Monday, July 28, 2014

'55T is my choice for Phil Paine custom card


A guy like me could make Phil Paine  custom cards 'til the cows come home.

Despite having pitched in the major leagues for six seasons (1951, 1954-57 Boston/Milwaukee Braves, 1958 St. Louis Cardinals) in the midst of the Topps-Bowman bubblegum card wars, Paine appeared in only one mainstream card set, 1958 Topps. He is also found in the 1954 and 1955 Johnston Cookies Braves regional issues.

As is my wont, rather than taking a lot of time rehashing Paine's career, I'll refer you to an online article by Nelson "Chip" Greene from the Society for American Baseball Research's player biography project:
http://sabr.org/bioproj/person/48729b39 .

Just a couple of things that struck me . . .
  • Phil Paine's unusual name is the result of his first name being that of his father's best friend; his middle name, Steere, is an old Rhode Island colonial family name.
  • Many sources, including Greene, cite Paine as having been the first major leaguer to play in Japan's major leagues. Fellow SABR biographer Greg Erion, however, refutes that, saying that Leo Kiely was actually the first. According to Erion, Kiely debuted on Aug. 8, 1953, for the Mainichi Orions of Japan's Pacific League. Paine, he says, didn't pitch for the Nishitetsu Lions until Aug. 23.
Both Kiely, who had pitched for the Red Sox in 1951, and Paine, were in the Army at the time and pitched a game or two a week as their military schedule allowed. Baseball-reference.com credits Kiely with a 6-0 record and 1.80 ERA, and Paine with a 4-3 record and 1.77 ERA.
  • The back of Paine's 1958 Topps card mentions that he was "traded during the last off-season" by the Braves to the Cubs. I can find no mention of that in various baseball references. On April 19, 1958, the Cardinals (with whom he is pictured on his 1958 Topps card) selected Paine off waivers from the Braves.
  • Paine almost returned to the Japanese professional leagues for 1959. He had toured Japan with the St. Louis Cardinals after the 1958 season. On Dec. 4, he was traded to the Dodgers with Wally Moon for Gino Cimoli. Los Angeles assigned him to their Spokane farm for '59 so Paine opted to sign with the Kintetsu Pearls for what he said was twice what he'd make in the U.S.
After figuring that he needed only a few more days of big league service to qualify for the major league pension, however, Paine decided to remain in the States. He never got those days. He spent the entire 1959 season at Spokane, then played with Vancouver in 1960-61 before retiring.
  • Paine never started a game in the major leagues. He does, however, have an enviable won-loss record of 10-1 in 95 games, a .909 win percentage. The acknowledged major league leader in that stat is Al Spalding's .795; among modern (career entirely post WWII) pitchers, Whitey Ford leads with .690. In his 11 seasons in the minor leagues, Paine's record was 75-63 with a 3.71 ERA.
Because he was a Milwaukee Brave active in the era of my greatest interest in the team and baseball cards, I won't rule out other Phil Paine custom cards in the future, though I have nothing currently on the drawing board. 



You can purchase this card. You can obtain a copy of this custom card for $12.50, postpaid. E-mail me at scbcguy@yahoo.com for ordering details. Illustrated lists of all available custom baseball and football cards can be found on my blog post of July 17.



Saturday, July 26, 2014

Another Chuck Noll custom, 1956 Topps style


In this space on June 20 I presented my custom 1954 Bowman-style custom card of Hall of Fame Steelers coach Chuck Noll when he played for the Cleveland Browns.

I mentioned that I had more than a half-dozen scans of Noll from his playing days.

When I chose the '54B format for my Noll custom, I hadn't really intended to create more than one "card that never was." 

However, as sometimes happens, a visualization of a different Noll card kept haunting me. 

Last weekend I decided to do a second Noll custom, in the manner of 1956 Topps. I've mentioned before that '56T is one of the favorite football sets from my childhood, so I didn't need to stretch too far to make this card.

Noll is pictured on my custom in Cleveland's home brown jersey. Veteran vintage football card collectors may recall that all of the original 1956 Topps Cleveland Browns player cards -- there are nine of them -- show the players in their white away uniforms. 

As a nod to that tradition, I converted the photo I was using to a white jersey. It was more work than I expected; I can't seem to find a "reverse colors" button in my Elements 11.0 software. Because I've got nothing but time, and I view it as a learning process, I persevered and got the job done. 

There is another difference between my custom and "real" 1956 Topps football cards. On all of the '56s I've created (Unitas, McGee, Starr, Morrall), I've included a career-highlight cartoon on the back; genuine '56T had generic trivia cartoons not specific to the player.

With both a '54B and a '56T Chuck Noll custom under my belt, I don't think I'll feel compelled to do any others.


You can purchase this card. You can obtain a copy of this custom card for $12.50, postpaid. E-mail me at scbcguy@yahoo.com for ordering details. Illustrated lists of all available custom baseball and football cards can be found on my blog post of July 17.

Thursday, July 24, 2014

Nazi fire resolved Rapp to bear down in baseball


Uncommon commons: In more than 30 years in sportscards publishing I have thrown hundreds of notes into files about the players – usually non-star players – who made up the majority of the baseball and football cards I collected as a kid. Today, I keep adding to those files as I peruse microfilms of The Sporting News from the 1880s through the 1960s. I found these tidbits brought some life to the player pictures on those cards. I figure that if I enjoyed them, you might too.

In the years immediately following World War II, many of the player features appearing in The Sporting News included information on the player’s time in the military.

One such that could have been the storyline in a war movie was that of Earl Rapp.

In late August, 1946, Rapp was batting .359 for Buffalo in the International League. He was featured in TSN on Aug. 28 in an article by Buffalo baseball writer Cy Kritzer. A large photo of Rapp accompanying the article made him look every inch the “lean, hungry-looking ex-infantryman” that Kritzer described in his lead . . . right down to his thousand-yard stare.

The headline almost dared you not to read the story: “Bison Slugger Rapp, Pinned by German Fire, Vowed He’d Learn to Hit Lefties if Spared”.

I may as well just go ahead and reprint Kritzer’s account . . .

Few rookies displaying more determination have appeared in the International League this season. Behind Rapp’s attitude is a horror-filled night when he won the Silver Star in the battle of the Colmar pocket. 

Rapp’s platoon of 48 men was cut of by the Schutzstaffel. The lieutenant in command ordered them to dig fox holes and lie low until early dawn to make a break for their own lines. A German sniper killed the officer with a bullet through the temple a few seconds after he gave the order. That put Sgt. Rapp in command.
Only seven men came back. The others were killed or lost.
“The only way we had a chance was to jump out of our holes, one man at a time, run like mad for ten yards, then hit the ground before the SS sharpshooters got the range,” Rapp said. He saw his buddies one by one killed before his eyes. As each one made his unsuccessful run for life, his mates tried to cover him with their own fire.
“I Never Ran So Hard”
            The last GI to leave his foxhole was Sgt. Rapp. No one covered him. “I never ran so hard in my life,” he said. “You never know how hard you can run until your life is at stake. I thought that night that I’d never play baseball again . . . and that’s what I thought mostly about . . . I said ‘Rapper, if you ever get through this, you’ll play baseball like you never played it . . . hustle . . . and fight every pitcher . . . and learn to hit lefthanders.’
            “Strange what thoughts run through your mind when you’re hugging the ground and just waiting for the hour, . . . I thought about baseball and how hard I’d work and go all-out if I ever had the opportunity to go to spring training again.”
  
Rapp finished the 1946 season with Buffalo batting .324, fifth-best in the International League.

He made the major leagues with Detroit in 1949, but after a month was traded to the White  Sox.

Rapp was never able to make it as a major league regular, but for a couple of years was able to catch on here and there as a left-handed pinch-hitter and fill-in right fielder.

He was with the Giants and Browns in 1951 and the Browns and Senators in 1952. 

Rapp never got into more than 76 big league games in any one season. His career mark was .262, with just two home runs in 135 games.

Between 1940 and 1958 he played 15 seasons in the minors, with a .313 batting average and as many as 30 homers a year.

As for his battlefield resolve to bear down if he made it through . . . from 1940 until he entered the Army in 1943, Rapp had been an even .300 batter, averaging half a dozen home runs a year.

From 1946-1957 he hit a cumulative .315 and averaged more than 15 home runs a year.

Earl Rapp has no mainstream baseball cards. He does appear on a few Pacific Coast League cards such as the 1949 and 1950 Remar bakery cards shown here.






Tuesday, July 22, 2014

My custom 1978 Molitor improves on Topps




As I mentioned in my posting of July 18, I had one more 1978 Topps-style Brewers card on my drawing board. Here's my take on a '78T Paul Molitor.

Many of you know that Paul Molitor did have a card in the "real" 1978 Topps issue. He was one of four players pictured on card #707 Rookie Shortstops, the most valuable card in the set.

Topps also produced a handful of team sets in 1978 for distribution at Burger King outlets in each team's home area. The sets for the Astros, Rangers, Tigers and Yankees.

The Burger King cards were printed some time after the regular Topps cards. They use the same basic format as the Topps cards, except the backs are renumbered 1-22 and, in each team set, there are a number of cards that have different player pictures on front. In some cases, there are cards for players who did not appear with those teams in the regular set. Some cards have significant photo cropping differences from the Topps version. And some Burger King cards give players who earlier appeared in the four-in-one rookie cards their own card.

While Burger King did not produce a Milwaukee Brewers team set in 1978, this custom card is what such a card might have looked like.

Don't be perplexed by the "SS" position designation. Molitor was brought to Milwaukee after one years in the minors when Robin Yount announced that he was retiring from baseball to pursue a career as a pro golfer.

Molitor opened the 1978 season as the Brewers shortstop. He played the first 24 games of his big league career at short. Upon Yount's return to the field on May 16, Molitor moved over to second base, displacing Lenn Sakata, who was sent down. Molitor played just a handful of games at shortstop through the end of the season.

You know, now that I think on it, there may be one more 1978 Burger King Brewers card in my future. I just remembered that after debuting on a Rookie Infielders card in 1977 Topps, Jim Gantner did not have a card in 1978 Topps.


You can purchase this card. You can obtain a copy of this custom card for $12.50, postpaid. E-mail me at scbcguy@yahoo.com for ordering details. Illustrated lists of all available custom baseball and football cards can be found on my blog post of July 17.


Sunday, July 20, 2014

Where's Dick Bartell's collection?

Uncommon commons: In more than 30 years in sportscards publishing I have thrown hundreds of notes into files about the players – usually non-star players – who made up the majority of the baseball and football cards I collected as a kid. Today, I keep adding to those files as I peruse microfilms of The Sporting News from the 1880s through the 1960s. I found these tidbits brought some life to the player pictures on those cards. I figure that if I enjoyed them, you might too.

As a collector, you have to wonder what became of the baseball memorabilia collection of former shortstop Dick Bartell, who played 18 years in the major leagues between 1927-46.

In the Jan. 30, 1941, issue of The Sporting News, an un-bylined article ran under the headline, “Bartell’s B.B. Museum”.

It’s reproduced here in its entirely.

            SAN FRANCISCO, Cal.—Next to the reliquary at Cooperstown, N.Y., Dick Bartell, shortstop of the Detroit Tigers, is believed to have the most varied museum of baseball trophies at his home in Alameda.
            The Bartell household is equipped with a private den for Dick and a rumpus room in the basement for guests. The walls and shelves are adorned with a collection of autographed pictures of big leaguers, bats that won World’s Series and baseballs that made many historical outs. He even has sound movies of critical series in the majors to entertain guests. Bartell saves everything, like a fussy housewife who collects pins and bits of string, and as a result, if he were commercial-minded, he could turn his home into a museum and charge the public 25 cents admission.
            Instead Dick takes pride in showing his souvenirs and frequently entertains his friends and visiting notables there.


Fred Stein has authored a comprehensive baseball biography of Bartell for the SABR biography project. You can find it at . . . http://sabr.org/bioproj/person/0d787b12 .



Friday, July 18, 2014

Custom completes Gorman Thomas' "Topps" run


In 1977, when Gorman Thomas wasn't in the major leagues, he had a Topps card.

In 1978, when Thomas was in the majors, he didn't have a Topps card.

 I corrected that situation with my latest custom card, a 1978-style Gorman Thomas.


After batting just .188 in his first two full seasons with Milwaukee, the Brewers sent him down to Spokane (Pacific Coast League) for the entire 1977 season. He regained his batting form out west, hitting .322 with 41 doubles, 36 home runs (both second-best in the league) and 114 RBI (third-best).

On Oct. 25, 1977, the Brewers sent Thomas to the Texas Rangers as the player to be named later in an August deal that sent Ed Kirkpatrick to Milwaukee. Before spring training opened in 1978, the Brewers bought Thomas back from Texas.


There's no doubt Gorman was my all-time favorite Brewer. He was also my daughter's first baseball hero. On her 5th birthday in 1984 we went to Milwaukee County Stadium for a game during Thomas' first visit back to Milwaukee after he had been traded to the Indians. We even snagged a batting practice foul ball from our seats down past the visitors' dugout near field level.

Gorman was a big favorite in Milwaukee because of his blue-collar image and his big home runs. (We tended to quickly forget the many strikeouts.)

This is my third Gorman Thomas custom card. On March 15, 2011, I presented by custom Gorman Thomas "rookie" card in 1972 format. I showed you a 1973-style card on May 15, 2011.

At this point I expect this to be my last Gorman Thomas custom card . . . but I never say never.

I do have one more 1978-style Brewers card in the works; you can probably guess who that it. I should be posting it in a couple of days.




You can purchase this card. You can obtain a copy of this custom card for $12.50, postpaid. E-mail me at scbcguy@yahoo.com for ordering details. Illustrated lists of all available custom baseball and football cards can be found on my blog post of May 24.