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.
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 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.
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.
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
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).