Friday, May 10, 2013

#525 Eddie Bressoud

Here we are at last...the end of the road. One last time, I would like to thank everyone who has read, shared, or commented on this blog over the last five years and change. I didn't post these entries on anything resembling a consistent schedule, so it means a lot to me that you hung in there and offered feedback and kind words. An even bigger thanks goes to all who helped me accomplish something that started off as a pipe dream: collecting a complete set of cards that predates me by 17 years. At the outset, I assumed that I might be able to cobble together a fair share of 1965 Topps through some overly-generous trades, but I was pleasantly surprised by how many of you were willing to help - and how much you were willing to help! I never imagined that some of you folks would be glad to send along cards without even expecting anything in return. I hope that my gratitude and my few words about those cards will suffice in some small way.

I had a lot of fun in completing my first vintage set completely from scratch, and I'd like to think that the information I acquired in researching these players helped to make me a better baseball fan. As I went along in this process, I made some significant changes in the way I presented the cards I'd acquired. I started off presenting both sides of the various trades in a summary-style post, and didn't offer much detail on the players featured. Later I focused on each new card individually, with full player biographies in multiple-paragraph form. That became a bit tedious and cumbersome, so I switched to the bullet-point presentation that I still use today. As I drew closer to completing the set, I considered re-posting all of the early cards with new bullet-point formats, for consistency's sake. But ultimately, I decided to leave the blog as-is. I think it helps illustrate the changing process that I used to complete and appreciate the 1965 Topps set. I'd also like to announce the pending launch of STILL ANOTHER card blog, because I am a glutton for punishment. This time it's a set I've already completed, and one that dates back to the very onset of my fandom: the 1993 Topps base set. If you've got room on your blogroll for one more set blog, hold on to that link. I'm really looking forward to spending the next few years revisiting the cards that consumed much of my attention 20 years ago. I'm hoping to update over there on a near-daily basis, but we'll see what the future holds. Now then...on with the final card of 1965!

It's fitting in a way that Eddie Bressoud takes us home, since I don't know the first thing about him. In what is likely my very last update to the 1965 Topps blog, I am going to learn about a player who has escaped my attention thus far.

Fun facts about Eddie Bressoud:
-A native Los Angeleno, Eddie signed with the New York Giants as a teenager in 1950.

-He served in the military during the 1953 and 1954 seasons, delaying his big league debut until 1956. In his initial game on June 14, Bressoud had the unenviable task of facing future Cooperstown resident Warren Spahn. The young infielder went hitless in his first three tries, but ultimately notched a single against Spahn in the eighth inning.

-In a half-dozen seasons with the Giants, Eddie averaged only 74 games a year with a below-average batting line of .239/.299/.369. But the Houston club made him their first pick in the October 1961 expansion draft and flipped him to the Red Sox a month later for shortstop Don Buddin. It proved to be a lopsided deal, as Buddin hit .163 in 40 games for the Colts and was out of the majors by season's end; Bressoud, meanwhile, found Boston much to his liking.

-Bressoud rapped 40 doubles for the Sox in 1962, as well as nine triples, 14 home runs, and 68 RBI. His triples and RBI totals would be career highs.

-Eddie reached the 20-homer plateau for the only time in his career in 1963. Highlights included four two-homer games, his only career walk-off shot (June 26 against Pedro Ramos of the Indians), and his first career grand slam (August 22 against Chicago's Taylor Phillips).

-1964 was a career year for Bressoud, as he batted .293/.372/.456 with 41 doubles and made his only All-Star team.

-He declined sharply after that, with an OPS dip of 180 points the next season. Boston traded the shortstop to the Mets for the 1966 campaign, and he lasted one year in New York before finishing his career as a reserve for the World Champion Cardinals squad in 1967. Eddie appeared in two World Series games as a late-inning defensive replacement, a low-key farewell for the 12-year major league veteran.

-His career batting line was .252/.319/.401 with 94 home runs and 365 RBI.

-Following his playing career, Bressoud earned his college degree from UCLA. He also spent two seasons managing in the minors for the Angels, and was a scout for the Halos for a time. Later he taught physical education and coached the baseball team at De Anza College in Cupertino, CA.

-Eddie still lives in San Ramon, CA. He celebrated his 81st birthday a week ago.

Wednesday, May 08, 2013

#484 Ron Perranoski

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Here's the penultimate card in our long journey, and this time I'm serious. This is a visually striking card; you don't see many crowd shots in 1960's Topps sets. The blurry folks milling around in the stands behind Ron Perranoski make the player pop out in the foreground. I also like Ron's sideways glance, as though the photographer has been putting him through the motions for quite some time. A teammate passes, gives Perranoski a knowing smirk, and Ron shoots him a look that says, "Can you believe this guy? I just want to finish my warmups."

Fun facts about Ron Perranoski:

-Ron was born in Paterson, NJ (as Ron Perzanowski) and attended Michigan State University before signing with the Cubs in 1958.

-His cousin, Stan Perzanowski, pitched in 37 games for the White Sox, Rangers, and Twins between 1971 and 1978.

-The Cubs traded him to the Dodgers in April 1960 as part of a three-for-one deal that sent Don Zimmer to Chicago. He debuted with L.A. a year later and was a bullpen fixture from the start, appearing in 53 games with a 7-5 record, six saves, and a 2.65 ERA.

-1963 was Perranoski's standout season, as he posted a 16-3 record in relief with 21 saves and a 1.67 ERA. He paced the National League in winning percentage (.842) and games pitched (69), and finished fourth in MVP balloting. In the Dodgers' World Series sweep over the Yankees, the lefty nailed down a save in Game Two by getting the final two outs in relief of Johnny Podres.

-As you might imagine, the career-long reliever wasn't much of a hitter. In 190 career plate appearances, he had a batting line of .096/.147/.114 with three RBI. However, he did hit a triple on September 4, 1966 off of the Reds' Don Nottebart. I would've liked to have seen him run the bases!

-In all, Ron spent eight years in Los Angeles, posting a 54-41 record, 101 saves, and a 2.56 ERA.

-The Twins acquired the relief ace in November 1967, parting with former A.L. MVP Zoilo Versalles and 20-game winner Jim "Mudcat" Grant and receiving Perranoski, John Roseboro, and Bob Miller.

-Ron led the American League in saves in both the 1969 and 1970 seasons, with 31 and 34 respectively. Though the Twins captured the first two Western Division crowns in A.L. history, they ran into the Baltimore juggernaut in the postseason in each year. The league's top fireman allowed a total of eight runs in seven innings as the Orioles swept Minnesota twice.

-The final three years of Ron's career saw him move from the Twins to the Tigers, then back to the Dodgers briefly, before an eight-game stint with the Angels in 1973 signaled the end of the road. In 13 seasons, he was 79-74 with 179 saves and a 2.79 ERA.

-Perranoski found a home in the Dodgers' organization after retiring as a player. He was the club's minor league pitching coordinator (1973-1980) and big league pitching coach (1981-1994) for more than two decades before joining the rival Giants in 1995. He's been with San Francisco ever since, serving as minor league pitching coordinator, major league bench coach and pitching coach, and finally as a special assistant to general manager Brian Sabean.
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Monday, May 06, 2013

#443 Checklist 6th Series

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This is the third-to-last card left for me to post...this time I mean it. I'm sorry that it's a checklist, but them's the breaks. Hey, at least it's unmarked! Savor the blank boxes. There's not a lot of star power on the front of the card, as Mudcat Grant, Willie Davis, and Elston Howard are the most notable names. The second half of the checklist for Series 6 is a bit glitzier, as the Braves Rookie Stars card featuring Phil Niekro, the Yogi Berra card, the Cardinals Rookie Stars featuring Steve Carlton, Nellie Fox, and Eddie Mathews all provide Hall of Famer cachet. You also get some very good players in the mix with Dick Allen, the Paul Blair/Davey Johnson Orioles Rookie Stars, Clete Boyer, Wilbur Wood, and Stu Miller appearing on the back. As I'm posting this card well after its acquisition, I can happily report that I have a perfect 77 out of 77 (100%) completion rate for the sixth series. Huzzah!
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Friday, May 03, 2013

#284 Nick Willhite

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If you read my other blog, you'll know that I got engaged this past Wednesday, so this is a celebratory Friday evening post. If you don't read my other blog, why the heck not? Today we take a peek at Nick Willhite, whose first solo appearance on a Topps card is this one. In the 1964 set, he shared a two-player Rookie Stars card with fellow Dodger Dick Nen. Nick and Dick! Dick and Nick! (Yes, I really am this giddy.)

Fun Facts about Nick Willhite:

-Nick was born in Tulsa, OK, grew up in Denver, CO, and signed with the Dodgers as an 18-year-old in 1959.

-At Class A Greenville, he threw 230 innings in 1961, going 16-9 with a sparkling 1.80 ERA.

-Willhite debuted with the Dodgers in a big way, tossing a five-hit, six-strikeout shutout against the Cubs on June 16, 1963. It proved to be his only shutout in 29 career starts.

-As a hitter, it was either feast or famine for Nick, who batted .300 (3-for-10) as a rookie and .400 (4-for-10) in 1965. In the other two seasons in which he batted, the southpaw was a combined 0-for-23!

-The Senators purchased Willhite's contract from the Dodgers in October of 1964, but sold him back to L.A. the following May after he allowed 11 runs (five earned) in five relief appearances.

-Although Nick saw regular-season action for Los Angeles in their World Series-winning seasons of 1963 and 1965 and their pennant-winning season of 1966, he never appeared in a postseason game.

-He found himself out of baseball at age 26 after racking up a 5.10 ERA in a 1967 season split between the Angels and Mets. In parts of five big league seasons, he had a 6-12 record and a 4.55 ERA.

-Willhite later went into coaching, instructing pitchers at Brigham Young University as well as stints in the Brewers and Yankees farm systems.

-By the late 1980s, Nick was thrice-divorced and living on the streets of Salt Lake City. He reached out to former teammate Stan Williams, and was able to obtain treatment for drug and alcohol addictions through the Baseball Assistance Team.

-Willhite became an addictions counselor after his own successful rehabilitation. In December of 2008, he died of cancer at age 67 in his son's home in Alpine, Utah.
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