Friday, September 19, 2014

'59 custom doubles Hurricane Hazle's card count

Yesterday I explained why I am compelled to create custom cards for former Milwaukee Braves pennant-chase hero Bob Hazle.

Shown above is a custom card I created showcasing Hazle as a Detroit Tiger in 1959, the year after he was sold by the Braves.

Today's fans and collectors may not know the significance of Hazle's nickname, "Hurricane."

Here's what I wrote nearly a decade ago in my Bleacher Bum column in the Dec. 2, 2005, Sports Collectors Digest.

Why 'Hurricane'?
The sporting press was more colorful in the 1950s, although the era of great baseball nicknames was drawing to a close. Bob Hazle got one of the last really good ones. It wasn't just alliterative appeal that made it memorable, there was historic and geographic context. Hazle was born in Laurens S.C., and played his first season of pro ball in Columbia, S.C., in 1950.

What Hurricane Katrina is to the current generation. Hurricane Hazel was to the previous one. Besides its massive toll of death and destruction, Hazel stuck in the national psyche because it hit at a time when television coverage of such human tragedies was coming of age. In 1954, for the first time, U.S. households with a television set surpassed the 50 percent mark.

The National Hurricane Center had only begun officially naming tropical storms in 1953. The following year Hazel was up in the alphabetical rotation when a storm began forming in the Caribbean on Oct. 5.

A week later Hazel hit Haiti, leaving an estimated 1,000 dead or missing. A handful more died in Bermuda. The storm struck the Carolina Coast on Oct. 14, making landfall near the border of North and South Carolina. Hazel's winds were a sustained 150 miles per hour and the Category 4 blow was preceded by a storm surge of over 14 feet.

Hazel was an especially fast-moving storm, but unpredictable in the path that it cut. More than 90 Americans died in 12 hours as the storm raged through Virginia, uprooted trees on the White House lawn and sliced through western New York state before crossing Lake Ontario and becoming the most famous storm in Canadian history.

Toronto was pounded with winds of nearly 70 mph, but it was the accompanying deluge that did the deadliest damage. Nearly eight inches of rain fell in 24 hours, with another three inches the next day -- an estimated 300 million tons of water. Flooding claimed 81 lives and 4,000 families were left homeless in southern Ontario.

In the U.S. and Canada, damage from the storm, adjusted to 2014 dollars, was more than $1.9 billion, putting it among the top  20 to that time. As would become policy following such a deadly storm, the name "Hazel" was retired from hurricane nomenclature.

Tomorrow I'll show you the last of my Bob Hazle custom cards and tell you about the time I met him at a card show.

You can purchase this card. You can obtain a copy of this custom card for $12.50, postpaid. E-mail me at for ordering details. Illustrated lists of all available custom baseball and football cards can be found on my blog post of July 17.

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