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.

Thursday, May 22, 2014

Bob Aspromonte #467

Bob Aspromonte had a 13 year career in MLB. Born in Brooklyn, his career in baseball started with a one game appearance for his hometown Dodgers in 1956. It took another 3 years before he played his next game in the bigs, after the Dodgers bolted for the west coast. Bob played all the positions on the left side of the park - third, shortstop and left field., as well as games on the right side of the diamond at second and first. A solid every day player, he finished his career as a lifetime .252 batter.

Bob was drafted to the Colt 45s in the expansion draft of 1961, spending 7 years in Houston before being dealt to the Braves. After 2 years in Atlanta, Aspromonte was sent to the Mets for his final year, being released after the 1971 season.

Claim to fame: Bob was the favorite ball player for a child, Bill Bradley, that was blinded in a freak lightning accident. The child visited Aspromonte in Houston and asked Bob to hit him a home run, Aspromonte was not known as a long ball hitter, but agreed to the request. At the game that night, Bob hit a home. The following year, still blind Bill visited Aspronte in Houston and after the meeting, again asked Bob to hit him a home run. Aspromonte went deep again, this time with a grand slam.

In 1963, after surgeries that gave Bill back some sight, he meet with Bob a third time, and just as before, requested a home run from the ball player. At the time, Aspromonte was in a hitting slump and asked if a couple of base hits would do. "You're really pushing your luck," Bob replied. However, coming to the plate in the bottom of the first, Bob swung a Tracy Stallard offering and hit another grand slam.

Comic answer: Candlestick Park 42,500

Card condition: Poorly centered. Light rounding of the corners and a few creases in the center of the card. The back is also off center with minor dirt. Comic answer is visible from age/dirt and not from someone rubbing with a coin.

Wednesday, May 14, 2014

Pete Runnels - #121

Pete Runnels played a 14 year career through Major League baseball, breaking in with the Senators in 1951. A right handed infielder that batted from the left side of home, Runnels was a contact hitter over driving the ball for distance.

Pete moved to the Red Sox in 1958, where he was for his '60 and '62 batting titles. He lost out on winning the 1958 battling crown in the final game of the season, losing to Ted Williams (.328 to .322). After winning the title in 1962, Runnels was traded to the Houston Colt .45s playing through 1963 before Houston released him early in 1964. He became a coach for Boston in 1965-66 and finished the last 16 games of the '66 season as interim manager, going 8-8.

Claim to fame: Pete's 1960 batting title holds a record. Runnels grabbed the batting crown while having the lowest runs batted in total (35) for any batting title winner.

Comic answer: Warren Spahn, Milw Braves, 22 full games

Card condition: Soft corners. Upped left corner is dinged in pretty hard, along with a nick along the right side of the card. Minor surface scratches. Back is in very nice shape.

Wednesday, April 23, 2014

Bill Fischer - #409

Bill Fischer had a nine year career as a player in baseball. He started his career with the White Sox in 1956. Bill appeared mostly as a middle reliever, compiling a 45-58 career mark over his 9 seasons. After 2 years in Chicago, Bill was traded to the Tigers in 1958. The Senators then claimed him off waivers in 1958, keeping him for 2 years before trading him back to the Tigers. In 1961, the Tigers sent Bill to the KC Athletics, where he remained until the Twins drafted him in the Rule 5 supplemental draft of 1963. After the '64 season, the White Sox signed him back as a free agent, but Bill never saw another game in the big leagues.

Currently, Bill is a minor league development coordinator in the Royals organization after spending years as a pitching coach with the Reds, Red Sox, Rays and Braves.

Claim to fame: While not an overpowering pitcher, Bill had great control. He is the current AL record holder for the most consecutive innings pitched without giving up a walk. Bill went 84.1 innings with Kansas City in 1962 before he issued a free pass.

Comic answer: Carl Weilman - 6 times

Card condition: Off center. Lot of scratches on the card front and dinged corners. Back has some staining.

Thursday, April 17, 2014

Rookie Stars Indians - #146

Robert "Bob" Chance spent six years in MLB, spliting time with the Indians, Senators and the Angels. He then went over to Japan for two year before spending his last two years in Puerto Rico. Mostly a first baseman, his best year was in '64, hitting .279 with 14 long balls. After being traded to the Senators, he mostly played fill in roles for the rest of his career. After baseball, he returned to Charleston, WV and worked with the government recreation department and passed away 6 months ago (Oct 3, 2013) from cancer.

Tommy John made a few spotty appearances with the Indians, but he career really started when he was traded to the White Sox after the '64 season. After 7 fairly successful seasons in Comiskey, Tommy was sent to the Dodgers for Dick Allen in 1972. Tommy had 2 and a half stellar seasons with the Dodgers, until a devastating injury to his elbow but a halt to his 1974 season. After surgery that kept him out of the '75 season, John came back and continued his career with the Dodgers and then with the Yankees, appearing in 3 World Series. John left baseball with a career win total of 288 victories, 164 of them coming after the surgery that was feared to have ended his career. John currently sits 7th on the wins list of left handed pitchers.

Claim to fame: While Bob Chance is not remembered much in baseball circles, the surgery that repaired John's elbow has taken on his name and been used many times to extend the careers of numerous ball players.

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

Card condition: Minor bumps on the corners. Slight crease below the word "outfield". Slightly miscentered on the back, and cut at a small angle.

Friday, April 11, 2014

Bob Duliba - #441

After serving 3 years in Korea, Bob made his major league debut on Aug, 11, 1959. Bob spent seven years in the big leagues with St. Louis, Los Angeles, Boston and the Kansas Athletics. Mostly a  reliever, Bob's best season came in 1964 with the Angels, appearing in 58 games and finishing the year with a 6-4 record and 9 saves. Currently, Bob lives in Wyoming and works as a coach in their local baseball program.

Claim to Fame: Bob was pitching when Mickey Mantle hit his 450th home run.

Comic answer: Sammy White - Boston. 3 times in 1953.

Card condition: Front centering is off a bit. Corners are slightly dinged. Minor swirl scratches on the face. Back centering is poor, though there is no loss of information, nor bleed from the adjoining cards of the panel.

Tuesday, April 1, 2014


Welcome to 1964 Topps. I did some look/see, and while I did find a blog that ended a about a year ago over on Wordpress, no one seems to have put together a blog on the 1964 set here at Blogger. And since I am attempting to build the set I figured I would document the journey.

For my set, condition will not be too much of an issue. While the '64 set is fairly inexpensive to build, as there are not a lot of high priced rookies in the set, it would still be a challenge to build on a tight budget. I an hoping for cards that would rate good to very good. If I can find something of higher quality at a small price, I'll take it. But mostly, I am building this set via cheap set building cards found in discount bins when possible. I'll add something beat up if the price is right, but only as a place holder until I find a card I am more pleased with.

In the technical set, 1964 would be the last Topps set released when I didn't roam this planet. There is something I like in the simplicity of the set. I can't quite explain it. I have no goal on when the set will be finished. I'll just go along and when I have all 567 cards, then it's complete. 

So come along on this journey. I'll randomly scan cards, in no particular order, and talk a little about each one.