Monday, October 31, 2011

#470 Yogi Berra

#470 Yogi Berra
Yogi! This is the second card from Randy, and Yogi's iconic mug and old-school catcher's gear does a great job distracting from the defacement inflicted on the card. I guess somebody wanted it known that Berra had quit playing by then.

Fun facts about Yogi Berra:

-Yogi was born Lawrence Peter Berra in St. Louis, MO. He signed with the Yankees in 1943 as a teenager, but spent the next two years serving in the Navy. He saw combat in North Africa, Italy, and France during World War II.

-He debuted with the Yankees on September 22, 1946, going 2-for-4 with a home run and two RBI in a 4-3 win over the Athletics.

-Berra kicked off a string of 15 straight All-Star seasons in 1948, when he batted .305 with 24 doubles, 10 triples (!), 14 home runs, and 98 RBI.

-Yogi famously won three MVP awards (1951, 1954, 1955), and finished in fourth place or higher every year from 1950 through 1956.

-Under the tutelage of Yankee coach and Hall of Fame catcher Bill Dickey, Berra became a strong defensive catcher. He threw out 47.3% of would-be base stealers for his career.

-Spending most of his career with the dynastic Yanks, Yogi played in an incredible 14 World Series, coming out on the winning end 10 times. Overall he batted .274/.359/.452 with 12 home runs and 39 RBI in the Fall Classic, and caught Don Larsen's perfect game against the Dodgers in Game Five of the 1956 Series.

-He originally retired as a player following the 1963 season, and was named Yankee manager in place of Ralph Houk, who moved to the front office. Houk became convinced in midseason that Berra did not have control over his players, and fired him at season's end despite 99 wins and a narrow World Series loss to the Cardinals. He was picked up by the Mets as a player-coach, but played in just four games. He stayed on as a coach until the 1972 season, when he took over as manager after Gil Hodges' sudden death. Yogi managed the Mets for parts of four seasons, winning a surprise pennant with an 82-win club in 1973 and losing another squeaker World Series to the Athletics. He returned to the Yankees as a coach in 1976, and managed the team to a third-place finish in 1984. An antsy George Steinbrenner fired him just 16 games into the next season, and Yogi held a grudge for 15 years before a public apology from the Boss smoothed things over.

-In parts of 19 seasons, Berra batted .285 with 358 home runs and 1,430 RBI. In 1972, the Yankees retired the uniform number 8 that he and Bill Dickey each wore, and in 1988 the pair received bronze plaques in Yankee Stadium's Monument Park. Yogi was inducted into the Baseball Hall of Fame in 1972, his second year of eligibility.

-Yogi and his wife Carmen have been married since 1949. They have three sons. Dale Berra was an infielder for the Pirates, Yankees, and Astros from 1977 to 1987. Tim Berra was a kick returner for the 1974 Baltimore Colts.

-He is famous for his "Yogiisms", malapropisms such as "It ain't over 'til it's over" and "It's like deja vu all over again". His muddled turns of phrase are so notable that many others are falsely attributed to him. This has led him to say, "I didn't really say everything I said". My favorites are: "If people don't want to come to the ballpark how are you going to stop them?", and "Always go to other people's funerals; otherwise they won't go to yours."
#470 Yogi Berra (back)

Friday, October 28, 2011

#160 Roberto Clemente

#160 Roberto Clemente
...No, I will not be referring to him as "Bob", you xenophobic Topps person, you. Much to my surprise, this was one of two cards that arrived unannounced last weekend from all-around swell guy Randy. Only a dirty dozen left to collect!

Fun facts about Roberto Clemente:

-Roberto was born in Carolina, Puerto Rico. At age 19, he signed with the Dodgers during the 1954 season.

-The Pirates claimed Clemente in the minor league draft and he made their big league roster in 1955. He hit just .255 in 124 games, but finished second on the team with 23 doubles and 11 triples, and improved his average to .311 in his sophomore season.

-Roberto was famous for his extremely powerful throws from right field. He led the National League in outfield assists five times, including a high total of 27 in 1961. For his career, his 266 assists rank 17th all-time. He also captured 12 straight Gold Glove Awards.
-Clemente was an All-Star in 12 different seasons as well, beginning in 1960. The following year he won the first of his four batting titles with a .351 average that was bolstered by his ability to reach out and hit pitches out of the strike zone.

-Roberto was named National League MVP in 1966, when he batted .317 and reached career highs of 29 home runs, 119 RBI, and 105 runs scored.

-Though he hit well in his first World Series (.310 AVG, 3 RBI in 1960), the star outfielder was nothing less than a force of nature in the 1971 Fall Classic. He batted .414 (12-for-29) and slugged .759 to help the Pirates outlast the Orioles in 7 games. He captured Series MVP honors, and homered in each of the last two games.

-Despite his increasing stature in the United States, Clemente returned to his homeland nearly every winter during his career to play (and later manage) in the winter league. He felt he owed it to the Puerto Ricans, who otherwise would not have had an opportunity to see him play.

-In December 1972, he organized a humanitarian effort to assist the people of Managua, Nicaragua, who were victims of a devastating earthquake shortly before Christmas. On New Year's Eve, a cargo plane carrying Clemente and four other men experienced technical problems and crashed in the Atlantic Ocean, killing everyone aboard. Roberto was 38 years old.

-His final career totals included a .317 average, 440 doubles, 240 home runs, 1,305 RBI, and exactly 3,000 hits in 18 seasons.

-An exception to the customary five-year waiting period was made, and Clemente posthumously became the first Latin American player inducted into the Baseball Hall of Fame in 1973. The Pirates retired his #21 that same year, and Major League Baseball repurposed a recently-created honor as the Roberto Clemente Award. It is given annually to a player who stands out both on the field and in the community. The most recent winner was DH David Ortiz of the Red Sox; the full list is viewable here.
#160 Roberto Clemente (back)

Thursday, October 27, 2011

#533 Mets Rookie Stars: Dan Napoleon, Ron Swoboda, Jim Bethke, and Tug McGraw

#533 Mets Rookies: Dan Napoleon, Ron Swoboda, Jim Bethke, and Tug McGraw
Back again! I would've popped in a bit sooner, but this quad-rookie card required four times as much work as a regular card, and I'm lazy. Why lie? The good news is that there are a couple more cards to post in the coming days, and each of them features just one player. Anyhow, this one comes from Max, who emerged from wherever he'd been hiding to let me know that he'd found a duplicate in his collection (in lovely condition, no less!). He sent it off with the usual varied stack of Orioles cards, and in gratitude I sent back all of my 2011 Allen and Ginter Mets. Hey, it's what the man asked for. So let's do this thing.

Fun facts about Dan Napoleon:

-Danny was born in Claysburg, PA, in the central region of the state. He attended Rider University in Lawrenceville, NJ before signing with the Mets in 1964.

-In his first pro season he set the Class A New York-Penn League on fire, batting .351 and slugging .639 with 36 home runs for Auburn.

-The talent-bereft Mets put Napoleon on their Opening Day roster in 1965. He delivered a pinch single off of Houston's Hal Woodeshick in his debut on April 14.

-Ten days later, the 23-year-old had what would prove to be the biggest hit of his career. Batting for Roy McMillan in the top of the ninth in San Francisco, he faced reliever Bob Shaw with the bases loaded, two out, and the Mets trailing by two runs. His bases-clearing triple was the game-winning blow.

-Spending most of his rookie year as a pinch hitter, Danny struggled. He had 14 hits in 97 at-bats (.144) with only 2 extra-base hits and 7 RBI.

-He was demoted to AAA Jacksonville for the 1966 season, returning to New York in September. He fared little better in his second try at the big leagues, totaling 7 hits in 33 tries (.212) with a pair of doubles, a lone walk, and 10 strikeouts.

-On April Fool's Day, 1967, Napoleon was traded to the Cardinals in a five-player deal. He didn't know it at the time, but he'd already played his last major league game.

-His abbreviated big league totals included a batting line of .162/.225/.200, 7 RBI, and 7 runs scored.

-Danny played in the St. Louis organization through the 1971 season, bowing out after a three-year stint in the AA Texas League with Arkansas.

-He passed away in Trenton, NJ at age 61 in 2003.

Fun facts about Ron Swoboda:

-A Baltimore, MD native, Ron attended Sparrows Point High School and the University of Maryland before the Mets inked him to a deal in 1963.

-Though he didn't have the eye-popping totals of Danny Napoleon, Swoboda had a strong minor league debut in his own right, batting .271 with 17 homers and 72 RBI with AA Williamsport and AAA Buffalo.

-He was a few months shy of his 20th birthday when he earned a spot in the Mets outfield in the spring of 1965. Ron started hot, going 10-for-30 (.333) in April with 4 home runs and 9 RBI.

-Though Rookie of the Year voters were scared away by his .228 season average, Ron did lead his club with 19 home runs in just 135 games. His power, when combined with a fair ability to take a walk (.291 OBP) and the lower leaguewide offensive standard, gave him a decent 102 OPS+. His consolation prize was a slot on the Topps All-Star Rookie team.

-His best all-around year was 1967, when he batted .281/.340/.419 with 13 homers and 53 RBI. He nearly paced Mets regulars in on-base percentage, finishing a couple hundredths of a point behind Tommy Davis.

-Swoboda was a standout performer for the Amazin' Mets in the 1969 World Series, as he delivered 6 hits in 15 at-bats (.400) and delivered the game-winning hit with an eighth-inning double off of the Orioles' Eddie Watt in the Game Five clincher. He also tormented his hometown team with a game-saving diving catch of a Brooks Robinson liner in the ninth inning of Game Four. It was a pretty heady play for a guy whose teammates dubbed him "Rocky" for his lack of grace in the outfield.

-Ron spent the second half of his career as a part-timer for the Expos and Yankees, retiring after the 1973 season.

-In parts of 9 big league campaigns, he hit .242/.324/.379 with 73 home runs and 344 RBI.

-Ron has had a lengthy career in sportscasting, working in New York City and then New Orleans, where he currently calls TV games for the Marlins' AAA Zephyrs club.

-A quote from Swoboda: "I'm kidded, occasionally, by folks who wonder: 'How long are you going to keep living off of one catch?'. My answer: 'How long have I got left?'."

Fun facts about Jim Bethke:

-Jim was born in Falls City, NE, and signed with the Mets as an amateur free agent in 1964.

-Despite some underwhelming minor league numbers and the fact that he was just 18, he was promoted to the majors at the start of the 1965 season. (Sensing a trend?) He was the youngest player in the league that year, and was 26 years younger than teammate Warren Spahn!

-He earned wins with scoreless relief appearances against the Astros on April 15 and the Braves on May 9. Despite walking four batters with only a single strikeout in a combined two and two-thirds innings in those games, he allowed just one hit.

-Bethke had a fine 2.86 ERA in 17 relief appearances in the first half of the year, but walked 12 men while striking out just 11. He spent July in the minors, and was not quite as lucky upon his return in August, finishing with a 2-0 record and a 4.28 ERA overall. He continued to walk more than he struck out, 22 and 19 standing as the final totals.

-Jim never made it back to the majors, plying his trade in the Mets and Royals farm systems up through the 1971 season. His pitching career ended at 24 years of age with minor league totals of 36-42 and a 3.36 ERA.

-He spent a short time with the Mets, but wore three different jersey numbers. According to the superb Mets by the Numbers, Bethke was given #41 in his season-opening stint with the club. When he returned in August, he took the #28 that had previously been worn by the since-demoted Carl Willey. Willey returned to New York in September and reclaimed his digits, and Jim switched to #36. So in less than a full season, one teenaged rookie wore the numbers later popularized by Tom Seaver, John Milner, and Jerry Koosman!

Fun facts about Tug McGraw:

-Born Frank Edwin McGraw in Martinez, CA, Tug signed with the Mets out of junior college in 1964. His older brother Hank, a catching prospect, leveraged the team into taking a flyer on the smaller pitcher.

-He debuted with the Mets in 1965 (of course!), posting a 2-7 record as a swingman with a 3.32 ERA and a single save.

-Tug's only two wins as a rookie came in consecutive starts. On August 22, he scattered 7 hits and 5 walks in a complete-game 4-2 win over the Cardinals. He then earned New York's first-ever victory over Sandy Koufax on August 26, holding the Dodgers to a pair of runs in 7.2 innings. Koufax had come in with a 13-0 record in 14 starts against the Mets (the Dodgers won the 14th game after he had departed).

-McGraw was battered in shorter big-league stints in 1966 and 1967, and spent portions of those seasons and all of 1968 in the minors. During this time, he learned a screwball from veteran pitcher Ralph Terry. It would later become his signature pitch.

-He was resurgent in 1969, when Mets manager Gil Hodges made him a full-time reliever. He finished the year 9-3 with a 2.24 ERA and 12 saves, teaming with righty Ron Taylor (13 saves) to give New York bullpen threats from both sides of the mound. Tug allowed only 2 runs in his last 38 innings, an 0.47 mark. He did not appear in the World Series, as the dominant Mets starters carried the team to victory.

-The lefty got even better with more experience, posting identical ERA marks of 1.70 in 1971 and 1972. He went 11-4 in the former season and saved 27 games in the latter, a team record broken in 1984 by Jesse Orosco. He made the first of two All-Star teams in 1972, earning the win and notching four strikeouts in two innings.

-Tug coined the phrase "You gotta believe" in 1973, which became the rallying cry for a Mets team that turned around a miserable season and eked out the National League pennant with a mere 82-79 record. McGraw himself was a part of both the nosedive and the resurgence: he followed up an 0-4 record, 6.17 ERA, and 1.73 WHIP in the first half with a 5-2 mark, a 1.64 ERA, and a 0.99 WHIP post-All-Star Game. His lack of activity in the 1969 World Series contrasted mightily to the 13.2 innings he tossed in 5 outings in the 1973 Series, which Oakland eked out in the full 7 games. Tug struck out 14 batters and allowed 4 earned runs, all of which came in a 6-inning slog in Game 2. He wound up with the win in that contest, as the Mets capitalized on a pair of Mike Andrews errors to put up four runs in the twelfth inning.

-Sent to the Phillies in a six-player swap prior to the 1975 season, McGraw was revitalized after a surgical procedure that removed accumulated deposits from his shoulder. He stayed in Philadelphia for a decade, posting a 3.10 ERA and saving 94 games total. He pitched in five postseasons in a six-year span, including the Phils' first-ever World Championship in 1980. He allowed a single run and struck out 10 Royals in 7.2 innings over 4 games that October, winning Game 5 and saving Game 1 and the Game 6 clincher.

-Tug hung up his spikes following the 1984 season, finishing his career with a 96-92 record, 180 saves, and a 3.14 ERA in parts of 19 seasons. He was chosen for the Mets Hall of Fame in 1993 and the Phillies Wall of Fame in 1999.

-One of his four children was Tim McGraw, the product of a fling he had while pitching in the minors in 1966. He denied paternity for several years, but the two eventually became close and Tug helped Tim launch a successful career as a country musician. Tug was diagnosed with an inoperable brain tumor in March 2003 and given three weeks to live. He hung on for nine months, passing away at age 59 on January 5, 2004.
#533 Mets Rookies: Dan Napoleon, Ron Swoboda, Jim Bethke, and Tug McGraw (back)

Monday, October 03, 2011

#16 Astros Rookie Stars: Joe Morgan and Sonny Jackson

#16 Astros Rookies: Joe Morgan and Sonny Jackson
Back again! I've knocked another of the remaining big-ticket items off of the want list thanks to Ed's bargain hunting skills. This lightly used Joe Morgan rookie set me back one cool sawbuck. Not too shabby.

Fun facts about Joe Morgan:

-Joe was born in Bonham, TX. He was 19 when he signed with Houston in 1962.

-After cups of coffee with the Colt .45s in 1963 and 1964, he became the team's starting second baseman and finished second to the Dodgers' Jim Lefebvre in 1965 Rookie of the Year voting. Morgan showed a glimpse of his valuable skill set, leading the Astros with 100 runs scored, 12 triples, 97 walks (also tops in the N.L.), and a .373 on-base percentage. He batted .271 with 14 homers and 20 steals.

-Though he made the All-Star team in 1966 and again in 1970, Joe didn't truly flourish until he was dealt to the Reds in November 1971. He was the prime attraction for Cincinnati in an eight-player deal that sent slugger Lee May to Houston.

-Morgan was an All-Star in each of his first eight seasons with the Reds. In that span, he captured four on-base titles (peaking at .466 in 1975) and twice led the league in OPS and OPS+, with marks of 1.020 and 186 in 1976 as his career highs.

-As the ignitor of Cincinnati's "Big Red Machine", Joe won back-to-back league MVP awards in 1975 and 1976. The latter was his best overall year, as he hit a personal-best 27 homers with 111 RBI. He also stole 60 bases (his fifth straight year of at least 58 SB) and led the N.L. with a .444 on-base percentage, .576 slugging, and the aforementioned OPS and adjusted OPS+. He put up a slash line of .333/.412/.733 in the four-game World Series sweep of the Yankees, hitting a home run off of Doyle Alexander in the opener.

-He was also considered a deft second baseman, reigining as the National League Gold Glover at the keystone from 1973 through 1977.

-Morgan played for five teams in the final six seasons of his career, going from the Reds back to the Astros and then to the Giants, Phillies, and Athletics. He played regularly through age 40, and his lowest on-base percentage in a full season was .347 in 1978. In his 1984 swan song, he still reached base at a .356 clip.

-Joe retired with a .271/.392/.427 batting line and a 132 OPS+ for his career. He totaled 449 doubles and 268 home runs, drove in 1,133 runs, and stole 689 bases. He is still ranked eleventh all-time in steals, and is the top home run hitter among Hall of Fame second basemen. He reached Cooperstown on his first ballot in 1990, and the Reds retired his number 8 in 1987.

-He has spent the last quarter-century broadcasting televised games for the Reds, Athletics, and Giants, as well as nationally for ABC, NBC, and most notably ESPN, where he and Jon Miller comprised the Sunday Night Baseball crew from 1990 through 2010. He has often been the target of criticism for his strident and misinformed opposition to advanced statistical analysis.

-Morgan is currently working in an advisory role with the Reds, and hosts a syndicated sports talk radio show on Sports USA.

Fun facts about Sonny Jackson:

-A Washington, DC native, Sonny signed with Houston as a teenager in 1963.

-After getting brief trials with the inexperienced Colts and Astros clubs of 1963-1965, he started at shortstop for the club in 1966. He batted .292 with 80 runs scored and a rookie-record 49 stolen bases, and finished second to Tommy Helms of the Reds in Rookie of the Year voting.

-Jackson's numbers plunged in his sophomore season (including a 106-point dip in OPS), and he found himself traded to Atlanta in the ensuing offseason.

-Sonny spent seven injury-riddled seasons with the Braves, topping out at .259/.347/.320 in 1970.

-He hung on in the minors from 1974 through 1976 before finally calling it a career.

-In parts of 12 big league seasons, Sonny batted .251 with 7 home runs and 162 RBI.

-Four of his seven career homers were of the inside-the-park variety, and all four of those were hit in the Astrodome.

-Fun with matchups! Sonny hit .400/.447/.571 in 39 career plate appearances vs. Milt Pappas, including one of those inside-the-park homers. However, he had a slash line of .145/.169/.188 in 74 meetings with Juan Marichal.

-He has been a coach and instructor in both the majors and minors since his retirement, working for the Braves, Giants, and Cubs.
#16 Astros Rookies: Joe Morgan and Sonny Jackson (back)

Friday, August 19, 2011

#502 Don Cardwell

#502 Don Cardwell
Look at that, I'm back sooner than expected! I have Ed to thank for this one. He emailed me last week to let me know that he found Don Cardwell, and then called me on his way home Wednesday night to let me know that said card was burning a hole in his pocket and he would be by shortly. I saw him pull up and popped down to the street, where he handed me the card through his car window. As I told him, it was the first drive-by card acquisition I've ever completed!

Fun facts about Don Cardwell:

-Don was born in Winston-Salem, NC and lettered in baseball, basketball, and football in high school before signing with the Phillies in 1954.

-He debuted with the Phillies in 1957, earning a save with three innings of competent relief against the Giants in his debut. On April 26, his first big league start was also his first career win, a four-hit shutout against those same Giants. He finished the year 4-8 with a 4.91 ERA.

-After a few more uneven seasons, Cardwell was traded to the Cubs in May 1960. He got his first starting assignment in the second game of a doubleheader vs. the Cardinals in Wrigley, and became the first (and to date, only) pitcher to throw a no-hitter in his team debut! Alex Grammas, the second batter of the game, drew a walk; that was the only blemish on Don's record that day.

-He was a workhouse for a bad Chicago club in 1961, going 15-14 with a 3.82 ERA and career highs of 13 complete games and 259.1 innings pitched. The Cubbies finished with 90 losses, and no other pitcher on the team topped 10 wins.

-After losing 16 games for the second time in 3 years in 1962, Don was traded twice that offseason: from the Cubs to the Cardinals and then to the Pirates. He rebounded nicely, posting a 3.07 ERA that put the lie to his 13-15 record. (The 74-88 Pittsburghers scored 3 runs or less in 20 of his 32 starts.)

-Arm troubles sidelined the righthander for most of the 1964 season, but he returned in 1965 with a 13-10 mark and a 3.18 ERA for the Bucs. It was his second and final big league season with a positive win-loss total.

-Don spent the later years of his career as an elder statesman on the burgeoning Mets staff after the Pirates dealt him in December 1966. His contributions to the 1969 "Miracle Mets" included an 8-10 mark and a 3.01 ERA as a swingman, and he posted a career-best 121 ERA+.

-Cardwell retired after getting knocked around for both the Mets and Braves in 1970. In parts of 14 seasons, he was 102-138 with a 3.92 ERA.

-He was no slouch with the bat, totaling 15 home runs in his career. His best individual season was 1960, when he batted .208 and slugged .416 with 5 homers and 9 RBI.

-After baseball, Don made his home back in North Carolina, working for Parkway Ford and excelling at golf with a handicap that was as low as single digits at one time. He passed away in January 2008 at age 72.
#502 Don Cardwell (back)

Monday, August 08, 2011

#471 Billy Hoeft

#471 Billy Hoeft
Believe it or not, this is the LAST card I have in the hopper to post! It could be a while before I get ahold of those 17 elusive cards that stand between me and completion, so the updates are going to be less frequent than they have been in recent months. However, I'm thinking that I might go back and give the first few card posts a re-do, since it took a while for me to focus more in-depth on each individual featured player. So this isn't goodbye, it's just "smell ya later".

Anyhow, this finely rounded card comes from Ed. Billy Hoeft is hatless player number 1,345 (an approximate guess) in the set, having gone from the Braves to the Tigers in the offseason. By the time the card was in stores, it was already outdated; Detroit released Hoeft before the season started, and he joined the Cubs in May 1965. Whoops!

Fun facts about Billy Hoeft:

-Billy was born in Oshkosh, WI and signed with the Tigers out of high school in 1950.

-He was only 20 when he made it to the majors in 1952. He earned his first career save and each of his first two wins in games vs. the Yankees, and finished 2-7 with 4 saves and a 4.32 ERA.

-On September 7, 1953, he went the distance in a 4-2 win over the White Sox. He scattered eight hits and performed a rare feat by striking out the side (Jim Rivera, Mike Fornieles, and Chico Carrasquel) on just nine pitches in the top of the seventh inning!

-After taking his lumps for a few years, the light went on for Hoeft in 1955. He led the American League with 7 shutouts en route to a team-best 16-7 record, 2.99 ERA, and 133 strikeouts. He also made the only All-Star team of his career.

-Despite seeing his ERA jump to 4.06 in 1956, Billy won 20 games against 14 losses.

-He hit two of his three career home runs on July 14, 1957, driving in three runs to help his own cause in a complete game 10-2 win over Hal Brown and the Orioles.

-He was unable to build on his early successes, and found himself working mostly out of the bullpen for three teams in 1959, going from Detroit to Boston to Baltimore.

-Billy's most successful campaign as a reliever came in 1961, when he went 7-4 with 3 saves, a 2.02 ERA, and 100 strikeouts in 138 innings in 35 games (12 starts) for the Orioles.

-He also spent time with the Giants, Braves, and Cubs, retiring in 1966 after 15 years in the big leagues. He had a career record of 97-101 with 33 saves and a 3.94 ERA.

-After baseball, Hoeft sold printing equipment. He died of cancer at age 77 last year.
#471 Billy Hoeft (back)

Friday, August 05, 2011

#282 Giants Rookie Stars: Dick Estelle and Masanori Murakami

#282 Giants Rookie Stars: Dick Estelle and Masanori Murakami
I told you this was a Giants-centric week! (Sorry, Night Owl.) Ed performed his '65 Topps wingman duties well again, picking up this fine card for $5 at a card show in Virginia back in July. Dick Estelle is another extremely airbrushed-looking player, but Masanori Murakami appears to be the real deal.

Fun facts about Dick Estelle:

-A native of Lakewood, NJ, Dick signed with the Giants at age 18 in 1960.

-In 1964, he struck out 167 batters in 152 innings at AAA Tacoma to earn a September callup to San Francisco.

-After taking a hard-luck loss while pitching into the tenth inning in his second start, Dick earned his first career win on September 22, 1964 with eight innings of one-run ball against Houston. Incidentally, Murakami earned his first career save by relieving the starter in the ninth and stranding two inherited runners.

-In 41.2 innings in 1964, Estelle went 1-2 with a 3.02 ERA. He struck out 23 and walked 23.

-After returning to AAA in 1965, he earned another look in September. Making 5 relief appearances and a start, he allowed 6 runs (5 earned) in 11.1 innings for a 3.97 ERA.

-Dick never pitched again in the big leagues. He stayed active in the minors through the 1972 season, finishing with a 102-123 record and a 3.67 ERA in parts of 13 minor league seasons.

-His career big league record was 1-2 with a 3.23 ERA.

-Estelle was inducted into the Lakewood High School Hall of Fame in 2006. In his senior year, he had gone 11-2 with an 0.38 ERA.

Fun facts about Masanori Murakami:

-Masanori was born in Otsuki, Japan. His father wanted him to become a doctor, and only permitted him to play baseball if he agreed to continue studying diligently. He appeared briefly for the Nankai Hawks in 1963 before being sent to the Giants as part of a development deal between the two clubs.

-Working out of the bullpen at Class A Fresno, Murakami appeared in 49 games in 1964, going 11-7 with an excellent 1.78 ERA and 0.93 WHIP. The Giants promoted him to the big leagues in September.

-The 20-year-old became the first Japanese player in the major leagues and endeared himself quickly to fans and teammates, bowing to his fielders when they made good plays behind him. He strung together eight scoreless appearances to begin his career. He picked up the aforementioned save in Dick Estelle's only career win, and added a win of his own with three innings of one-hit relief against Houston on September 29. He allowed his only 3 runs in his final appearance on the year, finishing with a 1.80 ERA in 15 innings.

-Though the Giants expected to have his services again in 1965, the Hawks insisted that he had only been loaned to the American club and the two teams and their respective leagues engaged in a war of words. An agreement was finally brokered that allowed Murakami to return to San Francisco in early May.

-Masanori pitched reasonably well in 45 games, going 4-1 with 5 holds, 8 saves, and a 3.75 ERA. The Giants won 95 games and finished just 2 back of the first-place Dodgers.

-At the insistence of his father, he returned to Japan and the Hawks in 1966. He struggled under high expectations and was criticized for supposed bad "American" habits. He pitched in Japan through the 1982 season, finishing his career with a 103-82 record (largely on the strength of an 18-4, 2.38 ERA season in 1968) and a 3.64 ERA.

-He attended spring training with the San Francisco Giants in 1983, but did not make the team at age 38 and chose to go back to Japan. This left his major league record at 5-1 with 9 saves and a 3.43 ERA.

-Masanori later broadcast games for the Japanese NHK network.

#282 Giants Rookie Stars: Dick Estelle and Masanori Murakami (back)

Thursday, August 04, 2011

#4 NL Home Run Leaders: Willie Mays, Billy Williams, Johnny Callison, Orlando Cepeda, and Jim Ray Hart

#4 NL Home Run Leaders: Mays, Williams, Callison, Cepeda, and Hart
Wow, not only is this a crowded league leaders card, it's also continuing a very Giants-centric week here on the ol' blog. Ed picked up this card for me a few weeks back, and as you can see if you scroll down, I'm dealing with a little paper loss on the back. So I'll be looking to upgrade sooner rather than later.

In 1964, Willie Mays continued his display of sustained excellence by clouting 47 home runs, thereby winning his third of four career National League crowns. The 33-year-old Giant had won his first homer title a full decade earlier, going deep 51 times in 1955. He would surpass that previous career high in 1965, leading the Senior Circuit one last time with 52 big flies. He retired in 1973 with 660 home runs, then the third-highest total in history. He was of course bumped down to fourth by the current home run king, his godson Barry Bonds.

Sweet Swingin' Billy Williams was a distant runner-up with 33 round-trippers, a new career high for the 26-year-old Cub. It was the fourth in an impressive string of 13 consecutive 20-homer seasons for Williams. He never captured a home run title, but peaked with 42 homers in 1970. He collected 426 four-baggers in an 18-year career.

The three-man logjam on the bottom row of this card represents a three-way tie for third in homers in the National League. Johnny Callison's 31 dingers were one shy of the career high he'd establish in 1965; he never even hit 20 afterward, but wrapped up his career in 1973 with 226 total. For Orlando Cepeda, 31 was actually his lowest HR output since 1960. However, he also missed 20 games early in the season. He peaked at a league-leading 46 in 1961 and wound up with 379 in a Hall of Fame career. Jim Ray Hart's 31 longballs were the first 31 of his career, earning him a second-place Rookie of the Year finish. He topped out at 33 in 1966, but his prime was short; he played 1,125 games lifetime and accumulated 170 homers.

If you could see the card back, you'd find the top 24 power hitters of 1964 in the N.L., all the way down to Willie McCovey with 18. The grand slam rundown is also provided, with only Bob Aspromonte and league MVP Ken Boyer hitting two grannies. The two most surprising names on the list (in my opinion) are Charlie Smith with 20 HR, and Billy Cowan with 19.
#4 NL Home Run Leaders: Mays, Williams, Callison, Cepeda, and Hart (back)

Wednesday, August 03, 2011

#545 Jesus Alou

#545 Jesus Alou
A few weeks ago (yes, weeks! I'm four cards away from being caught up!), reader George DeVerges and his father sent me this extra Jesus Alou card they found in their collection. Thanks, guys!

There's a joke based on the old Christian slogan "Jesus is the answer". It suggests that the question must be, "Who is Felipe and Matty's brother?".

Fun facts about Jesus Alou:

-Jesus was born in Bajos de Haina, in San Cristobal, Dominican Republic. He signed with the Giants as a teenager in 1958.

-He was the youngest of the three baseball-playing Alou brothers, and is the uncle of Moises Alou and Mel Rojas.

-After a September 1963 callup, Alou became a regular in the San Francisco outfield in 1964. He batted .274 as a rookie, but seldom walked or hit for power. In his entire career, he would top 100 in OPS+ in only two seasons, both as a part-timer.

-On July 10, 1964, he went 6-for-6 with a home run in a 10-3 win over the Cubs.

-Jesus played in a career-high 143 games in 1965, hitting .298 with 9 home runs and 52 RBI.

-He was taken by the Expos in the 1968 expansion draft, but was traded to the Astros prior to the 1969 season. In 1970, he hit .306 with a personal-best 27 doubles for Houston.

-In his 30s, Jesus became a pinch hitter and bench player with some positive results. He batted .312 in 102 trips to the plate for the Astros in 1972.

-He was a member of the Athletics' World Series-winning clubs in 1973 and 1974.

-After spending the 1975 season with the Mets, Jesus was released the next spring and did not return to the majors until Houston resigned him for the 1978 season. The 36-year-old rewarded them with a .324 average in 152 plate appearances, including a .364 mark (16-for-44) as a pinch hitter. He retired after serving as a player-coach for the club in 1979. In parts of 15 seasons, he hit .280 with 32 home runs and 377 RBI.

-Alou worked as an Expos scout in the 1980s and 1990s, and has been director of Dominican operations for both the Marlins and Red Sox.

#545 Jesus Alou (back)

Tuesday, August 02, 2011

#176 Willie McCovey

#176 Willie McCovey
Whaddaya know, it's Stretch! This card set me back a cool five bucks, thanks to the bargain-hunting talents of Ed. If you're paying attention to the sidebar, you'll have noticed that I am now just 17 cards shy of a completed set, which brings with it several exciting signposts. For instance, I have completed the Giants team set, 30 cards in all. That's a big deal to me in itself, but especially considering that it includes five future Hall of Famers.

Fun facts about Willie McCovey:

-Willie was born in Mobile, AL and was only 17 when he signed with the Giants in 1955.

-He put up impressive numbers at every stop in the minors, and was hitting .372/.459/.759 with 29 homers and 92 RBI in 95 games at AAA Phoenix when the Giants called him up to the majors in the summer of 1959. His first game was a sign of things to come, as he went 4-for-4 with 2 triples, 2 RBI, and 3 runs scored against Robin Roberts.

-He kept up the pace in his first look at the major leagues, putting up a line of .354/.429/.656 with 13 homers and 38 RBI in just 52 games in San Francisco. He was the unanimous winner of the National League Rookie of the Year award despite playing just one-third of the season!

-Despite his prodigious power and on-base skills, McCovey found it hard to get into an everyday lineup that included Orlando Cepeda, Willie Mays, Felipe Alou, and Harvey Kuenn. He did not top 106 games in a season until 1963. That year, he made the first of 6 All-Star teams, leading the league with 44 home runs and driving in 102 runs (trailing only Mays' 103 for the team high). He also batted .280 and scored 103 runs.

-He edged out Tom Seaver in MVP voting in 1969, when he reached career highs (and league-leading totals) of 45 home runs, 126 RBI, a .453 on-base percentage, .656 slugging, and a 209 OPS+. His .320 average was also a personal best, and ranked fifth in the N.L.

-Willie batted .429 (6-for-14) with 2 home runs and 6 RBI in a losing effort in the 1971 NLCS. His two-run homer off of Steve Blass in Game One gave the Giants the eventual winning runs in their only victory over the Pirates in the Series.

-He punished fellow Hall of Famer Don Drysdale, batting .336/.437/.680 with 12 home runs and 31 RBI in 151 plate appearances lifetime. This prompted Drysdale's former teammate Don Sutton to say that Mac was the only batter who was able to physically intimidate the great pitcher.

-Willie won the Comeback Player of the Year award in 1977, when he hit .280 with 28 homers and 86 RBI and boosted his OPS by 262 points at age 39.

-McCovey stayed in the majors for an astonishing 22 seasons, retiring at age 42 in 1980. He spent 3 years late in his career with the Padres, played 11 games with the Athletics, and returned to San Francisco for his last 4 years. He had a lifetime batting line of .270/.374/.515 with 521 home runs (still 18th all-time) and 1,555 RBI.

-Among his post-retirement honors, his #44 was retired by the Giants, and the club erected a statue in his likeness across from AT&T Park. The body of water beyond the right-field fence has been named McCovey Cove, as the lefthanded slugger used to deposit home runs beyond the right field bleachers in old Candlestick Park. He was a first-ballot Hall of Famer in 1986, and he currently works as a senior advisor for the Giants.
#176 Willie McCovey (back)

Monday, August 01, 2011

#335 Mickey Lolich

#335 Mickey Lolich
The last of the recent three-spot of cards from Ed is this gently used Mickey Lolich. I'll probably look to upgrade this one when I can. Lolich is the author of one of my favorite quotes. The overweight hurler once said, "All the fat guys watch me and say to their wives, 'See, there's a fat guy doing okay. Bring me another beer'."

Fun facts about Mickey Lolich:

-A Portland, OR native, Mickey was naturally right-handed but learned to throw lefty after breaking his left arm as a child and performing exercises to strengthen the previously immobilized muscles. He signed with the Tigers in 1958 for a $30,000 bonus.

-He finally got the call to the big leagues at age 22 in 1963, after learning to command his pitches rather than just relying on throwing hard. He earned his first win with a 3-1 decision over the Angels on May 28. He went the distance, scattering eight hits that day.

-Lolich took a great leap forward in 1964, going 18-9 with a 3.26 ERA and leading Detroit with 6 shutouts, 12 complete games, a 1.12 WHIP, and 192 strikeouts.

-After contributing to the Tigers' American League championship in 1968 with a 17-9 mark and a 3.19 ERA, Mickey practically carried them to a World Series win over the Cardinals. He hurled complete game victories in each of his three starts, outdueling Bob Gibson in a 4-1 win in the Game Seven clincher. In all, he allowed 5 earned runs in 27 innings (1.67 ERA), striking out 21 batters and walking only 6 to earn Series MVP honors. He even hit his only career home run in the third inning of Game Two to push his lead to 2-0!

-He had a pair of 16-strikeout games in 1969, baffling the Angels on May 23 and shutting down the Pilots two starts later on June 9.

-The lefty was a three-time All-Star, including a career year in 1971: 25-14, 2.92 ERA. He led the American League in wins and also led with 29 complete games, 376 innings pitched, and 308 strikeouts (the latter a team record). He finished second to Vida Blue in Cy Young voting. Blue was 24-8 with a 1.82 ERA and 301 strikeouts, but pitched 64 fewer innings.

-Mickey was excellent in 1972 as well, going 22-14 with a 2.50 ERA, 23 complete games, and 250 strikeouts in 327.1 innings. He helped the Tigers capture the A.L. East crown, but did not pick up a win in either ALCS start against the Athletics. He pitched into the 11th inning in the opener, but was pulled with a 2-1 lead after allowing a pair of singles. Reliever Chuck Seelbach allowed both runs to score on a Gonzalo Marquez single, and Lolich was saddled with the loss. In Game Four, he helped the Tigers stave off elimination with nine innings of one-run ball (leaving his career postseason ERA at 1.57), but left with the scored tied. Seelbach (that guy AGAIN) surrendered two runs in the top of the tenth, but the Tigers rallied with three of their own in the bottom of the inning. Detroit lost a 2-1 heartbreaker in Game Five to miss out on the World Series.

-Detroit's fortunes plummeted in the mid-1970s, and Lolich was saddled with 39 losses in 1974 and 1975. The Tigers swapped him to the Mets in December 1975 for Rusty Staub, but his fortunes were no better: he went 8-13 in 1976 despite a 3.22 ERA. He butted heads with his trainer and pitching coach, and sat out the second year of his contract in 1977.

-Mickey ended his career with a two-year stint in San Diego, retiring in 1979 with a career record of 217-191 in parts of 16 seasons. He had a 3.44 lifetime ERA, and struck out 2,832 batters, still 18th-most in history.

-He ran a donut shop in the suburbs of Detroit for several years before selling his business and retiring with his wife Joyce. He splits his time between Oregon and Michigan, and his hobbies include biking, archery, shooting, and ham radios. He remained on the Hall of Fame ballot for the full 15 years of eligibility, peaking with 25.5% of the vote in 1988. He has been a Veterans' Committee finalist three times in recent years, but failed to draw enough votes for enshrinement.
#335 Mickey Lolich (back)

Friday, July 29, 2011

#297 Dave DeBusschere

#297 Dave DeBusschere
Here's another card from Ed, and it's one I'd wanted for a long time. Either it's just random chance that it took so long for me to obtain it, or there are a lot of Knicks fans out there who are hoarding Dave DeBusschere. He joins a list of two-sport athletes in my collection that includes Dick Groat, Steve Hamilton, Ron Reed, Danny Ainge, Bo Jackson, Brian Jordan, Mark Hendrickson, and Deion Sanders. In addition to the preceding list of MLB players with either NBA or NFL experience, I can't forget former Harlem Globetrotter Bob Gibson!

Fun facts about Dave DeBusschere:

-Dave was born in Detroit, MI, and attended the University of Detroit Mercy before signing with the White Sox in 1962 for a $75,000 bonus. He had also been drafted by the NBA's Detroit Pistons, and chose the Sox over the hometown Tigers because they permitted him to pursue a career in pro basketball in addition to pitching.

-At age 21, he spent a portion of his first pro season in the major leagues. Despite walking 23 batters in 18 innings, he allowed only 7 runs (4 earned) for a 2.00 ERA.

-The 6'6" righthander had a much easier time of things in the minors, going 10-1 with a 2.49 ERA and 93 strikeouts in 94 innings at Class A Savannah/Lynchburg in 1962.

-Dave had an impressive rookie campaign for the Pistons in 1962-63, averaging 12.7 points and 8.7 rebounds per game and making the All-Rookie Team.

-DeBusschere was up in the majors for the duration in 1963, working as both a starter and reliever. In 24 games (10 starts), he had a 3-4 record with a 3.09 ERA. He also improved his control significantly, dropping from 11.5 walks per 9 innings to 3.6.

-He tossed his first and only career shutout on August 13, 1963, holding the Indians to six hits (all singles) and a walk. He did not allow a hit after the fifth inning, and retired the final ten Cleveland batters in order.

-Dave spent the 1964 and 1965 baseball seasons at AAA Indianapolis, winning 15 games in each year. However, both the White Sox and the Pistons pressured him to limit himself to one sport or the other, figuring that he would not reach his full potential otherwise.

-When the Pistons named him as player-coach in 1964, it hastened his exit from baseball. He hung up his spikes for good in 1965, leaving with a 3-4 record and a 2.90 ERA in parts of two big league seasons.

-DeBusschere lasted only three seasons as Detroit's coach (with a .356 win percentage), but remained a star player for a decade. He was an eight-time All-Star at forward and guard for the Pistons and Knicks, and had six first-team All-Defensive player honors. He was a key contributor for the championship Knicks teams in 1970 and 1973, and retired with career averages of 16 points and 11 rebounds per game. He was inducted into the Basketball Hall of Fame in 1983.

-He joined the front office of the ABA's New York (later New Jersey) Nets after retiring, and for a brief period served as the commissioner of the NBA's rival league. Later he rejoined the Knicks as an assistant coach and director of basketball operations. During his tenure in New York, he drafted Patrick Ewing. DeBusschere suffered a fatal heart attack at age 62, collapsing on a Manhattan street on May 14, 2003.
#297 Dave DeBusschere (back)

Thursday, July 28, 2011

#132 World Series Game One: Cards Take Opener

#132 World Series Game One: Cards Take Opener
It's been a busy week, but I found time today to check back in with this awesome card from Ed.What you see here is an action shot depicting Mike Shannon's two-run homer off of Whitey Ford in the sixth inning of the opening game of the 1964 World Series. Is that cool, or what?

As noted, this is the first of the seven cards commemorating the Cardinals' thrilling seven-game World Series triumph over the Yankees. Although New York (99-63) had the superior regular season record, the series opened in St. Louis (93-69), as the two leagues alternated home-field advantage each year. 35-year-old Whitey Ford (17-6, 2.13 ERA), appearing in his final Fall Classic, started for the Yanks. Opposing him was Ray Sadecki (20-11, 3.68 ERA), a surprising wins leader for the Cards at age 23.

The Busch Stadium crowd was treated to some first-inning action, with Curt Flood singling, moving to third on a Lou Brock hit, and scoring the first run on a Ken Boyer sacrifice fly. But the visitors took the lead in their next at-bat via a two-run homer from Tom Tresh and an RBI single by Ford. Sadecki got revenge with a run-scoring single of his own in the bottom of the inning, making it 3-2 New York after two innings.

Each team put a runner on base in both the third and fourth innings, but had nothing to show for it. Three straight two-out hits brought home another Yankee run in the fifth, with Tresh's double plating Mickey Mantle. It was 4-2 in favor of the road team when Mike Shannon hit his game-tying clout in the home half of the sixth (pictured above). Tim McCarver following with a double, ending Whitey's day in disappointing fashion. Al Downing offered little relief, surrendering the go-ahead run on a pinch single by Carl Warwick. Flood picked up Julian Javier (who ran for Warwick) with a triple to give the Redbirds a 6-4 advantage.

St. Louis pitchers continued walking a tightrope in the late innings, with Barney Schultz working out of a two-on, two-out spot in the seventh and yielding a run-scoring single to Bobby Richardson an inning later but stranding another pair on the bases. With the lead shaved down to one run, the Cards pulled away in the last half of the eighth. Rollie Sheldon took the mound for the Yankees and was betrayed by a Clete Boyer error that allowed Shannon to reach. He walked McCarver and got a line drive double play off the bat of Schultz, who Johnny Keane allowed to hit for himself. With first base now open, pinch hitter Bob Skinner was given a free pass and young Pete Mikkelsen was summoned to face Curt Flood. Once again Flood delivered, singling to left to plate Shannon. Brock put the final nail in the coffin, doubling home a pair to push the margin to 9-5. Schultz earned the save with a perfect ninth inning, and the first game went to the National League champs. Sadecki got the win despite allowing four runs in six innings. Ford, who was charged with five runs in five and one-third innings, took the loss. It was the highest-scoring game in the 1964 Series, and the most runs scored by either team.
#132 World Series Game One: Cards Take Opener (back)

Monday, July 25, 2011

#390 Bill Freehan

#390 Bill Freehan
Today's entry wraps up the donation made by Greg Mader. Thanks again!

As you can see, Bill Freehan sets a great target, even though he's not making eye contact with the pitcher. That's a good way to get your fingers broken, kiddos.

Fun facts about Bill Freehan:

-Bill was a Detroit native and briefly attended the University of Michigan before signing with the Tigers in 1961.

-He debuted with the Tigers in September 1961 after hitting .289 in 77 minor league games. A few months shy of his 20th birthday, he went 4-for-10 with 4 RBI and a walk in his first taste of the bigs.

-Freehan became Detroit's everyday catcher in 1964 and made the first of 11 All-Star teams. He led the club with an even .300 average and 8 triples, and also contributed 18 home runs and 80 RBI. He placed seventh in MVP voting.

-Though his average dipped to .234 in 1965, his defense didn't suffer. Bill won the first of five straight Gold Gloves behind the plate.

-He was runner-up to batterymate Denny McLain in 1968's MVP vote. Freehan caught for a talented staff that included McLain (31-6, 1.96 ERA) and Mickey Lolich (17-9, 3.19 ERA) and also posted career highs in slugging (.454), home runs (25), and RBI (84). His .366 on-base percentage was nearly 70 points above the league average.

-Though he collected only two hits and four walks in the 1968 World Series (.083 AVG, .214 OBP), his defensive play was crucial. In Game Five, he threw out Lou Brock on an attempted steal of second base in the third inning and blocked the plate and tagged Brock out attempting to score in the fifth. The Tigers won the game 5-3 to stave off elimination, and rallied to win the next two games as well and capture the championship.

-Freehan gave fans an inside look at his 1969 season with the book Behind the Mask, with Steve Gelman and Dick Schaap collaborating on the effort.

-On August 9, 1971, he belted three home runs in a wild road game against Boston. All three were solo shots, as the Tigers blew a 7-2 lead and lost 12-11.

-Bill spent his entire career with the Tigers, retiring at the end of the 1976 season. In parts of 15 seasons, he batted .262 with 200 home runs and 758 RBI. Due to the depressed offensive environment of his era, he posted an OPS+ of 112.

-After retiring, he did broadcast work for the Mariners and Tigers, and also returned to the University of Michigan to coach the baseball team from 1989 to 1995.
#390 Bill Freehan (back)

Friday, July 22, 2011

#354 Cubs Rookie Stars: Billy Ott and Jack Warner

#354 Cubs Rookie Stars: Billy Ott and Jack Warner
Wow, this is another one of those two-player rookie cards in which one player looks old enough to be the other's father. For your information, the baby-faced Billy Ott was actually 23 in 1964, when this photo was likely taken. Warner, who looks a little more world-weary, was also 23 at that time, and is only 4 months older than Ott.

Fun facts about Billy Ott:

-A native of New York City, Billy attended St. John's University before signing with the Cubs in 1960.

-He got off to a fast start in the minors, hitting .307 for Class C St. Cloud in 1961 and jumping to AA San Antonio the following year. There, he hit .281 and slugged .521, with 33 doubles, 23 home runs, and 88 RBI.

-Chicago made Ott a September callup in 1962. Just 21 years old, he appeared in 12 games as a pinch hitter and right fielder. He struggled in 30 trips to the plate, managing 4 hits and 2 walks for a .143 average and .200 on-base percentage.

-Billy did hit his first and only big league homer on September 17, 1962, a seventh-inning solo shot against Ray Washburn of the Cardinals.

-His bat went cold after being promoted to AAA Salt Lake City in 1963. He batted .234/.326/.331 for the season, and improved only marginally to .249/.359/.371 the next year.

-Despite his subpar numbers at AAA, the Cubs promoted Billy to the big leagues again in June 1964. He stayed for a month, appearing in 20 games and batting .179 with a single RBI in 39 at-bats.

-Ott got a rare start on June 21, 1964, and celebrated by singling and doubling in four trips to the plate against hard-throwing Bob Veale of the Pirates. He scored both Cubs runs in a 2-1 victory; it was the only multi-hit game of his career.

-The Orioles acquired him prior to the 1965 season. He played 88 games for AAA Rochester, hitting .264 with 2 home runs. It was his final season as a pro.

-In parts of 2 big league seasons, Billy hit .164 with a home run and 3 RBI.

-Had a post-baseball career as a police officer and professional locksmith back in New York City.

Fun facts about Jack Warner:

-Jack was born in Brandywine, WV. He attended high school in Alliance, OH, then signed with the Cubs in 1958.

-He made Chicago's Opening Day roster in 1962, in his fifth professional season. His big league career started with five straight scoreless relief appearances, but he allowed seven runs total in his next two outings and was sent back to the minors with a 7.71 ERA in seven innings.

-Warner fared better in a few cups of coffee at the major league level in 1963, posting a 2.78 ERA in 8 appearances totaling 22.2 innings.

-He was saddled with a tough loss on July 21, 1963. He entered a Cubs-Pirates game in the bottom of the eleventh inning in relief of Jim Brewer, who had allowed back-to-back one-out singles. Jack wriggled out of the jam by striking out Donn Clendenon and inducing a popup off the bat of Bob Bailey. He kept Pittsburgh off the scoreboard with perfect frames in the twelfth and thirteenth innings, and even singled against Don Cardwell in the top of the fourteenth for his only big league hit. But he was stranded at first base, and the Bucs finally solved him in the bottom of the fourteenth with three singles to win the game.

-Jack kept riding the Salt Lake City-to-Wrigley Field shuttle in 1964, allowing three earned runs in nine and one-third innings of big league work (2.89 ERA). He was up with the Cubs in late May, again in mid-June, and once more in September.

-Though he spent most of the first half of the 1965 season with the Cubbies, Warner was used sparingly and with terrible results. He allowed runs in 8 of his 11 appearances, leaving him with an 8.62 ERA in 15.2 innings. The Cubs shipped him out at the end of June, and he caught on with the Mets' AAA Buffalo squad for the rest of the season.

-He spent one more year at AAA, splitting time with Seattle and Phoenix before hanging up his spikes at age 25. In parts of 9 minor league seasons, he was 51-30 with a 3.21 ERA.

-In parts of 4 seasons with the Cubs, Jack was 0-2 with a 5.10 ERA.

#354 Cubs Rookie Stars: Billy Ott and Jack Warner (back)

Wednesday, July 20, 2011

#133 World Series Game Two: Stottlemyre Wins

#133 World Series Game Two: Stottlemyre Wins
How's that for a headline that's short, sweet, and to the point? Here we get a great view of the #30 jersey that Mel Stottlemyre wore for his entire 11-year career with the Yankees. His son Todd also wore #30 for much of his career with the Blue Jays, Athletics, Cardinals, and Diamondbacks. If you're keeping score, I have six of the seven World Series highlight cards from this set. Go figure, the only one I need features Mickey Mantle.

After the Cardinals outslugged the Yanks 9-5 in Game One of the Series, the 22-year-old Stottlemyre put the brakes on the St. Louis offense at Busch Stadium on Thursday, October 8, 1964. The game was a stalemate early, with the Cards breaking out on top with a pair of singles, a sac bunt, and a Curt Flood groundout to bring home Mike Shannon in the home half of the third. The Yankees tied it a half-inning later with back-to-back doubles by Elston Howard and Joe Pepitone, proceeded by a Clete Boyer sacrifice fly. Though the Yankees had put six men on base in four innings, the score was knotted 1-1.

In the sixth and seventh innings, New York gained the upper hand against an unusually sloppy Gibson. Mickey Mantle led off the sixth with a walk, and Gibson plunked Pepitone two batters later. Tom Tresh followed with the go-ahead single. A two-run rally in the seventh started with Phil Linz singling, taking second on a wild pitch, and scoring on a Bobby Richardson hit. Roger Maris singled, and Richardson crossed the dish on a Mantle groundout. It was 4-1 Yankees, and Stottlemyre was cruising. He allowed three singles and a walk through seven innings, but had to bear down in the eighth. St. Louis got a pinch single from Carl Warwick and a pinch double from Bob Skinner, but scored just one run. Mel induced consecutive ground ball outs from Curt Flood and Lou Brock, and followed up a wild pitch and a walk to Bill White by getting Ken Boyer on a fielder's choice grounder. 4-2 Yankees.

In the ninth inning, the Yankees put the game away against the Redbirds bullpen. Phil Linz greeted Barney Schultz with a home run, and Maris hit a one-out single to chase the new pitcher. Gordie Richardson had even less luck, allowing an RBI double to Mantle, then giving a free pass to Elston Howard, a run-scoring single to Pepitone, and a sac fly to Tom Tresh. Suddenly the Yankees had an 8-2 advantage, and Stottlemyre had all the rope he needed to finish what he started. A Dick Groat leadoff triple and an RBI single by Tim McCarver were too little, too late. Shannon hit into a double play and pinch hitter Charlie James struck out, accounting for the 8-3 final. The Series was tied at a game apiece, and young Stottlemyre had a complete game victory (7 H, 3 ER, 2 BB, 4 K) in his postseason debut.
#133 World Series Game Two: Stottlemyre Wins (back)

Tuesday, July 19, 2011

#115 Bobby Richardson

#115 Bobby Richardson
One pleasant surprise in the nearly four years that I've been doing this blog has been the boundless creativity of my readers. Greg Mader sent me a "pack" of five cards back in April, this Bobby Richardson card being one of them. There were three other 1965 cards (to be posted later this week), an autographed 1960 Topps of Walt "Moose" Dropo for my Orioles collection, and an individually-wrapped stick of gum! Much fresher than the chalky crap that usually comes with Topps cards, too. Thanks, Greg!

Fun facts about Bobby Richardson:

-A native of Sumter, SC, Bobby signed with the Yankees out of high school in 1953.

-He stormed through the minors, hitting .313 in four seasons and earning brief big league callups in 1955 and 1956.

-Became part of a second base platoon at age 21 in 1957, and made the All-Star team despite modest stats of .269/.281/.316 in 54 games in the first half.

-Richardson led all New York players with a .301 average in 1959.

-Had the unique honor of being named MVP of the 1960 World Series despite being on the losing team. He went 11-for-30 (.367) with 8 runs scored, 2 doubles, 2 triples, a home run, and a Series-record 12 RBI in the Fall Classic.

-Bobby won five consecutive Gold Gloves at the keystone from 1961 through 1965.

-He led the American League with 209 hits in 1962, finishing with 99 runs scored, 38 doubles, 8 home runs, 59 RBI, and a .302/.337/.406 batting line, all career highs. He was a surprising runner-up to teammate Mickey Mantle in MVP voting.

-On June 29, 1966, he went 5-for-5 with a home run and a double to help the Yankees eke out a 6-5 win over Boston.

-Bobby was only 30 when he retired at the end of the 1966 season to stay home with his family. He had intended to retire a year sooner, but Tony Kubek was forced to quit due to injuries, and the Yankees didn't want to lose both at once. Richardson finished his 12-year career as a 7-time All-Star, carrying a lifetime average of .266 with 34 home runs and 390 RBI.

-Richardson got into college athletics after retiring, coaching baseball at the University of South Carolina, Coastal Carolina College, and Liberty University between 1970 and 1990.

#115 Bobby Richardson (back)

Monday, July 18, 2011

#217 Walt Alston

#217 Walt Alston
Hey, it's another card I bought with my own hard-earned money! This one was actually an upgrade. Max sent me a well-used copy a few years back, mostly as a lark. As you can see, some bored young card owner made some cosmetic improvements to poor ol' Walt!

#217 Walt Alston Graffiti

So when I went to the Philly Card Show with Ed this past March, I found a boring ol' clean copy of the Alston card and picked it up for a scant dollar. Likewise, I got a new Vada Pinson to replace the previous one, which was missing half a face. Don't worry, I still have the original Tiptonized copies of both in my possession.

Fun facts about Walter Alston:

-Walter "Smokey" Alston was born in Venice, OH. He attended Miami University (Ohio), and worked as a teacher in the offseason. He signed with the Cardinals in 1935.

-After hitting .326 with 35 home runs at Class C Huntington, he got a September 1936 cup of coffee in the majors. Alston struck out against Lon Warneke of the Cubs in his only big league at-bat.

-In all, he played minor league ball for 13 seasons, never surpassing AA. Playing chiefly at first base, he was a career .295 hitter with 176 career homers.

-Walter started managing in the minors in 1940 while still an active player. He put in a total of 12 seasons as a skipper in the farm systems of the Cardinals and Dodgers, and had a 544-373 record (.593 win percentage) in 6 seasons at the AAA level for the Dodgers. There he managed future big league names like Tommy Lasorda, Jim Gilliam, and Johnny Podres.

-He replaced Chuck Dressen as the Dodger manager prior to the 1954 season. The club won 92 games in his debut year, the first of 10 seasons in which Alston led them to 90 or more wins.

-He helped deliver Brooklyn's first (and only) world championship in 1955, when the Bums finally knocked off the hated Yankees in a seven-game World Series.

-Walter stayed on as Dodger manager for an incredible 23 years, famously being retained on a series of one-year contracts. In his tenure, the team won seven National League pennants and four World Series (1955, 1959, 1963, and 1965). He was named Manager of the Year six times. He won 2,040 games and lost 1,613, a .558 winning percentage. He still ranks ninth all-time in managerial wins.

-When Alston retired, he handed the reins over to longtime player and coach Tommy Lasorda, who kept the post for another 20 years and won 1,599 games and a pair of championships himself.

-The Veterans Committee voted Walter into the Baseball Hall of Fame in 1983.

-He passed away in 1984 at age 72.
#217 Walt Alston (back)

Saturday, July 16, 2011

#170 Hank Aaron

#170 Hank Aaron
Are you ready for this bad boy? I've tried to complete most of this set by trade, but as we get down to the big-ticket cards I've got to be on the lookout for good deals. Ed was out at the Baseball Card Outlet nearby in Baltimore when he saw this Hank Aaron card on clearance for $15. That's right, 90% off book value just because of an eensy weensy crease. It took me about two seconds to ask him to be my proxy buyer. It's always good to have extra eyes and ears in the community.

Fun facts about Hank Aaron:

-Hank was born in Mobile, AL. As a teenager he played in the Negro Leagues with the Mobile Black Bears and Indianapolis Clowns. He signed with the Braves at age 18 in 1952, choosing them over the Giants because Boston offered $50 more per month.

-He broke in with the Braves in 1954 after regular left fielder Bobby Thomson fractured an ankle. The young outfielder adjusted well, and was hitting .280 with 27 doubles, 13 home runs, and 69 RBI when a fractured ankle ended his season on September 5. He still finished fourth in Rookie of the Year voting, with Wally Moon winning out over Ernie Banks, Gene Conley, and Hank.

-After leading the N.L. with 34 doubles, 200 hits, 340 total bases, and a .328 average in 1956, he won the MVP award in 1957. He topped the Senior Circuit that year with 118 runs scored, 44 homers, 132 RBI, and 369 total bases. He was also fourth in batting average at .322, as Stan Musial (.351) put some distance between the Hammer and the Triple Crown. He was also the driving offensive force behind Milwaukee's seven-game World Series victory over the Yankees: .393 AVG (11-for-28), .786 SLG, 3 HR, 7 RBI. Of course Lew Burdette gave up only two runs total in three complete-game victories and bested Hank for Series MVP.

-Hank also won three Gold Gloves in left field, 1958-1960, and is tied for the most years on the All-Star team. He took part in every Midsummer Classic for 21 straight years, 1955-1975.

-His younger brother Tommie played alongside him for parts of seven seasons in Milwaukee and Atlanta, beginning in 1962 and ending in 1971, but totaled just 13 home runs. In 1969, they became the first pair of brothers to team up in a League Championship Series.

-It's hard to summarize a career as outstanding as Hank's, but here are his three greatest seasons by OPS+ (with 100 being league-average), with league-leading totals in bold: 1959 (116 R, 223 H, 46 2B, 39 HR, 123 RBI, .355/.401/.636, 181 OPS+), 1963 (121 R, 44 HR, 130 RBI, 31 SB, .319/.391/.586, 179 OPS+), and 1971 (47 HR, 118 RBI, .327/.410/.669, 194 OPS+). That 1963 season was his closest miss in the Triple Crown race, as he was third in average behind Willie Davis (.326) and Roberto Clemente (.320). Incredibly, he finished third in MVP balloting in all three seasons.

-In 1970, Aaron became the first player in big league history with both 500 career home runs and 3,000 hits. He continued chasing history, enduring racist hate mail and death threats as he closed in on Babe Ruth's home run record in the early 1970s. He quietly endured these attacks and finally became the home rung king with #715, a two-run shot off of the Dodgers' Al Downing on April 8, 1974.

-His career came full circle with a November 1974 trade to the Milwaukee Brewers, with whom he finished his career with a two-year stint as a designated hitter. His career spanned 23 seasons, in which he hit .305/.374/.555 with 2,174 runs scored (4th all-time), 3,771 hits (3rd), 624 doubles (10th), 755 home runs (2nd to Barry Bonds' 762), 2,297 RBI (1st), and 6,856 total bases (1st).

-Home run minutiae: Hank hit 97 homers against the Reds, his most against any team. He victimized 310 different pitchers, with Don Drysdale (17 HR) his favorite target. He went deep in 31 different parks, and his highest total as a visitor was 50 HR at Wrigley Field. This one's my favorite: he hit 258 homers in the first three innings, 261 in the middle innings, and 236 from the seventh inning onward. That's pretty good distribution!

-He was of course a first-ballot Hall of Famer, garnering 97.8% percent of the vote. I'll withhold comment on the nincompoops that left him off of their ballot because "Babe Ruth/Honus Wagner/Walter Johnson/etc. didn't get 100%". The Braves and Brewers each retired his #44 and dedicate a statue in his likeness at their ballparks, and he has been a member of the Braves' front office for more than three decades. In 1999, MLB established the Hank Aaron Award, given annually to the top offensive player in each league. He has received the Presidential Citizens Medal and the Presidential Medal of Freedom. And, in a little touch that I enjoyed, he voiced both himself and his fictitious descendant Hank Aaron XXIV in a 2002 episode of Futurama.
#170 Hank Aaron (back)

Thursday, July 14, 2011

#437 Chico Cardenas

#437 Chico Cardenas
And now we come to the end of another handful of cards provided by Ed. Thanks again, pal! Looking back at Chico Cardenas' uniform vest, those fat black stripes around the armholes seem kind of clunky up against the thin red pinstripes. But what do I know? You may have noticed a little handwritten augmentation on the front of the card. It's funny to imagine that "Good" is supposed to denote the condition of the card.

Fun facts about Chico Cardenas:

-A native of Matanzas, Cuba, Leo "Chico" Cardenas was acquired by the Reds after hitting .316 and slugging .551 for the Tucson Cowboys of the Class C Arizona-Mexico League at age 17 in 1956.

-He debuted with Cincinnati on July 25, 1960, going 2-for-4 with an RBI and a run scored in a 6-5 win over the Cubs. His leadoff single in the ninth inning sparked the game-winning two-run rally against Don Elston. The Reds made him their starting shortstop, a role he would maintain for nearly a decade.

-Cardenas appeared in just 74 games in 1961, but helped the Reds' pennant drive with a .308 average in 198 at-bats. He doubled once in three pinch-hit at-bats vs. the Yankees in the World Series.

-Though he made the All-Star team for the first of three straight seasons in 1964, it was statistically not one of his stronger seasons: .251 AVG, 32 doubles, 9 home runs, 69 RBI. The following year was his best all-around effort, though. In 1965, he batted .287 with a career-high .355 on-base percentage and socked 25 doubles, 11 triples, 11 home runs, and 57 RBI. He led the N.L. with 25 intentional walks, as he spent much of the year batting eighth in front of the pitcher. Chico also won the Gold Glove at shortstop, as is to be expected for a player nicknamed "Mr. Automatic" for his dependable defense.

-In 1966 his average slipped to .255, but he swatted a career-best 20 home runs. His 81 RBI tied him with Deron Johnson for the team lead.

-In a doubleheader vs. the Cubs on June 5, 1966, Chico went 6-for-8 with 4 home runs, a double, 4 runs scored, and 8 RBI. He was 3-for-4 with a pair of homers in each game, victimizing pitchers Bill Hands and Ernie Broglio twice each.

-Following a trade to the Twins in November 1968, Chico strung together three productive seasons in Minnesota. He was an All-Star for the fifth and final time in 1971, when he hit .264 with 18 homers and 75 RBI.

-An ugly batting line of .223/.272/.283 with the Angels in 1972 signaled the end of his days as a full-timer. He hung around as a reserve infielder for a few years with the Indians and Rangers before retiring in 1975.

-In parts of 16 seasons, Cardenas was a career .257 hitter with 118 home runs and 689 RBI.

-He still lives in Cincinnati, and was inducted into the Reds Hall of Fame in 1981.
#437 Chico Cardenas (back)

Wednesday, July 13, 2011

#408 Larry Sherry

#408 Larry Sherry
As far as rhyming baseball names go, Larry Sherry is funnier than Don Hahn, but not quite as funny as Greg Legg. Of course, your mileage may vary.

Fun facts about Larry Sherry:

-Larry was born in Los Angeles and signed with the Brooklyn Dodgers out of high school in 1953.

-He began the 1958 season, his sixth in pro ball, on the major league roster but was hit hard in five appearances and demoted. But he continued to tinker with a slider taught to him by his older brother Norm, a catcher in the Dodger organization.

-Sherry returned to the big leagues in July 1959, and became a surprise contributor down the stretch. His overall record that season was 7-2 with a 2.19 ERA and 3 saves. He seemed to improve as the year went along, with his ERA dropping from 3.62 in July to 1.85 in August and all the way down to 1.36 in September.

-Larry truly shined in a relief role in the 1959 World Series. The rookie appeared in four of the six games against the White Sox, earning saves in the first pair of Dodger wins and wins in the other two. He allowed a single earned run in 12.2 innings (0.71 ERA), yielding 8 hits and 2 walks. L.A. jumped out to an early 8-0 lead in Game Six, but manager Walter Alston didn't take any chances, yanking Johnny Podres after a fourth-inning homer by Ted Kluszewski narrowed the margin to 8-3. Sherry kept Chicago off of the scoreboard for the rest of the game, clinching the Series for the Dodgers and the MVP honors for himself.

-Big brother Norm joined him as a teammate in Los Angeles for parts of the 1959 through 1962 seasons, making them the first (and to date, only) battery of Jewish brothers in big league annals. On May 7, 1960, Norm even hit a walkoff homer against Ruben Gomez of the Phillies to deliver a win for his brother! Another brother, George, was a minor-league pitcher for the Pirates in 1951.

-Despite a middling 3.79 ERA in 1960, he posted a 14-10 record with 7 saves in 57 games (3 starts).

-Larry posted four seasons of double-digit saves in his career, including a career-high 20 with the Tigers in 1966 (third-most in the American League).

-He spent parts of six seasons as a Dodger, another three-plus in Detroit, and also had brief runs in Houston and with the Angels before retiring in 1968. In parts of 11 seasons he was 53-44 with 82 saves and a 3.67 ERA.

-Sherry served as a pitching coach for the Pirates (1977-1978) and Angels (1979-1980). He later became a minor league pitching instructor for the Dodgers.

-He was a golf enthusiast and lived for many years with his wife Sally in Mission Viejo, CA. He passed away at age 71 in 2006 after a long bout with cancer.
#408 Larry Sherry (back)

Tuesday, July 12, 2011

#370 Tommy Davis

#370 Tommy Davis
That's an interesting expression on Tommy Davis' face. He looks like he's halfway between a grin and a grimace, doesn't he?

Fun facts about Tommy Davis:

-A native of Brooklyn and a high school basketball teammate of NBA Hall of Famer Lenny Wilkens, Tommy was 17 when he signed with the hometown Dodgers in 1956 at the urging of star Jackie Robinson. Of course, the team moved across the country the following year, and Robinson retired rather than accept a trade to the rival Giants.

-After a one-game glimpse with Los Angeles in September 1959, he started about half of the team's games in the outfield in 1960. Despite his part-time status, he placed fourth on the club with 11 home runs and 44 RBI while batting .276.

-His career year came in 1962, when he led the National League with a .346 average, 230 hits, and 153 RBI. He is still the Dodgers' single-season RBI record holder. He also achieved personal bests with 120 runs scored, 9 triples, 27 home runs, and a .535 slugging percentage. He made the All-Star team for the first time, and finished third in MVP voting behind teammate Maury Wills and Willie Mays.

-On June 18, 1962, Tommy faced Bob Gibson with one out in the bottom of the ninth and the score tied 0-0. His walkoff home run was just the third hit that Gibson allowed that day, and it made a winner of Sandy Koufax, who yielded only five hits himself.

-Though his power figures dipped in 1963, Davis repeated as an All-Star and successfully defended his batting crown with a .326 mark. He also paced the Dodgers with 88 RBI, and batted .400 (6-for-15) with a pair of triples in the team's World Series sweep of the Yankees.

-A broken ankle cost Tommy most of the 1965 season and seemed to hinder his power for the duration of his career. He also became something of a journeyman, going from L.A. to the Mets, White Sox, Pilots, Astros, Athletics, Cubs, A's again, Cubs again, Orioles, Angels, and finally the Royals in the span of 11 years.

-Other than his time with the Dodgers, Davis' longest tenure with one team was his three-plus years with the Orioles (August 1972-October 1975). He was Baltimore's first designated hitter, and was a vital part of their A.L. East championships in 1973 (.306 with a team-high 89 RBI) and 1974 (.289, team-high 84 RBI). He later admitted that when he was DHing, he would retire to the clubhouse between at-bats to read or even to shave.

-Tommy excelled when called upon as a pinch hitter. He had a career .307 average (62-for-202) in those situations.

-He retired after the 1976 season as a career .294 hitter with 153 home runs and 1,052 RBI in parts of 18 seasons.

-Davis had a short turn as Mariners hitting coach under manager Maury Wills, and has also worked for the Dodgers as a minor league instructor and a community relations employee.
#370 Tommy Davis (back)

Monday, July 11, 2011

#145 Luis Tiant

#145 Luis Tiant
El Tiante! As you can see here, Luis has always been 50 years old. He was born with a stogie in his teeth.

Fun facts about Luis Tiant:

-Luis was born in Marianao, Cuba. He pitched in Mexico in his late teens and early twenties before signing with the Indians in 1962.

-His father, Luis Sr., was a star pitcher in the Negro Leagues and in his native Cuba in the 1930s and 1940s. Due to the ongoing conflict between the U.S. and Fidel Castro, the elder Tiant did not get to attend any of his son's pro games until the 1975 World Series.

-Luis debuted with Cleveland in grand fashion, striking out 11 Yankees in a 4-hit shutout on July 19, 1964. He would finish the season 10-4 with a 2.83 ERA and a WHIP of 1.11.

-In 1968, "The Year of the Pitcher", Tiant stood among the best. He went 21-9 with league-best marks of 9 shutouts (including 4 in a row, April 28-May 12), a 1.60 ERA, and 5.3 hits allowed per 9 innings. He made the first of three career trips to the All-Star Game and finished fifth in MVP voting.

-It was a far fall from 1968 to 1969, when he went 9-20 with a much higher 3.71 ERA. Amid concerns that he was pitching hurt, the Cuban fireballer was traded to the Twins. He missed a big chunk of the 1970 campaign, and was released by Minnesota the following spring.

-Catching on with the Red Sox during the 1971 season, Luis won just 1 of his 8 decisions in the majors. He then reinvented himself as a junkballer, relying on a variety of deception-based arm slots and an elaborate, back-to-the-plate windup to frustrate hitters. Working as a swingman for the 1972 Boston club, he went 15-6 with a league-low 1.91 ERA and got top-ten vote totals for both the Cy Young and the MVP.

-The tricky righthander had a notable stretch from 1973-1976, winning 20 games 3 times (81-52 overall) with a 3.31 ERA. He captured his third shutout crown in 1974, when he had 7 whitewashes among his career-best 22 wins.

-After going the distance in three of his four September 1975 starts, Luis had a memorable postseason. He allowed three hits and a single unearned run in a Game One ALCS victory over Oakland, then won two of his three starts against the Reds in the World Series. His five-hit shutout delivered a Game One victory for the Red Sox, and he gutted out a 5-4 complete game win in Game Four. Rain caused a postponement of Game Six, allowing him to take the ball again on five days' rest. He allowed six runs in seven innings, but an eighth-inning rally by Boston took him off the hook, setting the stage for Carlton Fisk's extra-inning heroics in one of the most talked-about games in history.

-He closed out his career with a two-year stint with the Yankees, followed by single seasons as a Pirate and an Angel. He retired in 1982 with a 19-year mark of 229-172, 49 shutouts, 15 saves, and a 3.30 ERA. He has the most major league wins of any Cuban-born pitcher.

-Tiant remained on the Hall of Fame ballot for the full 15 years before exhausting his eligibility. He drew 31% of the vote in 1988, his first year eligible, but his next-highest percentage was 18 in 2002, his last year. He played pro ball in Mexico in 1983-1984 and with the Gold Coast Suns and St. Lucie Legends of the Senior Professional Baseball League in 1989. He has worked for the Red Sox as a pitching advisor, and coached the Savannah College of Art and Design's baseball team from 1998-2001. He was inducted to the Hispanic Heritage Baseball Museum Hall of Fame in 2002.
#145 Luis Tiant (back)

Thursday, July 07, 2011

#35 Ed Charles

#35 Ed Charles
This card gives us a really close-up look at the Athletics' kelly green undershirt/gray vest/yellow insignia combination. It's easy to forget, given the explosion of gold and green polyester that the A's wore in the 1970s, but this early incarnation was a pretty sharp design.

Fun facts about Ed Charles:

-Ed was born in Daytona Beach, FL, and signed with the Braves as a teenager in 1952.

-His ascent to the major leagues was delayed by two years of military service and the presence of stalwart Milwaukee third baseman Eddie Mathews. After four consecutive seasons at AAA, he was finally freed up by a trade to the Athletics in December 1961.

-Installed as the regular third baseman in Kansas City in 1962, Ed hit .288 with 17 home runs and 74 RBI, was second on the club with a .454 slugging percentage, and stole a team-high 20 bases. He was named to the Topps All-Star Rookie Team.

-Charles was solid again in 1963, with a .267 average, 15 homers, 15 steals, and career highs of 28 doubles and 79 RBI. The following year he delivered 16 home runs and 63 RBI, but a backwards shift of the fences in K.C. sapped his power thereafter.

-He began writing poetry during his time in the minors, and was later dubbed "The Poet Laureate of Baseball".

-Ed was traded to the Mets early in the 1967 season, leaving the A's as the team's leader in games played (726) and total bases (1,065) during their short-lived Kansas City era.

-On May 20, 1968, he had a memorable game. His two solo home runs accounted for the only runs allowed by Pirates hurler Bob Veale. The second longball led off the bottom of the ninth inning and sealed a 2-1 walkoff win for the Mets. Overall, he was 3-for-3 with a walk on the day.

-Though he hit just .207 in 61 games for the Mets in his final season (1969), Charles did go out as a champion. He played in four of the five World Series games that year, singling and scoring the winning run off of Dave McNally in the ninth inning of Game Two.

-He retired with a .263 average, 86 home runs, and 421 RBI in 8 seasons.

-Among his later pursuits, Ed did some promotional work for Buddha Records (known for novelty releases and bubblegum pop), spent nine seasons as a scout and instructor with the Mets (notably signing reliever Neil Allen), and eventually settling into a life in New York's Washington Heights. There he has spent decades offering guidance to juvenile offenders while working with the Department of Juvenile Justice and Youth Options Unlimited.
#35 Ed Charles (back)