952 he was traded to the Senators from the Browns, only to be traded back to the Browns less than a month later.  Following his playing days, Marsh served as a mailman.

Building the Set
June 20, 1992 in Ocean City, NJ - Card #102
This is one of 11 cards (and the 4th I've covered on this blog) that my Dad and 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 102nd card we added to the set.  I'm actually surprised this card made it into our set, given the few dinged corners.  Dad must have been letting his guard down a little, as he was probably thinking ahead to his slice of Mack & Manco's.

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
Marsh is one of six players to receive the position designation of "infield" on his 1956 Topps card. Over his career, he received the bulk of his playing time at third base (232 games), followed by shortstop (107 games) and second base (99 games).  Interestingly enough, he's "Fred" on his 1952, 1954 and 1955 Topps cards, but "Freddie" on his 1953 and 1956 Topps cards.

This is the third time his profile picture from the front of the card had been used on a Topps baseball card, having previously appeared on his 1954 Topps (in a White Sox hat) and 1955 Topps cards.  I guess that could be Marsh attempting a leaping grab in the action photo.  He wore #7 and #25 with the White Sox and #2 with the Orioles.  Maybe the uniform number peaking through is a #2?

I also spent some time searching the internet for additional information on Marsh's offseason cattle ranch, only to come up empty.

1956 Season
Marsh missed over half the 1955 season with elbow and leg injuries, and 1956 was to be his final season in the Majors.  He appeared in just 20 games for the Orioles, hitting .125 (3 for 24) and appearing in his last game on May 29th.  He spent the remainder of the season playing for the Vancouver Mounties, the Orioles' top farm club in the Pacific Coast League.

1952 Topps #8
 
2005 Topps Heritage
Real One Autographs #ROA-FM
Other Notable Baseball Cards
First Mainstream Card:  1952 Topps #8
First Topps Card:  1952 Topps #8
Last Topps Card:  1956 Topps #23
Most Recent Mainstream Card:  2005 Topps Heritage Real One Autographs #ROA-FM

Marsh's autograph barely changed over 50 years, as evidenced by his 2005 Topps Heritage autographed card.

18 - Marsh non-parallel baseball cards in the Beckett online database as of 10/8/16

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.

Monday, October 3, 2016

#22 Jim Finigan - Kansas City Athletics


James Leroy Finigan
Kansas City Athletics
Second Base

Bats:  Right  Throws:  Right  Height:  5'11"  Weight:  175
Born:  August 19, 1928, Quincy, IL
Signed:  Signed by the New York Yankees as an amateur free agent in 1948
Major League Teams:  Philadelphia Athletics 1954; Kansas City Athletics 1955-1956; Detroit Tigers 1957; San Francisco Giants 1958; Baltimore Orioles 1959
Died:  May 16, 1981, Quincy, IL (age 52)

Jim Finigan's first season in the Majors was also his best, as the rookie was named to the 1954 American League All-Star team.  He finished second in Rookie of the Year voting that year behind Bob Grim (#52), and he'd return to the All-Star Game in 1955.  Finigan originally came to the Athletics as part of a 11-player trade with the Yankees in December 1953.

Finigan would never again find the same success from his first two seasons, and he'd bounce around from the Tigers, Giants and Orioles between 1958 and 1959.  He wrapped up his six-year big league career as the back-up to Brooks Robinson for the 1959 Orioles.

Building the Set
June 24, 1989 in Ocean City, NJ - Card #75
This is one of three cards from the set my Dad and I purchased at the Ocean City baseball card show held within the Ocean City Music Pier in June 1989.  I would have been just wrapping up my freshman year of high school, and most of my baseball card spending money would have gone towards the 1973 Topps set I was slowly collecting.  In my notes, I've indicated that we purchased this card at "Ocean City IX" which most likely means it was the ninth annual event.

Having just recently attended a baseball card show with my nine-year-old son at a convention center inside a casino, I realize how special those Music Pier shows were.  The windows would have been open inside the showroom floor, and the sounds and smells of the shore served as the background as I poured through binders or boxes of baseball cards.  Above the din of the collectors looking for bargains and dealers hawking their wares, you could hear the occasional sea gull or even the crashing of waves.  I miss those shows and I become more and more nostalgic about them every year.

The Card
Finigan's 1955 Topps rookie card features the same portrait photo, but his 1956 card updates his cap logo from the interlocking "KC" to the "A".  The back of his card makes mention of his inclusion in the massive A's-Yankees trade that brought him to Philadelphia.

1956 Season
Finigan appeared in 91 games for the Athletics, and his slipping batting average (.216 for the season) saw him lose playing time to Vic Power (#67) at second and Hector Lopez (#16) at third.  Following the season, he was traded to the Tigers.

1955 Topps #14
1959 Topps #47
Other Notable Baseball Cards
First Mainstream Card:  1955 Topps #14
First Topps Card:  1955 Topps #14
Last Topps Card:  1959 Topps #47
Most Recent Mainstream Card:  1959 Topps #47

Finigan also appeared within oddball/regional sets such as 1955 A's Rodeo Meats, 1979 TCMA '50s and 1991 Crown/Coca-Cola Baltimore Orioles.

23 - Finigan non-parallel baseball cards in the Beckett online database as of 10/3/16

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.