Thursday, January 19, 2012

#579 Dick Smith

#579 Dick Smith
Another card that I bought off of Ed for low, low prices. Here's an uncomfortable question: if a locksmith is a lock maker and a blacksmith makes tools and other items from iron and steel, what is a Dick Smith? Forget I asked.

Fun facts about Dick Smith:

-Dick was born in Lebanon, OR and signed with the Dodgers out of high school in 1957.

-He spent six years in the minors with the Dodgers, establishing himself as a .250-ish hitter with some pop, before the Mets purchased his contract in October 1962.

-Made his big league debut as a pinch hitter on July 20, 1963, fouling out to first base against Dallas Green of the Phillies.

-Appeared in 20 games as a rookie for New York, batting .238 with a triple and 3 RBI.

-Dick spent the first half of the 1964 season with the Mets, carrying just a .223 average with no home runs and 3 RBI in 97 trips to the plate.

-He had a memorable game vs. the Cubs on May 26, 1964, batting leadoff and igniting the Met offense in a 19-1 rout: 5-for-6 with a double, a triple, a stolen base, three runs scored and two driven in.

-The Dodgers reacquired Smith in October 1964 for pitcher Larry Miller. He played 10 games for L.A. in 1965, going hitless in 6 at-bats. It was his last stint in the majors, but he kept playing in the minors through the 1968 season.

-In parts of 3 big league seasons, Dick batted .218 with no home runs and 7 RBI. He finished his 12-year minor league career with a .265 average and 120 homers.
#579 Dick Smith (back)

Thursday, January 12, 2012

#415 Curt Flood

#415 Curt Flood
Here's the second of the troika of cards I bought with Ed's assistance at the December Philly Card Show. I'm glad to finally have a vintage card of Curt Flood, whose struggles against Major League Baseball and the reserve clause helped bring a premature end to his career. His story is one of the most fascinating in all of baseball in the 20th century.

Fun facts about Curt Flood:

-Curt was born in Houston, TX, but attended high school in Oakland, CA before signing with Cincinnati in 1956.

-The teenaged outfielder was the Carolina League MVP for the High Point-Thomasville Hi-Toms in 1956. He batted .340, slugged .567, and totaled 29 home runs in his first season as a pro.

-Flood got September glimpses of the big leagues in 1956 and 1957. He had only four plate appearances total, but hit his first home run off of the Cubs' Moe Drabowsky on September 25, 1957.

-He became a regular starter for the Cardinals after a December 1957 trade, but didn't settle in at the plate until 1961, when his .322 average trailed only third baseman Ken Boyer (.329) for the team lead.

-The 1963 season saw Curt earn the first of seven consecutive Gold Glove awards for his sterling play in center field. He once went 223 straight games without an error, which included a mishap-free 1966 season.

-Flood was an All-Star for the first time in 1964, when he notched a .311 average and led the National League with 211 hits. He would return to the Midsummer Classic in 1966 and 1968.

-He played in all 21 World Series games for St. Louis in 1964, 1967, and 1968, struggling at the plate (.221/.287/.267 in 94 plate appearances) but nonetheless contributing to a pair of World Championship seasons and a close call in '68.

-Curt was nearly 32 when the Cardinals informed him that he'd been traded to the sad-sack Phillies after the conclusion of the 1969 campaign. He objected to the reserve clause, which owners had been using to bind a player to their team in perpetuity, or until the owners saw fit to release or trade the player. Flood insisted that he should have some power to decide where to play, and refused to go to Philadelphia. With the support of new players' union head Marvin Miller, the outfielder eventually took his case all the way to the U.S. Supreme Court, before losing in a 5-3 decision with one abstention. However, he paved the way for player free agency, which became a reality in 1976.

-After sitting out the entire 1970 season, he agreed to be traded to the Washington Senators. But some combination of age, rust, and the transition to the American League took a toll on Flood's performance. He retired after going 7-for-35 with no extra base hits for the Senators in 1971. He left behind a career average of .293 (especially impressive considering his career spanned the "second dead-ball era") with 85 home runs and 636 RBI.

-In his life outside baseball, Curt was dedicated to painting, owning small businesses, and international traveling. He worked for the Athletics as a broadcaster in 1978, and served as the commissioner of the short-lived Senior Professional Baseball Association in the late 1980s. He was diagnosed with throat cancer in 1995, and died in 1997 at age 59.
#415 Curt Flood (Back)

Thursday, January 05, 2012

#8 NL ERA Leaders: Sandy Koufax and Don Drysdale

#8 NL ERA Leaders: Sandy Koufax and Don Drysdale
I'm back from an end-of-2011 break with three more cards for the collection, which is nearly complete! 589 down, 9 to go; I can hardly believe it! Though I wasn't able to make it to December's incarnation of the Philly Card Show, Ed once again served as my eyes and ears and found a few of my dwindling needs. He knows how to find bargains, and this card featuring the Dodgers' pair of Hall of Fame hurlers is no exception.

It's certainly no surprise that Don Drysdale and Sandy Koufax finished 1-2 in the National League in earned run average in 1964, especially considering that they made their home starts at pitcher-friendly Dodger Stadium. The bigger shock is that Los Angeles finished in sixth place with 80 wins, but that can be chalked up to the club's humdrum offense. Koufax was in the midst of his incredible run of five straight ERA titles, clocking in with a career-low 1.74 (he then topped it with a 1.73 mark in his farewell 1966 season). However, arm woes brought an abrupt end to Sandy's standout year in mid-August; he finished 1964 with 223 innings pitched, nearly 100 less than teammate Drysdale. Don checked in with a 2.18 ERA in a league-leading 321.1 innings of work. He ran into some tough luck, accumulating an 18-16 record despite his mound mastery. The big righthander never did capture an ERA title, though he did grab three strikeout crowns earlier in his career and topped the senior circuit with 25 wins in 1962.

Upon flipping the card over, we see the same extended leaderboard as on the other league leader cards in this set. We've got the Phillies' Chris Short (2.20 ERA), Juan Marichal of the Giants (2.48), and another Phil in Jim Bunning (2.63) rounding out the top five. Because there were only ten teams in the National League, and most were working with four-man rotations, it's a pretty comprehensive list. Aging star Warren Spahn, bringing up the rear at 5.28, surely wishes it was less comprehensive! Topps also offered an interesting addendum, a list of the 13 best ERAs for pitchers who topped 75 innings but fell short of the 162 needed to qualify. As you can see, Pirates reliever Al McBean (1.90 ERA in 89.2 IP) is the only one who even comes close to Koufax's miniscule mark.
#8 NL ERA Leaders: Sandy Koufax and Don Drysdale (back)