Tuesday, February 7, 2017

#304 Tigers' Big Bats

Two of the better hitters in the American League for the decade of the Fifties grace this special. Al Kaline is of course an all-time great.

But Harvey Kuenn is often lost in the conversation but he was an All Star for eight consecutive seasons beginning with his Rookie of the Year 1953 campaign.

I love knowing where card photos were taken but this one had me a bit bewildered. These are Tigers road unis of the era. I knew that the lack of bunting meant it wasn't an All Star game. So I searched through all the vintage shots of AL parks I have saved. The 'windows' looked a bit like those in Fenway but the girders didn't match.

I finally came up with these two pics that I'm sure were from the same photo shoot. Note the fact that Kuenn is wearing a collared jacket under his jersey in all these as well as on the card:

I finally dug around Getty images long enough to find this entry for one of the same shots. If the link doesn't work I'm posting the cut line:

LAKELAND, FL - 1950's: (L to R) Infielder Harvey Kuenn and outfielder Al Kaline, of the Detroit Tigers pose for a portrait in the dugout during Spring Training during the 1950's in Lakeland, Florida. (Photo by: Kidwiler Collection/Diamond Images/Getty Images)
So there ya go. Joker Marchant Field in beautiful Lakeland. It makes sense because the background sort of looks as if it's not a full fledged big league park. Why they are wearing road unis is anyone's guess. I was there a couple of springs ago and thought it was a wonderful old park. I bought the best grilled cheese sandwich I've ever had at a kiosk behind the third base stands. Guy also sold made-from-scratch tomato soup. Said he sold out every game no matter how warm the weather got. I believed him.

I'm glad I solved this. At my age it's the little things that mean a lot. I'm passing on a spring training trip this year although the invite to the opening of the new Nats/Astros complex in West Palm Beach was mighty tempting. I'll head over there next year I hope.

And no, I don't know who 'Ray Tisler' is! Look at the scan of the card back to see what I'm talking about. I actually found a guy by that name in a White Pages search who's age would be about right. I was tempted to call him and ask him if he remembers stamping 1958 Topps cards with his name. But I figured that would be kind of awkward.

In a comment Jon points out how young Kaline looks on this card. Assuming it was taken in 1957 he was 22 years old. But he could pass for a high schooler. Kuenn OTOH would be 26. He looks 35. Must be the tobacco chaw. 


  1. This is easily one of my top three cards from the set. The image on the card always makes me think that Al Kaline should be listed as a bat boy, as he looks like he might not even be old enough to drive yet. Big difference in the actual photos though. And that was some pretty impressive detective work in identifying the ballpark.

    1. You're right, AK is 22 (assuming it was taken in '57) but looks like a kid. Kuenn though looks older than 26!!