Saturday, April 7, 2012

Dale Long went from last-to last-to last in 1951

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.

Dale Long is best remembered for setting a major league record by hitting a home run in eight consecutive games with the Pirates in 1956. While that record was tied by Don Mattingly in 1987 and Ken Griffey, Jr., in 1993, it has never been broken.

He is also remembered as one of the few modern-era major leaguers to play as a left-handed catcher (two games with the Cubs in 1958).

I don't know if this is any kind of a record, but I found it interesting . . . 

In 1951, Long was waived from the last-place team in the National League to the cellar-dwellers in the American League and then released to the last-place team in the Pacific Coast League.

Long had begun his pro career in 1944, and played in the Reds, Red Sox, Tigers and Yankees systems when he was drafted by the Pittsburgh Pirates in November, 1950. 

The Pirates brought Long to spring training in 1951, planning on him as a power-hitting first baseman. When Bucs brass decided to bring in their star slugger Ralph Kiner from the outfield to first base, they decided to try to make a left-handed catcher out of Long. 

Neither of those experiments worked out, so when the Pirates traded for Joe Garagiola, they put Long, who was hitting only .167 at the time on waivers. At the time, Pittsburgh was in 8th place in the National League. 

The St. Louis Browns claimed Long on waivers. At that point, the Brownies were also in last place, 17 games off the pace, and were desperate to find a first baseman who could hit with power. 

When he was able to generate only two runs on a .238 average in seven weeks, the Browns released Long.

With no other club in either major league interested in him, Long went to the Pacific Coast League, where he joined the last-place San Francisco Seals in the outfield. He ended the 1951 season at S.F. with a .266 BA and four home runs in 36 games. He was one of 49 position players the Seals trotted out that season.  

Long returned to the Pirates' farm system with New Orleans in 1952, but didn't get back to the major leagues until 1955. From then through 1963 he played in the bigs with the Pirates, Cubs, Giants, Yankees and expansion Washington Senators. His lifetime major league marks were a .267 BA, 132 home runs and 467 RBI in 10 seasons. 

Long didn't appear on a mainstream baseball card until his debut in the 1955 Topps set. He then appeared with Topps each year through 1963. Collectors may also remember him as part of the 1962 Post cereal card set and Salada tea coins.

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