Friday, February 14, 2020

#84 "Babe" Birrer - Detroit Tigers

Werner Joseph Birrer
Detroit Tigers

Bats:  Right  Throws:  Right  Height:  6'0"  Weight:  195
Born:  July 4, 1929, Buffalo, NY
Signed:  Signed by the Detroit Tigers as an amateur free agent before 1947 season
Major League Teams:  Detroit Tigers 1955; Baltimore Orioles 1956; Los Angeles Dodgers 1958
Died:  November 19, 2013, Clarence, NY (age 84)

Babe Birrer pitched in 56 games over parts of three seasons for the Tigers, Orioles and Dodgers, but it was his performance on July 19, 1955 that he'll most be remembered for.  Birrer relieved Frank Lary (#191) in the sixth inning and pitched four shutout innings to earn the save.  But at the plate, Birrer hit two, three-run home runs to stun the Orioles along with pitchers George Zuverink (#276) and Art Schallock.

Birrer's career record was 4-3 with a 4.36 ERA and four saves.  Most of his success came in the minor leagues, where he pitched for 18 seasons and compiled a lifetime record of 131-127 in 518 games.  He threw a no-hitter in 1957 while pitching for the Los Angeles Angels, the Dodgers' top farm team.

Building the Set
October 10, 1998 in Winston-Salem, NC - Card #163
In what had to have been a post-birthday purchase, I spent $52 in the Season Ticket baseball card store in Winston-Salem for 10 1956 Topps cards.  This Birrer card cost me $4.  I say it had to have been a post-birthday purchase as I didn't have a lot of disposable income back then, but I made sure that any birthday money from my parents went towards something fun and not towards something practical.

I spent 5 years living in Winston-Salem, but I still managed to get lost driving around in those pre-GPS days quite frequently.  Season Ticket was one of the few locations in the city that I memorized and I could drive to without having to ask someone to remind me of the directions.  I mean no disrespect to the former owners, but the place was a glorious dump.  Baseball cards were stacked precariously and haphazardly throughout the store, there was hardly any flat surface without something piled on it, nothing was ever in order and if you asked for something specific the owners may or may not remember the generally direction of where they had last seen it.

And I loved it in there.  I took my Dad a few times when my parents visited me, and he couldn't wait to get out of the store and back into some fresh air.

The Card
This is the third card so far in the set to represent a player's first and last Topps card, along with Nelson Burbrink (#27) and Jose Santiago (#59).  Birrer's facsimile autograph on the front features his real name, Werner.  Topps made Birrer a year older than he actually was, giving him a birth date in 1928.

Tigers Team Set

1956 Season
On April 5th, Birrer was selected off waivers by the Orioles, and he'd appear in only four games for the club from mid-April to mid-May.  He had a 6.75 ERA for the Orioles over 5 1/3 innings, allowing four earned runs on nine hits.  Most of his season was spent with the San Antonio Missions, and he led that team with 13 wins.  Birrer went 13-8 for the Missions with a 3.75 ERA and 15 complete games.

1961 Buffalo Bisons team photo
Phillies Connection
His Baseball Reference page doesn't provide any details of how he came to the organization, but Birrer pitched for the Phillies' top farm team in Buffalo for parts of three seasons between 1960 and 1962.  With the Bisons, Birrer appeared in 74 games, going 19-18.

Other Notable Baseball Cards
First Mainstream Card:  1956 Topps #84
Topps Flagship Set Appearances (1):  1956
Most Recent Mainstream Card:  1956 Topps #84

8 - Birrer non-parallel baseball cards in the Beckett online database as of 1/1/20.

Sources: 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.

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