Tuesday, August 5, 2014

'57-style custom marks Nippy Jones' Braves days

Though he played all or part of eight seasons in the National League between 1946-57, there aren't many career-contemporary cards of Nippy Jones in the hobby.

As far as mainstream issues, he is only found in 1950 Bowman and 1952 Topps. In 1949 he was in the Eureka National League player stamps set of 200; the same year he was one of 25 players in the crudely executed MP & Co. strip card set. 

And while he played 13 seasons between 1943 and 1960 in the high minors, his baseball card legacy there is also light. He is one of six Sacramento Solons known in the MD Super Service team issue, and one of 10 in the 1958 Union Oil Solons set. 

There's a chance another Nippy Jones minor league card might be out there. After the Philadelphia Phillies claimed Jones in the Rule 5 minor league draft in 1951, he played eight games for them in 1952 before being sent to Baltimore, then in the International League. Globe Printing created a team set for the Orioles in 1952, but so far only 11 players are known from a set that should have at least 18, and Jones is not among them.

Jones played the entire period 1953 through 1956 with Sacramento in the Pacific Coast League. In mid-1957, when Joe Adcock went down with injury, the Milwaukee Braves, in a tight pennant race, bought Jones from Sac'to as backup to Frank Torre.

Jones played in 30 games between July 14 and the end of the season, at first base and as a right-handed pinch-hitter. He was on the Braves' post-season roster and in Game 4 gained baseball immortality.

Milwaukee was down two games to one against the Yankees. Game 4 went into extra innings tied at 4-4. New York scored in the top of the 10th.

In the home half of the 10th, Jones led off, pinch-hitting for Warren Spahn. On a (very) low and (very) inside pitch from Tommy Byrne, Jones claimed he had been hit. Home plate umpire Augie Donatelli didn't see it that way, but when Jones called for the ball, and showed the ump a spot of his shoe polish on it, the call was reversed. 

Jones was awarded first base and lifted for pinch-runner Felix Mantilla. The Braves went on to score three runs in the inning, tying the Series 2-2. It was a pivotal moment in the Braves' march to the World Championship.

It was also the end of Jones' big league career. He was back in the P.C.L. in 1958, laying three more seasons before retiring from pro ball.

I can't fault Topps for not issuing a card of Jones as a Milwaukee Brave. By the time he joined the team in mid-July the entire run of 1957 baseball cards had been issued, or very shortly would be. 

Topps did, however, take photos of Jones when Milwaukee visited Brooklyn. One of those photos appeared in the on-going sales from the Topps "Vault" and now it appears on my custom card.

My custom combines two of my favorite baseball card interests, the Milwaukee Braves and 1957 Topps.

You can bet this won't be the last of my customs to augment what Topps created for '57 Braves.

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