Tuesday, October 9, 2018

#15 Jim Lemon

Jim Lemon was an outfield mate of Roy Sievers who coincidentally is the subject of the post I put up today in my 1960 set blog

After breaking in with the Indians in 1950 and spending a couple of years in the service Lemon got his feet under him with the Nats who purchased his contract in 1954. In his first full season as a starter, 1956, he led the league in whiffs AND triples which I find rather amusing. The huge dimensions of Griffith Stadium probably contributed to the three-bagger total.

He played 10 years for the Senators/Twins and had an outstanding 1960 season with 38 homers and 100 RBIs. He made his only All-Star team that year. Interestingly he finished his career with the Phils and White Sox which are the same clubs that Sievers played for after he left the Nats.

The first thing that strikes you about this card is the cartoon which portrays President Dwight Eisenhower. Ike was a baseball fan and Lemon was his favorite player. The three-dinger game that is mentioned in the cartoon's text is elaborated upon in his SABR bio's opening paragraph.

Saturday, October 6, 2018

#14 Rip Repulski

Eldon John 'Rip' Repulski came up through the Cardinals system in the late 40s/early 50s. He showed he could hit for power and average. But back then a Cardinal farmhand had a long road to the majors given the strength at the top and the talent that filtered down.

Ripulski finally debuted in 1953 as their everyday centerfielder and earned himself plenty of Rookie of the Year consideration. That season he played between Stan Musial and Red Schoendeinst. He was a fixture there in the outfield for four seasons culminating with an All-Star selection in 1956. He was known as a good fielder and he hit for power although never a big slugger.

He was traded to the Phils that off-season, had his final solid season that year, and then began a slow slide in productivity. He was a member of the Champion LA Dodgers in 1959 and drew an intentional walk from Billy Pierce in his only at-bat. He finished his career with the Red Sox in 1961.

Repulski owned a bar in his native Minnesota before working for the Great Northern railroad.

Wednesday, September 19, 2018

#13 Billy Hoeft

Billy Hoeft pitched for numerous clubs over a 15 year period. The high water mark came in 1955 when he was 16-7 with a sterling 2.99 ERA and 1.19 WHIP. He made his only All-Star team that year.

He had 20 wins the following year but his other numbers dropped off and show the error of basing one's evaluation of pitching on wins. (Guilty as charged). He had an outstanding year for the Orioles in 1961 as a swingman making 12 starts among 35 appearances. He had a 2.01 ERA and a 1.167 WHIP. 

In September of 1953, he became the ninth pitcher in history to record an 'immaculate inning'...three strikeouts on nine pitches. The game has changed a bit since as this occurred eight times in 2017 alone. 

The best thing about the back of the card is Topps referring to the Tigers as the 'Bengals'. When I hear that I think of sitting on our front steps and scanning old Sporting News headlines on Saturday afternoons as a kid. Old school.

Friday, September 7, 2018

#11 Jim Rivera

'Jungle' Jim Rivera was a New York boy who grew up under difficult circumstances and spent time in prison before playing baseball, quite well btw, in the 1950s. He bookended a ten year White Sox run with time spent with the Browns and Athletics.

He was an excellent outfielder and while he hit only .256 for his career, he led the AL in steals in 1954 and was second on six other occasions.

Rivers'a story is one which I could see being the plot of a Mickey Rooney movie and it makes his SABR bio a worthy read.

I'm partial to any card with that Flying Sox logo, this one especially. I think I recall this one from my earliest days as a collector. Those should actually be called my days of interest in cards. I didn't have any '58s that I recall but I had a friend down the block in Jericho on Long Island that had some. I remember the cards more so than her.

Tuesday, August 28, 2018

#10 Lou (Lew) Burdette

Lew Burdette won over 200 games pitching for 18 seasons with six different clubs. But he was best known as Warren Spahn's mound mate with the Braves in the 50s. He helped them to a couple of World Series appearances and the '57 title. His three WS wins that year (all complete games, two shutouts!) earned him Series MVP honors.

The card companies never seemed to agree on whether his first name was spelled 'Lou' or 'Lew'. Sometimes, as here in '58, they covered their bases by using the two versions on one card. From what I've read Burdette himself switched back and forth as well.  And given his well-known sense of humor, he probably did it with a wink.

Here's a quick look at how Topps (and Bowman as noted) spelled his name on his base cards. Bowman cards either used a facsimile sig or no name on the front. 

1952-Lew (Bowman, name only on back)
1953-Lew (Bowman B&W, name only on back)
1954-Lou (Bowman, name only on back)
1955-Lou (Bowman, name only on back)
1958-Lou (Lew on back of card)
1973-Lew (as coach on Mrg. Eddie Mathews' card)

Post Cereal switched the spelling a few times as well. 

Burdette also fancied himself a singer and released a record or two during his career. Here's his best known ("Mary Lou" was his daughter's name):

Added bonus:

Here's a newsreel short of the 7th game of the '57 Series. I had to re-run a moment at the 1:14 mark where Yankee pitcher Tommy Byrne tosses the ball from his glove to his hand as he begins his windup. I never have seen that before.

And his famous 'trolling' of the Topps photograper...posing as a lefty:

Saturday, August 18, 2018

#9 Hank Bauer

I read a quote at some point that said something along the lines of  "Hank Bauer had a face like a clenched fist."  And it's hard to argue that point. And he had a reputation to go along with it.

EDIT: Pulling up his Wikipedia page and I see that quote there. Unattributed.

And his Wiki page has some great info on this 14-year veteran who was an instrumental part of the Yanks' 50s dynasty. Bauer won seven rings in New York before he played out his on-field days in Kansas City. Check out this excerpt::

Born in East St. Louis, Illinois as the youngest of nine children, Bauer was the son of an Austrian immigrant, a bartender who had earlier lost his leg in an aluminum mill. With little money coming into the home, Bauer was forced to wear clothes made out of old feed sacks, helping shape his hard-nosed approach to life. (It was said that his care-worn face "looked like a clenched fist".)

While playing baseball and basketball at East St. Louis Central Catholic High School, Bauer suffered permanent damage to his nose, which was caused by an errant elbow from an opponent. Upon graduation in 1941, he was repairing furnaces in a beer-bottling plant when his brother Herman, a minor league player in the Chicago White Sox system, was able to get him a tryout that resulted in a contract with Oshkosh of the Class D Wisconsin State League.
Of course, I'm a Bauer fan thanks to his days as the manager of the Orioles and the 1966 Series title he led them to.

There are not a lot of cartoon references to military service among Topps late 50s sets. But there were still plenty of guys active that had served in WWII and especially in Korea. Bauer's days as a Marine were much discussed so it's not a surprise to see them depicted on the back of his card. I like the orange background in the 58s. The Yanks and Senators got the majority of them. The Athletics had a handful as well. It's been quite a while since I did my post tracking the colors used in this set. You can check it by clicking here.

Friday, August 17, 2018

#8 Eddie Kasko

Eddie Kasko spent a lifetime in baseball as a player, manager, scout and team executive. His ten years in the majors came mostly with the Reds but he also played for the Cardinals (as seen on this card), the Colt 45s/Astros and finally the Red Sox. That last season on the field in Boston led to his managing in their chain and then for four seasons in Fenway.

Kasko was originally signed by the Giants and passed through the Browns organization and saw military service before he landed with the Cardinals and made their squad in 1957. 

His hitting was nothing special but he had a good glove at both short and third. He also seemed to shine when the spotlight was on. He hit .318 (7 for 22) for the Reds in his only World Series, the '61 five gamer versus New York. And his only All-Star at-bat (in the first of the '61 ASGs) produced a single.

As a manager for the BoSox from 1970 through 1973, he led them to two second- and two third-place finishes. The Sox finish just a half-game behind the Tigers in 1972. Despite his clubs playing 50 games over .500 in his four seasons, he was replaced as manager by  Darrell Johnson in 1974. But he worked for Boston for many years and was eventually selected for induction in their Hall of Fame.

He actually posted on Twitter as recently as 2013. I'd have to believe there can't be many others with cards in this set who have been active on that social media platform.