Friday, October 28, 2016

#199 Don Blasingame

Known as 'Blazer' Don Blasingame was a hard-nosed, hustling infielder over two decades in the majors and Japan. He began his career with St. Louis and played for the Giants, Reds, Senators and Athletics. He caught a nice break in April of '61 when the Giants dealt him to the Reds and he went on to play in the World Series that year. It was his only postseason appearance. 

After 12 seasons stateside he went to Japan where he extended his career by playing three years then coaching and managing. He became the third American to pilot a Japanese team. His dugout career in Japan lasted through 1982.

In 1958 Blasingame saw his numbers slip a bit from the previous season but he made the NL All Star squad. It was his only All Star experience and he flew out to center pinch-hitting for Warren Spahn in the game. 

WikiFacts:  "For all those years Blasingame and his wife and children spent half the year in Japan and half in the United States. After it was all over, Blazer said living in Japan was a good experience. “We lived in an international community. The kids made friends from all over the world that they still hear from.”15 The Blasingame youngsters learned to speak fluent Japanese." -From his SABR bio

Thursday, October 27, 2016

#135 Mike Drabowsky

Despite what the card tells us this isn't "Mike" Drabowsky...this is Moe Drabowsky. How Topps made this mistake is a mystery. Moe was born Miroslav Drabowski in Ozanna, Poland and immigrated here to the U.S. with his family as they escaped the spreading Nazi influence in Europe. He was given the Anglicized name of Myron Walter Drabowski. His last name was misspelled as 'Drabowsky' in school but he never bothered to correct it.

Moe, one of baseball's best practical jokers, pitched for eight franchises over a 17 season span from 1956 through 1972. He never made and All Star team or received any big award votes but he did have some sterling moments. He won two World Series championships with the Orioles.

In 1958 Drabowsky began the season in the bullpen. But in May he was inserted into the rotation and  made twenty starts for the Cubs. He went 9-11 for a team that was 10 games under .500 and finished fifth.

Yellow cards abound in this set and this is yet another one. I scan four cards at a time and I've tried to do two yellows and two other colors when I can. This is the first of a couple dozen '58s I am scanning that I picked up from COMC. They are in general the best conditioned cards that I have for this set build so far. Not perfect, and some are off center or have some marks on the reverse, but they have really good corners and crease-free un-scuffed fronts.

WikiFact: In the opening game of the 1966 World Series against the Los Angeles Dodgers, Drabowsky entered the game in the third inning with one out and the bases loaded. After striking out the first batter, he walked Jim Gilliam to force in Lou Johnson for a run to cut Baltimore's lead to 4–2. That would be the last run the Dodgers scored in the entire series, however, as the Orioles would sweep the Dodgers 4–0, their next three wins coming on shutouts from Jim Palmer, Wally Bunker and the starter Drabowsky had relieved in Game 1, Dave McNally. He set a still-standing one-game World Series record for relievers by striking out 11 batters, including tying Hod Eller's 47-year record of six consecutive strikeouts in the 1919 World Series.

Monday, October 24, 2016

#224 Bob Grim

Bob Grim spent four years in the Yankees' farm system and a couple in the service before debuting in 1954. He won the A.L. Rookie of the Year award for his 20 win season. Even with that impressive beginning he was transitioned in a relief role and in 1957 he led the A.L. with 19 saves. 

In 1958, coming off that big year which saw him make his only All Star team, he had a terrible start and was traded to the Athletics in June. KC converted him back to a starting role and once he got regular turns he thrived. He went 7-7 for a bad club and dropped his ERA over a run and a half. 

He went back to the bullpen in 1959 with the A's who dealt him to the Indians during Spring Training in 1960. He was traded twice more that same year (to the Reds and Cards) and returned to the A's for a final fling in 1962.

My copy is off-center and has a stained back but isn't bad overall. I bought it as part of a group through COMC and it carried no 'Yankee tax'. 

WikiFact: Grim missed the 1952 and 1953 seasons due to military service during the Korean War. He returned to become the last American League rookie to win 20 games.

Friday, October 21, 2016

#381 Hal Brown

After his debut with the White Sox in 1951 Hal 'Skinny' Brown pitched for five different clubs until he retired in 1964. He was a knuckleballer known for working quickly on the mound. He pitched for the Orioles for 8 seasons and went 62-48 for them during a period when they were routinely AL 'also rans'. 

In 1958 he pitched in only 19 games making 17 starts. Checking out his game logs for that year it appears he missed most of April and May, probably due to an injury. He managed to go 7-5 with a 3.02 ERA. 

This is the first posed 'action' shot I've posted. It gives us a chance to check out the Orioles' awesome late-50s road unis. Love the cartoon-ish Orioles patch and the three color stirrups! And there are a lot of great memories for me wrapped up in that Orioles logo featured on the card.

WikiFact: [During World War II Brown was] a gunner on a medium bomber, he flew combat missions with the 8th Air Force, including air support over Omaha Beach on D-Day. His plane was shot down once after a raid on submarine pens around La Havre, France.

WikiFact #2: In 1961, Brown pitched a franchise-record 36 consecutive scoreless innings. But Skinny's most unusual accomplishment probably came during a loss. On August 31, 1955, Bill Wight started for Baltimore against Cleveland rookie Herb Score. The Indians roughed up Wight for five 1st-inning runs. "Skinny" started the 2nd inning for the Orioles in relief and proceeded to pitch eight innings of no-hit ball, striking out a career-high 10 batters, but the Indians won 5-1 behind Score's 13 strikeouts.

Tuesday, October 18, 2016

#362 Ray Jablonski

Army vet Ray Jablonski played eight seasons in the majors and a lot more in the minors as a 'good hit/no field' third baseman. He had two very good years for the Cardinals, even making the All Star team in 1954, before he lost his spot to an emerging Ken Boyer. 

In 1958 he was in his second season with the Giants and played behind Jim Davenport but still managed to slug a dozen homers. He was dealt to the Cardinals in 1959 and then spent his final years with the Athletics before a career closing minor league stint.

He's seen on this card with a cap adorned with a Topps artists' imagined rendition of the SF Giants logo. It strongly resembles that of the old PCL SF Seals' cap and will be seen throughout this set on Giants players' cards. The light blue background is one of the rarer ones. 

WikiFact: Jablonski is one of only two players with a single, double and homer in each of the first two games of a season. He pulled off the feat in 1956.  Adrian Gonzalez did it for the Padres in 2015.

Thursday, October 13, 2016

#187 Sandy Koufax

Welcome to the first post of this blog dedicated to the glory that is the 1958 Topps baseball set. I hope you will come to enjoy these cards as much as I do.
I've mentioned in other places that this set contains the first baseball cards I ever held in my hands, or saw for that matter. Having just moved out from Brooklyn I was a second grader in Jericho, Long Island and a girl who lived in our neighborhood had some. I don't remember her particularly, or which cards she had but I remember being enamored with the bright, colorful cardboard photos.

I was just becoming a fan and the cards connected me to players I was beginning to learn about by watching and listening to Yankee games with my Dad. It was right around this time that he began taking me to ballgames and I was soon hooked..a status I've maintained (with the exception of the post-1994 strike/lockout period) ever since.
I don't think I owned any '58 Topps cards. My collecting began the following season with some '59 packs I received at Easter and grew to a 'hobby' in 1960. Those three sets form the 'cornerstone' of my decades long collecting 'bug'.

This is the final one of the three that I am chasing and blogging. It's been a fun adventure so far and I hope you will make this a regular stop on your blog reading journey. Let's get started. And there are few better ways to kick off a new blog than with a post featuring Sandy Koufax, am I right?

In 1958 Sandy Koufax was still a few years away from being Sandy Koufax!! He went 11-11 in 26 starts as he moved into the Dodgers' rotation on a nearly full time basis. He led the NL with 17 wild pitches and walked 6 per 9 innings. Both of those indicating that he had yet to harness his incredible 'stuff'. 

The first of many 'head shots' in the '58 Topps set (hence the blog's title) Koufax has a Brooklyn Dodgers' cap on here. The card's back touts 'bigger things to come' for him. I'd say they were correct.

WikiFact: On September 29 [1957] Koufax became the last man ever to pitch for the Brooklyn Dodgers before their move to Los Angeles, by throwing an inning of relief in the final game of the season.