Tuesday, April 24, 2012

Dick Marlowe's belated rookie card

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.

In my last entry, I told you about Roy Hawes' rookie card in the 1955 Bowman set; a card that was issued four years after his only cup of coffee in the major leagues.

This time, we have a similar story . . . about Dick Marlowe's card in the 1955 Bowman set. Like Hawes, Marlowe had made his major league debut in 1951. Unlike Hawes, he had played some or all of each season in the bigs from 1951-56.

To be technically factual, Marlowe also had a 1953 baseball card. Because it was the regionally issued Glendale hot dogs Tigers team set, however, it is not, by most accepted hobby definitions, a "rookie card." And, it is so scarce that even if you ever found one, it would probably have a price tag too daunting for many collectors (at least in comparison to his '55B).

Marlowe's claim to baseball fame is that in 1952 he pitched a perfect game in the high minors.

After having signed with the Detroit Tigers as a 19-year-old in 1948, the long (6'2"), lank (165 lbs.) right-hander had enjoyed a couple of decent seasons in Class A ball, 1948-49, winning 27 and losing 16.

In the stiffer competition of Class AAA ball with Toledo in the American Association, Marlowe was 17-20 in 1950-51.

The Tigers shifted him to the team's other AAA club, Buffalo in the International League, for 1952. Towards the end of a 10-10 season, lightning struck for Marlowe.

Pitching in Baltimore on Friday night, Aug. 15, Marlowe through a perfect game to beat the Orioles 2-0. Marlowe accomplished the gem on just 84 pitches. It was only the second perfect game in IL history; the next perfect-o in the league wouldn't come for another 48 years, until Tomo Okha in 2000. At that point in baseball history, only six perfect games had been thrown in the major leagues.

1953 Glendale Meats
Back in Buffalo on Aug. 26, the Bisons and fans had a "night" for Marlowe, showering him with gifts. He was presented with a television, a $100 savings bond, a set of golf clubs, an electric clock, cigars, a travel kit and a virtual wardrobe of shirts, slacks, ties and hats -- and a live 31-pound white turkey. His wife was presented with an imported hand bag. Teammate Joe Erautt, who had caught Marlowe's perfect game, was given a fishing rod and reel.

Perhaps the best gift Marlowe received was another September call-up to Detroit.

In 1951, Marlowe had made his major league debut on Sept. 19, when he pitched the final inning of an 8-1 loss at Philadelphia.

He got his first major league start on a week later at St. Louis, but was knocked out of the box in the first inning, giving up six runs on five hits and two walks to take the loss 7-1.

In September on 1952, Marlowe worked in four games, with an undistinguished 0-2 record.

Despite that, he remained on the Detroit staff for the 1953-54 seasons, with an 11-11 record.

Marlowe was returned to Buffalo to begin the 1955 season. He had a 9-10 record and 3.34 ERA. That earned him another September call-up with Detroit. He again appeared in four games, garnering a complete-game win at home against the A's for a 1-0 record (with a save) and an ERA of 1.80.

Marlowe's season began with Detroit in 1954, but after going 1-1 in seven games, he was sent back down in mid-May. Despite being only 1-5 with a 5.58 ERA for Charleston of the American Association, Marlowe was claimed off waivers by the Chicago White Sox on Sept. 17.

He pitched only a single inning for the White Sox, relieving in a 7-6 loss. He gave up two hits, including a home run and a triple, along with a walk.

Marlowe end his pro career in the Pacific Coast League in 1957, going 1-2 with Vancouver and 0-6 with Portland.

He died in 1968 at the age of only 39.

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