Saturday, October 1, 2011

Brown damned with faint praise

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.

I don't know why it grabbed my attention, but something that I read in a late-1960 issue of TSN caught my eye.

It was a short mention of the Milwaukee Braves' purchase of back-up catcher Dick Brown from the Chicago White Sox on Nov. 28. I probably took notice because I don't remember Brown ever appearing on a baseball card with the Braves.

Turns out there was good reason for that . . . about a week after the Braves acquired Brown, he was traded to the Detroit Tigers along with Billy Bruton, Chuck Cottier and Terry Fox for Frank Bolling and (a year later, as "the player to be named later") Neil Chrisley.

Or maybe I took note of the transaction because of what TSN's Milwaukee beat writer Bob Wolf had to say about the purchase. Talk about being underwhelmed . . . Wolf wrote, "chances are that (Brown) will prove a thoroughly adequate No. 2 man to Crandall."

As it developed, the Braves were wise to be seeking a backup for their long-time star catcher; Crandall played only five games behind the plate for Milwaukee in 1961 due to an injured shoulder. The Braves filled the void by bringing up 19-year-old Joe Torre.

As a kid scouring wax packs in the 1950s and early 1960s for Braves' cards, it was always fun to see who Topps thought might be the next Milwaukee catcher. We enjoyed a parade of guys like Sam Calderone, Charlie White, Jack Parks, Bob Roselli, Del Rice, Hawk Taylor, Stan Lopata and Charlie Lau.

Another great line from Bob Wolf was found a couple of weeks later, in his account of the Dec. 15, 1960, trade of Braves' pitchers Juan Pizarro and Joey Jay to the Reds for Roy McMillan.  
Wolf described Pizarro and Jay as pitchers of "perennial promise."

Dick Brown had a nine-year career in the majors between 1957-65, batting .244 lifetime. He had only one season, 1962 with the Tigers, when he caught in more than 100 games.

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