Friday, May 7, 2021

#148 Alvin Dark - New York Giants


Alvin Ralph Dark
New York Giants
Shortstop


Bats:  Right  Throws:  Right  Height:  5'11"  Weight:  185
Born:  January 7, 1922, Comanche, OK
Signed:  Signed by the Boston Braves as an amateur free agent, July 4, 1946
Major League Teams:  Boston Braves 1946, 1948-1949; New York Giants 1950-1956; St. Louis Cardinals 1956-1958; Chicago Cubs 1958-1959; Philadelphia Phillies 1960; Milwaukee Braves 1960
As a Manager:  San Francisco Giants 1961-1964; Kansas City Athletics 1966-1967; Cleveland Indians 1968-1971; Oakland Athletics 1974-1975; San Diego Padres 1977
Died:  November 13, 2014, Easley, SC (age 92)

Al Dark spent 27 years in the majors first as an All-Star shortstop between 1946 and 1960 and then as a successful manager between 1961 and 1977.  Dark was the National League Rookie of the Year in 1948, batting .322 with 48 RBIs.  He was a three-time All-Star (1951, 1952 and 1954) and earned MVP votes in six different seasons.  Dark led the league in doubles with 41 in 1951, the year he helped the Giants reach the World Series.  He'd have to wait until 1954 to win his first World Series ring when he batted .412 during the series while helping the Giants sweep the Indians.  Dark finished eight seasons in the top five for fielding percentage among all National League shortstops and he led the league in double plays turned three times.  In 1,828 career games, Dark batted .289 with 126 home runs and 2,089 hits.

After retiring as a player, Dark began his managerial career with the Giants in 1961, guiding the team to the National League pennant in 1962.  After stints with the Kansas City Athletics and Indians, Dark took over the Oakland Athletics in 1974 and led the team to its third straight World Series.  (The team had won in 1972 and 1973 with Dick Williams as the manager.)  He was 994-954 as a manager, just missing the 1,000-win plateau.

Building the Set
December 4, 1999 in Raleigh, NC - Card #190
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 the 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.

From the notes I took on the flyer shown here, I didn't have much of a budget for this show as I spent $15 for the four cards for our 1956 Topps set and a whopping $6.30 for five cards for my 1972 Topps set.  It's also interesting to look back at this flyer and remember how bonkers the Beanie Baby craze was in the late 1990s.

The Card / Giants Team Set
Dark returned to Topps sets after being exclusively in the Bowman sets in 1954 and 1955.  On the back of the card, Topps shaved a year off Dark's age as he was actually born in 1922.  The first cartoon panel on the back highlights his time at Louisiana State University, where he lettered in baseball, basketball and football.

1956 Season
Dark was the Giants' opening day shortstop and in 48 games with his long-time club he batted .252.  But the team got off to a rough start, mired in seventh place in the National League by early June and Giants' management decided a shake-up was in order.  On June 14th, Dark, Ray Katt, Don Liddle (#325) and Whitey Lockman (#205), along with cash, were traded to the Cardinals for Jackie Brandt, Dick Littlefield, Bill Sarni (#247), Red Schoendienst (#165) and two players to be named later.  Given the popularity of Dark with the Giants and Schoendienst with the Cardinals, I'm assuming it was a shocking deal when first announced.

Dark settled in as the everyday shortstop for the Cardinals, batting .286 over 100 games with 37 RBIs.

Phillies Career

Dark came to the Phillies in the trade that saw popular Phillie and future Hall of Famer Richie Ashburn (#120) depart the franchise.  On January 11, 1960, the Phillies acquired Dark, John Buzhardt and Jim Woods from the Cubs for Ashburn.  With Dark at 38, only Dave Philly (#222) was older on the club at 40.  Dark was the Phillies' opening day third baseman in 1960 and he was a regular in the line-up until the team traded him on June 23rd to the Braves for Joe Morgan.

His first hit of the season in the team's home opener on April 14th was the 2,000 of his career, a sixth inning infield single off pitcher Don McMahon.  With the Phillies, Dark hit .242 over 55 games, with 3 home runs and 14 RBIs.  His short time with the club earned him a 1960 Topps card, released late in the season.

1949 Bowman #67
1951 Bowman #14
1958 Topps #125
1960 Topps #472
1978 Topps #467

Other Notable Baseball Cards

First Mainstream Card:  1949 Bowman #67
Topps Flagship Set Appearances (19):  1952-1953, 1956-1964, 1966-1970, 1975, 1978
Most Recent Mainstream Card:  2011 Topps Lineage Autographs #RA-AD

137 - Dark non-parallel baseball cards in the Beckett online database as of 5/5/21.

Sources:  
Baseball Reference
Beckett Database
The Phillies Room
SABR
The Trading Card Database

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