Wednesday, June 08, 2011

#205 Warren Spahn

#205 Warren Spahn
Hey, here's a rarity for this set: a card that I outright bought. Last September I was performing in a play at my alma mater, and I went on a stroll through historic downtown Chestertown with my friends. There was a secondhand/gift shop selling all matter of things. I spotted a couple of nine-card binder sheets with 1950s-1970s cards in them selling for ten bucks each. So essentially, I got this card for $1.12! As for this featured card, Spahnie couldn't have been overly thrilled to see his shiny bald head put on display like that. Topps could've been merciful to an aging legend and just airbrushed the Braves logo off of his cap.

Fun facts about Warren Spahn:

-Buffalo, NY native Warren Spahn was a teenager when he signed with the Boston Bees (a.k.a. Braves) in 1940.

-He had a brief and inauspicious taste of the major leagues in April and September 1942, allowing 25 hits and 11 walks in 15.2 innings. He also drew the ire of Boston manager Casey Stengel for refusing to throw at Pee Wee Reese in an exhibition game. As the legendary skipper later said, "You can't say I don't miss 'em when I miss 'em."

-It took Spahn four years to make it back to the big leagues. In between, he earned a Purple Heart and a Bronze Star for his heroic service in the U.S. Army during World War II.

-In 1947, Warren was an All-Star in his first full season. That year he went 21-10 for the first of his 13 20-win seasons. He paced the National League with a 2.33 ERA, 7 shutouts, and 289.2 innings pitched. He would be named to 14 All-Star teams in his career.

-You've likely heard the phrase "Spahn and Sain and pray for rain" to describe the old Braves' pitching staff. It came into being after the pair won eight games in a ten-game span of the schedule from September 6-18, 1948. Scheduled off days and rainouts helped make the duo's run possible. It was part of a 14-1 stretch that sewed up the National League pennant for Boston. They went on to lose to the Indians in a six-game World Series, with Spahn losing a Game Two start before earning a win with 5.2 innings of one-hit relief in Game Five. He came back the next day to toss two more innings of relief, but allowed a crucial run in the top of the eighth to give the Tribe a 4-1 lead. The Braves rallied for a pair in the bottom half of the inning, but got no closer. For the Series, the lefty allowed 4 runs in 12 innings, striking out 12 and walking 3.

-Some other league-leading feats for Warren included three total ERA titles (with a low of 2.10 in 1953), nine complete game crowns (including seven straight, 1957-1963 - his age 36-42 seasons!), four straight strikeout titles (1949-1952), and four Pitcher of the Year awards from The Sporting News.

-He won his only Cy Young Award in 1957, when he topped the N.L. in wins (21-11) and complete games (18) and sported a team-low 2.69 ERA. He took the loss in Game One of the World Series (3 ER in 5.1 IP), but gutted out a 10-inning, 5-earned-run complete game win in Game Four. His rotation-mate Lew Burdette earned three complete game victories of his own, giving Spahn his only championship.

-Warren twirled a pair of no-hitters. On September 16, 1960 he struck out 15 Phillies and walked 2 to earn his 20th win in style. He got his second no-no on April 28, 1961, shutting down the Giants.

-The 1965 season, which the 44-year-old Spahn split between the Mets and Giants, was his last. In parts of 21 seasons, he went 363-245 with 382 complete games, 63 shutouts, and 29 saves. He struck out 2,583 batters and had a 3.09 ERA. He still ranks sixth all-time in wins, and first among lefthanders.

-He was a first-ballot Hall of Famer in 1973, and the Braves have retired his #21. There is a statue depicting him in mid-windup on the grounds of Atlanta's Turner Field. He was present for the dedication in 2003, a few months before his death of natural causes at age 82.
#205 Warren Spahn (back)


  1. The photo on this card always seems like it needs a mustache.

  2. This card has to be included in that "Men of a Certain Age" catagory along w/ Smokey Burgess and others from this set

  3. This card has to be included in that "Men of a Certain Age" catagory along w/ Smokey Burgess and others from this set

  4. oops!sorry about the duplication

  5. That is one great list of numbers on the back of that card.

    The fact that he began in 1942 and I saw him pitch as a 20 game winner in '63 makes me feel pretty old.

  6. There is a similar Spahn statue outside the Oklahoma Redhawk's stadium also.

  7. night owl - Was it you that had the "enhanced" version of this card? I can't help but think of it every time I look at mine.

    Anon - Agreed! Ol' Smoky still takes the cake, though.

    Bob - That's the coolest thing about this set to me...the notion that some of these guys started their careers pre-WWII.

    carlsonjok - Thanks for the info!