Tuesday, March 26, 2019

#54 Norm Siebern

Norm Siebern was a baseball and basketball star in college. He played at Southwest Missouri State Teachers College along with Yankee teammate Jerry Lumpe. He had a military stint and a long minor league stretch before making the Yankees for good in 1958. He won a Gold Glove that season. He went to Kansas City in the trade that brought Roger Maris to New York and later preceeded Boog Powell as the Orioles' first baseman. 

He won two World Series with theYankeess and played in a third while with the '67 Impossible Dream Red Sox.  In his bast season, 1962, Siebern hit 25/117/.305/.412 and garnered enough MVP votes to finish 7th on the list.

The Yanks don't have many yellow cards in this set. their main color is orange. 

Saturday, March 23, 2019

#53 Morrie Martin

Morrie Martin's baseball numbers are not very impressive..... a 38-34 record with a 4.29 ERA while playing for seven teams in over ten seasons. But Morrie Martin was a combat engineer with the Army's 49th Battalion in World War II. He was hit by enemy fire twice and survived the landing at Normandy. He was awarded two Purple Hearts, four battle stars, and an Oak Leaf Cluster. Those numbers are very impressive. His service had him involved in Operation Torch, Operation Overlord, Operation Cobra, and the Battle of the Bulge.

Martin began with the White Sox organization but through a couple of murky, very 1940-ish transactions ended up with Brooklyn. He was impressive as he moved up through the Dodgers' system in the 40s (when he wasn't fighting Nazis, that is). He twice was a double-digit winner for some lousy Philadelphia Athletics clubs in the early 50s. Then he set out on a trip through the bigs that had him traveling through both leagues as a journeyman reliever until he retired in 1960. 

Friday, March 22, 2019

#52 Roberto 'Bob' Clemente

When your nickname is 'The Great One' there isn't much a humble blogger can add. Here is a list of Roberto Clemente's 'Notable Achievements' from his Baseball Reference Bullpen page (which is the grandest one I've come across to date):

  •     12-time NL All-Star (1960-1967 & 1969-1972)
  •     NL MVP (1966)
  •     1971 World Series MVP
  •     12-time NL Gold Glove Winner (1961-1972)
  •     4-time NL Batting Average Leader (1961, 1964, 1965 & 1967)
  •     2-time NL Hits Leader (1964 & 1967)
  •     NL Triples Leader (1969)
  •     20-Home Run Seasons: 3 (1961, 1966 & 1967)
  •     100 RBI Seasons: 2 (1966 & 1967)
  •     100 Runs Scored Seasons: 3 (1961, 1966 & 1967)
  •     200 Hits Seasons: 4 (1961, 1964, 1966 & 1967)
  •     Won two World Series with the Pittsburgh Pirates (1960 & 1971)
  •     Baseball Hall of Fame: Class of 1973
That page also had this quote which comes from one of the many bios written about Clemente. I think it says a lot about him....

 "When I was a boy, I realized what lovely people my mother and father were. I was treated real good. I learned the right way to live. I never heard any hate in my house. Not for anybody. I never heard my mother say a bad word to my father, or my father to my mother."  "During the war, when food was hard to get, my parents fed their children first and they ate what was left. They always thought of us.”  “My mother have to really work. My mother used to get up at one o’clock in the morning. She had to work and make lunches for these people that used to work in the sugar cane plantations. Now, my mother never went to a show. My mother, she didn’t know how to dance." "But even the way we used to live, we were happy. We would sit down to eat and make jokes and talk and eat whatever there was. That was something wonderful... to grow up with people who had to struggle to eat.”

Wednesday, March 20, 2019

#50 Billy Pierce

Wooohooo, that's my guy, Billy Pierce.

BP was a Detroit kid who signed with the hometown Tigers in 1945 and appeared in a few games for them that season. He spent the next few years getting some minor league experience and returned to the bigs in 1948. He was knocked around pretty hard and the Tigers traded him to the White Sox and he went on to a sterling career on the South Side and, beginning in 1962, in San Francisco.

Here are his career achievements as listed on Baseball Reference's Bullpen page:

Major League Bests

  • Wins: 20 (1956, 1957)
  • ERA: 1.97 (1955)
  • Innings: 276 1/3 (1956)
  • Strikeouts: 192 (1956)
  • WHIP: 1.02 (1964)
  • Saves: 8 (1963)

Notable Achievements

  • 7-time AL All-Star (1953, 1955-1959 & 1961)
  • AL ERA Leader (1955)
  • AL Wins Leader (1957)
  • AL Strikeouts Leader (1953)
  • 3-time AL Complete Games Leader (1956-1958)
  • 15 Wins Seasons: 8 (1951-1953, 1955-1958 & 1962)
  • 20 Wins Seasons: 2 (1956 & 1957)
  • 200 Innings Pitched Seasons: 9 (1950-1953 & 1955-1959)
  • Won a World Series with the Detroit Tigers in 1945 (he did not play in the World Series)
He was a member of three pennant-winning clubs over the course of three decades (Detroit 1945, Chicago 1959, and San Francisco 1962)  which is something I'm not sure too many players can claim. He was skipped over for a start in the '59 Series by manager Al Lopez which never sat well with ChiSox fans. He was an All-Star that year with solid numbers so the decision was odd.

Billy a committee member of Chicago Baseball Cancer Charities for 46 years, serving as president of the CBCC for over 20 years. His son, Robert, now serves as chairman.

Some Billy Pierce links:
SABR bio
My Pierce collection summary
Chicago Tribune Obit w/video

Baseball Reference Similarity Scores
Similar Pitchers

  •     Vida Blue (957.4)
  •     Luis Tiant (922.0)
  •     Hal Newhouser (920.2) *
  •     Jim Perry (919.8)
  •     Catfish Hunter (916.3) *
  •     Milt Pappas (909.9)
  •     Bob Welch (909.2)
  •     Hooks Dauss (904.2)
  •     Orel Hershiser (902.9)
  •     Rube Marquard (901.9) *
* - Signifies Hall of Famer

Checking out the New Comiskey Stadium statue in 2016

My collection, photo from several years ago.

Monday, March 18, 2019

#49 Smoky Burgess

Forrest 'Smoky' Burgess made his name as a pinch-hitter late in his 18-season career. But he was a pretty solid everyday catcher through the 50s and early-60s with the Pirates. He was a six-time All-Star who finished with a .295 career batting average. He played for the Phils, Cubs, Reds, and Pirates in the NL before finishing his career with the White Sox serving primarily as a clutch bat off the bench.

He led NL catchers in fielding percentage three times but, having suffered an arm injury in an accident during his military service, was easy to run on throughout his career. When he retired he was the career pinch-hit leader with 145. His record has since been surpassed by several players.

Smoky played in five games in the 1960 World Series and went 6 for 18. His clutch single in Game Seven preceded Hal Smith's important three-run homer in the 7th off Bobby Shantz.

After he retired he ran a car dealership and then worked for the Braves as a scout and minor league instructor and coach.

The cartoons on the back of the card seem to be pretty close approximations of Smoky himself!

Saturday, March 16, 2019

#48 Chuck Harmon

When this card fell out of packs opened in the spring of 1958 Chuck Harmon had already played his last big league game. He had debuted with the Reds in 1954 as that club's first African-American player. In his four seasons in the NL, he hit just .238 but don't sell him short. That record doesn't begin to tell his story.

Harmon, still alive and kicking at 94-years-young as of today, was an Indiana schoolboy hoops champ, twice! And you know how tough Indiana basketball was back then. From there he moved on to the University of Toledo where he led the team to the NIT title game in an era when that tournament was king.

His college career (he also played baseball at Toledo) was interrupted by a three-year active duty stint in the U.S. Navy. After college, he gave hoops another whirl and, after being cut by the newly-integrated NBA Celtics, he led the ABL's Utica franchise to a league title. He served as a player-coach and became the first African-American coach to lead an integrated pro sports team to a championship. Meanwhile, he had played in the St. Louis Browns' minor league chain in the summers of 1947 and 1949.

After a short stay with the Negro League Indianapolis Clowns, he signed with the Reds and spent two minor league seasons working his way to the bigs. His major league career was spent with the Cardinals and Phils as well as the Reds.

He spent four more years in the minors after that final 1957 major league season and then, according to Wikipedia, Harmon worked as a scout with the Cleveland Indians and Atlanta Braves in baseball, and the Indiana Pacers in basketball. Later he worked as an administrative assistant for the Hamilton County Court System in Cincinnati, Ohio. He remains active in SWAP (Seniors With A Purpose) and other youth-related services.

Sounds like a life well-led to me. Here are some links to stories and sites with more info on this rather remarkable, 'under-the-radar,' athlete.

His page at the Negro Leagues eMuseum site

Mr. Harmon and the statue placed in his honor at Cincinnati's MLB Urban Youth Academy

Background info at the Baseball in Wartime site

The Internet Wayback Machine has his personal site archived

And here is a video from a Cincy tv station that profiled him a few years ago:

Update...March 20, 2019. Just a few days have passed since I wrote this and I saw the news that Chuck Harmon has passed away. RIP

Friday, March 15, 2019

#47 Roger Maris

This is Roger Maris' rookie card and it's one of the more costly cards in the set. When I first decided to chase the Topps '58 set I tracked down a copy of this card at a too-good-to-be-true price on eBay. And, as you might have guessed, it was too good to be true. The card I bought was fake. But I learned a valuable lesson...read the whole description. The seller had, in very fine print at the bottom of the description, implied that the card might not be authentic. This copy is legit.

Maris was highly touted and had a minor league career that lived up to the hype. He made the Indians in 1957 and was off to a great start when injuries derailed his season. In 1958 a new regime, led by Frank Lane and Bobby Bragan, took over the Indians and after another injury, Maris' days in Cleveland were numbered.

He was traded to the Athletics in June and played well for KC until the inevitable trade to the Yankees for the 1960 season. Most of the rest is well known...the trials of his '61 homer season, trade to the Cardinals, etc. Here is Baseball Reference's list of Maris' notable achievements:
  • 4-time AL All-Star (1959-1962)
  • 2-time AL MVP (1960 & 1961)
  • AL Gold Glove Winner (1960/RF)
  • AL Slugging Percentage Leader (1960)
  • AL Runs Scored Leader (1961)
  • AL Total Bases Leader (1961)
  • AL Home Runs Leader (1961)
  • 2-time AL RBI Leader (1960 & 1961)
  • 20-Home Run Seasons: 6 (1958 & 1960-1964)
  • 30-Home Run Seasons: 3 (1960-1962)
  • 40-Home Run Seasons: 1 (1961)
  • 50-Home Run Seasons: 1 (1961)
  • 60-Home Run Seasons: 1 (1961)
  • 100 RBI Seasons: 3 (1960-1962)
  • 100 Runs Scored Seasons: 1 (1961)
  • Won three World Series with the New York Yankees (1961 & 1962) and the St. Louis Cardinals (1967)
Looking at the reverse side of the cards shows that Maris is one of the very few players whose name is given a non-italic treatment to go along with the comic-style first letters. 

Wednesday, March 13, 2019

#46 Lou Sleater

It's kind of cool that lefty hurler Lou Sleater's life paralleled his career. He was born in St Louis and made his debut with the Browns but he was raised in Baltimore and finished his career with the Orioles.

Along the way, he pitched for just about every team this side of the House of David. He threw a knuckleball and his biggest claim to fame is probably the fact that he was the guy who stopped Walt Dropo's streak of 12 consecutive hits when he struck out the big first baseman in July of 1952. Here is Sleater's baseball journey, based on the teams and organizations he toiled for:

Boston Braves->Chicago Cubs->New York Giants->St. Louis Browns-> Washington Senators->New York Yankees->Kansas City Athletics->Milwaukee Braves->Detroit Tigers->Baltimore Orioles.

At one time or another, he was signed, released, traded, waived, purchased and drafted. Overall he pitched for seven seasons and won 12 games. His busiest time was in  '51-'52 when he totaled 19 starts for the Browns and Senators. He wasn't a bad hitter, either. In 1957 he had three homers for the Tigers and hit over .200 for his career. 

Saturday, March 9, 2019

#45 Dick Groat

A two-sport star, Dick Groat went from being a hoops sensation at Duke to being a five-time big league All-Star and MVP. After seeing Groat's athletic talent Branch Rickey offered him a contract during his junior year at Duke but Groat wanted to complete his four-year obligation to the Blue Devils. He signed with the Pirates in 1952. He immediately was inserted into the club's lineup at shortstop. He hit .284 in almost 400 at-bats and was third in the Rookie of the Year balloting.

Meanwhile, he was drafted in the first round by the NBA's Fort Wayne Pistons franchise and he played in just under half their games in an unusual situation where the Pistons flew him in for games and then back to Duke where he was finishing up his coursework. He had the second highest PPG on the team but that was the end of his basketball career. He was drafted into the army and after his two years of service, he devoted himself to baseball only.

He was a standout at short for 14 seasons and finished with a .286 career average and World Series rings he won with the Pirates in 1960 and the Cardinals in 1964. He is a member of the College Basketball Hall of Fame. He was part of the Hall's second induction group, the Class of 2007. He went in alongside my man, Guy V. Lewis.

Tuesday, March 5, 2019

#44 Washington Senators

The 1958 Senators finished 8th in the eight-team American League. That certainly wasn't unusual as they hadn't landed better than fifth since WWII.  Just a couple of years away from their move to Minneapolis-St. Paul, the Nats were last in hitting, pitching and fielding among the AL clubs. But they were the youngest club and their nucleus of youngsters included Harmon Killebrew, Bobby Allison, and Camilo Pascual. Those three would later go on to anchor the AL pennant-winning Twins club in 1965.

I'm not really very involved in advanced stats but I found it interesting that the player who had the best WAR on the '58 Nats was reliever Dick Hyde. He went 10-3 with 19 saves (league leader!) to go with a sterling 1.75 and his WAR was second among all AL pitchers. Hyde's season was by far the best of his career. 

The card shows a well-checked second series checklist on the back. Mickey Mantle shows up as #150. As anyone that has read my posts knows, I'm OK with marked checklists. 

Friday, March 1, 2019

#43 Sal Maglie

Sal 'The Barber' Maglie who had one of the more fascinating baseball career paths you'll ever come across. He broke in with the Giants in 1945 after having pitched in two other organizations' systems for several years.

He then spent time working in a defense plant after having been turned down by his draft board for medical reasons.  He soon jumped on an opportunity to pitch in Mexico in a fledgling 'major league' there and found himself banned from returning to the majors.

He pitched in Canada in an independent league and then, in 1950 returned to the Giants after his ban was lifted. And it was a very successful return indeed. Maglie went 18-4 with a league-leading 2.71 ERA. He followed that up with a 23 win season in '51. He made the NL All-Star squads in '51/'52 and won a ring with the '54 Giants.

He later continued his long, strange trip with the Indians, Dodgers, and Yankees before finishing with the Cardinals. His SABR bio has all the glorious details and I can't begin to summarize it all. One highlight is his 1956 season which saw him begin with Cleveland, make two appearances, and then be dealt (for $100!!!) to the Dodgers in May. He went on to win 13 games for The Bums and finished second on both the Cy Young and MVP balloting. His second World Series ring was a nice bonus in a season that began with him buried in the Indians' bullpen and contemplating retirement.

I always have to stop and look a second time at this card since Maglie never says 'Yankees' to me. He only pitched in 13 games for them from late in the 1957 season through a sale to the Cards in June of 1958.

Here is 'The Barber' in a 1957 appearance on the old What's My Line? show.  The panel includes Phil Rizzuto and panel mainstay, Arlene Francis, wearing what appears to be a large empty soup can. She was a Dodger fan and Sal didn't fool her for a second. A great 5-minute watch.

Haven't had an orange card in awhile which reminds me that it was a long time ago that I posted some info on the colors in this great set. If you are interested you can check these links:

Overall set color breakdown post

Team by team color analysis post