Thursday, February 5, 2015

Jim Bouton #470

Jim Bouton's career spanned 10 seasons in the big leagues. After riding the bench for his time in high school, Bouton, however, secured a professional contract after a couple seasons of collegiate pitching. After a couple of seasons in the minors, Jim was called up to the Yankees at the start of the 1962 season, appearing in 36 games, starting 16 and finishing the year 7-7. He won a World Series ring in 1962, though he failed to pitch in any games during the series. 1963 and '64 were his most successful seasons, going 21-7 and 18-13 respectively. His '63 season earned him a spot on that season's All Star roster.

However, his large number of appearances in those first years led to arm issues. By 1965, Jim was a member of the bullpen, his fastball noticeably slower. He developed a knuckle ball to extend his career. By 1968, however, Bouton was back in the minors.

It was in 1968 that a friend and broadcaster, Leonard Shecter, approached Bouton about writing a book documenting a season in the majors. Bouton had already been taking notes during the '68 season having a similar idea, and agreed to the project.

The famous book Ball Four was released in 1970 and it detailed the 1969 season Bouton spent with the one year club Seattle Pilots, and some of his time spent with the Houston Astros at the end of 1969. Bouton spoke frankly about the exploits of fellow major league players, and recounted much of his baseball career with the Yankee. As expected, many ball players were not pleased with such an open account of the behind the scenes activity of the ball club members. Bouton was shunned by many major league players and was basically blacklisted from baseball. After being sent down to the Astros farm team in 1970, Bouton immediately retired. He became a sportscaster in New York and did a small amount of acting.

In 1975, Bouton attempted a comeback to MLB, starting with a successful minor league stint in Portland. Bill Veeck, never one to pass on anything that could bring entertainment to baseball, singed Jim to a minor league contract. He went winless with the Sox farm team, and eventually ended up back in Portland. However, Ted Turner of the Atlanta Braves, offered Jim a contract in 1978. After a year with Savannah, Bouton returned to the bigs late in 1979, going 1-3 in 5 starts.

Though Bouton made it back for a short time, he was still alienated from MLB because of his book. He was never invited to any functions, and was always absent from any Yankee honors of former players. However, after the tragic death of his daughter, Bouton' son penned an impassioned letter to the Yankees about his father's exclusion from the Yankees. After public pressure, Jim was invited back to Yankee Stadium in July 1998.

Claim to fame: While it is hard to think of Bouton and not immediately think of his books concerning baseball, Bouton shows up daily on ball fields across America each time a younger pushes some shredded gum into his mouth. Bouton helped invent Big League Chew.

Comic answer: Frank Robinson Reds - 38HRS

Card Condition: Off center. Slight rounding of the corners and small creases. Off center on the back and some dirt.

Saturday, January 10, 2015

Art Mahaffey #104

Art Mahaffey spent seven years in the big leagues. His first appearance in a major league contest was as a reliever in 1960. Art ended the 1960 season with 12 starts and a 7-3 record. A couple fine years on the mound in 1961 and 62 earned him All Star honors. 1962 was an especially good season for Mahaffey. A 19-14 record, 26th in MVP voting, lead the league in home runs allowed and earned runs allowed, and on August 2nd, he pitched a complete game against the Mets, striking out 12 and smacking a grand slam, being the last player in MLB history to achieve that feat.

In 1965, Art was one player in a 3 man trade to the Cardinals that brought Dick Groat and Bob Uecker to the Phillies. Mahaffey on played 12 games with St. Louis, going 1-4 with a 6.43 ERA. He was traded just before the 1967 season to the Mets, but never played a game with the team.

Claim to fame: The first three players to ever reach base against Art were retired with Mahaffey picking them off. Curt Flood and Bill White of the Cardinals, on July 30, 1960, and Jim Marshall of the Giants on July 31.

Comic answer: Juan Marichal, Don Nottebart and Sandy Koufax (had to look up answer on the web)

Card condition: Front is off center with rounded corners and a small crease. Back has very poor centering and dirt with writing on back (though Mahaffey is still alive as of the date of this post).

Wednesday, December 3, 2014

Gene Stephens #308

Gene Stephens spent 12 years in the majors, beginning his career with 8 season in Boston. While he appeared in a lot of games are Fenway, Gene mostly made appearances late in games as a replacement for Ted Williams. While he has a career total of 964 games played, he only has 1,913 plate appearances. In 1956, he appeared in 104 games, but only had 75 at bats. Near the end of the 1960 season, Stephens was traded to the Orioles. Hampered with an injured wrist, his play was limited with Baltimore, and it saw Gene traded to the KC Athletics mid season in 1961. However, a knee injury limited his play again in 1961 and had him on the bench for most of the '62 season.

Traded to the White Sox at the start of the 1963 season, he spent most of it in the minors while his knee healed, only appearing in six games for the South Siders. However, a promising start in 1963 earned a call up from Al Lopez and Gene finished his career in Chicago with the Sox barely missing out on the post season by a single game.

Gene didn't return to baseball in 1965, instead entering the business world and retiring from Kerr-McGee after 22 years in marketing.

Claim to fame: While playing behind Williams limited hit playing time, Stephens made the most of it on June 18, 1953. In a blow out against the Tigers, Gene became the first modern player (since 1900) to collect three hits in a single inning. In a 17 run 7th inning, Stephens smacked a double and two singles.

Comic answer: The old Philadelphia Athletics

Card condition: Miscentered with dinged corners at the top of the card. No scratches on the face. The back is also off centered with dirt and some fading.

Wednesday, November 26, 2014

Rookie Star Orioles #201

Sam Bowens played 7 seasons in the big leagues, breaking in with the Orioles in 1963, appearing in 15 games. 1964 was the only full season Sam played in the majors, batting .263 with 22 HRs and 71 RBIs. Sam was known for his very strong arm in the outfield, with 249 putouts in 1964 while only committing 5 errors. However, knee injuries and struggles with alcohol shortened his career. He finished his career playing 90 games over two seasons in Washington. In 2003, Sam passed away in a nursing home at the age of 65.

Wally Bunker broke into the bigs as a 19 year old in 1964. Rated one of the top pitching prospects, Wally didn't disappoint, quickly becoming the ace of the staff with Milt Pappas and Robin Roberts. An Orioles rookie record of 19-5 secured the Sporting News Rookie of the Year award for Bunker, but he finished second in the actual ROY to Tony Oliva. His sophomore season was a letdown, as arm ailments limited his effectiveness, becoming a part time starter in '65 and '66. In the 1966 World Series, Bunker pitched a 6 hit shutout over the Dodgers, helping the Orioles take the title. Unprotected in the 1968 expansion draft, Wally was selected by the Royals and had his best season with them in 1969, going 12-11. Yet, the arm problems continued, and after a disastrous 2-11 campaign in 1970, he was released in May of 1971, ending his career at 26 years old. Currently, Bunker and his wife release children's books from their home in South Carolina.

Claim to fame: While Bunker's sinker pitch was once referred to by Yankee great Mickey Mantle as a pitch that "you could break your back on", Wally has the distinction of throwing the first pitch in Kansas City Royals history.

Comic answer: No comic on the back of the Rookie Stars cards.

Card condition: Badly off center, with the corners slightly dinged. However, the face it free of dirt and scratches. Back continues the off center cut, but is clean and bright.

Sunday, November 23, 2014

Tommy Davis #180

Herman Thomas "Tommy" Davis Jr. was a prolific hitter in the late 50's through the early 70's. In the field, Tommy played 3rd and left field, but it was his bat that gave him success in the big leagues. Over his 18 year career, he ended up with a .294 average and 2,121 hits, 153 of them clearing the fence. With the Dodgers, he exceeded many records, breaking Campanella's single season RBIs in 1962 as well as the most hits in a single season by a right handed batter with 230. His 1962 season earned him a 3rd place finish for league MVP, with his .346 batting average the highest for a right handed batter in Dodger history until Mike Piazza broke it in 1997. Tommy also has one of the highest career pinch hitting averages at .320.

Even though he signed with Brooklyn, Davis broke into the majors in 1959 after the Dodgers relocated to LA. After a couple low seasons, Tommy broke out at the plate in 1962 by winning the batting title by four points over Frank Robinson. The following season, he continued his batting tear, winning the title with a .326 average, six points better than Roberto Clemente. Davis went .400 in the series that year as the Dodgers swept the Yankees.

In 1964, Davis slumped at the plate to .275, and in 1965 was knocked out for the season when he broke an ankle while breaking up a double play early in the season. He found his skill at the plate when he returned in 1966, battling .313, but the Dodgers were swept in the series by the Orioles.

In 1966, Tommy was sent to the Mets. This started a trend of Davis playing for a 10 teams over the next 10 years. In order, it was the Mets ('67), White Sox ('68), Pilots ('69), Astros ('69-70), A's ('70), Cubs ('70), A's again ('71), Cubs again ('72), Orioles ('72-75), Angels ('76) and the Royals ('76). Throughout all the change, however, Davis continued his hitting pace, never hitting below .250 in a season. He was very frustrated with his yearly moves, but realized his did have a reputation as a lazy player.

After retirement, he spent a year as a coach with the Mariners, and release a book Tales From the Dodgers Dugout in 2005.

Claim to fame: Coming out of high school, Tommy had planned to sign a major league contract with the NY Yankees. However, a phone call from Jackie Robinson changed his mind and he signed with the Dodgers.

Comic answer: 4 - foot high stakes.

Card condition: Major centering issues. No scratches, dirt or marks and the corners are barely rounded. Paper loss in the center of the back, most likely from the card being glued into an album.

Sunday, November 16, 2014

Birdie Tebbetts #462

George "Birdie" Tebbetts had a 14 year career as a player in the American League, signing a contract with the Detroit Tigers after being a 2 sport start in high school. His contract has the Tigers paying his college tuition before coming to the big leagues. However, after graduating from Providence College, Birdie was sent to the minors as Detroit had acquired future HOF catcher Mickey Cochrane to catch. It took until 1936 before Tebbetts made it to the major league roster. When Cochrane's career ended with a horrible on field incident in 1939, Birdie got his chance when Cochrane's replacement didn't do well behind the plate.

Birdie secured his permanent position behind home plate in 1940, beginning a career that saw four All Star appearances (1941, 1942, 1948 & 1949). During WW2, Tebbetts signed up with the Army Air Corps and served in recruiting duties during the war in Waco, TX. While there, he was the player-manager for the Waco Army Flying School baseball team, getting his first taste as a manager.

After leaving the military, Birdie returned to Detroit and played part time in 1946. However, 1947 started poorly for Birdie, hitting under .100 when he was traded to Boston. His average picked up and his finished hitting just under .300 for the season. Tebbetts spent 3 more years in Boston, earning he final two All Star appearances.

However, Birdie was a bit outspoken and had a slight temper. He had an issue with a fan in Detroit, with the fan dumping a basket of tomatoes on him. While the fan was subdued by police, Tebbetts hit the fan. Those charges were dropped. In 1950, the Red Sox finished poorly, falling out of a tight pennant race to finish third. Birdie spoke out in a public appearance, supporting the BoSox manager and calling critics names. The team sold his contract a couple months later to Cleveland. Tebbetts spent the final couple seasons being the backup to the Indians regular catcher, making his final playing appearance in September, 1952.

Birdie moved to managing in 1953 when he was named the manager of the Cleveland Indianapolis Indians farm club. The following year, he was managing the Cincinnati Reds, being hired by Rogers Hornsby. The Reds were not a powerhouse at the time, but Birdie had them in a pennant race in 1956 with the Brooklyn Dodgers, ultimately finishing a couple games out, but earning Birdie the manager of the year award. A poor 1958 season, though, had Birdie resigning from the Reds field general position.

He moved to the front office for the Milwaukee Braves in October 1958, but missed being on the bench. When Braves fired Chuck Dressen in 1961, Birdie finished out the season, and managed the following year, though the Braves never finished above 5th place. Birdie returned to the Indians to manage in 1963, suffered a heart attack at spring training in 1964, came back three months later, but never had the Indians as a playoff contender. Birdie ended his managerial career in August 1966 with a lifetime 748-708 record. He did some managing in the minors, and spent time as a scout. Regiie Jackson credits Birdie's scouting reports for helping him crush three home runs in game 6 of the 1977 World Series. Birdie passed away in March 1999 at the age of 86.

Claim to fame: Birdie was a respected player during his career. After returning from the war, an umpire was having issues with dizzy spells. The umpire confided this information to Birdie because he was afraid of losing his job. Tebbetts assisted the ump with calling ball and strikes, tipping the call to the umpire with a secret hand signal after each pitch.

Comic answer: No comic on the back of the manager cards.

Card condition: Slightly miscentered on the front, with bad corners and a lot of surface scratches. The angled centering shows on the back, and it have a small water stain. There is also a slight crease near the bottom of the card.

Wednesday, September 10, 2014

Don Cardwell #417

Don Cardwell spent 14 years in the National League, playing for a total of 5 teams. Don was first signed as an amateur free agent by the Phillies in 1957. Playing most of his career as a spot starter, he was traded at the start of the 1960 season to the Cubs, putting together a 30-44 record over 3 years. In 1962, he was traded to the Cardinals, but never pitched a game for St. Louis as he was sent packing to the Pirates a month later for Dick Groat.

In Pittsburgh, Cardwell went 33-32 over 4 seasons before a trade to the Mets. His was still a spot starter in his first 2 years with the Mets, but broke in as a member of the 1969 Champions rotation, going 8-10 in the regular season. However, Don only pitched one inning of relief in the Fall Classic. Cardwell's last team was the Atlanta Braves, where he was traded in the middle of the 1970 season. Over his 14 seasons, Don finished with a 102-138 record. In 2008, Don passed away from complications of Pick's Disease, a neurological illness that also claimed Ted Darling, the original radio and television voice of the Buffalo Sabers, and Colleen Howe, wife of hockey legend Gordie Howe.

Claim to fame: Cardwell was the first player to throw a no-hitter on his first start with his new team after being traded. Don was sent to the Cubs on May 13, 1960. On May 15, Cardwell faced 28 Cardinal batters, walking one batter in the first inning.

Comic answer: 49 (in 1922) Cubs-26 Phils-23

Card condition:  The corners are in very good condition. There are a few scratches on the face of the card and the centering is poor. The back has a small amount of dirt.