Monday, February 20, 2017

#29 Jack Harshman - Chicago White Sox


Jack Elvin Harshman
Chicago White Sox
Pitcher

Bats:  Left  Throws:  Left  Height:  6'2"  Weight:  178
Born:  July 12, 1927, San Diego, CA
Acquired:  Traded by San Diego (PCL) to the New York Giants for Mike Budnick, Jack Graham, Jake Wade and $65,000, December 4, 1947
Major League Teams:  New York Giants 1952; Chicago White Sox 1954-1957; Baltimore Orioles 1958-1959; Boston Red Sox 1959; Cleveland Indians 1959-1960
Died:  August 17, 2013, Georgetown, TX (age 86)

Jack Harshman began his professional baseball career as a first baseman, but went on to have success as a left-handed pitcher with the White Sox and Orioles.  In 1947, Harshman hit 37 home runs for the Victoria Athletics (of the Western International League) and the San Diego Padres (of the Pacific Coast League) drawing the attention of the New York Giants.  The Giants acquired him that December, and he was their opening day first baseman in 1950.

Harshman began the transition to a full-time pitcher in 1953 and was traded to the White Sox in 1954 where he became a key member of their rotation.  That season, he struck out 16 Red Sox batters on July 25th to establish a franchise record and he threw a 16-inning shutout against the Tigers on August 13th.  Harshman finished his eight-year pitching career with a 69-65 record and a 3.50 ERA over 217 games.  He also hit 21 home runs in 424 at bats.

Building the Set
September 15, 2007 from Dad's eBay purchases - Card #301
Our first son Doug was born in December 2006, and this happy event led directly to my Dad visiting us on a more regular basis.  Dad was living by himself at this point in Mays Landing, New Jersey and he detested the 40 minute ride north to our house.  Among all the very positive memories I have of my Dad, one of my few negative memories is the fact that he absolutely seemed to loathe driving and that loathing increased exponentially if there was traffic or if it were dark.  But he made the trips anyway, sometimes staying no more than an hour, because he was so incredibly anxious and excited to spend time with his grandson.

By the time his second grandson (Ben) was born in April 2010, my Dad's health had begun failing and whatever visits we had were pre-arranged or consisted of us visiting him.  Which is why these visits during Doug's infancy and first few years are so special to me.  My Dad would show up, ecstatic to see Doug, there would be some small talk and we'd complain about the Phillies, and then he'd leave.  But on his way out, he'd always say he'd see us again in a few days and I'd look forward to these visits.

Dad with Jenna, Doug and me riding a merry-go-round
in Ocean City, August 2007
This background is needed to better explain how this Jack Harshman card came into our set.  In 2007, My Dad's days mostly consisted of an occasional round of golf, calls and visits to his kids - my sister and me, watching cable news, an afternoon nap and scouring eBay. Most (but not all) of his eBay purchases benefitted me in the form of 1956 Topps cards we needed for our set.  He'd show up at our house for a visit with Doug and nonchalantly hand me one of his recent purchases.  He handed me this Harshman card on September 15, 2007, along with a Jack Crimian (#319) card.

Throughout 2007, I suspect he had a backlog of purchased 1956 Topps cards piled up on his desk at his house, and he'd grab one or two to deliver to me as he was heading out the door to make the 40 minute drive to visit Doug.  Not to ruin the ending for this blog, but this is how we finished the 1956 Topps set.  Not with one last glorious purchase at a baseball card show, but with my Dad systematically and methodically checking off cards from our checklist through eBay purchases.

Together with my Mom, he'd deliver the last 29 cards we needed to complete the set as a Christmas present to me that year.

The Card
I'm awful with my stadium history and I had to do a little research to confirm my suspicion that the action photo was taken at Yankee Stadium.  The "No Betting" sign was my first clue and you can make out the "BA" in the Ballantine Beer advertisement on the far right in the background.  The portrait photo used is the same as was used on Harshman's 1954 and 1955 Topps cards.

The cartoon panels on the back reference Harshman's beginnings as a first baseman and the artist made sure the caricature actually slightly resembles him.

1956 Season
Harshman's best year came in 1956, when he went 15-11 for the White Sox with a 3.10 ERA, striking out 143 (but walking 102) over 226 2/3 innings.  The White Sox would finish the year in third place in the American League behind the pitching of Harshman, Billy Pierce (#160) and Dick Donovan (#18).  Harshman also slugged six home runs in 71 at-bats that season.

One of his best performances of the season came against the Indians, when he and Indians pitcher Herb Score (#140) both threw two-hit complete games with the White Sox winning, 1-0.

1954 Topps #173
 
1960 Topps #112
 
2009 Topps Heritage Real One
Autographs #ROA-JH
Other Notable Baseball Cards
First Mainstream Card:  1954 Topps #173
First Topps Card:  1954 Topps #173
Last Topps Card:  1960 Topps #112
Most Recent Mainstream Card:  2009 Topps Heritage Real One Autographs #ROA-JH

26 - Harshman non-parallel baseball cards in the Beckett online database as of 2/19/17

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 14, 2017

#28 Bobby Hofman - New York Giants


Robert George Hofman
New York Giants
Infield

Bats:  Right  Throws:  Right  Height:  5'10"  Weight:  160
Born:  October 5, 1925, St. Louis, MO
Signed:  Signed by the New York Giants as an amateur free agent in 1944
Major League Teams:  New York Giants 1949, 1952-1957
Died:  April 5, 1994, Chesterfield, MO (age 68)

Known primarily for his pinch-hitting, Bobby Hofman enjoyed a seven-year career with the Giants which was interrupted for two seasons while he served in the Army during World War II.  He made it out onto the field in 205 of his 341 career games, playing mostly at second base but also seeing time at third and first base.  He also caught in 26 games.  At the time of his retirement following the 1957 season, Hofman was tied with Cy Williams for the most career pinch-hit home runs with nine.

Hofman would go on to serve as a coach with the Athletics (1966-1967, 1969-1970, 1974-1975, 1978), Senators (1968) and Indians (1971-1972).  He was the scouting director for the Yankees during the tumultous years of 1980 through 1984, and their director of player development from 1985 to 1988.

Building the Set
May 20, 1989 in Sea Isle City, NJ - Card #71
For 45 years, my grandparents owned a house in Sea Isle City on 37th Street.  As a result of the Storm of 1962, which wiped out the block of houses in front of them, their house became beach front property until the construction of the Spinnaker Condominiums in 1972.  We were lucky enough to spend most of our summers in Sea Isle, and the five-minute walk to the beach was accomplished by climbing up a ramp in back of the Spinnaker, crossing over the concrete promenade and walking down a few steps to the sand.

For several years in the late 1980s and early 1990s, there was a complete dive of a snack shop called Joe's Sno-Cone located in the Spinnaker at the top of that ramp.  The menu at Joe's was limited to the usual beach fare - hot dogs, soft pretzels, bags of chips, candy and yes, snow cones.  During a visit to Joe's on the weekend before Memorial Day in 1989, I noticed the shop's owner (Joe presumably) had set up a small display of baseball cards for sale.  This Hofman card was available for $3 and another 1956 Topps card, Ernie Johnson (#294), was also available for $3.  I purchased both cards and most likely added a cherry snow cone to my order before heading next door to the arcade to drop several quarters into the Rolling Thunder game.

The Card
Due to the fact that I purchased this card at a place called Joe's Sno-Cone, the border isn't nearly as white as it should be.  Rather, it's more a beige color but in otherwise decent shape.

The head shot is the same as was used on Hofman's 1954 and 1955 Topps cards.  The action shot features Hofman in action as a catcher, despite the fact that his position is listed as "infield" on the card.  In 1955, Hofman appeared in 19 games behind the plate, playing a position he had never before played in a professional baseball game.  As the back of the card mentions, this emergency duty was necessitated due to an injury to regular catcher Ray Katt.

The vital statistics on the card's back give Hofman an extra inch in height and 15 extra pounds in weight over the information presented on his Baseball Reference page.  Hofman was referred to as Bob on his 1952, 1953 and 1954 Topps cards and as Bobby on his 1955 and 1956 Topps cards.

1956 Season
Hofman played in his second to last season in 1956, hitting .179 over 47 games.  He appeared in just two games with the Giants in 1957, spending the bulk of that season with the Triple-A Minneapolis Millers.

1949 Bowman #223
1952 Topps #371
1994 Topps Archives 1954 #99
Other Notable Baseball Cards
First Mainstream Card:  1949 Bowman #223
First Topps Card:  1952 Topps #371
Last Topps Card:  1956 Topps #28
Most Recent Mainstream Card:  1994 Topps Archives 1954 #99

21 - Hofman non-parallel baseball cards in the Beckett online database as of 2/9/17

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.

Friday, February 10, 2017

#27 Nelson Burbrink - St. Louis Cardinals


Nelson Edward Burbrink
St. Louis Cardinals
Catcher

Bats:  Right  Throws:  Right  Height:  5'10"  Weight:  195
Born:  December 28, 1921, Cincinnati, OH
Signed:  Signed by the Chicago Cubs as an amateur free agent in 1941
Major League Teams:  St. Louis Cardinals 1955
Died:  April 12, 2001, Largo, FL (age 79)

Nelson Burbrink played only 58 games in the Majors, serving as the Cardinals' back-up catcher to Bill Sarni (#247) in 1955.  Prior to his call-up to the Cardinals, Burbrink had toiled for 11 seasons in the minors mostly with the Cubs organization.  He missed three seasons in the prime of his career (1943-1945) in service to his country with the Navy.

After his playing days were over, Burbrink served as a scout first for the Cardinals and then for the Mets where he was responsible for signing Tom Seaver in 1966.  He served as the Mets' scouting director from 1968 to 1972, and as the Mets' director of player development from 1973 to 1977.

Building the Set
June 24, 1989 in Ocean City, NJ - Card #76
My Dad and I purchased this card at the Ocean City IX baseball card show held within the Ocean City Music Pier on the boardwalk.  I have in my notes that we paid $2.50 for this card, along with the cards of Jim Finigan (#22) and Don Zimmer (#99).  I would have just finished my freshman year of high school when we bought this card and I was in the middle of collecting the 1973 Topps set.

I wrote this about the shows on the Music Pier back when I featured Finigan's card in October:  "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."

I found the flyer featured here in a folder along with some of our old 1956 Topps checklists.  The "Seashore IX Agenda" shows two autograph signers for the weekend - Dick Sisler and Jim Bunning. My Dad didn't like driving at night, which is why we wouldn't have stuck around for Bunning on Saturday.  I probably never realized we had missed our chance at meeting Sisler the night before, and the names Sisler and Bunning meant no where as much to me then as they do now.

The Card
If you're a Nelson Burbrink master collector, you're in luck.  This is his first and last mainstream baseball card and it's available in both a white back and gray back version.  His only other cards can be found within the 1949 Los Angeles Angels (PCL) team issued set and the 1954-55 Cardinals Postcards set.

For cards like Burbrink's the cartoon artist was forced to get a little creative.  I can't imagine many other card backs featuring the evolution of a batter going from "golfing the ball" to "drilling base hits."  The artist also indicates Burbrink had 14 years in the minors, but he had missed 3 of those years while in the military.

This is the first card we've encountered in the 1956 Topps set that is both a player's first and last Topps card.

1956 Season
The 34-year-old Burbrink played the entire 1956 season with the Triple-A Omaha Cardinals, batting .256 in 111 games.  A year later, he was demoted to the Double-A Houston Buffaloes and he'd hang up his spikes following the season.  In total, Burbrink played 1,449 games in the minor leagues and had a lifetime .291 average.

Other Notable Baseball Cards
First Mainstream Card:  1956 Topps #27
First Topps Card:  1956 Topps #27
Last Topps Card:  1956 Topps #27
Most Recent Mainstream Card:  1956 Topps #27

4 - Burbrink non-parallel baseball cards in the Beckett online database as of 2/9/17

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.

Tuesday, February 7, 2017

#26 Grady Hatton - Boston Red Sox


Grady Edgebert Hatton, Jr.
Boston Red Sox
Third Base

Bats:  Left  Throws:  Right  Height:  5'8"  Weight:  170
Born:  October 7, 1922, Beaumont, TX
Signed:  Signed by the Cincinnati Reds as an amateur free agent in 1946
Major League Teams:  Cincinnati Reds 1946-1954; Chicago White Sox 1954; Boston Red Sox 1954-1956; St. Louis Cardinals 1956; Baltimore Orioles 1956; Chicago Cubs 1960
As a Manager:  Houston Astros 1966-1968
Died:  April 11, 2013, Warren, TX (age 90)

Upon being discharged from the military in 1946, Grady Hatton promptly signed with the Reds and became their every day third baseman.  A lifetime .254 hitter over 12 seasons in the Majors, Hatton was named to the National League All-Star team in 1952.  His best season was perhaps in 1947 when he hit .281 with 16 home runs and 77 RBIs (both career highs) for the Reds.  After his playing days, Hatton joined the Cubs minor league coaching staff and was briefly activated in 1960 by the big club to serve primarily as a pinch-hitter.

He joined the Houston organization in 1963, managing their Triple-A team in Oklahoma City from 1963 to 1965 and jumping to the Majors to manage the Astros from 1966 to 1968.

Building the Set
October 3, 1999 in Raleigh, NC - Card #180
Details of my time living in North Carolina are sketchy at best.  My records indicate I purchased this card on my 26th birthday at the Sports Card Show held in Raleigh.  The show was most likely at the North Carolina State Fairgrounds.  I spent $34 on eight cards that day, including $2 for this nearly pristine Hatton card.

The Card
The action shot is a fantastic play at the plate, and it appears as if Hatton may be in the process of being called out on the play.  The opposing team could be either the Yankees or Tigers.

The portrait shot is the same used for Hatton's 1954 and 1955 Topps cards, although the original photo (as seen on his 1954 Topps cards) features him in a Reds hat.  Hatton's Texas background and his offseason work as a cattle rancher are given attention on the back of the card.  A life-long resident of Texas, Hatton starred at Texas University and was an instrumental figure in the early history of the Astros.

1956 Season
Hatton bounced around during the 1956 season, playing five games with the Red Sox before being sold to the Cardinals on May 11th.  He lasted 44 games with the Cardinals before being sold again, this time to the Orioles.  In 76 total games with those three times, Hatton hit just .209 in 76 games. Following the season, the Orioles released him and he'd begin his coaching tenure within the Cubs organization.

1949 Bowman #62
1951 Topps Red Backs #34
1966 Topps #504
1974 Topps #31
Other Notable Baseball Cards
First Mainstream Card:  1949 Bowman #62
First Topps Card:  1951 Topps Red Backs #34
Last Topps Card (as a player):  1956 Topps #26
First Topps Card (as a manager):  1966 Topps #504
Last Topps Card (as a manager):  1968 Topps #392
Most Recent Topps Card (post-career):  1974 Topps #31
Most Recent Mainstream Card:  1994 Topps Archives 1954 #208

46 - Hatton non-parallel baseball cards in the Beckett online database as of 2/7/17

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.