Monday, October 8, 2012

Custom card created for "Mickey Mantle's Caddy"

While recently emailing with my new favorite photo source, Keith Olbermann sent me a Topps scan of Jack Reed, whom he described as "Mickey Mantle's Caddy."

I had never heard of Jack Reed, since by the time he made his major league debut in 1961, I had pretty much transitioned from a baseball fan to an AFL football fan.

So I googled the name and made two discoveries. Jack Reed was only one of three player's who at various times were known as Mickey Mantle's caddy, and, more importantly, Reed was a multi-sport athlete at Ole Miss. He is one of only a handful of athletes to play in a major college football bowl game (Jan. 1, 1953 Sugar Bowl loss to Georgia Tech) and a World Series (1961).

That association with the Rebels sealed the deal . . . I was going to create a Jack Reed custom card.

In case you don't understand the "caddy" reference, it's an old baseball term for a player who is often called as a late-inning defensive replacement and/or as a pinch-runner for an aging or hobbled veteran. Sammy Byrd, who was better-known as "Babe Ruth's legs," was probably the best-known of that type of player, running for the old war horse in the early 1930s. 

Today, with the designated hitter, you don't hear the term any more.

Reed was Mantle's caddy from 1961-63. He followed Bob Cerv in that role, and preceded Ross Moschitto.

Not wanting to reinvent the wheel, I'll not attempt to give you a full biography of Reed. Thomas Van Hyning did an admirable job of that in the SABR Baseball Biography Project. You can read it here: .

I will, however, mention two things:

The first is the baseball highlight for which Reed is best known, outside his role as Mantle's defensive replacement.

Reed's only major league home run won an historic Yankees game. In the June 24, 1962, game at Detroit, Reed didn't even get into the contest before the 13th inning. 

After scoring six runs off Frank Lary in the top of the first, and another in the second, the Yankees were held scoreless for 19 innings as the Tigers battled back to a tie by the bottom of the sixth inning.

Mantle had started the game in right field. Joe Pepitone came in defensively in the seventh. He walked in the eighth and struck out in the 11th. Phil Linz pinch-hit for Pepitone in the 13th, drawing a walk. In the bottom of the 13th, Reed entered the game in right field.

Reed grounded out in the 15th, struck out in the 18th and grounded out again in the 20th. In the 22nd inning, after Maris had walked in front of him, Reed hit a home run off Phil Regan and gave the Yankees a 9-7 lead. Jim Bouton, who had come on in relief in the 16th, held the Tigers and the Yankees won the longest game in their history. 

Second, Reed is one of only a handful of non-pitcher major leaguers to have fewer plate appearances than games played. In his three-year big league career, Reed appeared in 222 games, but came to the plate only 144 times. 

Since Van Hyning's article did such a thorough job of covering Jack Reed, the player, I'll limit myself here to Jack Reed, the card.

Given Reed's tenure with the Yankees, I could logically have chosen to format my custom in any of Topps' issues between 1961-1964. 

I dismissed 1961 because, while Topps was sometimes prescient in giving a card to a player before he had actually appeared in the majors, it didn't happen often. More importantly, Reed has already appeared on a collectors' issue card in a format similar to '61 Topps. 

Likewise, I dismissed 1964 because Topps didn't often print cards of players whose career had ended the previous season.

More pragmatically, and the reason I likewise opted not to go with a 1963 format, is that in 1961, 1963, and 1964, Topps card backs had "complete" major and minor league stats . . . and I didn't have those stats. As I've mentioned before, the new "baseball bible,", is not totally comprehensive in some minor league stats of the 1960s and earlier, notably runs and RBIs, which I'd need to recreate a back design for any of those years.

So, almost by default, my Jack Reed custom was going to take the shape of a 1962 Topps card. This was going to be a first for me . . . I'd never previously attempted to make a card in that format.

By amazing coincidence, the first 1962 card I looked at on the site was Frank Thomas, and the cartoon highlight on the back was perfectly adaptable to a Jack Reed card, requiring only minor date and stat changes.

Creating a template for the front was more challenging. Poring over scans of original 1962 Topps baseball cards I found a considerable diversity in the "color" of the wood-look background. Because of differences in printing registration, some were quite muddy and some had too much of a red tint. Ultimately I found a Roger Maris card that looked "just right" on the Heritage Auctions site. 

You can see the result here.

My Jack Reed custom is by no means his first baseball card. 

It's true, he never made it on a "real" Topps card. I have to wonder whether Reed might have made the cut in 1962 when Topps expanded its baseball set from 589 to 598 if the company hadn't had to add a dozen or so cards each of the expansion Houston Colt .45s and New York Mets.

Both before and after his major league days, Reed was included in issues of the Richmond Virginians, the Class AAA International League farm club of the Yankees.

In 1960, the Virginians used black-and-white player photos of the players, including Jack Reed, on their game tickets. These are quite scarce. In 1966, Royal Crown Cola sponsored a team set of carton inserts with players -- and manager Jack Reed -- of the Columbus Clippers (a AA Yankees affiliate in the Southern Association) featured in b/w photos. These are not as rare as the 1960 Richmond ticket-cards, but finding a specific player when you're looking for him is a formidable challenge.

As a member of two World Championship Yankees teams, Reed did not escape the notice of producers of collectors' issue cards during the last baseball card "boom." 

In 1986, Renata Galasso included Reed in the color version of the 1961-format team set created to honor the '61 champs. Five years later, on the 30th anniversary of the team, Reed was part of a set of Susan Rini art postcards issued by Historic Limited Editions. Both of these cards are plentiful in the hobby market. There may be one or two other latter-day Jack Reed cards that have escaped my attention.

I do notice that Reed must be an amenable autograph signer, there are lots of autographed balls and photos available in the hobby market and via eBay.

Unfortunately, I haven't yet found a photo of Jack Reed in his Ole Miss football uniform . . . I'm sure I could find room for him in my 1955 All-American "update" set. 

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