Saturday, July 30, 2011

Al Smith was MVP - of ticket sales

Uncommon commons: In more than 30 years in sportscards publishing I have thrown hundreds of notes into files about the players – usually non-star players – who made up the majority of the baseball and football cards I collected as a kid. Today, I keep adding to those files as I peruse microfilms of The Sporting News from the 1880s through the 1960s. I found these tidbits brought some life to the player pictures on those cards. I figure that if I enjoyed them, you might too.

Despite his penchant for ruffling the feathers of baseball’s stuff shirts, Bill Veeck, whom the sporting press often referred to as “Sport Shirt” for his choice of “business casual” attire was one of the game’s most innovative promoters.

While he certainly wasn’t the first team owner to employ players as off-season ticket sellers, Veeck stepped the practice up a notch in the 1959 off-season when he hired three of the players from his American League Champion White Sox to peddle ducats to local businesses.

When a company would inquire about the White Sox season ticket plans, Veeck’s response was not a form letter and on order form. Instead, he dispatched his player-salesmen, partnered with a pro from the team’s ticket office, to the place of business to shake hands and sign autographs for everybody from the company president to the receptionist.

The players worked 40-hour weeks, reporting to the stadium at 9 a.m., Monday through Friday, often visiting as many as 15 prospective season ticket buyers per day.

Working for Veeck in the winter of 1959-1960 were outfielders Jim Rivera and Al Smith, and pitcher Bob Shaw.

Smith was far and away the MVP of the sales force, booking more than $100,000 in ticket sales.

Accepting the sales job was probably just part of Smith’s way of thanking Veeck for giving him a raise – to a reported $22,500 or $25,000 – despite Smith’s career-worst year at the plate, hitting just .237. Veeck countered that, with clutch hits in the pennant race, which he estimated won eight games for Chicago, Smith was “the best .237 hitter in baseball.”

“I’ve never met so many people in my life,” he said. “I’ve talked to industrial tycoons, bank presidents, clerks, salesmen, secretaries – all sorts of people.”

Smith said that he even met a man who said it was his friend who spilled a cup of beer over Smith’s head at the outfield wall during Game 2 of the 1959 World Series, a scene captured in a famous baseball action photo. (Smith had a large image of that photo at his home and once said, "I've signed that photo200,000 times.)

“I told him to tell the guy to come to the ball park and that I’d like to meet him,” Smith said. He never did come.”

Also selling tickets in the 1959 off-season was Billy Martin, then with the Cleveland Indians. After trading Martin to the Reds, Cleveland GM Frank Lane told Martin he could keep the $600-a-month job.

“Now wouldn’t that be dandy?” Martin is said to have responded, “Pick up a phone and say, ‘Hello, this is Billy Martin of the Cincinnati Reds. I’d like to sell you a season’s box for the Cleveland Indians.’”

Thursday, July 28, 2011

PWI (Playing While Intoxicated) only drew two-game suspension in 1960

Uncommon commons: In more than 30 years in sportscards publishing I have thrown hundreds of notes into files about the players – usually non-star players – who made up the majority of the baseball and football cards I collected as a kid. Today, I keep adding to those files as I peruse microfilms of The Sporting News from the 1880s through the 1960s. I found these tidbits brought some life to the player pictures on those cards. I figure that if I enjoyed them, you might too.

Today, if a player showed up drunk for a game, he’d probably be locked up in re-hab for a month. But in 1960, when the Seattle Rainiers were contending for the Pacific Coast League pennant, such an incident only drew a two-game suspension.

Joe Taylor, Seattle’s all-star outfielder, was suspended indefinitely between games of a double-header July 5, for reporting “in an unfit condition to play ball.” He also was abusive to G.M. Cedric Tallis and Manager Dick Sisler.

Sisler removed Taylor from the first game when he stumbled over first base after being hit by a pitched ball by Portland’s Pete Mesa. Taylor reportedly bragged to teammates: “I’m drunk.” He had been convicted of driving under the influence of alcohol 15 days before, fined $250 and lost his driver’s license for 30 days.

Taylor was back in the line-up on July 7, with the Rainiers six games out of first. According to a follow-up note in The Sporting News of July 27, after “he promised to reform,” his teammates voted to take him back. If, in fact, his teammates had a real voice in determining Taylor’s status with the club, it seems to be to have been a serious abrogation of management’s responsibilities in the matter.

After garnering only four hits in his next 25 tries, he was in danger of being benched, but he made it the rest of the way, playing in 145 games and batting .291. He led the Rainiers that season with a career-high 30 home runs. Seattle finished the season in fifth place.

Taylor didn’t return to Seattle for 1961, moving instead to San Diego, the Chicago White Sox affiliate in the PCL. He ended his pro career in the Mexican League in 1963. Taylor died in 1993.

Taylor had played professionally since 1949, when he was a catcher with the Chicago American Giants of the Negro American League.

He came to Organized Baseball in 1951, becoming the property of the Philadelphia A’s, for whom he debuted in the Major Leagues in 1954. He spent part of every season between 1951-63 in the minor leagues. He often batted over.300, with 20 or more home runs.

His major league stops included the Cincinnati Reds in 1957, the St. Louis Cardinals and Baltimore Orioles in 1958 and the O’s in 1959. He played in 119 big league games, batting .249 with little power.

Taylor’s only major league baseball card was in the 1958 Topps set. He also appeared in several regional sets such as Union Oil, Seattle popcorn and Henry House wieners during his Pacific Coast League days.

Tuesday, July 26, 2011

Virgil Trucks advertised for job in TSN

Uncommon commons. Contemporary accounts of tidbits that as a collector of baseball and football cards I found interesting because they helped bring to life the faces on the cards I collected. I figure that if I found these items of interest, so would other vintage card collectors.

Recently we've looked at some of the advertisements that appeared in The Sporting News in 1960, especially as they relate to the baseball card/memorabilia hobby.

One item that particularly caught my eye was a small ad placed by former major league pitcher Virgil Trucks in the Feb. 10 issue.

Actually it shouldn't be surprising that Trucks chose the pages of TSN for his "Situation Wanted" ad. At that time, virtually everybody that was involved in baseball, from the American Legion to the Commissioner's office, read the paper every week. It was THE venue to reach everybody who was anybody in professional ball, from club owners to the groundskeepers.

When Trucks placed his ad, he had recently ended his career as a pro pitcher. After 17 major league seasons, he had pitched briefly in 1959 for the Miami Marlins of the International League.
Trucks had signed as a free agent with the Tigers at age 21 in 1938. In Class D ball that season he won 25 games to lead the Alabama-Florida League.

He made his major league debut in 1941, and after spending all of 1944 and most of 1945 in the Navy, he came back to Detroit in time to beat the Cubs in Game 2 of the World Series. He went to the Browns in 1953, was traded to the White Sox in mid-season, then went back to the Tigers for 1956.

Trucks pitched for Kansas City in 1957 and until June of 1958, when he was traded to the Yankees, who released him after spring training in 1959.

Trucks  won 20 games in 1953 and 19 each in 1949 and 1954. In 1949 he led the major leagues with 153 strikeouts and tied for the lead with six shutouts. His lifetime big league record was 177-135 with a 3.39 ERA.

I'm not sure whether Trucks' ad in TSN early in 1960 resulted in any jobs in baseball, but he did hook on with the Pittsburgh Pirates as a pitching coach for the 1963 season. 

Sunday, July 24, 2011

Smilin' Joe Christopher had 0-for-23 start

Uncommon commons. Contemporary accounts of tidbits that as a collector of baseball and football cards I found interesting because they helped bring to life the faces on the cards I collected. I figure that if I found these items of interest, so would other vintage card collectors.

If you collected baseball cards in the early 1960s, maybe you remember Joe Christopher's smiling face. He was one of those guys who never took a bad baseball card photo.

Other than the fact that he was in the major leagues, Christopher didn't have a whole lot to smile about when he broke into the bigs, though.

He had hit .327 for the Pirates' AAA club at Salt Lake City in 1958. But he went 0-for-1959 when the Pirates called him up in late-May. Christopher made his big league debut May 26, in Harvey Haddix' 12-inning perfect game.  Christopher stayed with Pittsburgh through July 2, but had only a walk to show for his 14 plate appearances. He was officially 0-for-12. 

Sent back down to Columbus, he hit .301 for the season 

He began the 1960 season with the Pirates, primarily used as a pinch-runner. He was hitless when he was sent back to Salt Lake City in mid-May, where he batted .341 in 20 games.  He was recalled to Pittsburgh in June and spent the remainder of the season on the major league roster.

Finally, on June 30, in the nightcap of a doubleheader against San Francisco, Christopher singled off Mike McCormick in the first inning. He had gone 11 hitless at-bats thus far in the season. He could now boast a career .042 average.

On Sept. 27, against the Reds he had a five-hit game, raising his season's batting average from .167 to .245. He finished the 1960 season at .232.

Christopher appeared in three games in the 1960 World Series, scoring two runs in the Pirates' victory over the Yankees. He didn't have an at-bat, but he had a World's Champions ring.

Christopher was the Pirates' fourth outfielder in 1961, batting .263. In the October expansion draft, he became one of the original N.Y. Mets.
He was the first Mets player to hit .300 in a season with over 500 at-bats when he batted an even .300 in 1964. That season he had played in his second major league perfect game, when Jim Bunning of the Phillies blanked the Mets June 21 at Shea.

Christopher was traded to the Boston Red Sox in 1966, ending his eight-year major league career with a .260 batting average.

On a technicality, Christopher was the first native-born major league player from the United States Virgin Islands. Valmy Thomas, who is often cited in that role, was actually born in Puerto Rico because his mother sought better medical attention before mother and newborn immediately returned home to St. Croix. Thomas debuted with the N.Y. Giants on April 16, 1957.

After his playing days were over, Christopher operated a baseball school in the Virgin Islands.

You can find Christopher's smiling face on Topps cards in 1961, 1963, 1964 and 1965. Besides the regular '65 Topps card, he also appeared in the Embossed insert set and the Transfers issued that year.

Friday, July 22, 2011

When TSN was hobby's marketplace

Sure, there were several newsletters produced by baseball card collectors for baseball card collectors in the 1940s through the early 1960s. But the circulation of those collectors' papers was probably in the hundreds, rather than the thousands. 

For sheer "reach" the place to find collectors was in the pages of the weekly paper The Sporting News.

While perusing microfilm of back issues of TSN my eye is always drawn to the small "box" ads at the bottom of the back pages. The ads placed by the hobby's pioneering "dealers," usually were limited to offers of current-year card offerings by sport within season.

I thought you might enjoy seeing what the dealers were offering for hockey cards in the late-winter of  1960.

One of the principal sportscard advertisers in TSN in those days was G.B. Taylor of New York City. I don't know anything about G.B., as he was apparently no longer active in the hobby business when I got involved with Baseball Cards magazine and Sports Collectors Digest in 1980-81.

In his first ad for 1959 Topps hockey cards, Taylor mistakenly indicated there were 100 cards in the set, and that "This set is not being distributed in this country." His price for the set was $5.

A bit later, Taylor ran a new ad, with the correct 66-card total for the Topps set. Parkhurst issued a separate 50-card set of the Canadian teams that year, but I never saw an ad from Taylor for those cards. I'm unclear as to why Taylor offered the 66-card hockey set as "Canadian" hockey cards.  Topps' set included only players from the U.S. teams: Boston Bruins, Chicago Black Hawks, Detroit Red Wings, and New York Rangers. The Parkhust issue had the Canadian teams: Montreal Canadiens and Toronto Maple Leafs.

The corrected ad specified 66 Topps cards, but did not lower the set price from $5.

In that same ad, Taylor offered an alphabetical checklist for all Topps, Bowman, Red Man and Hires baseball cards, from 1948 through 1959.

For many collectors, such a checklist would have been a valuable reference, since there were no hobby catalogs/price guides with that information back then. The checklist was priced at $4.

While it may have been a good price then, today Taylor's list would have only curiosity value. The complete 1959-60 Topps hockey card checklist available for $5 today has a retail value of up to $2,000.

Wednesday, July 20, 2011

Trade killed Topps feature card

On April 17, just 48 hours before the Detroit Tigers and Cleveland Indians were to meet in the American League 1960 season opener, the clubs pulled off a blockbuster trade.

The home run co-champion of 1959, Rocky Colavito was sent from the Indians in exchange for Detroit's Harvey Kuenn, the 1959 A.L. batting champion.

The trade was basically precipitated by Colavito's refusal to sign for 1960 at the $35,000 the Indians were offered; he had made a reported $28,000 in 1959.

Cleveland's general manager Frank Lane said of the Colavito for Kuenn swap, Kuenn gives us greater speed, better defense and more consistent hitting. We think we have enough power without Rocky. We've given up 40 home runs for 40 doubles. We've added 50 singles and taken away 50 strikeouts. That about sums it up." 

Lane neglected to mention that while Colavito seldom missed a game, Kuenn was often injured. He had missed 12 games in 1955, 15 in 1956, 10 in 1958 and 15 in 1959. He also added a $44,500 salary to the Indians' payroll.

The Indians must have thought they were pretty shrewd when Colavito started the season for the Tigers going 4-for-39, all singles, before homering on May 10 with two out in the top of the ninth inning to beat Washington 1-0 and snap the Tigers 10-game losing streak.

Colavito's 1960 season showed 145 games played, batting .249 (his lowest mark to that date) with 35 home runs (fourth in the A.L.) and 87 RBI. Kuenn played in 126 games (his fewest since becoming a regular in 1953). He dropped 45 points off his batting average, to .308, with nine home runs and 54 RBI.

As for Lane's predictions about relative production between Colavito and Kuenn . . . the Indians gave up 26 home runs, while adding six doubles and 29 singles. They "saved" 55 strikeouts.

Topps got caught flat-footed by the trade. A surviving flexichrome that pictures Colavito as an Indian, with the Senators' Harmon Killebrew, was evidently intended for a multi-player feature card in the 1960 set. With Colavito wearing Tigers' livery by the time the season started, it appears Topps scrapped the idea of a Colavito & Killebrew card.

I bought that 5" x 4" Topps relic some 25 years ago from Bill Bossert, of Mid-Atlantic Coins in Swathmore, Pa. Bill was an early friend of Baseball Cards magazine. From the day I bought it, I knew it would have made a great baseball card. When I began making custom cards seven or eight years ago, I always knew that someday I'd be putting that Topps artwork to the use for which it was intended.

My custom card creation is shown at top, the Topps artwork is at bottom.

Tuesday, July 19, 2011

1950s TV Treat Ice Cream Dodgers Premiums

An email from veteran "oddball" collector Larry Serota (the stuff he collects is "oddball," not Larry) tipped me to an uncataloged premium picture being offered on eBay.

The item was a black-and-white, blank-backed 8" x 10" picture of L.A. Dodgers outfielder Carl Furillo. The sponsor is TV Treat ice cream. A couple of the company's packages are featured in a baseball design at top-right.

The endorsement bearing Furillo's facsimile signature reads: "TV Treat / a hit everytime". In beat-up condition, the photo sold for $55.

In researching the premium, I found on a website called Sandy Koufax Time Capsule ( a similar picture of Koufax scooping out a spoonful of ice cream and including the same endorsement.

That picture is attributed to 1959, so the issue could actually be from either year. It probably can't be pinpointed unless or until other player premiums are found.

Monday, July 18, 2011

Football card deals in 1960

This time, let's look at how the new football cards were advertised to the hobby audience in the days before hobby publications had really establishehd themselves.

In The Sporting News in 1960, the two principal advertisers of new sports cards were G.B. Taylor and Richard Gelman's Card Collectors' Company, both headquartered in New York City.

Usually there wasn't much difference between the advertised prices of the  two card dealers. Regardless of which ad a collector had answered in 1960, if he's kept the cards in the condition in which they were received, the profits would have been substantial.

Both Taylor and CCC offered the 1960 Topps NFL football card set for $2 per series of 66. For an extra 50 cents, CCC would throw in the insert set of 33 metallic team stickers. It was those logo stickers that would have proved to have been the real steal back in 1960.

Generally thrown out with the bubblegum or stuck on something the day they were bought, the metallic stickers are a real challenge for today's collectors. The set of 33 has a retail value of up to $400 in nice shape.

The current "book" value of the 132-card 1960 Topps football card set is in the range of $400-600 in Near Mint condition.

1960 Topps

1960 Fleer

1960 Topps college logo sticker
The 1960 Fleer set of 132 AFL cards is a $600-750 item today. The nine team emblem decals were available for a buck in 1960, but the set could run you $150-200 today. The set of 19 college pennant decals, two schools per sheet, was $1.50 from G.B. Taylor in 1960. Today you'd do well to pick up the set for $150. Gelman offered the Fleer decals at an even better price, $1 for all 28 pieces.

1960 Fleer AFL team decals

Notice that CCC was offering "Authentic 1910 Baseball Cards," for 35 cents apiece. These would have undoubtedly been T206s. They would have likely been in Good or lesser condition, and there would certainly have been no Cobbs, but these would still be $15+ cards today.

1960 Fleer pennant decal

Saturday, July 16, 2011

Musial added to premium checklist

Only the third known subject in a set that is cataloged as 1947 Champ Hats Premiums has been confirmed. And it's a dandy -- Stan Musial.

The discovery was reported by one of the hobby's pioneer collectors/dealers, Gar Miller of New Jersey, who has been active in the hobby since the 1950s. The Musial premium was found in a recently purchased collection.

The Champ Hat premiums are 8" x 10" blank-back, black-and-white picture cards. The only two players previously known in the set were Mickey Vernon and Dixie Walker.

The set was arbitrarily assigned (by me) the issue date of 1947. That was based on a line of type below the player's name that identifies him as a "Champ Batsman".

The Brooklyn Dodgers' Walker led the National League in batting average in 1944 and 1947. Vernon, with the Senators, led the American League in batting in 1946. Musial led the senior circuit in 1943, 1946 and 1948 (also four times in the 1950s).

If the sponsoring hat company was being literal about the pictured players being batting champions, 1947 still looks like a good bet for the issue date. If that's true, we may someday see a Champs Hats premium for 1947 A.L. leader Ted Williams . . . although he wasn't really a "hat" guy.

Miller says he will probably consign the Musial discovery piece to a future hobby auction. You can visit his web site at .

Friday, July 15, 2011

Adding to Satch's Bowman legacy

Yesterday I showed you the 1952 Topps-style Satchel Paige card I created. Today I present my vision of what Bowman might have done if it had followed up its 1949 Paige "rookie card."

Paige didn't appear in the 1950 Bowman set because he dropped out of Organized Baseball that season. When Bill Veeck was forced to sell his ownership interest in the Cleveland Indians in a divorce settlement, Paige decided he wouldn't play in the major leagues for anybody else and spent the 1950 season with the Philadelphia Stars of the Negro Leagues and barnstorming around the country.

When Veeck got back into baseball with his purchase of the St. Louis Browns in 1951, he was able to coax Satch back into the ranks. Like Veeck, Paige remained in the bigs until the Browns were sold to Baltimore interests and became the Orioles in 1954.

For whatever reason, Bowman didn't include Paige in its 1951-53 sets. I've tried my hand at what 1951 and 1952 Bowman cards might have looked like.

I began with a black-and-white chest to cap photo; from a postcard, if I recall correctly. The photo shows Paige in the new uniform that the Brownies adopted for 1952. Most of the "real" 1952 Topps and Bowman cards still showed the St. Louis players in the old uniform.

My 1952 card came first. For the background I chose Bowman's 1951 Frank Overmire card. I like the brick wall and stadium background. I colorized the photo and dropped in a slightly modified version of Paige's autograph. The best image of his signature that I could find had an underscore almost the entire width of the autograph. On a small card, this was too "busy," so I lost the underscore.

If you compare the biographical data on the backs of my Topps and Bowman Paige cards, you'll see the Sept. 11, 1908, birthdate, rather than July 7, 1906, date found in many "official" sources such as the Total Baseball encyclopedia, the Baseball Almanac and On its 1949 card, Bowman used the Sept. 11, 1908, date. When Topps came out with its first Paige card in 1953, it cited the same birthdate. I chose to side with the card companies.

Part of Paige's lore is that nobody really knows when he was born. He always claimed he did not know and Bill veeck is said to have found proof that he could not have been born later than 1900.

For my 1951 Bowman-style card, I used on the facial portion of my colorized Paige photo, dropping it into the uniform of Hank "Bow Wow" Arft's 1951 Bowman card.

You'll notice that the player paragraphs on the backs of all three of my 1951-52 custom cards are not all that different. I may have laid down on the job a bit with them, but in the very early 1950s, there really wasn't a whole lot to be said about Paige's major league career, and the gum companies didn't delve too deeply into Negro Leagues stats.

While I still have at least two more Satchel Paige customs on my to-do list, I'm going to hold them in abeyance for the time being while I switch gears.

Keep watching this space for all my new customs.

Thursday, July 14, 2011

The first of several Satchel Paige customs

From his unique nickname to his list of rules to live by to his dazzling assortment of -- legal and otherwise -- deliveries to his true age, baseball had never seen, and will never see again, a character the like of Satchel Paige.

You can google him all day and never tire of what you find. There are several excellent books available.

During his playing days, especially after Bill Veeck signed him in mid-1948 for the successful pennant drive, the big question about baseball's oldest rookie was his true age. Veeck himself claimed that his research showed that Paige could not have been born after 1900. I went for the 1908 birthdate that Topps used on its 1953 card.

For almost as long as I have been making custom cards, I have been setting aside photos of Paige for eventual use on cards that never were.

As big a drawing card as he was for more than 40 years, and as much of a fan favorite as he was, there are precious few "real" career-contemporary baseball cards of Paige. He was included in Bowman's and Leaf's 1949 sets as a Cleveland Indian, and in 1953 Topps as a St. Louis Brown. He appears in a number of 1948-49 Indians' team-issued picture packs and there are several other legitimate 1940s collectibles.

I'm currently planning to do at least five "tribute" cards of page. The first is presented herewith, in the style of 1952 Topps. Keep watching this blog for my future Paige cards.

Tuesday, July 12, 2011

Latest custom card: 1976 Frank Robinson

I recently rediscovered in a box of my baseball "stuff" a 1975 JB Robinson Jewelers Cleveland Indians player photo album, probably given away at a promotional game that season.

The booklet had some great photos of the players in their red softball-looking uniforms. They definitely weren't the same old pictures seen on cards and memorabilia of the day.

It occurred to me that the picture of playing-manager Frank Robinson could be the basis for a "card that never was." In 1975, Topps pictured the first-year manager on the team card, and also had a player card of him as a designated hitter. In 1976 and 1977, Robinson was only on the team cards.

I dithered with whether to make my custom in the 1976 or the 1977 style. While I suppose a 1977 card with his final playing stats would have been most collectors' choice, I opted for the '76 merely as a matter of personal preference.

Other than having to severely shrink the type for the stats to make them all fit on the back, the process went well. Hope you agree.

By the way, the Robinson booklet had a good portrait photo of Boog Powell in his Indians uniform. I believe you'll see that in this space some day, since Topps pictured the Boog-er as an Oriole in 1975, despite the fact he played all season with Cleveland.

Sunday, July 10, 2011

Some other customs to check out

If you enjoy my custom cards, I think you should check out the blog of another card creator.

John Hogan does some great work, like this 1979-style of Chicago Bears quarterback Bobby Douglass when he was given a trial with the Chicago White Sox' AAA team.

John's got some other great cards up for view on his blog at .

You might be surprised at the number of custom card makers out there, and the breadth of their efforts. If I was the organizing type, I'd try to get everybody together on one web site to share our creations, tips, etc.

Saturday, July 9, 2011

Kroll pitched two pro no-hitters at age 18

Uncommon commons. Contemporary accounts of tidbits that as a collector of baseball and football cards I found interesting because they helped bring to life the faces on the cards I collected. I figure that if I found these items of interest, so would other vintage card collectors.

Yesterday we presented the story of a minor league pitchers who lost two no-hit bids to the same batter in 1960.

Today we have the story of a young minor league pitcher who threw two no-hitters at the age of 18, though they were in different leagues in different seasons.

Gary Kroll signed as a free agent with the Philadelphia Phillies at the age of 17 in 1959. Assigned to the rookie level Appalachian League at Johnson City, Kroll pitched a 9-0 no-hitter against Lynchburg on Aug. 3, less than a month after turning 18. He had a 5-3 record that season.

He was promoted to Bakersfield in the California League (Class C) for 1960. On May 20, he pitched his second professional no-hitter, beating Visalia 1-0 with 11 strikeouts.

At one point in 1960, Kroll had 13 straight wins before losing to Stockton on July 16. He won his next start and had 14 strikeouts, bringing his record to 14-3.

Kroll didn't fare so well the rest of the season. He won only three more games while losing nine. On Aug. 5, he tied the Cal League record with 19 strikeouts in a game, but lost 4-3 when he balked home the winning run.

Kroll did make the majors for four seasons, 1964-1966 and 1969, with the Phillies, Mets, Astros and Indians. He lifetime MLB record is 6-7 with a 4.24 ERA, averaging 7.8 strikeouts per nine innings.

Friday, July 8, 2011

Boozer lost two MiL no-nos to same hitter

Uncommon commons. Contemporary accounts of tidbits that as a collector of baseball and football cards I found interesting because they helped bring to life the faces on the cards I collected. I figure that if I found these items of interest, so would other vintage card collectors.

Even at the minor league level, no-hitters are an uncommon day at the park for a pitcher.

In 1960, Philadelphia Phillies prospect John Boozer had two no-hitters broken up by the same batter.

That season Boozer was pitching for the Des Moines Demons of the Class B Three-I League.

On July 11, he had a no-hitter going when outfielder Charles Smith of the Cedar Rapids Braves singled in the fourth inning. It was the only hit Boozer gave up in an 12-0 win.

Facing the Braves again on Aug. 8, Boozer had his no-hitter working into the seventh inning, when Smith's single again broke it up. Boozer won the one-hitter 8-0 for his 15th victory of the season.

Boozer went on to pitch seven seasons for the Phillies in the 1960s, retiring with a 14-16 lifetime record and a 4.09 ERA. He died of Hodgkin's lymphoma in 1986 at the age of 47.

Smith never made it to the major leagues, batting .277 in a five-year career in the minors.

Thursday, July 7, 2011

Pitler's "night" benefited Brooklyn hospital

Uncommon commons. Contemporary accounts of tidbits that as a collector of baseball and football cards I found interesting because they helped bring to life the faces on the cards I collected. I figure that if I found these items of interest, so would other vintage card collectors.

Back in the 1950s, when ballplayers and fans had more in common in terms of team loyalty and life styles, it was not uncommon for popular players to be honored with a "day" or a "night" when they and their families were brought onto the field before the game or between games of a doubleheader, and presented -- often lavishly -- with gifts from fans, sponsors, etc.

Gifts often included new cars, sporting goods, home appliances, savings bonds, and the like. Wives usually received flowers and jewelry and the children got new bicycles. The "take" often totaled half a year's salary for the honored player.

On August 25, 1953, the Dodgers hosted a "night" for popular coach Jake Pitler. Pitler had been part of the Dodgers' family since 1939 as a minor league manager, and in 1947 joined the big club as first base coach.

As a minor league manager (winning back-to-back PONY League pennants in 1939-40), Pitler, over the years, was skipper to many future major leaguers, including such "Boys of Summer," as Cal Abrams, Carl Erskine, Ralph Branca, Clem Labine, and, in his first pro season, 17-year-old Duke Snider.

For his "night," in lieu of the traditional gifts, Pitler, an observant Jew who didn't coach on Yom Kippur or Rosh Hashanah, requested that all donations go to Beth-El Hospital in Brooklyn. The hospital benefited to the tune of $8,000, which was used to establish The Jake Pitler Pediatric Play Therapy Room. On his "night," Pitler received a plaque acknowledging his generosity.

Beth-El Hospital now operates as Brookdale Unit Hospital, but the Pitler playroom apparently no longer exists.

Pitler played only one full season in the major leagues. In 1917 he was Honus Wagner's doubleplay partner with the Pittsburgh Pirates. He still holds the major league record for putouts by a second baseman in a game: 15 in a 22-inning game on Aug. 22, 1917.

His only career-contemporary baseball card was in the 1952 Topps high-number series. His status as a Brooklyn Dodger and a Jewish major leaguer adds a modest premium beyond the card's scarcity.

Pitler remained as a Dodgers coach until the team left Brooklyn after the 1957 season. He then scouted for the team around New York. He died in 1968 at the age of 73. Pitler is a member of the Jewish Sports Hall of Fame in Pittsburgh, Pa.

Wednesday, July 6, 2011

New look for my Bronko Nagurski custom

First version of my 1955-style
Nagurski card.

One of the first six or eight cards I created for my "updates" to the 1955 Topps All-Americans was a card for Bronko Nagurski.

Many collectors find it hard to believe that Topps did not include Nagurski among the 100 cards in its original 1955 issue.

While I don't know the specifics, I'd guess that Nagurski's omission probably had something to do with contractual arrangements relative to his professional wrestling career. He may have been under exclusive contract that kept him out of the Topps college football set.

So, Nagurski was a natural for my set, even though his gridiron career at Minnesota and Chicago put him across the line of scrimmage from the Wisconsin Badgers and Green Bay Packers, albeit well before my time.

Updated Nagurski card.

I never felt that my Nagurski card was one of my best efforts. The action photo that I used was somewhat fuzzy and was a picture that is often seen.

Thus, when I found a very nice portrait of Nagurski on the internet a year or so ago, I decided that some day I would re-do my Nagurski card. That day came over the 4th of July weekend. I colorized the portrait and revamped both the All-American shield and the player name and position on front.

I'm much happier with the new version.

Monday, July 4, 2011

Cox broke up Dalkowski K-record bid

Uncommon commons. Contemporary accounts of tidbits that as a collector of baseball and football cards I found interesting because they helped bring to life the faces on the cards I collected. I figure that if I found these items of interest, so would other vintage card collectors.

In the late 1950s and early 1960s, Baltimore Orioles prospect Steve Dalkowski was usually the fastest pitcher in his minor league -- and the wildest.

Between 1957-1965, Dalkowski worked 995 innings at all levels of the minor leagues. He struck out 1,396 (12.63 per nine innings), but he walked 1,354 (12.25 per nine innings). His minor league career won-loss record was 46-80.

In 1960, pitching for the Class A Stockton Ports, the 21-year-old Dalkowski tied the California League record with 19 strikeouts in a game against the Reno Silver Sox. The lefty became the fourth pitcher in the circuit's 18-year history to notch 19 Ks in a game.

It looked like he was a cinch to break the record in the eighth inning when Bobby Cox, in his first year of pro ball, came to the plate.

Dalkowski had just walked in the go-ahead run, but Cox had struck out in his four previous at-bats. Dalkowski got two strikes on Cox, but rather than becoming Dalkowski's 20th strikeout victim, Cox hit a grand slam home run. Reno won 8-3.

Though he never appeared in a major league game, Dalkowski was included on a 1963 Topps Rookie Stars card. Cox also appeared on Just one Topps card during his 1968-1969 playing days with the Yankees, in 1969.