Saturday, February 12, 2011

Uncommon commons: Torgy narrowly missed air disaster

In 2006 I purchased a complete set of The Sporting News and The Sporting Life newspaper microfilms from 1886 through the early 1970s. I figured they would be a great source of entertainment when I eventually retired.

Over the years I had used the films to research feature articles and columns that appeared in SCD and Baseball Cards magazine. In that process I discovered that each issue of those venerable sports weeklies had many tidbits that as a collector of baseball and football cards I found interesting because they helped bring to life the faces on the cards I collected. I figured that if I found those items of interest, so would other vintage card collectors, so from time to time I compiled my notes into columns that I called "Uncommon Commons."

I've decided to continue that tradition in this forum because a blog is tailor-made to host these short pieces and because it is easy to share images of some great old cards that may not be worth a lot of money, but that have an appeal to veteran collectors.

A teammate's loan of an automobile saved the life of Boston Braves first baseman Early Torgeson and his family in 1953.

Torgeson was wintering at the Braves' spring training site at Bradenton, Fla., in February, when former teammate Connie Ryan invited Torgy and his family to New Orelans for Mardi Gras week.

With his car in need of repair, Togeson booked a flight for himself, his wife and their two children from Tampa to New Orleans for Feb. 14. 

When Braves pitcher Vern Bickford offered Torgy the use of his auto, Torgeson cancelled the flight and drove  to New Orelans.

The flight that Torgeson opted out of, National Airlines Flight 470, crashed into the Gulf of Mexico near Mobile, Ala., killing all 46 aboard. The Douglas DC-6 had lost a wing in a thunderstorm.

Two days later, Torgeson was traded from the Braves to the Phillies in a three-team deal that sent Joe Adcock from the Reds to Boston/Milwaukee, Jim Pendleton to the Braves from Brooklyn, Rocky Bridges from the Dodgers to the Reds and Russ Meyer from the Phillies to the Dodgers. 

That trade made a mess of Topps' and Bowman's baseball card plans for those players so close to the start of the season. Bowman had to scramble to get photos of Adcock, Meyer and Bridges in their new uniforms. Adcock and Meyer appeared in the '53 Bowman high-number color series later in the season, and Bridges in the even-later black-and-white Bowman issue that year. Pendleton appeared in the mid-season series of 1953 Topps. Lucky Earl didn't appear in either the Topps or Bowman set that year, though he had been on both bubblegum card companies' cards in 1952. Torgeson was in every other Bowman set between 1949-55, and with Topps in 1951-52, and from 1956 through 1961. He was also in the 1952 Red Man set, and several scarce regional issues during his career.

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