Friday, March 27, 2020

#90 Cincinnati Redlegs Team Card


Topps included full team photos in its baseball card set for the first time in 1956, having previously experimented with team cards in a limited edition 1951 stand-alone set.

Building the Set
February 7, 2007 in Voorhees, NJ - Card #290
This is one of six cards I purchased at the Echelon Mall Baseball Card show in February 2007, spending $70 total, including $15 on this Reds team card.  At the time, Doug was a few days away from turning two months old and we had just celebrated my Dad's 63rd birthday a few weeks earlier.

I think Jenna had been out shopping on this day when she texted (or called) me to let me know there was a baseball card show being held at what used to be the Echelon Mall.  The former mall has since been converted as part of the Voorhees Town Center.

The Card
The Reds are referred to as the Redlegs on this team card and while I first covered this topic with the Ted Kluszewski (#25) card, it's worth repeating here.  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.

No Year, Team Name Left
1955 Variation
The Reds team card, along with team cards for several other clubs, is available in three variations.  There's a version with the 1955 date, and then two versions without the year and with the team name either centered or to the left.  I have the version with the centered team name in our set, and based on a quick eBay search the centered name variation seems to be the most common of the three.

I honestly had to look up some of the notable Reds players mentioned on the back of the card.  The hitters listed are as follows, with the years they played for Cincinnati - Hal Chase (1916-1918), Edd Roush (1916-1926, 1931), Eugene Hargrave (1921-1928) and Ernie Lombardi (1932-1941).  The pitchers listed are Dolf Luque (1918-1929), Paul Derringer (1933-1942) and Johnny Vander Meer (1937-1943, 1946-1949).  Roush and Lombardi are in the Hall of Fame.

Here are the subjects featured on the card, including a listing of their 1956 Topps card if they had one.  The photo was taken during the 1955 season at some point after July 3rd, as that's the day the Reds claimed Matt Batts off waivers from the Indians.  Batts is present in the third row of the photo.
  • Front Row
  • Johnny Temple (#212)
  • Hobie Landrith (#314 with Cubs)
  • Batboy Bernie Stowe
  • Rocky Bridges (#324)
  • Roy McMillan (#123)
  • Milt Smith
  • Don Gross
  • Smoky Burgess (#192)
  • 2nd Row
  • Al Silvera (#137)
  • Art Fowler (#47)
  • Coach Tom Ferrick
  • Manager Birdie Tebbetts
  • Coach Dick Bartell
  • Coach Jimmy Dykes
  • Bud Podbielan (#224)
  • Sam Mele
  • Chuck Harmon (#308)
  • Jackie Collum
  • Trainer Wayne Anderson
  • 3rd Row
  • Travling Sec'y John Murdough
  • Stan Palys
  • Bob Thurman
  • Ted Kluszewski (#25)
  • Gus Bell (#162)
  • Wally Post (#158)
  • Hershell Freeman (#242)
  • Matt Batts
  • Joe Black (#178)
  • Clubhouse Mgr. Chester Ray Evans
  • Back Row
  • Bob Hazle
  • Ray Jablonski (#86)
  • Rudy Minarcin (#36)
  • Johnny Klippstein (#249)
  • Gerry Staley
  • Ed Bailey
  • Joe Nuxhall (#218)
The Reds played their home games at Crosley Field through mid-1970 when they moved into Riverfront Stadium and played their first game in that multi-purpose stadium on June 30, 1970.  Riverfront Stadium gave way to Great American Ball Park where the Reds have played since 2003.  There are a few categories on the back of the card that need to be updated:

Most Hits - 1,599 in 1976
Most Home Runs - 227 in 2019
Games Won - 108 in 1975
Most Consecutive Games Won - 22 in 2017
Additional Pennant Winning Teams - 1961, 1970, 1972, 1975, 1976, 1990, 1995, 2010, 2012
Additional Championship Teams - 1975, 1976, 1990

Redlegs Team Set

1956 Season
Birdie Tebbets managed the Reds between 1954 and 1958, and 1956 was his team's best season.  The Reds finished in third place in the National League with a 91-63 record, the only time Tebbets would manage a team to a 90-win season.  His efforts won him Manager of the Year honors.  The Reds were in first place as late as July 12th, but they'd be overcome by the Braves and Dodgers, finishing only two games behind the Dodgers for the pennant.

Their line-up boasted five batters with at least 25 home runs - left fielder Robinson with 38, right fielder Post with 36, first baseman Kluszewski with 35, center fielder Bell with 29 and catcher Bailey with 28.  As a team, they tied a National League record by hitting 221 home runs over 155 games.  The 1947 New York Giants had previously set the mark.  Kluszewski led the team with 102 RBIs and a .302 batting average.

Brooks Lawrence was a 19-game winner for the club while Freeman appeared in 64 games and recorded 17 saves.

Reds Cards That Never Were
There are a number of good options here for 1956 Topps cards that never were:
  • Birdie Tebbets (manager) - The National League Manager of the Year is deserving of a card in the set.
  • Frank Robinson (right field) - The future Hall of Famer's coveted rookie card can be found in the 1957 Topps set, but he should have been in the 1956 set.  Robinson was an All-Star and the N.L. Rookie of the Year.
  • Ed Bailey (catcher) - The team's starting catcher was an All-Star and hit career highs in home runs (28) and RBIs (75).  He appears in every Topps set between 1953 and 1966 except 1956.
  • Bob Thurman (left field) - Thurman made his debut with the Reds in 1955 at the age of 38 and he'd appear in 162 games with the club between 1955 and 1956.  He'd appear in the 1957, 1958 and 1959 Topps sets.
  • Stan Palys (left field) - Palys was a back-up outfielder with the Reds, appearing in 79 games in 1955 and 40 games in 1956, his final two years in the Majors.  He shows up in the 1958 Topps set despite playing his final game on September 25, 1956.
  • Jackie Collum or Gerry Staley (starting pitchers) - Both Collum and Staley were starting pitchers with the club in 1955, appearing in 32 and 30 games respectively.  After being absent in the 1956 Topps set, they'd both re-appear in the 1957 Topps set - Collum with the Cubs and Staley with the White Sox.
  • Bonus:  Curt Flood (pinch runner) - Flood made his big league debut on September 9, 1956 and appeared in five games with the Reds as either a pinch-runner or pinch-hitter.  His rookie card can be found in the 1958 Topps set.
The late, great Bob Lemke created card #343 for Robinson and he posted it to his blog back in April 2011.  I'm reproducing here, but please head over to Bob Lemke's Blog to view his wonderful collection of cards that never were.


There are a number of players who suited up for the Reds in 1956, but they appear in the set with other teams - Alex Grammas (#37) and Joe Frazier (#141), both with the Cardinals, Russ Meyer (#227 with the Cubs), Geroge Crowe (#254 with the Braves) and Jim Dyck (#303 with the Orioles).

Sources
Baseball Reference

Friday, March 20, 2020

#89 Norm Zauchin - Boston Red Sox


Norbert Henry Zauchin
Boston Red Sox
First Base

Bats:  Right  Throws:  Right  Height:  6'4"  Weight:  220
Born:  November 17, 1929, Royal Oak, MI
Signed:  Signed by the Boston Red Sox as an amateur free agent before 1948 season
Major League Teams:  Boston Red Sox 1951, 1955-1957; Washington Senators 1958-1959
Died:  January 31, 1999, Birmingham, AL (age 69)

Best remembered for driving in 10 runs during a game on May 27, 1955, Norm Zauchin played for six seasons with the  Red Sox and Senators.  He made his debut in 1951 but then missed three seasons while serving in the Army during the Korean War.  Upon his return, Zauchin enjoyed a career year in 1955, hitting .239 with 27 home runs and 93 RBIs, and finishing third in A.L. Rookie of the Year voting behind Herb Score (#140) and teammate Billy Klaus (#217).  He was also a fine fielder, leading the junior circuit in fielding percentage for first baseman in 1955.  His 10-RBI game that season came against the Senators and he hit three home runs and a bases clearing double.

Zauchin was traded to the Senators before the 1958 season with Albie Pearson for Pete Runnels (#234), who went on to win two batting titles while with the Red Sox in 1960 and 1962.  Zauchin hung on with the Senators through the 1959 season, and wrapped up his big league career with a lifetime .233 average and 50 home runs with 159 RBIs.

Building the Set
December 4, 1999 in Raleigh, NC - Card #189
This is one of four cards I acquired at the "Holiday Sports Classic" baseball card show held in Raleigh in late 1999.  I paid $10 for the Cubs team card (#11) and another $5 for three commons - this Zauchin card, Alvin Dark (#148) and Chico Carrasquel (#230).  Given the timing of this show right before holidays, I would have attended by myself but I most likely called my Dad back in Millville, New Jersey to update him on my purchases later that day.

The Card
This is Zauchin's second Topps card, as his rookie card appeared in the 1955 Topps set and used the same head shot photo.  That's outfielder Jackie Jensen (#115) with uniform #4 making a cameo appearance and greeting Zauchin at home plate after presumably one of his 27 home runs during the 1955 season.  Looking at Zauchin's home run log for the season, my best guess is that this photo was taken after his home run on May 30th or after either of his home runs on August 14th.  Those were the only two games in which Zauchin hit a home run at home with only Jensen on base.  The "Red Sox" across Zauchin's jersey instead of "Boston" means this was a home game.

His SABR biography calls into question the cartoon in the final panel.  There was an article in the March 30, 1955 issue of The Sporting News noting that Zauchin had appeared in six games in the  minors as a pitcher, but available minor league records show him as strictly a first baseman and occasional outfielder for only the 1954 season.

Red Sox Team Set

1956 Season
Despite his successful rookie campaign, Zauchin lost his starting first baseman's job to Mickey Vernon (#228), acquired by the Red Sox in November 1955.  Vernon had a great season, hitting .310 with 15 home runs and 84 RBIs, and Zauchin was rarely used.  In 44 games, he hit .214 with a pair of home runs and 11 RBIs, only getting 84 at-bats.

1955 Topps #176
1957 Topps #372
1958 Topps #422
1959 Topps #311
Other Notable Baseball Cards
First Mainstream Card:  1955 Topps #176
Topps Flagship Set Appearances (5):  1955-1959
Most Recent Mainstream Card:  1979 TCMA 1950s #252

11 - Zauchin non-parallel baseball cards in the Beckett online database as of 1/14/20.

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, March 13, 2020

#88 Johnny Kucks - New York Yankees


John Charles Kucks
New York Yankees
Pitcher

Bats:  Right  Throws:  Right  Height:  6'3"  Weight:  170
Born:  July 27, 1932, Hoboken, NJ
Signed:  Signed by the New York Yankees as an amateur free agent before 1952 season
Major League Teams:  New York Yankees 1955-1959; Kansas City Athletics 1959-1960
Died:  October 31, 2013, Saddle River, NJ (age 81)

Pitching in six full seasons with the Yankees and Athletics, Johnny Kucks enjoyed an All-Star season in 1956 in which he won 18 games and helped the Yankees reach and win the World Series.  Other than his outlying 1956 season, Kucks (pronounced Cooks) was consistent throughout his big league career, winning 8 games in four seasons - 1955, 1957, 1958 and 1959 - and possessing an ERA that always hovered in the 3.50 to 4.50 range.  He won World Series rings with the Yankees in 1956 and 1958 and was traded to Kansas City in May 1959.  Kucks spent two seasons with the Athletics before ending his professional career with three seasons in the minor leagues with the Orioles and Cardinals' organizations.

For his career, Kucks finished with a lifetime 54-56 record and a 4.10 ERA over 207 games and 123 starts.

Christmas 1998 in Raleigh
Building the Set
January 10, 1999 in Raleigh, NC - Card #176
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 considering the card is in pristine shape and it's a card from the highly coveted Yankees team set.  Some of the cards in our set look as if they could have just come out of a brand new pack, and this is one of those.

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.  As I'm primarily a Phillies collector, those dealers were always more than happy to unload their unwanted Phillies inventory on me and some of them would express genuine shock that I was trying to track down cards in the late 1990s and early 2000s of some very forgettable Phillies players.

The Card
This is Kucks' rookie card and I imagine it would have been a popular card to find in a pack or to trade for in the summer of 1956.  The Gem Razor Blade sign along with the Esquire Boot Polish advertisement found on the right field wall at Ebbets Field makes another cameo, as it did with the Roberto Clemente (#33) card.  As has been the case with quite a few cards, Topps was a year off with Kucks' birth year.

His SABR biography notes the Phillies first recruited him, but they withdrew a bonus offer and Kucks ended up signing with the Yankees on January 1, 1952.  His one season of minor league ball before his big league debut came in 1952 with the Norfolk Tars of the B-Level Piedmont League.  He served in the U.S. Army in 1953 and 1954, but stayed active pitching for various teams wherever he was stationed.  Invited to the Yankees instructional camp in 1955, he impressed enough to get invited to spring training and then made the team as a fifth starter and occasional long reliever.

Yankees Team Set

1956 Season
As mentioned above, this was Kucks' best season by far as he went 18-9 with a 3.85 ERA over 34 games.  He threw 12 complete games and led the team with three shutouts.  Only Whitey Ford (#240) had more wins (19) and complete games (18) for the Yankees that season.  He joined teammates Ford, Yogi Berra (#110), Mickey Mantle (#135), Billy Martin (#181), and Gil McDougald (#225) at the 1956 All-Star game although he didn't get into the game.

In the World Series, Kucks appeared in three games including starting the decisive Game 7.  He threw a complete game shutout, holding the Dodgers to just three hits.  It was to be the last World Series game ever hosted at Ebbets Field, and Kucks also has the distinction of being the last pitcher to face Jackie Robinson (#30), striking out Robinson to end the game and clinch the title.

Kucks' Game 7 performance is often forgotten and overshadowed by Don Larsen's (#332) perfect game in Game 5.  His SABR biography includes a great quote from Kucks, "Larsen got a car.  I got a fishing rod."

1957 Topps #185
1958 Topps #87
1959 Topps #289
1961 Topps #94
1962 Topps #241
Other Notable Baseball Cards
First Mainstream Card:  1956 Topps #88
Topps Flagship Set Appearances (7):  1956-1962
Most Recent Mainstream Card:  2003 Upper Deck Yankees Signature Series #50

29 - Kucks non-parallel baseball cards in the Beckett online database as of 1/10/20.

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, March 6, 2020

#87 Dean Stone - Washington Nationals


Darragh Dean Stone
Washington Nationals
Pitcher

Bats:  Left  Throws:  Left  Height:  6'4"  Weight:  205
Born:  September 1, 1930, Moline, IL
Signed:  Signed by the Chicago Cubs as an amateur free agent before 1949 season
Major League Teams:  Washington Senators 1953-1957; Boston Red Sox 1957; St. Louis Cardinals 1959; Houston Colt .45s 1962; Chicago White Sox 1962; Baltimore Orioles 1963
Died:  August 21, 2018, East Moline, IL (age 87)

Dean Stone was the winning pitcher in the 1954 All-Star Game, without retiring a batter.  With the A.L. All-Stars trailing 9-8 with two outs in the eighth inning, Stone relieved Bob Keegan (#54) with runners on first and third.  Red Schoendienst (#165), the runner on third, broke for home as Stone was facing Duke Snider (#150).  Stone threw home to catcher Yogi Berra (#110) to catch Schoendienst.  In the ninth inning, the A.L. took the lead for good on a Larry Doby (#250) home run and Stone was credited with the win.

Stone pitched in parts of eight seasons, having his most success in 1954 when he won 12 games with an ERA of 3.22.  He threw two no-hitters in 1952 pitching for the Chattanooga Lookouts.  He owned a career record of 29-39 over 215 games (85 starts) and a 4.47 ERA.  Following his big league career, he pitched briefly for the Taiyo Whales in Japan in 1964.

Building the Set
October 3, 1988 in Millville, NJ - Card #67
This was one of three 1956 Topps cards my parents gave me for my 15th birthday, the others being Ray Moore (#43) and Jake Martin (#129).  I'm 95% certain my Dad purchased these cards at a baseball card show held at our local YMCA in August and then gave them to me a few months later.  I have in my records that this card cost him $3.  I was more focused on building our 1973 Topps set in the summer of '88, as those cards were more readily available and much cheaper.  My allowance from mowing lawns only went so far.

We didn't get autographs from either of the show's guests, Spook Jacobs or Chris Short.  I'm kicking myself now, over 30 years later, for not spending the $2 it would have cost me for an autograph and a picture with Short.  I showed the front of the show's flyer with the Moore post, and presented here is the back of the flyer with pre-Google Maps directions to the Millville YMCA.

I worked at the Millville YMCA in the summer of 1990 before it closed its doors for good that August.  In 1997, the building was repurposed as an apartment complex with the pool and gym renovated and updated and it's now operated as The Holly City Family Center.

The Card
The main photo is the same used for Stone's 1954 and 1955 Topps cards, the only difference being the W on his hat is white in 1954 and red the next two years.  Per Baseball Reference and a few other sources, Stone's first name is spelled "Darragh" and not "Darrah" as it appears on the back of his card.  Stone's 84 strikeouts in 1955 did in fact lead the Senators, beating out Camilo Pascual (#98) who had 79.

Nationals Team Set

1956 Season
Stone was back in the Senator's pitching rotation in 1956 along with Chuck Stobbs (#68), Pascual and Bob Wiesler (#327).  He went 5-7 with a 6.27 ERA for a Senators team that lost 95 games.  He threw a pair of complete games and his best pitching performance came on July 29th against the Tigers.  One strike away from a shutout, Stone gave up a solo home run to Bob Kennedy (#38).

He was back with the Senators in a relief role to start the 1957 season, but was traded to the Red Sox on April 29th.

1954 Topps #114
1957 Topps #381
1959 Topps #286
1962 Topps #574
1963 Topps #271
Other Notable Baseball Cards
First Mainstream Card:  1954 Topps #114
Topps Flagship Set Appearances (7):  1954-1957, 1959, 1962-1963
Most Recent Mainstream Card:  2012 Topps Heritage Real One Autographs #ROA-DST

21 - Stone non-parallel baseball cards in the Beckett online database as of 1/4/20.

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 28, 2020

#86 Ray Jablonski - Cincinnati Redlegs


Raymond Leo Jablonski
Cincinnati Redlegs
Third Base

Bats:  Right  Throws:  Right  Height:  5'10"  Weight:  175
Born:  December 17, 1926, Chicago, IL
Signed:  Signed by the Boston Red Sox as an amateur free agent before 1947 season
Major League Teams:  St. Louis Cardinals 1953-1954; Cincinnati Reds 1955-1956; New York Giants 1957; San Francisco Giants 1958; St. Louis Cardinals 1959; Kansas City Athletics 1959-1960
Died:  November 25, 1985, Chicago, IL (age 58)

With the Cardinals in 1953 and 1954, Ray Jablonski's first two seasons in the big leagues were by far his best.  He drove in over 100 runs in each season.  He finished third in the Rookie of the Year voting in 1953 and was the starting third baseman for the N.L. in the 1954 All-Star Game.  Jablonski was traded to the Reds before the 1955 season as the Cardinals wanted to make room for rookie Ken Boyer (#14), a better defender at third.  After two seasons in Cincinnati, Jablonski moved onto the Giants where he was the team's regular third baseman during their final season in New York.  He served as a bench player the final three years of his Major League career with the Cardinals and Athletics.

Jablonski played until 1964 in the minor league systems of the Angels and Twins.  Over his eight seasons in the Majors, he hit .268 with 83 home runs and 438 RBIs.

Building the Set
August 29, 1988 in Millville, NJ - Card #63
I shared this story back in March 2019 when I posted the Tom Brewer (#34) card and again this past August with the Ed Roebuck (#58) card, but I'll repeat it again here.  This Jablonski card was one of four cards I acquired for our 1956 Topps set via a trade, and all I had to surrender were a bunch of 1988 Topps doubles.

We were about a year in to officially collecting the 1956 Topps set when I added four cards to the set through a trade with a friend of mine.  Now my friend probably has no recollection of this, but I'm going to omit his name to protect the innocent.  In the summer of 1988, I was aware of a few different baseball card collectors from my school.  Most of them were busy accumulating as many "Future Stars" cards from the 1988 Topps set as possible, convinced these cards would be worth hundreds of dollars in a matter of a few short years.  The Kevin Elster card was a particularly hot commodity, as was anything with a Topps Rookie Cup on it such as the cards for Mark McGwire, Mike Greenwell, Ellis Burks and Casey Candaele.

My friend had four 1956 Topps cards set aside in an "oldies" pile, and I'm guessing he had added these to his collection by accident or maybe through an older relative.  In any event, I went over to his house this late summer day in August, equipped with my 1988 Topps doubles, and ready to deal.  I don't remember the specifics of the trade, but I ended up with four 1956 Topps commons, including this Jablonski card, and he ended up with a small stack of 1988 Topps rookies.  We were both happy with our respective hauls, so in our minds it was a fair deal.

I've lost track of this friend over the years, but his name lives on in my official records of how each card in our 1956 Topps set was obtained.

The Card
Any action shot on a baseball card that features dust being kicked up as a result of a slide is a good action shot.  I might be imagining it, but I think that's a Cardinal on the front of Jablonski's jersey.  Topps used a different photo for Jablonski's 1954 Topps card, but the same photo for his 1955 Topps card.  Jablonski would have been coming off a tough first season with the Reds when this card was issued, but his two first 100+ RBI seasons would still be in collectors' memories.

A successful minor leaguer, Jablonski was the league MVP in 1951 for the Carolina League, winning the league's triple crown while playing for the Winston-Salem Cardinals.

Redlegs Team Set

1956 Season
Jablonski was the Reds' regular third baseman in an infield that consisted of Ted Kluszewski (#25) at first, Johnny Temple (#212) at second and Roy McMillan (#123) at shortstop.  He got off to a hot start, and finished the month of April tied with teammate Wally Post (#158) for the league lead in RBIs with 13.  But he slumped badly throughout the rest of the season, ultimately losing his starting job to Alex Grammas (#37).  In 130 games, Jablonski hit .256 with 15 home runs and 66 RBIs.  The Reds finished in third place behind the pennant winning Dodgers and the second place Braves.

On November 13th, the Reds traded him with Elmer Singleton to his hometown Cubs for Warren Hacker (#282), Don Hoak (#335) and Pete Whisenant.  Although his 1957 Topps card features him with the Cubs, he never played a game for the team as they traded him to the Giants on April 16, 1957.

Phillies Connection
At the age of 35, Jablonski played the 1962 season with the Dallas-Fort Worth Rangers, a shared AAA team of the Angels and Phillies.  His teammates that year included future Phillies Pat Corrales and Cookie Rojas.

1953 Topps #189
1954 Topps #26
1955 Topps #56
1957 Topps #218
1959 Topps #342
Other Notable Baseball Cards
First Mainstream Card:  1953 Topps #189
Topps Flagship Set Appearances (7):  1953-1959
Most Recent Mainstream Card:  1994 Topps Archives 1954 #26

29 - Jablonski non-parallel baseball cards in the Beckett online database as of 1/4/20.

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 21, 2020

#85 Cleveland Indians Team Card


Topps included full team photos in its baseball card set for the first time in 1956, having previously experimented with team cards in a limited edition 1951 stand-alone set.

Building the Set
Summer of 1983 or 1984 in Millville, NJ - Card #6
This was one of the Original 44, and I've told the story of how my Dad and I began collecting the 1956 Topps set a few times - most recently with the Pedro Ramos (#49) post here.  This was the first team card from the set we added to our collection, and I remember being impressed with how Topps included the names of everyone in the picture on the front of the card.  The back of the card was just as cool, with a diagram of the team's stadium complete with dimensions, a brief history of the club and a listing of the team's all-time season records and pennant wins.  This would have been around the time I was starting to dig more into the history of the game, and I would have had an inkling as to who Napolean Lajoie or Tris Speaker were.
2003 Topps #638

When I originally came across this card, Topps had stopped including team cards in their sets, having last produced a subset of 26 team cards in its 1981 set.  Team cards made a re-appearance in Topps sets beginning in 2001 and through the 2000s, but Topps had to remove or block those people who hadn't signed a contract with the company - most notably batboys and non-player personnel.  That led to weird walls appearing on some cards to hide any non-consenting subjects.  This problem didn't exist in 1956, which is why we're treated to the inclusion of the Indians' batboy, trainer and traveling secretary in their team photo.

The Card
The logo on the card features Chief Wahoo wearing a World Series crown.  This was the team's alternate logo used between 1949 and 1955 to celebrate their World Series title in 1948.  The Indians haven't won a title since.  In case there was any confusion, Topps provides a handy "TEAM CARD" designation above and below the card number on the back.

Here are the subjects featured on the card, including a listing of their 1956 Topps card if they had one.  The photo was taken during the 1955 season at some point after July 31st, as that's the day the Indians claimed Sal Maglie off waivers from the Giants.  Maglie is present in the back row of the photo.
  • Front Row
  • Jose Santiago (#59)
  • Hal Naragon (#311)
  • Ray Narleski (#133)
  • Gene Woodling (#163)
  • Vic Wertz (#300)
  • Kenny Kuhn
  • Bobby Avila (#132)
  • Batboy Jack Hoban
  • Sam Dente
  • Ferris Fain
  • Hank Foiles
  • 2nd Row
  • Don Mossi (#39)
  • Bob Feller (#200)
  • Al Rosen (#35)
  • George Strickland
  • Coach Red Kress
  • Manager Al Lopez
  • Coach Tony Cuccinello
  • Coach Mel Harder
  • Coach Bill Lobe
  • Bob Lemon (#255)
  • Early Wynn (#187)
  • Mike Garcia (#210)
  • Back Row
  • Traveling Sec'y Spud Goldstein
  • Al Smith (#105)
  • Dale Mitchell (#268)
  • Stu Locklin
  • Sal Maglie
  • Ralph Kiner
  • Herb Score (#140)
  • Jim Hegan (#48)
  • Hoot Evers
  • Lary Doby (#250 with White Sox)
  • Art Houtteman (#281)
  • Trainer Wally Bock
The Indians called Municipal Stadium home until 1993 when they moved into Jacobs Field, which was renamed Progressive Field in 2008.  I didn't realize there had been a name change, as I still refer to the Indians home ballpark as The Jake.  There are only a few categories on the back of the card that need to be updated:

Most Home Runs - 223 in 2019
Most Consecutive Games Won - 22 in 2017
Additional Pennant Winning Teams - 1995, 1996, 1997, 1998, 1999, 2001, 2007, 2016, 2017, 2018

1955 Variation
No Year, Team Name Left
The Indians team card, along with a few other team cards, is available in three variations.  There's a version with the 1955 date, and then two versions without the year with the team name either centered or to the left.  I have the version with the centered team name in our set, and based on a quick eBay search the centered name variation seems to be the most common of the three.

Indians Team Set

1956 Season
Manager Al Lopez was in his sixth and final season at the helm for the Indians, and for the fifth time in six years the team finished in second place behind the powerhouse Yankees.  The lone exception came in 1954 when the Indians faced off against the Giants in the World Series and were swept in four games.

The team boasted three 20-game winners with Wynn, Lemon and Score and those three pitchers combined to throw 55 complete games.  The success of those starters meant that closer Mossi (11 saves) or top reliever Narleski (1.52 ERA) weren't needed much.  Wynn, Score and Narleski represented the Indians at the All-Star Game.

Wertz led the offense with 32 home runs and 106 RBIs with Rocky Colavito having a successful rookie season by hitting .276 with 21 home runs and 65 RBIs.

Indians Cards That Never Were
There are a few options here for 1956 Topps cards that never were:
  • Al Lopez (manager) - A future Hall of Famer, a manager's card for Lopez in his final year leading the Indians is needed.  (Manager cards that never were will be a common theme for all teams other than the Dodgers and Phillies.)
  • Rocky Colavito (right field) - Colavito's rookie card can be found in the 1957 Topps set, but as the team's regular right fielder and one of their top sluggers he could have found his way into the 1956 Topps high series.
  • George Strickland (shortstop) - Strickland was the team's starting shortstop in 1955 and he appeared in 85 games in a back-up role in 1956.  He was absent from Topps sets between 1953 and 1956.
  • Cal McLish (relief pitcher) - Only Mossi (48 games) relieved more games in 1956 than McLish (37 games).  He'd have his rookie card in the 1957 Topps set as well.
  • Ralph Kiner (left field) - Kiner wrapped up his Hall of Fame career with 113 games for the Indians in 1955.  The team released him on October 24, 1955, but he could have had a career capper card in the set.
  • Ferris Fain (first base) - The same goes for Fain.  He appeared in 56 games for the 1955 Indians, the final year in a career in which he was the two-time A.L. batting champion with the Athletics and a five-time All-Star.
The late, great Bob Lemke created card #352 for Colavito and he posted it to his blog back in December 2015.  I'm reproducing here, but please head over to Bob Lemke's Blog to view his wonderful collection of cards that never were.


Preston Ward (#328 with the Pirates) and Dave Pope (#154 with the Orioles) both spent time with the Indians in 1956 and they appear in the set with other teams.

Sources
Baseball Reference