Saturday, January 21, 2017

#61 Darrell Johnson

Darrell Johnson was a baseball 'lifer' who spent parts of six seasons as a backup catcher for six different teams from 1952 through 1962. He never got more than 115 at bats (he did that twice) and had a couple of career homers. He spent the 1958 season with the Yankees but only appeared in five games.

That '58 Yankee club won the World Series but Johnson didn't play. He did appear for the Reds in the 1962 Series and collect two hits in four at bats. He coached and managed in the minors after his playing days and then managed the Red Sox, Mariners and Rangers. He won the AL Pennant in 1875 at the helm of the Red Sox and was named Manager of the Year. He continued in the game as a scout for many years. His story is a very interesting one and his lengthy SABR bio is worth a look.

This is a rather flawed card but nothing about it screams 'upgrade'. My original large lot purchase contained only a couple of Yankees. This is one of them.

Wednesday, January 18, 2017

#310 Ernie Banks

Everyone reading this is probably very familiar with the story of Mr. Cub, Ernie Banks. He's a Hall of Famer, 11 time All Star, member of the 500 Homer Club, two time NL MVP and iconic sports figure in a town that loved it's iconic sports figures.

His glitzy baseball record is all right here. In 1958 he led the NL in the following: home runs, RBIs, games played, at bats, slugging pct., ab per homer and extra base hits. He won the first of two consecutive MVPs.

The scan did what it does to a lot of these old ' highlights it faults. In hand this card looks much better than it does here. These yellow cards (and there are a lot of them!) seem to show surface wear and marks in scans that are not readily visible in hand. Odd but true.

This Banks card put me within three of finishing the set, and it completed this page in my binder. It wasn't until I slid it into it's pocket that I realized that Ernie was sharing a page with Brooks Robinson not to mention Duke Snider, Walt Alston and one of my favorite pitchers of the era, Bob Friend. As a bonus the Red Sox team card has Ted Williams in the top row!

As I was admiring the page I noticed that many of the guys here are interrelated. Bob Purkey popped right out at me because, like Friend, he appears to be wearing a batting helmet instead of a cap. The Pirates were the only team that had that look back then and checking I saw that Purkey was a member of the Pirates in 1957. So that's a pretty involved airbrushing job on Purkey's card.

Now look at Bob Rush. He was a Cub in '57 and was airbrushed into a Braves cap. The artist failed to take into consideration the Braves' red cap bill. And furthermore Rush's jersey has the same neck piping as Ernie does.

Paul Giel was coming off two years of military service. Prior to that he was with the NEW YORK Giants for a couple of seasons. It's unlikely that Topps got a shot of him in a SF Giants cap in 1958 in time to use on this card so that's likely another 'cap cover-up'. But I have to say that it's one of the best I've ever seen on a Topps card pre-Photoshop. It really looks authentic.

Gail Harris was a Giant prior to 1958. His jersey in this photo has been blanked out. Another pretty good job of applying a cap logo though.

And finally Snider and Alston are posing in Ebbets Field. Their caps have been altered to the Los Angeles Dodgers logo in a pretty haphazard manner. Like Bob Rush's card the caps have a blob of unmatched blue paint covering the old logo.

So there's the story of one of the better pages in the 1958 Topps binder. Lots of star power and lots of airbrushing. And only one yellow card. That's highly unusual for this set and the subject for another post soon enough.

Tuesday, January 10, 2017

#410 Murray Wall

Signed in 1950 out of the University of Texas by the Boston Braves, Murray Wall got a sip of coffee (one four inning appearance) in the big leagues that year. He then spent eight seasons in the minors. The Braves dealt him to the Giants in 1956 but he was still a couple of years away from getting a big league shot.

The Red Sox purchased his rights in August of '57 and he spent the rest of that season and all of '58 with them. In 1958 Wall was the Red Sox' busiest reliever and garnered 9 saves, second on the club. He went 8-9 pitching 114 innings, the most of his career.

Then he had an odd 1959 year. In June the Sox traded him to the Senators as part of a four player deal but three days later he was returned to the Red Sox. Dick Hyde, one of the players acquired by the Sox in the deal was discovered to have a sore arm, so that part of the trade was voided. 

 After his '59 season he spent a few more in the minors and then retired to work in banking. He died, by his own hand, at the age of 45.

Topps didn't have a huge window to take Wall's photo in Red Sox garb as he came over from the Giants late in the '57 season. Either they nabbed this pic of him after the trade or re-worked an older shot of him. The 'B' on his cap looks legit but the piping on his jersey seems 'off'. 

The scan below is the card I received in my original large lot purchase of 1958s. It looks even worse 'in hand'. I'm obviously OK with ungraded, well-loved examples of vintage cards in my set collections but even I have standards. 

Thursday, January 5, 2017

#145 Ed Bouchee (A Bob Lemke Custom Card)

As noted in my last post hobby pioneer, historian and custom card producer par excellence Bob Lemke passed away Tuesday at the age of 65. This is from Sports Collector's Digest which in years past he edited and published:
Bob Lemke, former editor and publisher of Sports Collectors Digest, passed away Tuesday morning, Jan. 3, at a hospital near his home in Central Pennsylvania. Those in the sports collecting hobby/business know what a towering figure he was and his influence and impact over almost four decades was enormous.
Lemke began in the sports card periodical market as editor of Baseball Cards magazine when it was launched in 1980.
In Sept. 1981 he became editor of Sports Collectors Digest. He became executive editor of SCD in Oct. 1982. In May 1983 Lemke was promoted to V.P. of Sports at Krause Publications.
In addition to his work on sports card and memorabilia collecting periodicals, he also became well known for his work on the Standard Catalog of Baseball Cards, considered the bible of card collectors across the country. He was the founding editor of the book and served in that capacity for around 30 years.
He had had some health issues in the last few years, some of which contributed to his decision to curtail his production and sales of his wonderful custom cards. Luckily for fans of his cards, like me, he had made them available again sometime last year. 

I was fortunate enough to have been able to correspond with Bob through the years. He had a bit of the curmudgeon in him but I always found him polite and generous. He included 'extras' in a couple of my orders. I feel somewhat guilty in that one of my first thoughts after hearing of his passing was that I still had a bunch of his cards on my 'wishlist'. 

In the back of the binders that hold my '58, '59 and '60 baseball sets I have a page that contains cards issued by Bob that supplement each set. They are nice 'companion' pieces to the original cards. My last order from Bob was for a couple of his '58 cards including this one of Phillies first baseman Ed Bouchee. Bob's intent was to fill in the gap left when Topps decided that Bouchee wouldn't be included in that set. 

You can read about the reason on Bochee'sWikipedia page. And on Bob's blog you can read about his creation of the card. 

I guess collectors of the '58 set have always had to leave a 'hole' on that page, make their own #145 or deal with the numbering being 'off'. Being able to slot a card into the '58 binder of such high quality was very satisfying.


After three strong minor league seasons and a military stint Ed Bouchee made the majors with a splash in 1957. He hit 17/76/.293 and had a league second-best .394 OBP. He was among the Top 10 in numerous offensive and defensive categories. He finished second (to teammate Jack Sanford) in the NL ROY balloting. Interestingly he also led the league by being hit by a pitch 14 times. In his seven year career he totaled 27 HBPs so the '57 numbers exceed the entire rest of his career.

Bouchee was never quite able to replicate those rookie numbers. In him abbreviated '58 season he hit .257 with nine homers. His '59 season nearly matched his rookie year but after that he stats dropped off. He was dealt to the Cubs in May of 1960 and was picked by the Mets in the expansion draft the following year. He split the '62 season between New York and the minors and after spending 1963 in the minors he retired. He went on to work for ACDelco and retired to Arizona. He had a son, Chris, who played in the Phillies organization for a couple of seasons.

I really like that Bob did this card with a black background. That is rare in the '58 set and a nice change from the numerous yellow cards that predominate. Bob usually 'cribbed' the cartoons from other cards and re-purposed them for his customs. But his work was so painstakingly good you'd never know without him telling you. The ones he used for the #145 were perfect.

Speaking of yellow backgrounds...Bob made an alternate front for his Bouchee card. I like it but the black one feels more 'authentic' so that's the one I have in the proper slot in my 1958 Topps binder.

Every time I flip though the set I'll come across that Bouchee card and be reminded of Bob. RIP

Wednesday, January 4, 2017

RIP Bob Lemke

I just read this afternoon of the passing of hobby pioneer Bob Lemke. You will be reading about his long and diverse hobby career elsewhere. As for me I'll miss his wonderful blog through which he related some great sports stories and on which he showed off his awesome custom cards. I was lucky enough to have corresponded with him over the years and I bought many of his cards. He frequently threw in some additional cards, something I always appreciated.

In keeping with the theme of this blog here are two of the '58 customs I picked up from Bob to supplement my '58 Topps set. I'll post again this week with his 'missing' Ed Bouchee card.

Great stuff indeed.


#180 Lindy McDaniel

Lindy McDaniel enjoyed a long and very successful career as a big league pitcher. He broke in with the Cardinals in 1955 and retired 21 years later. Along the way he spent a couple of seasons in the Cardinals rotation, led the NL in saves three times, made a couple of All Star squads and finished fifth in the 1960 MVP balloting while landing third in the Cy Young vote. He also holds the distinction of having pitched the most games without a post-season appearance of any player in history (987, nearly 200 more than the second guy on the list).

Lindy pitched for the Cards for eight years before moving on to the Cubs, Giants, Yankees and finally the Royals. His only minor league experience came during the year this card was produced. He had established himself with 15 wins in 1957 but 1958 was disastrous and he was relegated to the bullpen before being farmed out for 6 weeks of so late in the year. He bounced back in '59 and his 1960 season, as noted above, was outstanding.

The back of this card sings McDaniel's praises and he appeared poised for another big year but his final numbers for the '58 season were among the worst of his career. Those are a couple of outstanding cartoons though.

I've collected most if not all of McDaniel's Topps cards. He's been a favorite of mine for a long time. I've related several times the two 1970 games in which he participated that are among my most memorable ever. I wrote to him a few years ago and asked him about both games. Here is the letter with his responses:

He also sent along several of his own signed items with the cards I sent. He remains a good TTM signer and accepts donations to his Christian ministry.

Finally, a few tidbits about Lindy McDaniel. He had two brothers who played pro baseball. One of them, Von McDaniel, has a card in this 1958 set. His cousin is longtime University of Texas football coach Darrell Royal. He homered for the Yankees in 1972 and that's the last home run hit by a Yankee pitcher. When he retired in 1975 his 987 appearances was second all time only to Hoyt Wilhelm. He's since been bypassed in that category by many others and currently ranks 17th. (Wilhelm is now 6th).

Tuesday, January 3, 2017

#107 Ozzie Virgil

By the time this card was being pulled from Topps packs in 1958 Ozzie Virgil was a member of the Detroit Tigers. He'd been dealt to Detroit in January. His '56/'57 stint with the New York Giants was his first of two as he cycled back to the team in 1966. He had a final at bat for them in 1969. During his career he made numerous trips back and forth between the big leagues and the minors.

In nine scattered big league seasons he played every infield position, the outfield and even did some catching. Along the way Virgil also played for the A's and Pirates as well as a one plate appearance for the Orioles in 1962. That was news to me! He also spent time in the Senators and Braves' systems.

In 1958 he got about 200 at bats for the Tigers and hit .244 which was a career high.

His son, also named Ozzie, was a two time All Star catcher during the 1980s.

Monday, January 2, 2017

#69 Wally Burnette

Knuckleballer Wally Burnette pitched in 68 games for the Athletics over three seasons, 1956 thru 1958. He had been in the Yankees' minor league system (and had some outstanding seasons there) before being dealt to the A's for Tommy Lasorda. He shut out the Washington Senators, 8-0, at Griffith Stadium in his big league debut.

In late June of 1958 he was sent to the minors after a rough month on the mound and he never returned to the majors. His career stats show a 14-21 record with a respectable ERA of 3.56 and a 1.35 WHIP. He owned and operated a grocery in his hometown in Virginia after he retired.

Very typical 1958 Topps card. Head shot with what appears to be an airbrushed logo on the cap. Not in the best shape (I have a bunch with that same corner crease) but not one I'll be interested in upgrading.