Wednesday, June 10, 2015

1952 Topps survivors now stand at 50

The death of Al Rosen on March 13 brought to 50 the number of surviving subjects from the iconic 1952 Topps baseball card set. (That number is predicated on the accuracy of biographical data on the web site, and my reading thereof. We should not discount the possibility that the death of one or more of the players in '52T have passed without the web site being aware.)

Considering the '52T set was issued 63 years ago, I would not have guessed that 12.3% of the players appearing on those cards are still alive today.

As of today, here is a list of those survivors by their current age, oldest to youngest.

Between the 82-year-olds, Del Greco is the youngest, having been born April 7, 1933. Brodowski was born July 26, 1932. Del Greco was only the third youngest player in the major leagues in 1952. Bill Bell was born Oct. 24, 1933 and Jim Waugh was born Nov. 25, 1933. All three were teammates on the 1952 Pittsburgh Pirates. Neither Waugh nor Bell was included in 1952 Topps. Waugh made his lone bubblegum card appearance in 1953 Topps, and Bell was never on a mainstream baseball card.

Another peculiarity is that 10 of the surviving players -- 20% -- are named Bob or Bobby.

The first player in 1952 Topps to die was Howie Fox, who was killed Oct. 9, 1955 in a bar fight at a tavern he owned in San Antonio; he was 34.

Two other '52T subjects died in the 1950s. Billy Meyer, who was the Pirates' manager in 1952, died in 1957 at age 59. Snuffy Stirnweiss, who is pictured in 1952 Topps with his last major league team, the Indians, was 39 when he died in 1958.

Eighteen of the players, coaches and managers from 1952 Topps died in the 1960s. In the 1970s, 31 more passed. The 1980s saw the death of 50 more. From 1990-99, the loss was 86. Deaths since then have been: 2000 --10, 2001 --10, 2002 --15, 2003 --11; 2004 --8, 2005 --7, 2006 --13, 2007 --14, 2008 --10, 2009 --7, 2010 --21, 2011 --13, 2012 --10, 2013 --8 and 20014 --8.

So far in 2015, players from 1952 Topps who have died are Rocky Bridges, Don Johnson, Minnie Minoso and Rosen.

Considering that more Americans are living longer today, and that at least for some portion of their adult lives, the players of 1952 were active athletes, its impossible to speculate on how long the remaining 50 will be with us. 

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