Along the western shore of Lake Winnebago in east central Wisconsin there is a metroplex known as the Fox Cities. Four cities and half a dozen each of villages and towns follow the Fox River as it flows north from the lake to Green Bay. The total population is around 250,000.
My home in Iola is about 45 minutes west of the Fox Cities. In past years I used to drive over for Saturday baseball card shows and to catch a Class A Midwest League ballgame. Alex Rodriguez played for the Appleton Foxes when he began his pro career in 1994.
There have been eight or ten major leaguers who were born in the Fox Cities. Some you may have heard of are 1950s Giants and Braves pitcher Dave Koslo, 1970s-80s Milwaukee Brewers pitcher Jerry Augustine and Eric Hinske, who played for the Blue Jays, Red Sox, Rays, Pirates, Yankees and Braves between 2002 and 2013, and last season coached for the Cubs.
All of those guys had plenty of baseball cards to mark their major league careers, and several of the other Fox Cities native ballplayers also had cards issued during their playing days.
One who did not is Stu Locklin. It's not surprising . . . he played in only 25 games for the 1955 and 1956 Cleveland Indians.
Locklin was born in Appleton, Wis., in 1928. At age 86, he's working his way up the list of oldest living former major leaguers.
He graduated from the University of Wisconsin, where he had starred in baseball, football and basketball. He led the Badgers in hitting in 1947 and 1948, then signed with the Cleveland Indians (technically with their Baltimore Orioles farm team) in 1949. It is reported that in one Big Ten game against Michigan State, Locklin was 4-for-5 at the plate against future Hall of Famer Robin Roberts.
Locklin was bigger than the average ballplayer of his era; 6' 1-1/2" and 190 pounds, throwing the batting left handed. He generally played in the outfield and at first base.
Skipping the lower minors, Locklin started his pro career at Class A Dayton in 1949, where he led the Central League with 169 hits and was second with 39 doubles.
Moving up to AA Oklahoma City in 1950, Locklin led the Texas League with 43 doubles. He followed his .311 batting average of the previous year with a .298 mark.
In 1951 Locklin was promoted to San Diego in the Pacific Coast League. In the faster company at the AAA level, Locklin's playing time diminished as a reserve outfielder and his average dropped to .267 with his power numbers also decreasing.
Locklin lost three prime years at age 23-25, serving in the Air Force during the Korean War, 1952-54.
When he returned from the service in 1955, he went right to the big club, playing in 16 games with Cleveland, nine of them as a pinch-hitter or pinch-runner. He hit just .167.
The Indians kept him on the roster to start the 1956 season. He appeared in just nine games; the first eight as a PH or PR. In his only start, on May 30, he got his only hit of the season and was farmed out to Indianapolis with a lifetime .167 average.
Locklin never returned to the majors. He played five more years, all at the AAA level with Indy (1956), Miami (1957), Minneapolis (1958-60) and San Diego (1957-59).
After his playing days, Locklin returned to Appleton where he was a junior high school teacher, counselor and coach, and supervised the city's youth baseball program.
Locklin never had a baseball card contemporary with his playing days. He does appear in the 1974 Ed Broder collectors' issue set of Pacific Coast League "popcorn" cards picturing Coast League players of 1957-58.
Initially I worked with the 1956 Topps card of Larry Doby to provide the background for my '56 Locklin. To make the colorized player portrait match the overall look of the night-game background, it would have been too dark.
I decided to work with the 1956 Art Houtteman background, which better matched the portrait in brightness. I had to move some things around, including flipping the entire background horizontally, and make other adjustments to erase the Houtteman portrait and action pictures.
There aren't many pictures of Locklin available on the internet, and no full-length shots. So I used the batting pose from Doby's card, lightening the skin, taking some weight off of the face and changing a few uniform details. As with most action pictures on original '56 Topps cards, you can't really make out who the player is, anyway.
On back, I repurposed two of the cartoons that I previously used on my Tom Gastall custom card (see my blog for May 1, 2011) and added a cartoon from the 1958 Red Schoendienst card.
Because of the cartoons on back, creating custom cards in the format of 1956 Topps is more difficult than most, but since that is one of all-time favorite Topps sets, I enjoy the challenge.