Gus Edward Zernial
Kansas City Athletics
Born: June 27, 1923, Beaumont, TX
Drafted: Drafted by the Cleveland Indians from Atlanta (Southern Association) in the 1946 rule 5 draft
Major League Teams: Chicago White Sox 1949-1951; Philadelphia Atheltics 1951-1954; Kansas City Athletics 1955-1957; Detroit Tigers 1958-1959
Died: January 20, 2011, Fresno, CA (age 87)
The last great slugger for the Philadelphia Athletics before their move to Kansas City, Gus Zernial played 11 big league seasons and tallied 237 home runs and 776 RBIs. He owned a lifetime batting average of .265 and was an All-Star with the A's in 1953. He singled off the Phillies' Robin Roberts (#180) in that game, and struck out against Warren Spahn (#10).
He was consistently one of the American League's top home run threats in the early to mid-1950s, hitting more home runs (177, tied with Al Rosen - #35) than any other junior circuit player. Only Mickey Mantle (#135) and Yogi Berra (#110) would finish the decade of the 1950s with more home runs (280 and 256 respectively) than Zernial who hit 232. He led the league in home runs (33) and RBIs (129) in 1951 and hit a career-high 42 home runs in 1953.
As told in his SABR biography, linked below, Zernial is credited with connecting Joe DiMaggio with Marilyn Monroe following a photo shoot with Zernial and Monroe during spring training 1951.
Building the Set
December 6, 1998 in Raleigh, NC - Card #172
I bought two cards from the Sports Card & Memorabilia Show in Raleigh in early December 1998 - this Zernial card for $5 and the Rosen card for $8. I inadvertently went with an American League sluggers of the 1950s theme that day.
The first panel on the back notes Zernial's nickname, "Ozark Ike," after a popular comic-strip character from the time. Zernial is one of four players in the set whose last name begins with the letter Z. The others are Norm Zauchin (#89), Don Zimmer (#99) and George Zuverink (#276).
Zernial played just 109 games in 1956 for the A's, splitting time in left field with Lou Skizas. The A's finished in the basement of the American League under manager Lou Boudreau, with a record of 52-102. Zernial finished third on the team with 16 home runs, behind Harry Simpson (#239) and Hector Lopez (#16), who hit 21 and 18 respectively. Zernial hit .224 and had 44 RBIs.
First Mainstream Card: 1950 Bowman #4
First Topps Card: 1951 Topps Red Backs #36
Last Topps Card: 1959 Topps #409
Most Recent Mainstream Card: 2008 Topps Heritage Real One Autographs #ROA-GEZ
70 - Zernial non-parallel baseball cards in the Beckett online database as of 3/16/19.
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.