Friday, December 7, 2018

#23 Bill Tuttle

Bill Tuttle played fourteen seasons as a big league centerfielder, primarily with the Tigers and Athletics. His hitting was run-of-the-mill but his speed, glovework and throwing arm stood out and kept him in the lineup even in an age of big sluggers.

Two things I always think of when I hear his name...the fact that he never seemed to smile on any of his cards and that he always had that big chaw of tobacco in his cheek.  That chewing habit ended up killing him through mouth and throat cancer. But in his later life, he used his own medical issues to help stem the use of the products that eventually ended his life. This page tells his story and a few others.

I always like card backs with cartoons showing players engaged in other sports. Tuttle's card references his days as a college hoops star at Bradley.

Monday, November 19, 2018

#22 Hal Naragon

Catcher Hal Naragon advanced through the Indians' minor league system despite rather pedestrian numbers and a two year Korean War era military stint with the US Marines. In 1954 he stuck with the big club and spent until early in 1959 as Cleveland's primary backup catcher. He worked mostly behind Jim Hegan over that time and generally got 140ish at bats. His stats in the majors, at least with the Indians, were better than his minor league work would have suggested.

He spent the bulk of 1958 at AAA and was dealt to the Senators early in the  '59 season. In four seasons with the Nats/Twins he played again in a backup role. He retired after the '62 season in which he had less than 40 plate appearances.

After his playing days, he was a coach on the staffs of the Twins and Tigers through 1969. After that, he returned to his Barberton, Ohio hometown and ran a sporting goods store until he retired in 1990. He is currently alive and well at age 90 and still a fun interview apparently. His SABR bio is an entertaining read. 

The card's back is far better than the front thanks to cartoons that pointed out his field generalship and the 'lusty' .323 he hit in 1955.

Saturday, November 17, 2018

#21 Curt Barclay

A baseball/basketball player at the University of Oregon Curt Barclay got the bulk of his big league experience in 1957 with the Giants in New York. He notched nine of his ten wins that year in 28 starts. He had been a workhorse in the minors after debuting in 1952 and then doing his military duty during the Korean War.

A sore shoulder derailed his career and he only made a few appearances with the Giants in San Francisco before retiring after the 1960 season. He worked for a lumber company after his playing days and died at the age of 53 from cancer.

The Confederate flag makes an appearance in one of the cartoons on the back of this card. As does the artistic rendering of the SF cap logo we've seen on these '58s.

BTW....his 1957 Topps card is the cat's meow:

Monday, November 12, 2018

#20 Gil McDougald

Gil McDougald had three impressive minor league seasons after signing with the New York in 1949. He then went on to have an excellent decade-long career with the Yanks playing short, second and third. He was the 1951 ROY, beating out Minnie Minoso.

He was a five-time AL All-Star and three-time Top 10 MVP vote getter. But, of course, he was overshadowed by his more celebrated teammates. He played in eight World Series' for New York and won five rings. He won titles in his first three seasons in the majors. I'd be interested in checking to see how many other players have been that fortunate.

McDougald retired following the 1960 season rather than continue his career with the expansion Angels and briefly served as a scout for the Mets. He and his wife served as foster parents for many years. He was heavily involved in civic and charitable work and was the head baseball coach at Fordham University.

I love the fact that the card shows his home as Nutley, N.J. That wonderful small town is where spent my elementary school years. I was there in October and it's hardly changed at all. He later lived in Sea Girt, down the central Jersey shore, which is just down the road from where I attended high school.

Sunday, November 11, 2018

#19 SF Giants Team Card

With 1958 being the Giants' first season on the west coast we are obviously looking at the '57 NEW YORK Giants, the final Polo Grounds version. The '58 club was much improved over the previous year when the Giants finished sixth in the NL. The addition of Rookie of the Year Orlando Cepeda was a huge boost to the line-up.

Bill Rigney was in his third season as manager and '58 was his first over .500 as the Giants went 80-74. Johnny Antonelli anchored the starting staff and was joined by a young Mike McCormick. Marv Grissom, at 40 the oldest pitcher on the roster, was the closer and had 11 saves.

The Giants spent much of the first half of the season in first place. They slipped back in mid-June, fought the Braves toe-to-toe through much of July and then, as August rolled around they folded their tent and dropped out of serious contention.

I'm not very fussy about checklists being marked. I figure most kids were like me back then. A checklist was for checking. This one had its marks erased at some point.

Willie Mays is the third from the left in the second row, right behind Monte Irvin. Those old team photos were fun. I like that they included the clubhouse custodian, the traveling secretary, and the trainer. 

Sunday, November 4, 2018

#18 Frank Sullivan

I reeeealy need to work on my scan settings. A lot of these '58s, like this Frank Sullivan card, look much worse here than they do in hand. But on to Sullivan.

Southern California native Frank Sullivan signed with the Sox in 1948, spent some time in the military sandwiched by minor league seasoning, and made the staff in 1954. He was a workhorse for the Red Sox from 1954 through 1959 as this table shows:

Standard Pitching
11 Y11 Y11 Y97100.4923.603512195373151732.01702797692149559959
Provided by View Original Table
Generated 11/4/2018.

He made the AL All-Star clubs in 1955 and '56. But in 1960 his numbers nosedived and he was dealt to the Phils after the season and finished up in Minnesota with the Twins soon after that.

He was a golf pro and resort golf director in Hawaii after his baseball days alongside his friend and former teammate, Sammy White.

My favorite Sullivan card is his 57T.

Thursday, November 1, 2018

#17 Felix Mantilla

I posted Felix Mantilla's 1960 card over on that set's blog about 5 weeks ago. Not much in the Mantilla World has changed. But I found something worth posting.

Last year Felix Mantilla was awarded an honorary degree at Milwaukee's Cardinal Stritch University. He was honored for his work in the Milwaukee community, particularly for the Felix Mantilla Little League he founded back in 1972 and is still going strong. 

Through that league players from Wisconsin and from Mantilla's native Puerto Rico have visited each other's locale and connected through a unique baseball 'exchange' program.

Great stuff. Much better than a couple of paragraphs of my foolishness.

Wednesday, October 31, 2018

#16 Charley Neal

Posed action shots are few and far between in the '58 set but when they pop up I love 'em. 'Charley' Neal's card is no exception. You also have to love the fact that the card attributes his power to "lightning wrist action".

First of all, this is the last time for a few years that Topps referred to him as 'Charley'  Beginning in '59 he was the more common 'Charlie'. Then in '62, it was back to 'Charley'. For whatever that's worth. 

Neal debuted in the low minors in the Dodgers chain in 1950. For a brief time he was on the roster of the Atlanta Black Crackers of the Negro Southern League. He fought his way up the ladder before debuting in Brooklyn in 1956. He grabbed a regular role the next season as the club's second baseman. He kept a starting job, either at second or short, for the better part of five seasons.

His 1959 season stands out. Neal made the first of two consecutive NL All-Star squads, led the NL in triples and sac hits, won a Gold Glove and finished #8 in the MVP voting. To say nothing of earning a ring as the Dodgers won the World Series. Oh, that Series? He was 10 for 27 with two homers.

His play fell off in 1960/61 and he was traded to the expansion Mets in December of 1961. After a season and a half in the Polo Grounds he was dealt to the Reds partway through 1963. That was his final big league season.

Tuesday, October 9, 2018

#15 Jim Lemon

Jim Lemon was an outfield mate of Roy Sievers who coincidentally is the subject of the post I put up today in my 1960 set blog

After breaking in with the Indians in 1950 and spending a couple of years in the service Lemon got his feet under him with the Nats who purchased his contract in 1954. In his first full season as a starter, 1956, he led the league in whiffs AND triples which I find rather amusing. The huge dimensions of Griffith Stadium probably contributed to the three-bagger total.

He played 10 years for the Senators/Twins and had an outstanding 1960 season with 38 homers and 100 RBIs. He made his only All-Star team that year. Interestingly he finished his career with the Phils and White Sox which are the same clubs that Sievers played for after he left the Nats.

The first thing that strikes you about this card is the cartoon which portrays President Dwight Eisenhower. Ike was a baseball fan and Lemon was his favorite player. The three-dinger game that is mentioned in the cartoon's text is elaborated upon in his SABR bio's opening paragraph.

Saturday, October 6, 2018

#14 Rip Repulski

Eldon John 'Rip' Repulski came up through the Cardinals system in the late 40s/early 50s. He showed he could hit for power and average. But back then a Cardinal farmhand had a long road to the majors given the strength at the top and the talent that filtered down.

Ripulski finally debuted in 1953 as their everyday centerfielder and earned himself plenty of Rookie of the Year consideration. That season he played between Stan Musial and Red Schoendeinst. He was a fixture there in the outfield for four seasons culminating with an All-Star selection in 1956. He was known as a good fielder and he hit for power although never a big slugger.

He was traded to the Phils that off-season, had his final solid season that year, and then began a slow slide in productivity. He was a member of the Champion LA Dodgers in 1959 and drew an intentional walk from Billy Pierce in his only at-bat. He finished his career with the Red Sox in 1961.

Repulski owned a bar in his native Minnesota before working for the Great Northern railroad.

Wednesday, September 19, 2018

#13 Billy Hoeft

Billy Hoeft pitched for numerous clubs over a 15 year period. The high water mark came in 1955 when he was 16-7 with a sterling 2.99 ERA and 1.19 WHIP. He made his only All-Star team that year.

He had 20 wins the following year but his other numbers dropped off and show the error of basing one's evaluation of pitching on wins. (Guilty as charged). He had an outstanding year for the Orioles in 1961 as a swingman making 12 starts among 35 appearances. He had a 2.01 ERA and a 1.167 WHIP. 

In September of 1953, he became the ninth pitcher in history to record an 'immaculate inning'...three strikeouts on nine pitches. The game has changed a bit since as this occurred eight times in 2017 alone. 

The best thing about the back of the card is Topps referring to the Tigers as the 'Bengals'. When I hear that I think of sitting on our front steps and scanning old Sporting News headlines on Saturday afternoons as a kid. Old school.

Friday, September 7, 2018

#11 Jim Rivera

'Jungle' Jim Rivera was a New York boy who grew up under difficult circumstances and spent time in prison before playing baseball, quite well btw, in the 1950s. He bookended a ten year White Sox run with time spent with the Browns and Athletics.

He was an excellent outfielder and while he hit only .256 for his career, he led the AL in steals in 1954 and was second on six other occasions.

Rivers'a story is one which I could see being the plot of a Mickey Rooney movie and it makes his SABR bio a worthy read.

I'm partial to any card with that Flying Sox logo, this one especially. I think I recall this one from my earliest days as a collector. Those should actually be called my days of interest in cards. I didn't have any '58s that I recall but I had a friend down the block in Jericho on Long Island that had some. I remember the cards more so than her.

Tuesday, August 28, 2018

#10 Lou (Lew) Burdette

Lew Burdette won over 200 games pitching for 18 seasons with six different clubs. But he was best known as Warren Spahn's mound mate with the Braves in the 50s. He helped them to a couple of World Series appearances and the '57 title. His three WS wins that year (all complete games, two shutouts!) earned him Series MVP honors.

The card companies never seemed to agree on whether his first name was spelled 'Lou' or 'Lew'. Sometimes, as here in '58, they covered their bases by using the two versions on one card. From what I've read Burdette himself switched back and forth as well.  And given his well-known sense of humor, he probably did it with a wink.

Here's a quick look at how Topps (and Bowman as noted) spelled his name on his base cards. Bowman cards either used a facsimile sig or no name on the front. 

1952-Lew (Bowman, name only on back)
1953-Lew (Bowman B&W, name only on back)
1954-Lou (Bowman, name only on back)
1955-Lou (Bowman, name only on back)
1958-Lou (Lew on back of card)
1973-Lew (as coach on Mrg. Eddie Mathews' card)

Post Cereal switched the spelling a few times as well. 

Burdette also fancied himself a singer and released a record or two during his career. Here's his best known ("Mary Lou" was his daughter's name):

Added bonus:

Here's a newsreel short of the 7th game of the '57 Series. I had to re-run a moment at the 1:14 mark where Yankee pitcher Tommy Byrne tosses the ball from his glove to his hand as he begins his windup. I never have seen that before.

And his famous 'trolling' of the Topps photograper...posing as a lefty:

Saturday, August 18, 2018

#9 Hank Bauer

I read a quote at some point that said something along the lines of  "Hank Bauer had a face like a clenched fist."  And it's hard to argue that point. And he had a reputation to go along with it.

EDIT: Pulling up his Wikipedia page and I see that quote there. Unattributed.

And his Wiki page has some great info on this 14-year veteran who was an instrumental part of the Yanks' 50s dynasty. Bauer won seven rings in New York before he played out his on-field days in Kansas City. Check out this excerpt::

Born in East St. Louis, Illinois as the youngest of nine children, Bauer was the son of an Austrian immigrant, a bartender who had earlier lost his leg in an aluminum mill. With little money coming into the home, Bauer was forced to wear clothes made out of old feed sacks, helping shape his hard-nosed approach to life. (It was said that his care-worn face "looked like a clenched fist".)

While playing baseball and basketball at East St. Louis Central Catholic High School, Bauer suffered permanent damage to his nose, which was caused by an errant elbow from an opponent. Upon graduation in 1941, he was repairing furnaces in a beer-bottling plant when his brother Herman, a minor league player in the Chicago White Sox system, was able to get him a tryout that resulted in a contract with Oshkosh of the Class D Wisconsin State League.
Of course, I'm a Bauer fan thanks to his days as the manager of the Orioles and the 1966 Series title he led them to.

There are not a lot of cartoon references to military service among Topps late 50s sets. But there were still plenty of guys active that had served in WWII and especially in Korea. Bauer's days as a Marine were much discussed so it's not a surprise to see them depicted on the back of his card. I like the orange background in the 58s. The Yanks and Senators got the majority of them. The Athletics had a handful as well. It's been quite a while since I did my post tracking the colors used in this set. You can check it by clicking here.

Friday, August 17, 2018

#8 Eddie Kasko

Eddie Kasko spent a lifetime in baseball as a player, manager, scout and team executive. His ten years in the majors came mostly with the Reds but he also played for the Cardinals (as seen on this card), the Colt 45s/Astros and finally the Red Sox. That last season on the field in Boston led to his managing in their chain and then for four seasons in Fenway.

Kasko was originally signed by the Giants and passed through the Browns organization and saw military service before he landed with the Cardinals and made their squad in 1957. 

His hitting was nothing special but he had a good glove at both short and third. He also seemed to shine when the spotlight was on. He hit .318 (7 for 22) for the Reds in his only World Series, the '61 five gamer versus New York. And his only All-Star at-bat (in the first of the '61 ASGs) produced a single.

As a manager for the BoSox from 1970 through 1973, he led them to two second- and two third-place finishes. The Sox finish just a half-game behind the Tigers in 1972. Despite his clubs playing 50 games over .500 in his four seasons, he was replaced as manager by  Darrell Johnson in 1974. But he worked for Boston for many years and was eventually selected for induction in their Hall of Fame.

He actually posted on Twitter as recently as 2013. I'd have to believe there can't be many others with cards in this set who have been active on that social media platform. 

Thursday, August 16, 2018

#7 Dale Long

Here's a challenge for someone with time on their hands....make a flowchart depicting lefty first baseman Dale Long's travels through all the baseball organizations he was a part of. Here is his transaction listing from Baseball Reference:
  • May 1945: Traded by Middletown (Ohio State) with Kenneth Braden (minors) to the Cincinnati Reds for Dick Oder (minors) and Joseph Turczak (minors).
  • June 1947: Released by the Cincinnati Reds.
  • June 1947: Signed as a Free Agent with the Boston Red Sox.
  • November 24, 1948: Drafted by the Detroit Tigers from the Boston Red Sox in the 1948 minor league draft.
  • December 5, 1949: Drafted by the New York Yankees from the Detroit Tigers in the 1949 minor league draft.
  • November 16, 1950: Drafted by the Pittsburgh Pirates from the New York Yankees in the 1950 rule 5 draft.
  • June 1, 1951: Selected off waivers by the St. Louis Browns from the Pittsburgh Pirates.
  • December 5, 1951: Purchased by the Pittsburgh Pirates from the St. Louis Browns.
  • May 1, 1957: Traded by the Pittsburgh Pirates with Lee Walls to the Chicago Cubs for Gene Baker and Dee Fondy.
  • April 5, 1960: Purchased by the San Francisco Giants from the Chicago Cubs.
  • August 21, 1960: Purchased by the New York Yankees from the San Francisco Giants.
  • December 14, 1960: Drafted by the Washington Senators from the New York Yankees as the 28th pick in the 1960 expansion draft.
  • July 11, 1962: Traded by the Washington Senators to the New York Yankees for Don Lock.
  • August 2, 1963: Released by the New York Yankees.
Bottom line is that he played ten seasons for six different clubs and for years was known as the guy who homered in eight consecutive games in May 1956. That record has since been matched by Don Mattingly and Ken Griffey Jr. but never exceeded.

I recall as a kid how that dinger streak impressed the hell out of me and my friends and we coveted Dale Long cards as if he was a star. 1956, in addition to being the year he made headlines for that run of homers as a Pirate, was his best season in the majors. He had 27 home runs and 91 RBIs while hitting .263 and making the NL All-Star Game.

He sandwiched better batting average seasons around that '56 campaign and hit 20 homers or more a total of three times. He appeared in two World Series with the Yankees, 1960 and 1962 when he won a title. Interestingly he was a mid-season pickup by the Yankees in both of those seasons. 

Tuesday, August 14, 2018

#6 George Zuverink

George Zuverink was signed by the Cardinals in 1946 but debuted with Cleveland in 1951 after three strong seasons in their minor league chain. Without much success in a couple of looks with the Indians, he was sold to the Reds for the '54 season but was not there long as the Reds sent him on to the Tigers late in April. He enjoyed pitching for his 'home' club (he was a Michigan native) for about a year before being waived and claimed by the Orioles.

The Orioles put him in their bullpen and he won 23 games with 36 saves over parts of five seasons. He found himself back in the minors in 1960 as the Orioles were on a youth kick. He retired to Arizona after the season and sold insurance for several decades. He died in 2014 at the age of 90.

Two intersting notes from his obituaries...he was a dedicated blood donor throughout his adult life and twice in 1957 he and Orioles catcher Frank Zupo formed the majors only "Double Z" battery.

I've noticed that the name on the back of the card appears to be yet another variation in the set as it looks like the font is not italicized and not bolded. Check these two examples out and see if I'm looking too hard at this.

This is his next to last Topps card as he had one in the 1959 set. He had some certified autographs in modern Heritage sets. My favorite though is his '57 Topps.

Sunday, August 12, 2018

#5 Willie Mays

Willie Mays joins Ted Williams in the first five cards in the '58 set. Imagine opening a Series One pack that spring and pulling both of those cards!

My longest lasting memory of Mays comes from the #7 subway ride out to Shea Stadium. Growing up my best friend was a Giants fan, as was his father. I didn't get to nearly as many games in Queens as I did in the Bronx but I saw my share of Mets-Giants confrontations. We always took the subway from Grand Central and for Giants games there was a definite Giants flavor to the crowd. More often than not Mays was the topic of the day. And little wonder.

Most fans, at least older ones like me, have heard the story of Mays as a 20-year-old rookie struggling to adjust to major league pitching after his May 1951 call-up. Legend has it that he went to manager Leo Durocher crying and begging Leo to return him to the minors. Of course, it turned out the Giants' faith in Mays was justified. I'd never thought to do it till now but I looked at Mays' '51 game logs. Willie was hitting .038 on June 1. After the June 17 doubleheader he was at .297 and sailing. He never looked back.

In 1979 Mays was elected to the Hall of Fame by being named on 409 of 432 ballots. Which means 23 baseball writers didn't think Mays warranted their vote. Mull that over. "Vote for a twenty-time All-Star, Rookie of the Year winner and two-time MVP...a guy who at one time or another (multiple times in most) led the league in runs, hits, triples, stolen bases, batting average, OBP, OPS, total bases, and won 12 Gold Gloves? Nah, I'll pass."

This card isn't my favorite Mays card. But it does capture him pretty well I think. Blue backgrounds are nice in this set. A better Mays card? Well, I really like the '64 Topps Giant but my best Mays is one I picked up just a few months ago:

#4 Hank Foiles

It's becoming apparent that my scanner is none too fond of these '58s. Hank Foiles' card isn't nearly as scuzzy in hand as it appears at the top on this post. Nothing I can do about it though. I'll just endeavor to persevere.

Hank Foiles was a career back-up and platoon catcher who spent eleven seasons in the majors toiling for seven franchises. That's not counting the Yankees who originally signed him in 1947. He was in the Yankees' system for four years before he was drafted away by the Reds in 1951. But he came away with one nice perk of his time with the Yankees...he formed a friendship with Joe DiMaggio that lasted through the years.

He was known for his defensive skills rather than his bat but he made the 1957 All-Star squad as a Pirate by hitting over .300 into July. He had an interesting 1960 season which I will amplify on over on the 1960 set blog when his card comes up. In brief, he was with five different teams (one of them twice!) between December of 1959 and November of 1960.

Foiles wrote a book about his career in 2011 and still makes appearances in the Virginia area it appears. My favorite Foiles card (and for a guy who hit a career .230 he had quite a few) is his 1959 pink framed gem.

Saturday, August 11, 2018

#3 Alex Kellner

Alex Kellner made a splash in his rookie season of  1949 as a 20 game winner for a Philadelphia Athletics club that won 81 games finishing fifth in the AL. He was voted second in the ROY balloting behind Roy Sievers.

Kellner never could replicate that '49 and actually lost 20 games the next year as the A's crashed to a 52-102 mark the was the end of Connie Mack's long managing tenure. But Kellner persevered for nine seasons in the A's rotation before being waived and then claimed by the Reds in 1958.

He finished up his career in St. Louis in 1959 and won his 100th game there that year. He led the AL in fielding percentage twice and in 1953 had the top mark in Fielding Independent Pitching (whatever the hell that is).

He comes from a baseball family. According to Baseball Reference his younger brother, Walt, was a teammate with the Athletics in 1952 and 1953. His nephew Frank Kellner and father Pop Kellner both played professionally.

This card lacks gloss but has pretty nice corners. The back suffers from the gum/glue stains I see a lot in this set. Back when I first started blogging the '58 set I noted that the player names on the reverse have variations. Some have the first letter in both first and last names in a cartoonish thick red font. Some, like Kellner's, are black. There doesn't appear to be any pattern to this although a quick flip through my binder seems to show that the plainer, black font letters are more prevalent in the first few series. 

Compare Kellner's name on the card above to the name on Ted Williams' card: