Friday, September 11, 2020

#114 Jim Owens - Philadelphia Phillies

James Philip Owens
Philadelphia Phillies

Bats:  Right  Throws:  Right  Height:  5'11"  Weight:  180
Born:  January 16, 1934, Gifford, PA
Signed:  Signed by the Philadelphia Phillies as an amateur free agent before 1951 season
Major League Teams:  Philadelphia Phillies 1955-1956, 1958-1962; Cincinnati Reds 1963; Houston Colt .45s 1964; Houston Astros 1965-1967

Jim Owens found brief success as a Phillies starting pitcher in the late 1950s, and later remade himself as a top reliever for the Colt .45s/Astros in the early to mid 1960s.  He missed the entire 1957 season and all but one game of the 1958 season due to military service and then rebounded with his best season in the big leagues in 1959.  For the eighth place Phillies that season, Owens served as one of the team's top four starters with Robin Roberts (#180), Gene Conley (#17) and Don Cardwell.  He won a career high 12 games, going 12-12 with a 3.21 ERA over 30 starts.  His strikeout total of 135 was just two behind Roberts' 137.

Later in Houston, Owens made at least 40 appearances in three straight seasons between 1964 and 1966.  He was the Astros' closer in 1965, leading the club in appearances with 50 and saves with 8.  In 286 career appearances, Owens went 42-68 with a 4.31 ERA and 21 saves.  He pitched until the end of June 1967 with the Astros and retired in July to become the Astros' new pitching coach.  He'd hold that position until 1972, working for managers Grady Hatton (#26), Harry Walker, and briefly Leo Durocher.

Building the Set
August 29, 1996 in Winston-Salem, NC - Card #144
I attended college at Wake Forest University in Winston-Salem, North Carolina.  On humid days, or after a heavy rain, the air was heavy with the faint smell of tobacco.  I absolutely loved my time as a Demon Deacon and I realize how lucky I was to be able to attend such a phenomenal college.

July 9, 1996 - Dad and me at the 1996 All-Star Game
There was a baseball card store called Season Ticket on Silas Creek Parkway I discovered half-way through my senior year, and I'd frequent the store whenever I had a little extra spending money - which honestly wasn't very often.  Given the timing of this purchase, I don't remember if my Dad was with me or not.  Save for a visit north for the 1996 All-Star Game, I spent the summer of 1996 living in Winston-Salem and this might have been a pre-start of the semester purchase that I made on my own.  I paid $10 for a lot of four cards needed for our 1956 Topps set, which included this Owens card.  $10 would have bought a lot of Taco Ball back then (and it still would now) but adding four more cards to our set was worth the sacrifice.  Joining the Owens card were the cards of Carlos Paula (#4), Bobby Avila (#132) and Joe DeMaestri (#161).

I haven't been back to North Carolina in almost 20 years and whenever I get around to taking my wife and my sons on a road trip to visit my old campus, I'd love to see if Season Ticket is still there.

The Card
Owens' rookie card can be found in the 1955 Topps set, although this card uses the same main photo. Flipping to the back, the sky was the limit for Owens in 1956, given his minor league accomplishments.  He recorded a league leading 161 strikeouts in 1955 while pitching for the Syracuse Chiefs in the International League.  And Baseball Reference backs up the claim in the middle panel, showing Owens' record in 1954 was 17-9 with 5 shutouts.

Phillies Team Set

1956 Season
Owens was only 22 at the start of the 1956 season, and he had a rough time in the 10 games he pitched for the Phillies.  He went 0-4 with a 7.28 ERA, making five starts and five relief appearances. The rest of his season was spent pitching for the Miami Marlins - the team's new top farm club.  He made 15 appearances with the Marlins, going 5-7 with a 2.86 ERA.

Phillies Career
Owens appeared in 13 games for the 1955 and 1956 Phillies before missing almost two full seasons while serving in the military.  When he came back, and as described above, he found his most success.  Apparently, Owens was known on the party circuit and he along with fellow Phillies pitchers Turk Ferrell, Jack Meyer (#269) and Seth Morehead were known as the Dalton Gang at the time.  In parts of seven seasons with the Phillies, Owens went 24-46 with a 4.54 ERA.  On November 27, 1962, the Phillies traded him to the Reds for their long-time infielder Cookie Rojas.

1955 Topps #202
1959 Topps #503
1964 Topps #241
1967 Topps #582
1973 Topps #624
Other Notable Baseball Cards
First Mainstream Card:  1955 Topps #202
Topps Flagship Set Appearances (12):  1955-1956, 1959-1967, 1973
Most Recent Mainstream Card:  2016 Topps Heritage Real One Autographs #ROA-JOW

43 - Owens non-parallel baseball cards in the Beckett online database as of 8/4/20.

Baseball Reference
Beckett Database
The Phillies Room
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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