Tuesday, June 11, 2019

#66 Lee Walls

Lee Walls played for ten seasons in the majors after being signed by the Pirates in 1951. He had some big seasons in their chain but failed to produce much with the big club and was dealt to the Cubs in 1957.

The year this card was produced was easily his best in the majors as he made the NL All-Star team and had career highs in homers, RBIs and batting average. He finished in the Top Ten of several offensive categories, including WAR.

He later toured much of the rest of the NL, playing for the Reds, Phils, and Dodgers, mostly as a fourth outfielder and pinch-hitter. He was on the Dodgers 1963 Series team but didn't get into a Series game.

He returned to baseball 15 seasons after his playing days as a coach and minor league manager. He died at 60 in 1993.

My copy is obviously off-center and sort of scuffed but, man, check out that cartoon!

Friday, June 7, 2019

#65 Von McDaniel

Longtime big leaguer Lindy McDaniel's younger brother, Von, didn't have the kind of career as his older sibling. In fact, he only enjoyed 19 games in the majors. But he certainly made a splash in that short time.

In 1957 he signed out of high school with the Cards (Lindy's team at the time) and was placed on the roster as per the bonus signee rules in effect then. After a couple of relief appearances (including a win in Ebbetts Field), he pitched a two-hit shutout to beat the Dodgers on June 21 for his first win. He went on to win seven games and helped the Cards to a second place finish. This Cardinals blog has an entertaining post describing McDaniel's rookie season.

Von developed arm issues the following spring and lost command of his pitches. After a couple of rocky outings, the Cardinals shipped him to the minors where he eventually transitioned into a third baseman (he was a pretty good hitter) but he never returned to the majors.

The McDaniel brothers only appeared in one game together that I can find. In September of '57 Von had a bumpy start against the Reds and was relieved by Lindy in the second inning. Older brother ended up getting a win out in that one.

Thursday, May 30, 2019

#64 Joe Lonnett

Western Pennsylvania native Joe Lonnett spent 24 years in baseball as a player and coach, signing with the Philadelphia Phillies as a free agent in 1948. He missed two seasons while serving in the U.S. Navy in World War II and the Korean War. Lonnett spent four seasons as a catcher with the Phillies, from 1956-59, batting .166 with six home runs and 27 RBI. His roommate with the Phils was Robin Roberts.

He later coached for the Pirates under friend and fellow Pittsburgh area native Chuck Tanner. He was on the staff of the '79 championship team.  He succumbed to Alzheimer's disease in 2011 at the age of 84.

Friday, May 24, 2019

#63 Joe Nuxhall

Nuxhall debuted in MLB before his 16th birthday in 1944 due to the thinning of talent due to WWII. He then did the usual minor league work and returned to the Reds in 1952. Baseball Reference shows he was out of baseball in 1946 with 'voluntarily retired' given as the reason for no stats. I'd like to think he spent the year getting ready for his high school prom.

He went on to win 135 games over 16 seasons, all but five of those wins with the Reds. He went on to become a long-time, much-loved broadcaster for the Reds before retiring in 2004, a full six decades after his debut. Even then he wasn't completely retired as he sometimes pitched batting practice at Reds home games.

Joe Nuxhall died in  2007 at the age of 79.

Wednesday, May 15, 2019

#62 Joe DeMaestri

Since I only caught the tail end of Joe DeMaestri's career I think of him as a Yankee but he spent far more time with the Athletics through the 1950s.

He was originally a Red Sox signee out of the Bay Area but debuted with the White Sox in 1951 after being claimed in the Rule 5 draft. He played a year in Chicago, was dealt to the Browns and spend a year with them. He was a 'good field-no hit' infielder.

After two trades in the winter of 1952-53 he found himself in Philadelphia and he established himself as the Athletics' starting shortstop and held that spot for seven seasons. He was an All Starin 1957. After being dealt to the Yankees (in the same trade that brought over Roger Maris) he was on the pennant-winning 1960 club that lost to the Pirates. He had a hit in two trips in that Series. He was also on the Series-winning 1961 Yankee team but didn't play in the Series at all. He retired after the 1961 season and, like his pal Maris, went into the beer distribution business.

His biggest day in the majors came in 1955 with the A's when on July 8, at Briggs Stadium in Detroit, he had six singles in six at-bats.

Thursday, April 11, 2019

#60 Del Ennis

Del Ennis doesn't look like a big hitting outfielder on this card but for a stretch form 1946 to 1957 he was just that. He played 11 seasons for the Phils and a few for the Cardinals as a double-digit home run threat with RBI and batting average numbers that should have gotten him more notoriety. But in the NL there was plenty of OF talent and Ennis never generated much buzz across the country.

He had an outstanding rookie year in 1946 and made the NL All-Star team and garnered some MVP votes. He was a year too early although as the RoY award wasn't instituted until '47 (and w/Jackie Robinson in the mix in '47 Ennis would have lost out anyway). 

Ennis rarely missed a game during his career and finished with 288 homers and a .284 average. He led the NL with 126 RBIs in the Phils 'Whiz Kid' 1950 season.

His numbers fell off sharply in 1958 and he finished his career by splitting the '59 season between the White Sox and Reds. He notably served in the Pacific Theater with the Navy during WWII. After baseball he owned a bowling alley, coached a bit at the college level and dabbled in greyhound racing.

Wednesday, April 10, 2019

#59 Dave Sisler

Dave Sisler was a St. Louis native who signed on with the Red Sox out of Princeton in 1953. He had a natural baseball background as his father, Hall of Famer George Sisler, and one of his brothers, Dick Sisler, also played baseball in the big leagues. Another brother, George Sisler, Jr., was a general manager for several minor league baseball teams, and later became president of the International League from 1966 to 1976.

He had a nice first year in the minors and then served two years in the military before returning to baseball. He began as a starter and pitched for three seasons in Boston and part of a fourth before being dealt to the Tigers early in the '59 season.

He spent the rest of his career as a middle relief innings eater and sometimes closer as he bounced from the Tigers to the Senators and finally the Reds in 1962. He retired after spending 1963 with the Reds' San Diego club in the PCL and went to work in investment banking.

I got a kick out of the mention, in his SABR bio, of Sisler playing corkball as a kid. My best friend is from St. Louis, the birthplace of the sport, and he introduced all of us in the dorm building we occupied to corkball back in 1970. We played for hours out in the yard between the buildings of the dorm complex. Probably should have spent more of that time on productive things.