Uncommon commons. Contemporary accounts of 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 figure that if I found these items of interest, so would other vintage card collectors.
Despite the fact that he was the Milwaukee Braves player closest to my own age in the 1950s, I never was a great fan of Joey Jay.
He had been signed as a $20,000 bonus baby in June, 1953. He was reportedly the first Little League alumnus to make the majors. His darkly handsome face appeared on 1954 and 1955 Topps cards (as well as the 1954 and 1955 Johnston Cookies Braves sets), but then he disappeared until 1958, while he served his delayed minor league apprenticeship.
Of course I couldn't read the sports pages at the age of three, so I didn't really know too much about Jay's rookie season until I found some tidbits while perusing 1953 issues of The Sporting News.
I learned that less than a month after his signing, Jay made his "official" professional debut in a mop-up role in a 10-0 loss at Philadelphia on July 21.
In actuality, Jay had appeared on the mound in a Braves uniform on July 15 -- in Quebec! The Braves had flown to Quebec City during the All-Star break to play their Class C farm club in the Provincial League. In front of an overflow crowd of 7,368, the M-Braves no-hit the Q-Braves in an 8-0 win.
Six Milwaukee pitchers combined for the no-hitter. Jay followed Warren Spahn (who had won the All-Star Game the day earlier), Lew Burdette, Vern Pickford, Jim Wilson and Max Surkont. Jay finished out the game, striking out three and walking one.
He then rode the pines until the last home game of the season, the second game of a Sept. 20 doubleheader against the Reds. He was the surprise starter, facing Joe Nuxhall, and giving Milwaukee fans their first look at the bonus baby.
That was his first start in professional baseball, and he shut out Cincinnati 3-0 for the win. The game was called after 6-1/2 innings because of darkness. Jay struck out four, walked four, had a wild pitch and gave up three hits.
Jay pitched in only one more game that season, getting in an inning Sept. 26 in a 10-7 loss at Cincinnati.
For his rookie season, Jay had a 1-0 record and a 0.00 ERA in his 10 innings of work.
His teammates voted him a 1/4 share of the National League second-place money, $370.33.
Following the 1953 season, Jay barnstormed in the Northeast with a team of All-Stars headed by Washington Senators pitcher Frank Shea. On the tour, Jay was given the start on Oct. 12 in his home town of Middleton, Conn. He won 8-3.
Jay never won more than nine games in a season for the Braves. He was traded to the Reds for 1961. He then proceeded to lead the National League with 21 wins, following up with a 21-win season in 1962.
He pitched through the 1966 season, ending his big league career back with the Braves in Atlanta. His lifetime record includes 99 wins and 999 strikeouts.