Monday, March 14, 2011

Bonus baby busted for parking tickets

Uncommon commons. Based on contemporary accounts from The Sporting News; tidbits that as a collector of baseball and football cards I found interesting because they help 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.

A couple of days back we featured Jack Parks, a player who appeared on both regular and Doubleheaders Topps cards in 1955, but never had a major league appearance. Here's another player in the same situation.

Scouts called Tom Casagrande the "next Babe Ruth," when he was being recruited out of Fordham University. At over 6'2" and 210 lbs., he was not only a powerful pitcher, but also swung a big bat.

The Phillies won the bidding war by paying Casagrande a $40,000 bonus, with an eye towards converting him to a slugging first base replacement for Eddie Waitkis if he didn't make it as a major league pitcher.

In his first pro season, in 1951, he was hitting only .238 for Class B Wilmington when he was sent to the mound for his start in pro ball on June 6. He gave up six hits and eight runs before being relieved in the fifth inning. He was tagged with the 11-3 loss.

He won his next start five days later, and ended the season with a 14-7.  

During spring training at Clearwater, Fla., in 1953, Casagrande's teammates were surprised one evening when local police scooped up the youngster at the team's hotel and took him downtown. 

At the police station, the Phillies' prospect was faced with the choice of paying a $50 bond for half a dozen overdue parking tickets, or spending the night in a cell. It seemed Casagrande was in the habit of parking in a metered lot at the spring training facility, but only putting in the first nickel, then letting the meter expire during the day. 

Casagrande was able to pull the $50 bond out of wallet, but he lost the money when the team went north three days before his court appearance, and he had to forfeit the bond.

Casagrande played seven seasons in the minor leagues. He had three stints with the Phillies' organization, 1951-53, 1955 and 1957, also spending time in the farm systems of the Boston Red Sox (1954-55) and Washington Senators (1956). He had a lifetime minor league pitching record of 50-37 with a 3.27 ERA. His batting never reached Ruthian levels; his career mark was .241.

Among the highlights of Casagrande's pro career were a pair of no-hitters he pitched just a month apart in 1951. The first was a 10-inning no-hitter on July 19, 1951, for Wilmington of the Inter-State League against the York White Roses. Casagrande lost the game when York scored in the bottom of the 11th inning. On Aug. 20, Casagrande pitched a seven-inning ho-hitter in the first half of a double-header against Harrisburg. He won that game 4-0.

After baseball Casagrande was a railroad brakeman and conductor.

The regular 1955 Topps card was his only major baseball card appearance.

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