Monday, July 28, 2014

'55T is my choice for Phil Paine custom card

A guy like me could make Phil Paine  custom cards 'til the cows come home.

Despite having pitched in the major leagues for six seasons (1951, 1954-57 Boston/Milwaukee Braves, 1958 St. Louis Cardinals) in the midst of the Topps-Bowman bubblegum card wars, Paine appeared in only one mainstream card set, 1958 Topps. He is also found in the 1954 and 1955 Johnston Cookies Braves regional issues.

As is my wont, rather than taking a lot of time rehashing Paine's career, I'll refer you to an online article by Nelson "Chip" Greene from the Society for American Baseball Research's player biography project: .

Just a couple of things that struck me . . .
  • Phil Paine's unusual name is the result of his first name being that of his father's best friend; his middle name, Steere, is an old Rhode Island colonial family name.
  • Many sources, including Greene, cite Paine as having been the first major leaguer to play in Japan's major leagues. Fellow SABR biographer Greg Erion, however, refutes that, saying that Leo Kiely was actually the first. According to Erion, Kiely debuted on Aug. 8, 1953, for the Mainichi Orions of Japan's Pacific League. Paine, he says, didn't pitch for the Nishitetsu Lions until Aug. 23.
Both Kiely, who had pitched for the Red Sox in 1951, and Paine, were in the Army at the time and pitched a game or two a week as their military schedule allowed. credits Kiely with a 6-0 record and 1.80 ERA, and Paine with a 4-3 record and 1.77 ERA.
  • The back of Paine's 1958 Topps card mentions that he was "traded during the last off-season" by the Braves to the Cubs. I can find no mention of that in various baseball references. On April 19, 1958, the Cardinals (with whom he is pictured on his 1958 Topps card) selected Paine off waivers from the Braves.
  • Paine almost returned to the Japanese professional leagues for 1959. He had toured Japan with the St. Louis Cardinals after the 1958 season. On Dec. 4, he was traded to the Dodgers with Wally Moon for Gino Cimoli. Los Angeles assigned him to their Spokane farm for '59 so Paine opted to sign with the Kintetsu Pearls for what he said was twice what he'd make in the U.S.
After figuring that he needed only a few more days of big league service to qualify for the major league pension, however, Paine decided to remain in the States. He never got those days. He spent the entire 1959 season at Spokane, then played with Vancouver in 1960-61 before retiring.
  • Paine never started a game in the major leagues. He does, however, have an enviable won-loss record of 10-1 in 95 games, a .909 win percentage. The acknowledged major league leader in that stat is Al Spalding's .795; among modern (career entirely post WWII) pitchers, Whitey Ford leads with .690. In his 11 seasons in the minor leagues, Paine's record was 75-63 with a 3.71 ERA.
Because he was a Milwaukee Brave active in the era of my greatest interest in the team and baseball cards, I won't rule out other Phil Paine custom cards in the future, though I have nothing currently on the drawing board. 

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