Wednesday, March 30, 2016

1953 Topps #23: Toby Atwell, Chicago Cubs, C

     Toby Atwell was just coming off of an All-Star season to start 1953, putting up career-high numbers during his rookie year.  He had played in the minors since 1946 before reaching the Cubs in 1952.   Atwell would be traded to the Pirates before the '53 All-Star break along with teammates Bob Addis, Gene Hermanski, Preston Ward, Bob Schultz, and George Freese for Joe Garagiola, Ralph Kiner, Howie Pollet, and George Metkovich.

Tuesday, March 29, 2016

1953 Topps #56: Gerry Staley, St. Louis Cardinals, P

     Gerry Staley was selected to his 2nd consecutive All-Star team during his 7th MLB season in 1953.  He averaged over 30 starts and 230 innings pitched for the Cardinals each year between 1951-1953.  Staley also averaged 18 Wins a season with a mid 3 ERA during those same years.  He was originally drafted by the Cardinals in 1942, reaching the major league club in 1947, remaining with the team through the 1954 season before being traded.  Staley played in the majors through 1961, earning another All-Star appearance along the way. 

1939 Play Ball #24: Dick Coffman, New York Giants, P

     Dick Coffman played in the majors from 1927-1945 for 5 different teams: Senators, Browns, Giants, Braves/Bees, and Phillies.  1939 was his last of a 4-year stint with the Giants that included two World Series appearances against the Yankees in 1936 and 1937.  In 1938, Coffman led the league in Saves, Games Finished, and Games Played.  Coffman served mostly as a closer during his time with the Giants although he had started as many as 30 games with the Browns and Senators during his earlier years.  

1952 Topps #109: Ted Wilks, Pittsburgh Pirates, P

     Ted Wilks went over to the Pirates in June of 1951 along with Joe Garagiola, Howie Pollet, Bill Howerton, and Dick Cole in a trade with the Cardinals for Cliff Chambers and Wally Westlake.  Wilks left St. Louis with two World Series rings acquired in 1944 against the Browns and 1946 against the Red Sox.  Wilks ended up leading the league in Saves and Game Pitched again in 1951, as he had done before in 1949.  With a 2.86 ERA in over 100 Innings Pitched, Wilks was coming off a pretty good season in 1951.  His 1952 season would be marked by an improved Win Percentage from .375 to .500, but Wilks would be traded again before the end of the 1952 summer to the Cleveland Indians where he'd finish out his MLB career in 1953.

Monday, March 28, 2016

1951 Bowman #213: Neil Berry, Detroit Tigers, IF

     Neil Berry backed-up mostly the shortstop position for the Tigers in 1951.  As a Michigan native, Berry signed with Detroit in 1942, reaching the majors by 1948.  His MLB career lasted through 1954, including some time with the Browns, White Sox, and Orioles.

1955 Bowman #173: Chico Carrasquel, Chicago White Sox, SS

     Chico Carrasquel came off the 1954 season leading the league in games played and plate appearances, as well as 3 All-Star selections--making All-Star game #4 in 1955.  Carrasquel scored 106 Runs on 158 Hits and 28 Doubles for the White Sox in 1954, and would put up similar numbers again in 1955.  He was a top defensive player at Shortstop, often leading the league in Fielding % as SS, Assists as SS, and Double Plays Turned as SS.  After 6 seasons with the White Sox, Carrasquel was traded with Jim Busby to the Indians for Larry Doby after the 1955 season.

1939 Play Ball #80: Pete Fox, Detroit Tigers, RF

     Pete Fox played a solid 13 seasons for the Tigers and Red Sox between 1933-1945.  At the age of 30 in 1939, Fox stacked 153 Hits, 24 Doubles, and 6 Triples with a .295 Batting Average over 519 AB's.  He had a World Series ring with the Tigers from their 1935 defeat of the Cubs, and another World Series appearance in a 1934 loss to the Cardinals.  Fox would have another opportunity to play in a World Series during his final season with the Tigers in a 1940 loss to the Reds.  He was a top 3 defensive player in the following categories for 1939: Putouts as RF, Assists as RF, Double Plays Turned as RF/OF, Range Factor/Game as RF, and Fielding % as RF.

Friday, March 25, 2016

1955 Topps #151: Red Kress, Cleveland Indians, CO

     Red Kress coached for the Cleveland Indians from 1953-1960.  He coached the Los Angeles Angels during their first year in 1961, and then the New York Mets during their first year in 1962.  His major league playing career spanned from 1927-1946, which was prolonged through 1951 in the minors.    The 1955 Indians were just coming off of a World Series sweeping lost to the Giants after winning 111 games during the regular season--a franchise record that still stands today.  Cleveland finished 2nd in 1953, 1955, 1956, and 1959 with Kress as a coach.  During his years with the Indians, Kress worked under managers Al Lopez, Kerby Farrell, Bobby Bragan, and Joe Gordon. 

1955 Topps #136: Bunky Stewart, Washington Nationals, P

Bunky Stewart saw little playing time for the Nationals in 1955, but posted his best ERA in the 7 games he played for the Nats.  Stewart would see much more playing time the following season, which would be last in the majors.  Although Stewarts major league playing career lasted only 5 seasons with the Nationals, his professional career actually spanned from 1951-1962 including the minors. 

   Stewart's final major league win came on September 7th against the Yankees in relief during the 6th and 7th innings.  The Nats were losing 4-2 when Stewart came in to face the number 6 batter, Gil McDougald, at the start of the bottom of the 6th inning at Clark Griffith stadium in Washington, D.C.  A throwing error by the shortstop allowed McDougald to reach 1B on a grounder, but a line drive by Billy Martin to first baseman Pete Runnels resulted in an unassisted Double Play.  The inning was closed by an Andy Carey flyball out to rightfield.
   The Nats came out of the Top of the 7th inning scoring two Runs to tie the game on a Clint Courtney single to rightfielder Hank Bauer, which brought in runners Pete Runnels and Roy Sievers.  In the Bottom of the 7th inning Stewart faced Joe Collins, Hank Bauer, Enos Slaughter, Mickey Mantle, Yogi Berra, and Bill Skowron.  He allowed Hank Bauer to score on a single by Yogi Berra to right field.
    Stewart was able to secure the victory in the Top of the 8th inning when the Nationals scored 2 Runs to gain the lead.  Whitey Herzog brought in the winning run against Don Larsen on a fielder's choice.  Bunky Stewart was replaced in the Bottom of the 8th after two innings of work.  His actual final major league game pitching would come 8 days later in Kansas City. 

1913 National Game (reprint): Fred Clarke, Pittsburgh Pirates, MGR/OF

     Fred Clarke was near the end of a Hall of Fame playing career in 1913 beginning his 20th season in the majors as a 40-41 year old player-manager.  After leading the Pirates to their 1st World Series championship of the 20th century in 1909, Clarke's Pirates missed out on getting back to the World Series to McGraw's Giants in 1912.  Clarke's final three seasons in the majors from 1913-1915 were be marked by a decrease in his playing time as well as a declining team performance.  He had already led the Pirates to 4 NL pennant since taking over as player-manager in 1900.  Clarke was a major contributor as a league leader in Doubles, Triples, Walks, Slugging, and OPS for the Pirates during his time with the team.  His early years in the majors were with the NL Louisville Colonels between 1894-1899 before being traded to the Pirates along with Honus Wagner in a huge 17-player deal just before the turn of the century.  Clarke was born in the same Iowa town as John Wayne in 1872, moved to southern Kansas as a child, but was mostly raised in Des Moines where he discovered baseball working for Hall of Famer Ed Barrow.  Clarke was selected to the Hall of Fame in 1945 by the Old Timers Committee.  

Wednesday, March 23, 2016

1887 Buchner Gold Coin (type C reprint): King Kelly, Boston Beaneaters/Braves, OF/2B/C

     King Kelly signed with the Cincinnati Reds in 1878 at the age of 20-21.  After the 1879 season, Kelly signed with the Chicago White Stockings (now Cubs) from 1880-1886.  The Boston Beaneaters (now Braves) purchased King Kelly before the start of the 1887 for $10,000.  He had just come off of 3 consecutive league leading seasons in Runs scored (120, 124, 155), and 2 batting titles (.388, .354), which would become his career highs.  His 1887 stats included 120 Runs, 156 Hits, 34 Doubles, 11 Triplles, and a .322 Avg. in 484 AB's throughout 116 games.  Although primarily a catcher in 1885-1886, Kelly would play mostly 2B for the Beaneaters in 1887.  He played mostly for the Beaneaters through 1892, except for a year in the Player's League with the Boston Reds (which he lead to a title as a player/manager), and another one in the American Association with his own team, the Cincinnati Kelly's Killers.  King Kelly signed with the New York Giants to finish out his major league career in 1893.

     King Kelly experienced 7 National League Championships and a Player's League Championship during his 16-year playing career between 1878-1893.  The World Series wasn't always played every year before 1903, so King Kelly got to participate in only 3 World Series--1885, 1886, and 1892.  His Boston Beaneaters beat the Cleveland Spiders in 6 games (5-0-1) to capture the 1892 World Series Championship.  

     King Kelly was selected to the Hall of Fame in 1945 by the Old Timers Committee.

1949 Bowman #144: Mickey Haefner, Washington Senators, P

Mickey Haefner spent five seasons in the minors before the Senators picked him up at the age of 30-31 in 1943.  He finished 11-5 with a 2.29 ERA his rookie year, and would become a regular in the Washington rotation the next few years, pitching an average of over 230 innings in 1944-1946.  Haefner ranked among the league top 5 in hit batters every year between 1945-1949.  In the summer of 1949, the Senators sold Haefner to the Chicago White Sox, who then sold him to the Braves in 1950.  Haefner spent all of 1951 in the minors before retiring from baseball.    ...

1959 Topps #400: Jackie Jensen, Boston Red Sox, OF

Jackie Jensen was just coming off an all-star season as the reigning AL MVP in 1959.  Jensen would go on to lead the league in RBI for the 3rd time as a Red Sox, as well as take his 1st Gold Glove as an outfielder.  He had come to the Red Sox from the Yankees after the end of the 1953 season, and would continue playing for Boston from 1954-1961 before retiring from baseball.  His sole World Series ring came as a Yankee during his 1950 rookie year.

Tuesday, March 22, 2016

1937 Diamond Stars (1981 reprint) #118: Lefty Gomez, New York Yankees, P

Lefty Gomez won 21 or more games for the 4th time of his career in 1937, tying his league-leading career-high ERA of 2.33 again with a league-leading career-high Strikeout total of 194.  Gomez threw 25 complete games in 34 starts, lasting 278.1 innings.  His Strikeout-to-Walk ratio was 2.09.  Needless to say, Gomez made the his 5th consecutive All-Star team in 1937, which had only existed for 5 years.  Gomez would earn his third of five career World Series rings in 1937--and his 2nd consecutive ring against the Giants.  He pitched two complete games for 2 victories with a 1.50 ERA and 8 Strikeouts. 

The 1937 Diamond Stars set of 12 cards numbered from 109-120 wasn't discovered until more than 40 years later, and was reproduced in 1981 by Den's Collectors Den. 

1955 Topps #122: Carl Sawatski, Chicago White Sox, C

Carl Sawatski went over to the White Sox from the Cubs before the start of the '54 season.  He served as a back-up catcher to Sherm Lollar along with Matt Batts, catching 243.2 of 1383.0 innings in 33 games behind the plate.  Sawatski actually played minor league ball in 1955-1956, before reaching the majors again in time to earn a World Series ring with the Braves in 1957.

Wednesday, March 16, 2016

1955 Topps #98: Johnny Riddle, St. Louis Cardinals, CO

     Johnny Riddle was a catcher during his playing days for the Reds, Braves, Senators, Pirates, and White Sox between 1930-1948.  Afterwards, he took up coaching.  His first coaching job was with the Pirates from 1948-1950. 
     Riddle's time coaching for the Cardinals lasted the longest, however, from 1952-1955.  The Cardinals were going through a rough time, finishing 7th out of 8 National League teams.  Ed Stanky was replaced as Manager by Harry Walker early in the season, and afterward, the GM was fired.   
     He went on to coach for the Braves in 1956-1957 and experienced his first World Series championship as the they beat the Yankees in 1957.  Riddle coached for two more years after that--Reds in 1958 and Phillies in 1959.   

1887 Buchner Gold Coin (type B reprint): Charles Comiskey, St. Louis Browns/Cardinals, 1B

     Charles Comiskey began his professional career in the minor leagues at the age of 17-18 in 1877.  Comiskey reached the major leagues in 1882 with the St. Louis Brown Stockings (later Browns, then Cardinals) of the American Association (A.A.), where he remained through 1891.  His best season was probably 1887, when Comiskey batted .335 with 103 RBI, 139 Runs, 180 Hits, and 117 SB's in 538 AB's.  He was a major contributor to the Brown's 4 straight pennants between 1885-1888, including a World Series Championship over the N.L. Chicago White Stockings (Cubs) in 1886.  In 1892, Comiskey went to play for the N.L. Cincinnati Reds for 3 years through the 1894 season before finishing out his playing career in the minors in 1898
     Comiskey began managing professionally as a player for the Browns in 1883, and remained a player-manager throughout the rest of his career.  He managed for an additional two years after his playing career, ending with the A.L. Chicago White Stockings at the age of 40-41 in 1900.

1887 Buchner Gold Coin (type B reprint): Chris Von Der Ahe, St. Louis Browns/Cardinals, OWNER

Chris Von der Ahe was the original owner of today's St. Louis Cardinals, which began playing professional baseball in the American Association (A.A.) as the Brown Stockings in 1882 (Browns 1883-1898, Perfectos 1899, Cardinals 1900-Presents), and then as part of the National League beginning in 1892.  He owned the team until 1899.  Everything that happened between the Von der Ahe years is now the stuff of legend.  

     Below, I have quoted the story of Chris Von der Ahe as written by the National Baseball Hall of Fame on their website:

"Von der Ahe, owner of the original St. Louis Browns franchise from 1881 to 1899, is one of 10 finalists on this year’s Pre-Integration Committee ballot at the National Baseball Hall of Fame and Museum. The Pre-Integration Committee will vote at baseball’s Winter Meetings in Nashville, Tenn., and the results of the vote will be announced Dec. 7....Any candidate who receives at least 75 percent of all ballots cast will be enshrined in the Hall of Fame as part of the Class of 2016".

"Born in the fall of 1851 (historians differ on the exact date) in Hille, Germany, von der Ahe immigrated alone to New York around 1870 as a teenager with little means. Just six weeks later, von der Ahe traveled west to St. Louis and began a career as a grocery store clerk. Within two years he had saved enough to start his own saloon."

"As he heard enthusiastic stories of baseball from his patrons, von der Ahe sensed the game could serve as a business opportunity. In 1881, he was asked by the newly-formed St. Louis Base Ball Association to find customers for 200 shares of the club at 10 dollars a share. A few weeks later, von der Ahe returned to tell the club that he had sold 180 shares. When the delighted stockholders asked von der Ahe who had bought them, he replied, 'Never mind who bought it, there’s Chris von der Ahe’s check for $1,800'."
"Suddenly the majority owner of the St. Louis club, von der Ahe transformed the vacant lots next to his saloon into a baseball field that would become known by many names, most notably 'Sportsman’s Park.' He also re-invested his earnings from the saloon into real estate, building apartment complexes on Grand and St. Louis Avenues to surround his new ballpark. These new properties, along with a 25-cent admission fee that attracted troves of spectators, made a fortune for von der Ahe. By the end of the decade, the Prussian entrepreneur had earned half a million dollars in profit from his initial $1,800 investment, making him baseball’s first magnate."

"In addition to his wealth, writers of his era claimed that von der Ahe’s eccentricity and his successful ballclubs made him 'one of the most written and talked about men in the United States.' The self-proclaimed 'der boss President' showed himself to be a predecessor to visionary owners like Bill Veeck and Charlie Finley. He created a total experience at Sportsman’s Park, incorporating 'chute-the-chutes' (water slides), Wild West shows and a horse-racing track around the premises that made Sportsman’s known as 'the Coney Island of the West.' He is also credited by some as the man who brought hot dogs and baseball together beginning in 1892 (others claim it was New York concessionaire Harry M. Stevens)."

"But perhaps von der Ahe’s wisest decision was signing pitcher Charles Comiskey to a contract of $60 a month in 1882. By the following year, the 24-year-old Comiskey was captain and then manager of the Browns, subsequently leading St. Louis to four consecutive American Association championships from 1885-88 – a run that included an 1886 upset of Cap Anson’s favored Chicago White Stockings in the precursor to the modern World Series."

"Among von der Ahe’s most famous traits was his “Dutchman’s Luck,” which was on no better display than in 1888. Having sold many of his stars – including future Hall of Famer King Kelly – to rival clubs, aggrieved St. Louis fans prepared for the worst."

"But the replacement cast, said to be “picked up from the sandlots,” improbably clicked and captured the ’88 title as well, making von der Ahe more money in the process than any of his previously revered squads."

"That 'Dutchman’s Luck' began to turn, however, when baseball wars between the National League and the American Association forced the dissolution of the latter in 1891. The Browns incorporated into the 12-team National League the following season. Without their leader Comiskey, who left to manage the Cincinnati club, St. Louis failed to adapt to its new surroundings, placing either at or near the bottom of the NL standings in every season through 1898."

"Von der Ahe, struggling to keep creditors at bay, was essentially penniless when he finally sold his beloved Browns in 1899. The new owners transferred a club from Cleveland to St. Louis and replaced the Browns with what would soon become the modern-day Cardinals, while von der Ahe retired from the game."

"The German businessman resumed running his saloon until his death on June 7, 1913. His final years and subsequently his funeral were in large part financially supported by Comiskey, who remained a loyal friend until the end."

     Other interesting stories on the background of Von der Ahe can be found at::

*At SABR Research Journal Archive:

*At Baseball-Reference:

*At St. Louis Post-Dispatch:

*At St. Loius Magazine:

*At Find A Grave:

2015 Topps #360: Adam Laroche, Chicago White Sox, DH

     Adam Laroche recently announced his retirement after 12 seasons in the majors.  He went through much of last season as a DH for the White Sox with 48 games at 1B--making only 1 error in 379 chances with a .997 Fielding Pct.  Laroche played nearly his entire career at 1B except for the 1 inning that he closed out for the White Sox last year, facing 3 batters and striking out 1. 
     Before the White Sox Laroche played for the Nationals between 2011-2014, which also happened to be the years that I spent going to Nats games in D.C.  He earned a Gold Glove and Silver Slugger award in 2012, reaching his 3rd of 4 career postseason appearances, hitting 2 HR against the Cardinals in the 5-game NLDS.
     Laroche had 100 RBI seasons in 2010 with the Diamondbacks and in 2012 with the Nationals.  He made over 150 hits in 2007, 2009, and 2012.  Laroche had 42 Doubles with the Pirates 2007, and hit over 20 HR's ten times throughout his career.  He started in the majors with the Braves, and had a short stint in Boston for 6 games with the Red Sox in 2009.   

     Laroche's final card will most likely be in the 2016 set, but here he is in 2015 Topps next to a few of his teammates.

Tuesday, March 15, 2016

1887 Buchner Gold Coin (type A reprint): Cap Anson, Chicago White Stockings/Cubs, MGR/1B/3B

     Cap Anson was an original member of the inaugural Chicago White Stockings team when the National League was formed in 1876.  He played all 66 games at 1B during that year under Player/Manager Al Spalding.  By 1879, Anson would become the White Stockings' Player/Manager, and would remain so through the team's 22nd year of existence.  The White Stockings would change their name to the Colts in 1890, which they kept throughout the rest of Anson's career until 1897.  Chicago then changed their name to the Orphans for a few years between 1898-1902 before settling on their current team name in 1903--the Chicago Cubs.

1955 Topps #210: Duke Snider, Brooklyn Dodgers, OF

     Duke Snider was selected to his 6th consecutive All-Star team in 1955, leading the National League in RBI (136) and Runs (126), as well as placing second in NL MVP voting.  On top of personal achievements, Duke Snider's 9th MLB season was extra special because it would bring his 1st World Series title--and against the Yankees.  He had already been a part of three World Series losses to the Yankees in 1949, 1952, and 1953.  Snider's '55 World Series performance was marked by a .320 Batting Avg, 7 RBI, and 4 HR's.  He would get to the World Series again in 1956, but wouldn't win another ring until the Dodger's 2nd season in Los Angeles in 1959.  Duke Snider was selected to the Hall of Fame in 1980.

1887 Buchner Gold Coin (type C reprint): Cap Anson, Chicago White Stockings/Cubs, MGR/1B/3B

     Cap Anson--a native of Marshalltown, IA--began playing in the majors for the Rockford Forest Citys of the National Association (N.A.) at the age of 19 in 1871.  Although the Citys finished last out of 9 teams in the association, Anson managed to lead the N.A. in Doubles (11) as the Citys' primary 3rd Baseman throughout the 25-game season.  Anson jumped over to the 1871 Champion Philadelphia Athletics of the N.A. for the next four years between 1872-1875, where he played mostly 1B and 3B.  With the A's, Anson led the N.A. in OBP ('72) and Putouts as 3B ('72), while nearly topping the charts at a few other rankings.  He also led the A's team to a 2nd place finish in the expanded 13-team association as the a manager in 1875.    

     With the formation of the National League (N.L.) in 1876, Anson signed with the Chicago White Stockings/Colts (Cubs) as a 1B/3B under Manager Al Spalding, where he would play out the rest of his 27-season MLB career through 1897.  Anson was also the manager for the White Stockings/Colts (Cubs) beginning from 1879 through his retirement in 1897.  He managed the New York Giants of the National League for one more season in 1898.  

     At the time of Anson's retirement at the age of 45, he had been one of the top 2 oldest players in the league for 8 years.  He was often a league leader in RBI ('80, '81, '82, '84, '85, '86, '88, '91),  Doubles ('77, '85), Hits ('81), Walks ('90), and Batting Average ('79, '81, '87, '88).  Anson's career achievement totals include a .334 Batting Avg., 2075 RBI, 3435 Hits, 582 Doubles, and 1999 Runs.  He played on 6 pennant-winning championship teams ('76, '80, '81, '82, '85, '86), appearing in two "World Series" against the St. Louis Browns of the American Association (A.A.) both times--tying the Browns in 1885 (3-3-1), and then losing to the Browns in 1886 (4-2).  He was inducted into the Hall of Fame in 1939.

Monday, March 14, 2016

1951 Topps #B41: Johnny Schmitz, Chicago Cubs, P

Johnny Schmitz split the 1951 season between the Cubs and Dodgers.  After pitching in Chicago since 1941, the Cubs traded Schmitz along with Andy Pafko, Wayne Terwillinger, and Ruber Walker to the Dodgers for Bruce Edwards, Joe Hatten, Gene Hermanski, and Eddie Miksis.  Schmitz saw a significant decrease in his playing time to it's lowest levels since 1942.  He still managed to pitch in 24 games with 10 starts and 6 finishes.  The former two-time All-Star would end up being traded again the next summer, and would eventually play for a total of 7 different teams throughout his MLB career by the end of 1956.  Schmitz capped out his professional playing career with AAA Toronto in 1957.  He passed away in 2011 at almost 91 years old.  

1948 Bowman #24: Dutch Leonard, Philladelphia Phillies, P

Dutch Leonard was at the end of a two-year stint with the Phillies in 1948.  After the end of the season, he would be traded with a teammate to the Cubs for Hank Borowy and Eddie Waitkus to finish out the last 5 seasons of his 20-year career.  Despite leading the N.L. in losses (17) for 1948, Leonard ranked 2nd in ERA (2.51) with 225.2 Innings Pitched, and threw 16 Complete Games in 30 starts for the Phillies.  Leonard would turn 40 the following season.

Below is a page from my 1948 Bowman binder.  I finally broke down and purchased a box of 12-pocket pages to store my 1948 Bowman to 1951 Topps cards, and glad I did.  I was looking to reduce space and managed to condense 3 binders into 1 by putting my '48B-'50B sets in a single 1" binder.  The '48B set fits perfectly into 4 pages, '49B into 20 pages, and '50B into 21 pages for a grand total of 45 pages, which pretty much maxes out a 1" binder's capacity.  I was able to fit the '51 Topps set into a single 1" binder with the '51 Bowman set--perfect.