Tuesday, May 23, 2017

#348 Chico Fernandez

Cuban-born Humberto 'Chico' Fernandez spent six seasons in the Brooklyn Dodgers' system beginning in 1951. Moving up the ladder he had hopes of replacing Pee Wee Reese as shortstop but in his 34 games with the big club in 1956 he didn't hit much. The Dodgers traded him to the Phils and he became their starter at that spot for two seasons. In 1957 he had a career best .262 average.

His numbers tumbled in 1958 as his average dropped by 30+ points. In limited duty in 1959 he continued to lose traction. A trade to the Tigers revived his career if not his average but he did handle the shortstop job regular in Detroit for three seasons. He hit 20 homers in 1962 having never hit more than six at any level prior (and never again approached double digits).

His BR Wiki page has the following tidbit: on May 8, 1963, he had the distinction of being traded twice in the same day. He was dealt by Detroit to the Milwaukee Braves, who then swapped him to the New York Mets.

Fernandez finished up his big league career with a stint with the Mets in 1963 but continued to play professionally in Mexico, Japan and back here stateside in the high minors through 1968. He worked for 20 years after baseball as an insurance agent for Met Life. He passed away in Florida last summer at the age of  84.

His is not the only Phillies player on a yellow card but it is the only one on which the yellow logo sits on the yellow background. That bugs me for some reason.

Friday, May 19, 2017

#139 George Brunet

This is George Brunet's rookie card. He had debuted with the A's in 1956 and spent several years bouncing between the minors and majors before establishing himself with the 1965 LA Angels.

He spent the 1958 season in the minors and rehabbing from the effects of a blood clot in his arm. His story..spending time with nine major league teams, becoming a Hall of Famer in the Mexican League where he pitched into his 50s, his crazy off-the-field life...all of it is included in this article on the Hardball Times site. Rather than recount it here I urge you to click thru the link and read the story. I remember Brunet as a character the Jim Bouton immortalized in Ball Four.

One note that jumped out at me when looking at his Baseball Reference page...in 1968 with the Angels he led the league in losses for the second consecutive year but had an ERA of  2.86 and a WHIP of 1.05.

Including his years in the Mexican Leagues he pitched 36 years of organized ball. I kid you not.

Saturday, May 6, 2017

#51 Del Rice

Del Rice played for 17 seasons in the majors after signing with the St. Louis Cardinals in 1941. He made the Cardinals as a platoon in '45. He became the Cards' primary backstop in1950 and held that role through the 1953 season. He played in three games of the 1946 World Series splitting time with Joe Garagiola behind the plate. He went three for six in the Series and was catching when Harry Brecheen pitched a shaky top of the ninth to nail down Game Seven and the Cardinals' title.

1953 was the year he made his only All Star team (Campy played the whole game). His playing time decreased in 1954 and in June of  '55 he was dealt to the Braves.

Rice backed up Del Crandall through the second half of the decade as the Braves made two World Series appearances, winning the title in 1957. He caught Games 3 & 6 of the Series and picked up a hit in six at bats.

In 1958 he hit .223 in very limited duty behind Crandall. He did not get into the World Series that year but would have played in Game Six had Frank Torre, who was hitting for Crandall, been able to tie the game in the bottom of the 10th. Torre ended it by lining out to Yankees' second baseman Gil McDougald with Hank Aaron on third.

His playing time dwindled and by 1960 he was off on a tour of four big league towns to wind things up. He even got one at bat with the Orioles that year! He retired after spending the 1961 season with the expansion Angels.

Rice, who had also played pro basketball early in his career, managed, coached and scouted for a couple of organizations after his playing days.

Like most of the Braves in the set Rice resides on a green background. His name on the card's back is rendered in the less frequent 'plain' font. I really need to look into this aspect of the set in more detail.