6.30.2008

1957 Topps
Ted Kluszewski


I really like this card. It may be one of the nicest baseball cards ever made by Topps. It's too bad someone drew a star on Big Klu's chest.

It it said that when Kluszewski joined the Reds, he immediately cut the sleeves off his uniform because they constricted his arms and got in the way of his swing. This pose in 1957 gives you a perfect understanding why. He was huge! He may have been one of the strongest ballplayers ever.

As a kid I never really knew a whole lot about Kluszewski. But by reading the back of this card I have learned plenty.

Kluszewski had some monster years from 1953-56; hitting at least .300 with 35 home runs and 100 RBI in each of those seasons. He also was selected to his fourth straight All Star game in 1956.

In 1954, he batted .325 with 49 homers and 141 RBI, finishing second in MVP voting to Willie Mays.

By the way, check out the mustached Mr. Red on Kluszewski's chest. You gotta love it.

6.28.2008

1952 Topps
Ferris Fain


Every 1952 Topps card is worth having, but this one does have its issues.

Ferris Fain was the defending AL batting champion in 1952 after batting .344 for the Philadelphia Athletics in 1951. According to the back of this card, it was the first time in his 5-year career that Fain batted over .300.

In 1952, Fain batted .327 winning his second straight batting title. He was also a member of five consecutive American League All-Star teams.

But for a guy with quite a few accomplishments, he seems to be not very well known as a ballplayer. Imagine if a guy won two consecutive batting titles and appeared in five straight All-Star games today. He would be the talk of the league.

I wonder if Fain were a Yankee or Dodger— would his place in baseball history be different?

6.26.2008

1961 Post
Roger Maris


So this isn't necessarily a poor old baseball card, but it is a pretty neat one.

This 1961 beauty was probably cut off the side of a cereal box. And who was pictured on the side of that box in '61? The reigning American League MVP – Roger Maris.

As the card says, Maris hit 39 homers and 112 RBI as the Yankees won the A.L. pennant in 1960. But the kid who owned this card in 1961 couldn't even begin to imagine Maris' encore.

Roger Maris and teammate Mickey Mantle were in a battle to see who could out-homer the other and eventually break the single-season home run mark of 60 hit by Babe Ruth.

It was Maris, on the final day of the 1961 season, that would break the record.

Maris was not exactly beloved for doing so. Everyone in New York wanted Mantle to accomplish the feat. Mantle was a Yankees icon. Maris was only in his second season in pinstripes.

While Maris' record has been broken twice, by Mark McGwire and Barry Bonds, he is still considered the single-season home run king by many.

6.24.2008

1934 Goudey
Luke Appling


I had never heard of Luke Appling before July 19, 1982. It was on that day, in Washington D.C., that 75-year-old Luke Appling hit a 250-foot homer off Warren Spahn at RFK Stadium. The memorable homer took place during the Cracker Jack Old Timers' Classic.

I was barely a teen then and my mind was a sponge absorbing any bit of baseball history. I remember memorizing anything I could from the top-ten list of home run leaders to members of the Hall of Fame.

Appling was enshrined into Cooperstown in 1964 along with Red Faber, Burleigh Grimes, Miller Huggins, Tim Keefe, Heinie Manush and John Montgomery Ward.

As a player, Appling was know as "old aches and pains" since he had a habit of complaining about his aches and pains to teammates.

When it was all said and done, Appling finished his 20-year career with seven All-Star appearances, two batting titles, a .310 career batting average and 2,749 hits.

He played all his games for the Chicago White Sox.

6.22.2008

1953 Topps
Hank Thompson


I recently acquired this card on eBay and I think I overpayed. It was $2, but by the time it was delivered it set me back closer to $5.

Thompson was a man of many firsts.

On July 17, 1947, he became the first black player for the St. Louis Browns. Three days later, he and Willard Brown became the first two African-Americans to play for the same team in the same game. Thompson was at second base while Brown played the outfield.

On Aug, 9, 1947, Thompson and Cleveland's Larry Doby became the first two black players to play on opposite teams.

Two years later, while playing for the Giants, Thompson became the first black player to play in both the American and National leagues. On July 8, 1949, he and Monte Irvin broke the color barrier for the New York Giants. He therefore broke the line for two different teams – the Browns and Giants. Also in 1949, Thompson faced Dodger pitcher Don Newcombe, becoming the first black batter to face a black pitcher.

And finally in 1951, Thompson and Irvin joined Willie Mays to become the first black trio of outfielders in the Majors. It was during the World Series.

Maybe I didn't overpay after all.

6.20.2008

1966 Topps
Willie Mays


Here's another victim of the dreaded thumbtack. I wonder how many cards have been ruined because of these pinholes?

Mays had another great year in 1965 with 52 homers, 112 RBI and a .314 batting average. Remember when 52 homers was considered crazy?

Mays wasn't only a home run hitter, he was the game's premier five-tool player.

6.19.2008

1969 Topps
Pete Rose


Did you know ...?

The back of this card reveals that Rose injured his thumb in 1968 yet still managed a .335 batting average. His stats also show that he collected 210 hits, 42 doubles, 6 triples and 10 homers. Not a bad season for the man who would eventually surpass Ty Cobb as the player with the most hits in the game.

It's too bad there's pretty significant paper loss on the card's front. Can't you just see a stray piece of tape adhering itself to the card. One quick rip and what you see is what you get.

Too bad.

6.16.2008

1960 Topps
'59 W.S. Luis swipes base


The Chicago White Sox faced the Los Angeles Dodgers in the 1959 World Series with L.A. winning four games to two.

This scene shows Hall-of-Famer Luis Aparicio sliding safely into second base. I think the Dodgers second baseman is Charlie Neal.

There's no question that this is a poor old baseball card, but the back is still readable and the colors are still vibrant. They just don't make cards like this anymore.

An interesting note about Game 5: Bob Shaw, Billy Pierce and Dick Donovan combined for a shutout for the White Sox. Sandy Koufax took the loss for the Dodgers.

6.14.2008

1953 Topps
Satchell Paige


Despite spelling Satchel's name wrong, Topps' only card of the pitching great is, well ... GREAT.

I've wanted this card for a long time and when it came in the mail a few days ago, I was like a kid again. The first thing I did was free it from it's mailing envelope and hold it in my hands. I then read every word on the card's back.

One thing I noticed is that the card says Paige was born in 1908. But if you were to do any research on the man, you will find his birth year anywhere from 1904 to 1907. I'm not sure Satchel even knew when he was born. 

As far as I know, Paige only appears on three cards that were mass produced: The 1948 Leaf, the 1949 Bowman and the 1953 Topps. 

If you ever get a chance to buy this card, in any condition, go for it. Paige is one of those players every vintage collector should have in their collection.

6.12.2008

1970 Topps
Roberto Clemente


There are a few interesting things about this card that are worth noting:

First, if you look closely, there is what appears to be staple holes just above Clemente's cap, not to mention a pretty good crease in the bottom-left corner of the card.

Second, the card identifies it's subject as "Roberto" Clemente.

So what's so unusual about that? Well, for the previous 13 years, Topps referred to Clemente as "Bob."

Beginning in 1957, Topps began using Bob instead of Roberto on Clemente's cards. But what is weird is that he was Roberto in 1955 and '56.

In 1970, Roberto made a comeback.

As a kid I hated the look of the 1970 Topps. Maybe it was its ugly gray border. But as I get older, the design's simplicity is growing on me. This particular card shows a nice example of one of the game's greatest hitters only a few years before his tragic death.

6.11.2008

1909 T206
Chief Bender (no trees)


Here's another one of those old tobacco cards I got when I was just a kid. It's in pretty bad shape.

Bender was enshrined into the National Baseball Hall of Fame in 1953 after a pretty good career in which he went 212-127 with a 2.46 ERA. He is also won six World Series games, pitching three shutouts in the 1911 series alone.

Bender was a member of the Ojibwa tribe and surely faced racism during his playing days. Born Charles Albert Bender, he would be known as "Chief" because of his American Indian heritage.

These old cards are a great tool for today's kids to learn about the game's early stars.

1951 Bowman
Enos Slaughter


Enos Slaughter is best known for two things: Hustling while on the ballfield and his involvment in a spiking incident with Jackie Robinson.

Before there was Pete Rose or Sammy Sosa, there was Enos "Country" Slaughter.

During the seventh game of the 1946 World Series, with the score tied 3-3 in the eighth inning, he made a "mad dash" from first to score on a double from Harry Walker, helping the Cardinals beat the Red Sox and win a world championship.

By 1947, baseball was changing.

It was alleged that he was involved in a plan for the Cards to strike, and not play against the Dodgers and Jackie Robinson. The plan never came to fruition but later that year, while legging out a grounder, he spiked Jackie Robinson while the Dodger played first.

Was it intentional? Was he just playing the game hard?

Who knows?

What I do know is that Slaughter batted .300 or better in 19 seasons. He was also a 10-time All Star and elected into the National Baseball Hall of Fame in 1985.

6.10.2008

1958 Topps
Warren Spahn All Star


Poor old Warren Spahn.

In most cases I would smile (or frown) after looking at this card and move on. But considering I started this blog a few weeks ago, I thought this would be a perfect addition to the site.

I wonder who gave Spahn his makeover? Was it a disgruntled Cardinals fan? Did a kid in Chicago take out his frustrations after Spahn pitched a shutout over his beloved Cubs? Or did an overzealous 4-year-old trace over big brother's favorite lefthander?

Who knows?

Whatever the reason, this is a true example of a poor old baseball card.

6.09.2008

1960 Topps
Pumpsie Green


I first saw this card in a bargain box at a local card shop, and the first thing that got my attention was Green's first name.

Pumpsie?

And so I bought the card, it was 50 cents –no rapper jokes please.

But it was when I got home and punched his name into Wikipedia that I really felt stupid. I pride myself on knowing about niche ballplayers like Harvey Haddix or Joe Nuxhall or Hal Chase or Fred Merkle. Why had I not ever heard of Pumpsie Green?

On July 21, 1959, Green became the first black player for the Boston Red Sox. By doing so he also became the last player to integrate a Major League team. I guess what shocks me most is that it took the Red Sox more than 12 years after Jackie Robinson made his debut in 1947 to add a player of color to their roster.

Green never had an All-Star career and his name will never be as recognizable as Jackie Robinson or Larry Doby, but he should be known for more than his unique first name.

6.07.2008

1958 Topps
Mickey Mantle All Star


Of all the 1958 All Star cards this one has got to be my favorite.

In '58, Topps used a very simple design. Each player was cutout and placed over a brightly-colored background. All Star cards used different player photos, compared to their standard counterparts, and were placed over either a red or blue field of white stars. American Leaguers were red, National Leaguers blue.

I'm not sure what it is about this card, but it has 1950's written all over it.

6.06.2008

1967 Topps
Joe Nuxhall


What can you buy for a quarter?

A stick of gum? A few drops of gas for your car? A cheap plastic ring from one of those vending machines at the grocery store?

How about a vintage baseball card of Joe Nuxhall? Yep, that's right, I found this card in a commons box and it was marked just 25 cents.

Nuxhall became the youngest player in the majors when, at the age of 15, he appeared in a game for the Cincinnati Reds.

I don't know if this card is worth more than a quarter, but teaching your son/daughter, niece/nephew, grandson/granddaughter about this kid who pitched in a Major League game in 1944 surely is.

6.05.2008

1887 N172 Old Judge
Dave Foutz


Dave Foutz won 41 games for St. Louis in 1886 as the Browns won the world championship.

This card is another example of one of those cards most people have only read about but never seen. They're getting harder and harder to find, heck they're over 130 years old.

Check out that funky hat.

6.03.2008

1963 Topps
Yankees Team


The Yankees were world champions in 1962 and this card shows their team photo.

I got the card years ago, paying about a dollar. When I dug it out, the other day, I realized that pictured on it are some of the game's greats: Mickey Mantle, Yogi Berra, Whitey Ford, and Roger Maris.

I've never really been drawn to these team cards but I have to admit, it's a real cheap way to get a card with a major superstar during his playing days.

Photoshop, anyone?

6.01.2008

1951 Bowman
Ted Williams


At first, I thought it was a baseball.

It isn't. It's a chunk of paper missing from above Ted's right eye.

I once saw Ted Williams in person. By then, though, he was in a wheelchair and frail. This card shows him in his prime – possibly the game's greatest hitter.

1909 T204 Ramly
Larry McLean


This is another one of those cards – like the Mayo's Cut Plug, Buchner Gold Coin or Old Judge – that you've read about, but never really thought could be part of your collection.

Well, if you are lucky enough to find one in this condition, adding a Ramly may not be as expensive as you thought.

When I saw this card, and it's price, I just had to have it.