Monday, May 30, 2016

Long hits, longer HRs marked Hall's '57 season

Uncommon commons: In more than 30 years in sportscards publishing I have thrown hundreds of notes into files about the players – usually non-star players – who made up the majority of the baseball and football cards I collected as a kid. Today, I keep adding to those files as I peruse microfilms of The Sporting News from the 1880s through the 1960s. I found these tidbits brought some life to the player pictures on those cards. I figure that if I enjoyed them, you might too.

On March 8, I told the story here about Dick Hall's 25-day "no hitter".

The other day, while reading 1957 issues of TSN, another Dick Hall story caught my eye.

Hall, you may remember, came up to the Pittsburgh Pirates in 1952 as an infielder/outfielder. He didn't start pitching at the big-league level until 1955, and never achieved a winning record in any season prior t 1961, after he'd been dealt to the Baltimore Orioles.

Hall spent 1955 in the Bucs' starting rotation, where he earned a 6-6 record with a 3.91 ERA. He was transitioned to the relief corps in 1956, going 0-7 with a 4.76 ERA.

His 1957 season didn't start out any better. About the best thing you can say is that in six relief appearances between April 21-May 5 he didn't lose any games (he didn't win any, either). The Pirates, however, lost all six games in which Hall pitched.

Hall's season debut in 1957 didn't go badly. He pitched the 7th inning in a 4-7 loss at Brooklyn, but didn't give up any hits, didn't walk anybody and struck out Gil Hodges.

The next day in the Polo Grounds, Hall gave up a hit and a walk, but no runs in 2/3 of an inning, in a 1-3 Giants win.

Things began to go worse on April 24 against the Phillies in Connie Mack Stadium. Hall again was called on to pitch the 7th inning. The Pirates were down 2-7. After getting two quick outs, Hall gave up a long home run to Stan Lopata (more about that later). He then hit Ed Bouchee and walked Willie Jones before getting the third out.

Hall gave up another home run in his next assignment, in Pittsburgh against the St. Louis Cardinals. Hall was called on in the top of the 9th, with the Redbirds ahead 4-0. He struck out Ken Boyer, then gave up a moon shot to Wally Moon before inducing outs from Hal and Bobby Smith. The Pirates batted around to tie up the game in the bottom of the 9th, and the contest went 13 innings before the Cardinals prevailed on a Stan Musial home run. Hall had been relieved by Roy Face in the 10th.

The following day was the nadir for Dick Hall. St. Louis was ahead 4-2 when Hall was called on with one out in the 8th. The first batter he faced, Walker Cooper hit a two-run pinch-hit home run. Hall went back to the mound in the top of the 9th. He walked Don Blasingame to open the inning, got a lineout from Eddie Kasko, the gave up a double to Musial and a triple to Chuck Harmon, scoring two more runs. He was then taken out and the Cards went on to win 2-9.

Hall next pitched on May 5, with the Redlegs visiting. The score was tied 1-1 when Hall entered the game with one out and two on in the top of the 5th. As happened on May 1, the first batter he faced, Frank Robinson, hit a home run; he got out of the inning with no further damage. 

Back on the mound in the 6th, Hall got a fly out from Hoak. then gave up a pair of singles and wild-pitched the bases full before being lifted for Ron Kline, who got out of the inning with no runs scored. Nevertheless, the Pirates went down 2-6.

In 5-2/3 innings of work to open the season, Hall had given up nine hits and seven runs, including the four home runs in successive games. He'd walked three, struck out three and hit a batter.

Shortly after the May 5 outing, Hall was placed on the disabled list. He returned to action on June 12 against the Redlegs and June 14 against the Cubs. In 4-1/3 innings in those two games, he gave up eight hits and five earned runs.

The Pirates then sent him out to AAA Columbus, were he finished the 1957 season with a 4-7 record.

Hall didn't play at all in 1958, he sat out the season with hepatitis. He returned in 1959 with the Pirates' AAA team at Salt Lake City. The rest cure had done good things for the pitcher and he led the Pacific Coast League with an 18-5 record. His 1.87 ERA was second-best in the circuit.

Hall got a September call-up to Pittsburgh, but in two games with the Pirates he could not approach his AAA success and he was traded to the Kansas City A's for the 1960 season.

In detailing Hall's tribulations early in the 1957 season, The Sporting News made a point of mentioning that two of the four home runs he gave up went for exceptional flights. 

On April 24 in Philadelphia, his home run to Stan Lopata cleared the roof of the double-decked left field stands, traveling an estimated 475 feet. Wally Moon's homer on April 30 at Forbes Field sailed over the right field roof. Moon was only the fourth major leaguer to do so, joining Babe Ruth, Ted Beard and Mickey Mantle (exhibition game).

Friday, May 27, 2016

Jim Brown 1957 Topps-style custom

The 1957 Topps football card set included cards of three of the Top 10 draft picks in the 1957 NFL Draft conducted on Nov. 26, 1956.

The set had cards of No. 1 draft pick Paul Hornung, No. 7 Clarence Peaks and No. 10 Jerry Tubbs. Notably absent was a card for No. 6 selection, Jim Brown.

Along with 2nd round pick Jon Arnett, 4th rounder Ron Kramer, and No. 9 pick Don Bosseler, Brown didn't make his Topps card debut until the 1958 set. (Jim Parker, pick #8, didn't appear until 1959, #3 selection John Brodie didn't debut until 1961 and No. 5 pick, Len Dawson, didn't get a Topps rookie card until the 1964 set.)

My most recent 1950s Topps-style custom card imagines what a 1957 Jim Brown rookie card might have looked like.

Notice that his name appears as "Jimmy" Brown.  Topps used that version on its 1958-62 cards. The gum company did not go with "Jim" until its final Brown card, in the 1963 set.

By contrast, Fleer in 1961, Post in 1962 and Philadelphia 1964-66, all used the "Jim" appellation. 

There were lots of cartoon choices for the back of my 1957 Jim Brown card. Unfortunately, I couldn't use my No. 1 choice, a cartoon figure of a lacrosse player on the back of card #25, Eagles end Thomas Scott. That lacrosse player was white and my photoshop skills are just not sufficient for me to convert that image to a black man without making him look like a character in black-face. 

So I went with cartoons from the backs of '57T card #128 Lennie Moore and #64 Maurice Bassett. Bassett was out of the NFL after the 1956 season, but he is shown with the Cleveland Browns in the '57 set, wearing #32, the number Brown wore during his career in the NFL.

You can order this card. Unless noted, all of my custom cards are available to collectors for $12.50 each, postpaid for one or two cards; $9.95 each for three or more (mix/match). To order, email me at for directions on paying via check/money order, or to my PayPal account.

Thursday, May 26, 2016

Checklist 1961-63 Post, Jell-O customs

Until now, there has been no place where all of my custom cards could be found in checklist form.  It is my intention to update this posting as new cards are created. Similar checklists for my other baseball, football and non-sport custom cards will also be posted.

Custom card availability. Unless noted, all of my custom cards are available to collectors for $12.50 each, postpaid for one or two cards; $9.95 each for three or more (mix/match). To order, email me at for directions on paying via check/money order, or to my PayPal account. Complete 1961-63 Post box back panels or 1963 Jell-O boxes are $12.50 each, postpaid.

 1961 Post Cereal box-back
201 Carl Yastrzemski, Red Sox
204 Jackie Jensen, Red Sox
218 Sandy Koufax, Dodgers
222 Jim Kaat, Twins
241 Frank Howard, Dodgers
243 Ted Kluszewski, Angels

1961 Post Cereal
222 Jim Kaat, Minneapolis

1962 Post Cereal box-back
204 Robin Roberts, Yankees
215 Gene Conley, Red Sox
216 Stan Musial, Cardinals
224 Warren Spahn, Braves
240 Billy Williams, Cubs
246 Gil Hodges, Mets

1963 Post Cereal box-back
207 Bo Belinsky, Angels
211 Lou Brock, Cubs
213 Jim Umbricht, Colt .45s
218 Duke Snider, Mets
221 Jim Bouton, Yankees
232 Jake Gibbs, Yankees
250 Bob Uecker, Braves

1963 Jell-O box
Mickey Mantle (reprint)
Mickey Mantle (new)
Pete Rose

Tuesday, May 24, 2016

Good news! My custom cards again available

It has taken almost six months, but I have completed arrangements to once again allow me to make available my custom baseball, football and non-sports cards to collectors.

Basically I have "outsourced" the actual printing, cutting, etc., of my cards. While this may occasionally add a few days to fulfillment, it should work out well for all.

Beginning immediately, you can order any of my customs, old or new. The price structure remains that same. One or two cards are $12.50 each, postpaid. Three or more cards are $9.95 each, postpaid. No further discounts are possible.

You can order cards by emailing me at for details on where and how to remit payment, either by check/money order or via PayPal. 

Over the next couple of days, I will be posting here complete checklists of all my available custom cards.

I'm glad I was able to work out a system by which collectors who enjoy my customs can obtain examples.

Sunday, May 22, 2016

Tolar couldn't play that way today

As I watched the NFL this season I noticed that more and more teams are featuring a "small" running back.

By and large these guys seem to be short -- 5'7" to 5'9" -- but quick; they're hitting holes and are gone before the opposing team seem to notice they've got the football. I'm thinking here of guys like Dexter McCluster, Maurice Jones-Drew, Jacquizz Rodgers and the like.

Then the other day , while reading some autumn back issues of the 1962 Sporting News on microfilm, I found a piece about a different sort of small pro running back from 50+ years ago.

The 1962

article was profiling what TSN called the two best running backs of the AFL: Cookie Gilchrist and Charley Tolar.

I knew about Gilchrist, but the Tolar name didn't ring any bells. 

It turns out he may have been the first pro running back described as a "human bowling ball." 

TSN described Tolar as 5'6" and 198 lbs. The paper said he was exceptionally quick with great balance and very strong. In 1962 he became the first Houston Oilers running back to pick up more than 1,000 yards rushing . . . 1,012 yards on 244 carries.

The article said his rushing style was to lower his head and use his helmet as a battering ram. In today's concussion-conscious NFL he couldn't get away with that. Dallas Cowboys linebacker E.J. Holub was quoted saying, "When you tackle Tolar you just butt helmets." Patriots guard Tony Sardisco, who also played defense, said, "Whenever I couldn't see where the ball went, I figured they gave it to Charley."

What I found especially interesting in the TSN article, and what inspired me to create a 1961 Fleer-style custom card (he was originally in the 1962 and 1963 Fleer football card sets and 1964 and 1965 Topps), was Tolar's off-season job as an oil- and gas-well fire fighter on the crew of the famed Red Adair.

Tolar told TSN that Adair was a big Oilers fan and asked him to join his crew fighting oil-field fires around the world. "I like travel, the money and the opportunities," Tolar said, "It's a lot of fun, too."

Adair's crew, including Tolar, fought the Gassi Touil fire in Algeria that came to be known as the "Devil's Cigarette Lighter." That Saharan desert fire blazed from November, 1961, to April, 1962.
"They say it was the worst one of all time," Tolar said. "We went back there twice and stayed about four weeks." On that job Tolar stayed in Algiers during some of the heaviest fighting of Algeria's war of independence from France. 

"I wasn't concerned about the danger," Tolar said, "but I didn't get much sleep with that gunfire and the cannons shooting off every night."

According to TSN, Tolar's work with Adair took him to East Pakistan (present-day Bangladesh), Iran, Algeria, the Sahara, Michigan and Texas.

Tolar had played high school football at Natchitoches (La.) Central as a 155-pound running back. Despite his size, he set a school record, gaining 1897 yards and 23 rushing touchdowns. He played his college ball right there in his hometown at Northwestern State University of Louisiana. He ran for 2,1994 yards in three seasons, leading the Gulf Coast Conference in rushing and scoring each year. He was twice MVP of the conference,

Tolar was drafted in the 27th round (319th player picked) of the 1959 NFL draft by the Pittsburgh Steelers. He signed an $8,000 contract with a $500 bonus, but was cut after the exhibition season.

With the formation of the American Football League, Tolar joined the Houston Oilers and became one the team's earliest stars and a fan favorite. He was part of the first AFL Championship team in 1960 and an AFL All-Star in 1961 ad 1962. He is one of the AFL's All-Time Top 10 rushers.

Tolar was elected to the Louisiana Hall of Fame in 1992. This career summary tells the story: Tolar biography .

Tolar died of cancer in 2003 at the age of 65. I have to wonder if he suffered in later life from the kind of trauma-related effects his rushing style must surely have brought on.

Wednesday, May 18, 2016

Cepeda struck out in All-Star play

One of the more popular new cards in the 1958 Topps set was that of Orlando Cepeda.

After three years in the minors in which he batted a cumulative .340 with an average of 24+ home runs, Cepeda opened the '58 season as the regular first baseman of the San Francisco Giants, who in those days were a constant threat to my Milwaukee Braves' pennant hopes.

Cepeda went on to win (unanimously) the NL Rookie of the Year Award as the Giants contended for much of the season. Cepeda hit .312 with 25 home runs; both were second-best on the team to Willie Mays. His 96 RBIs tied Mays. Cepeda's 38 doubles led the league. 

It didn't seem fair that with a first baseman like that, San Francisco was able to bring up Willie McCovey the following year, moving Cepeda to left field.

Cepeda went on to a 17-year major league career that saw him win an MVP and a World Series ring in 1967. He was elected to the Hall of Fame in 1999 by the Veterans Committee, after falling just short at 73.5% of the needed votes in his final year of eligibility (1994) by the baseball writers. His vote count in the course of his 15 years' of "regular" eligibility had been as low as 10.1% in 1982. This was a result, no doubt, of his 1978 conviction and imprisonment on marijuana smuggling charges.

While he did eventually make the Hall of Fame, it was not as a result of his All-Star Game highlight reel. There may not be, in fact, an All-Star who played in so many Midsummer Classics with so little offensive output.

Cepeda was selected for the NL All-Star squad 11 times in seven years (they played two A-S Games a year in 1959-62), and played in nine of those games. His All-Star batting record is .039 -- 1-for-27, with three strikeouts.

Here's a summary of Cepeda's All-Star futility . . . 
July 7, 1959   starting 1B  0-for-4
Aug. 3, 1959  reserve 1B  Did Not Play
July 11, 1960  reserve LF 0-for-1
July 13, 1960 reserve LF 0-2
July 11, 1961  starting LF  0-for-3
July 31, 1961  starting LF 0-for-3
July 10, 1962  starting 1B  0-for-3
July 30, 1962  starting 1B  0-for-1
     (drew a walk off Dave Stenhouse to load bases in bottom of 1st)
July 9, 1963  reserve 1B  Did Not Play
July 7, 1964  starting 1B  1-for-4
     (bloop single behind first off Dick Radatz in bottom of the 9th to score Mays and tie game at 4-4; Johnny Callison won with walk-off three-run homer)
July 11, 1967  starting 1B  0-for-6

I'm at a loss to explain how a guy who hit .297 over 17 years in the bigs could fare so badly in the All-Star Game . . . but there you have it.


Monday, May 16, 2016

Jaws-inspired U.S.S. Indianapolis Rails/Sails custom

The latest addition to my Rails & Sails custom card line was inspired by a recent viewing of a memorable scene from the 1975 blockbuster movie Jaws.

Jaws is one of those movies that I will almost always watch at least part of when it pops up on my television's on-screen guide.

On a recent Saturday afternoon I was switching over to Jaws during commercial breaks between innings of a ballgame I was watching.

One of the Jaws scenes I tuned into was the drunken one-upsmanship between the characters of marine biologist Hooper (played by Richard Dreyfuss) and shark-hunter Quint (Robert Shaw) comparing scars in the cabin of the becalmed Orca

I was again mesmerized by Quint's telling of his experience during the sinking of the U.S.S. Indianapolis and the subsequent shark frenzy that along with dehydration and madness caused by ingesting sea water took the lives of some 550 sailors and marines after the cruiser was sunk by a Japanese submarine.

The R&S card you see here is the result of being inspired by that monologue.

Subsequently I spent more than an hour on the Internet Movie Database web site reading about the movie.

I learned some interesting things about that scene . . . 
  • Much of the dialogue was written by Robert Shaw in an effort to give the crew something to film during down time created by yet another malfunction of the mechanical shark.
  • The scene was initially filmed with Shaw in a drunken state, which was not unusual for the actor during the movie's production. When the scene with the drunken Shaw proved to be totally unusable, it was re-shot the next day when Shaw had sobered up.
  • Due to on-going tax problems, Shaw never saw a dime of his earnings from the film. In fact, to keep the IRS at bay, Shaw was often flown to Canada on days he was not required for filming.
  • Quint mistakenly gives the date of the Indianapolis' sinking as June 29, 1945; in fact, the ship went down on July 30.
If you're a fan of the movie and have some time to kill, you might enjoy perusing the web site: IMDb Jaws site .

You can learn all you need to know about the Indianapois from a 1999 history by Patrick J. Finneran at the website: Indianapolis history. There's some interesting stuff on there about the ship's absence from Pearl Harbor on Dec. 7, 1941. The details provide fuel for speculation among those who believe the U.S knew of the impending Japanese attack.

The back of my custom Indianapolis card provides a wink and a nod to the connection between the Indianapolis and the movie. The lighthouse that appears at lower-right is the Gay Head light on Martha's Vineyard, which stood in for the fictional resort town of Amity in the movie. The lighthouse can be seen in several of the movie's scenes.

Saturday, May 14, 2016

Topps jumped gun with 1954 Scull card

Uncommon commons: In more than 30 years in sportscards publishing I have thrown hundreds of notes into files about the players – usually non-star players – who made up the majority of the baseball and football cards I collected as a kid. Today, I keep adding to those files as I peruse microfilms of The Sporting News from the 1880s through the 1960s. I found these tidbits brought some life to the player pictures on those cards. I figure that if I enjoyed them, you might too.

Angel Scull (it's pronounced "skool") enjoys a bit of baseball card hobby cred for being one of a handful of players in the mid-1950s who appeared on a Topps card, but who never appeared in a major-league ballgame.

It's a good thing that Topps included Scull in '54, because otherwise getting a baseball card of him would be a very daunting challenge. (More on that later).

Topps must have felt pretty confident that Scull would see action with the Washington Senators in 1954. He'd been to spring training with the Senators several times and looked poised for major league success.

Like many of the Cuban ballplayers on whom the Senators seemed to have a monopoly in the late 1940s-early 1960s, Scull was undersized at 5'8" and 165 lbs., but possessed exceptional speed. Additionally, Scull had a strong arm and was a slashing line drive hitter.

Scull had been a key component of the Cuban National team that defeated the U.S. and Mexico to win the 1951 Pan American Games in Argentina. He'd led the tournament participants with 14 RBI, four stolen bases and tied for the lead with three home runs. Cuba had defeated the U.S. 8-1 in the final. Rather than sending a team of college all-stars to these inaugural games, the U.S. was represented by the  Wake Forest University squad.

Immediately after the Pan Am tourney, Scull made his debut in Organized Baseball with Wellsville (N.Y.), where he hit .329 and led the Pennsylvania-Ontario-New York League, a Class D circuit, with 60 stolen bases.

He jumped to Class B ball in the Florida International League for 1952, but his stats are not found on the comprehensive web site. That may be because he spent part of the season with Havana and part with Fort Lauderdale, which franchise was taken over by the league on June 1, and moved to Key West for the remainder of the season.

In any event, in 1953 he had advanced to Class AAA with Charleston (WV) in the American Association, where he hit .286 with 29 steals. He never made that next big step to the majors. He spent the next nine years in the International League with Havana (1954-57), Toronto (1958-59), Montreal (1959-60), Syracuse (1961) and Atlanta (1962).

Scull had opened the 1962 season with Vancouver in the Pacific Coast Legaue, but was released and went to the Cardinals' AAA team at Atlanta in late July. According to the Sept. 15, 1962, Sporting News, the Crackers' signing of the (at least) 33-year-old Cuban " "drew scoffing laughs from many observers, but the Cuban retread turned out to be one of the loop's most terrifying hitters." Scull finished the season with his best batting mark since 1951, .324, nominally leading the team's hitters.

According to TSN, "One Atlanta fan showed his appreciation of Scull's efforts by presenting him with a 110-pound watermelon."

Scull went back to his homeland each winter to play in the Cuban League for 10 seasons from 1951-52 until Castro's Revolution made things dicey for Cubans playing in the U.S. He often led the league in offensive statistical catergories, including the batting championship in 1954-55 with a .370 mark. In 1997 he was elected to the Cuban Baseball Hall of Fame (in Miami).

From 1963-69, Scull played professionally in the Mexican and Mexican Southeast Leagues, mostly for Poza Rica (Veracruz). Mexican League stats for that era are not readily available.

Baseball card legacy
As mentioned earlier, Topps' inclusion of Angel Scull in its 1954 set makes it easy and inexpensive for a collector to own one of the Cuban player's cards.

His other career-contemporary baseball cards are rarely seen and/or expensive. 
Jim Elder postcard

Jim Elder, a collector who issued a number of postcard sets in the 1960s-1980s had a card of Scull with Atlanta. His collectors' issues are not too expensive, but they are seldom seen today. Finding an Elder postcard of a particular player such as Scull can takes years of searching.

1959 Montreal team-set
Less frequently found, and vastly more expensive, is Scull's card in the 1954 Briggs hot dogs regional insert cards. Scull is one of several Senators players in that set that seem to be short-printed. Even in the wretched condition in which Briggs cards are usually found, the Scull will set you back as much as $1,000.

No less scarce, but somewhat less costly, is Scull's card in a Quebec regional team set of the 1959 Montreal Royals.

Scull also probably can be found in some of the cards issued around the Caribbean winter leagues in the early- to mid-1950s, but I cannot offer specifics.

Thursday, May 12, 2016

Kenny's '48 Chrysler "Woodie" is my latest World on Wheel's custom

I've known Kenny Buttolph since I first came to Iola in 1974.

At the time, Kenny was an adjunct to the staff of Old Cars Weekly. Several times a year he would drive the OCW sales trailer to major car shows around the country where he would link up with the paper's editors and ad sales people.

Later he would fly the company flag at the major collector car auctions in Arizona in January, reporting on prices realized, etc., in his role as the company's automotive price guide expert. One year in the early 1980s when the company was particularly flush due to the success of our sportscard publications and books, Kenny was hired as a full-time employee.

Kenny has owned more than 1,000 collectible cars and related vehicles such as Airstreams, trucks, buses, motor scooters, etc. I believe he can cite chapter and verse on each of them . . . where and how he acquired it and where it went when it left the collection.

One of my personal favorites among the cars he has owned was a 1948 Chrysler Town and Country convertible coupe. I recently found a copy of the Old Cars 1980 calendar that I coordinated during the year I edited the paper, Sept., 1979-Sept., 1980. Kenny's T&C was one of the 12 cars featured on the calendar in an autumn photo we took in front of one of Iola's post-war homes.

The Town and Country was one of the most expensive American production cars in the immediate post-war era, at $3,395. Promoted as a "suburban estate wagon," the advertising materials for the car said it was a vehicle "for those to whom distinction comes naturally," and the car whispered of "country clubs and moonlight rides." 

The T&C was a favorite of Hollywood's elite in the late 1940s. Bob Hope had one, as did Wallace Berrie and Barbara Stanwyck. Clark Gable had a pair. Really nice examples of the genre sell for up to $130,000 or so in today's collector market.

My World on Wheels custom of Kenny's 1948 Town and Country was whipped up in one day's time so that I could present it to him on his 78th birthday recently.

Tuesday, May 10, 2016

Jump to bigs too much for Conde in 1962

Uncommon commons: In more than 30 years in sportscards publishing I have thrown hundreds of notes into files about the players – usually non-star players – who made up the majority of the baseball and football cards I collected as a kid. Today, I keep adding to those files as I peruse microfilms of The Sporting News from the 1880s through the 1960s. I found these tidbits brought some life to the player pictures on those cards. I figure that if I enjoyed them, you might too.

How big was the jump from the AAA minor leagues to the majors in the early 1960s? Ask Ramon Conde.

In mid-July, 1962, as they were preparing for a 10-day eastern road trip, the Chicago White Sox called up third baseman Ramon Conde from Indianapolis, their AAA farm club in the American Association.

At the time, Conde was batting .348 for the Indians.

He spent nearly a month with the White Sox but utterly failed to fulfill expectations. In 14 games, comprising 19 plate appearances, he failed to get a hit, though he did walk three times with an RBI.

Following the Aug. 14 game in which he appeared as a defensive replacement at third base, Conde was returned to Indianapolis. In the final weeks of the season he helped Indianapolis to the American Association pennant and raised his batting average to a league-leading .353.

He never got another chance in the bigs. His career batting average stands forever at .000.

Conde remained an effective hitter in the high minor leagues for another eight years. He owns a lifetime 17-season minor-league batting mark of .307. In his professional days he played in the farm systems of the N.Y. Giants (1954-57), Philadelphia Phillies (1958), L.A. Dodgers (1958-61), Chicago White Sox (1962-68), N.Y. Yankees (1967), and, Cincinnati Reds (1968-70). He also played (1970) and managed (1981, 1986) in the Mexican League and in 1985 managed the Chicago Cubs' Appalachian League (Rookie) team at Wytheville, Va.

For all those years in pro ball, it looks like Conde only had a single career-contemporary baseball card. He is included in the 1960 Darigold Farms Spokane Indians team set of Dodgers AAA players.

Sunday, May 8, 2016

Prescott, Reynolds make my "Class of 2015" customs

With the recent completion of the 2016 NFL draft I've been able to round out the biographies on the backs of my latest 1955 Topps All-American style football calls.

The two 2015 college players who made the cut were Dak Prescott and Keenan Reynolds.

Until recently I never would have thought I'd ever add a Mississippi State player to my 1955-style set. But, like Navy's Reynolds, Prescott was a player that I made a special effort to watch on Saturdays.

It remains to be seen where he will land on the depth chart and how much playing time Prescott will get with the 'Boys this season, but his skill as a running quarterback gives the Dallas backfield a dimension it has lacked for a long time.

Similarly, it is currently uncertain how Reynolds will fulfill his five-year active service commitment and thus how much time he'll see on the field for the Ravens. It looks like Baltimore plans to convert the triple-threat quarterback to a slot receiver and return specialist, so if and when Reynolds takes the field he's likely to be part of some exciting plays. I just hope they don't come against the Steelers.

These two new customs bring my checklist of '55 style cards to 175. It's my intention to quit when I hit No. 300, but at the recent rate of 2-4 new cards a year the end really isn't in immediate sight.

Friday, May 6, 2016

Bonus baby Garibaldi waited nine years for first baseball card appearance

Uncommon commons: In more than 30 years in sportscards publishing I have thrown hundreds of notes into files about the players – usually non-star players – who made up the majority of the baseball and football cards I collected as a kid. Today, I keep adding to those files as I peruse microfilms of The Sporting News from the 1880s through the 1960s. I found these tidbits brought some life to the player pictures on those cards. I figure that if I enjoyed them, you might too.

The article by Bob Stevens in the July 28, 1962 issue of The Sporting News didn’t record any great moment of baseball history, but it appealed to me as being especially well-written in describing something every boy my age dreamed of, his big-league debut.

I’ll just sit back and share Stevens’ work with you . . .

‘Scared’ Garibaldi Shows Mets’
150-Gee Polish in Major Debut
ON ROAD WITH GIANTS  Only a few hours after Bob Garibaldi became eligible to pitch, July 15, in New York’s famed Polo Grounds, the Giants’ $150,000 bonus player took the long walk from the bull pen to the hill.
            He got the job done—three Mets up, three Mets down on 11 pitches.
            It was, at 20, the former Santa Clara Bronco’s introduction to the pressure cooker of the majors. Two weeks earlier, he was piloting a Pepsi-Cola truck around his native Stockton, Calif. He had weighed the fabulous offers of nine big league clubs, two of which went higher than the Giants.
            For personal reasons he elected not to sign his contract, although terms were agreed upon many days earlier, until July 15.
            Was a star born that day in the humid Polo Grounds, the graveyard of the timid pitcher? It sure could be that it happened, because the Bronco sophomore and history major took to work with him not only talent wrapped in a 6-5, 205-pound frame, but poise and courage and intelligence.

 *   *   *
‘Scared, But Glad It Happened’
            “I was scared,” he said after his debut. “I was scared particularly while I was making that long walk from the bull pen. I felt so all alone. I really didn’t to pitch this soon, but I’m glad it happened.”
            But Bob didn’t have much time to reflect upon the success he had in retiring, in order, Rod Kanehl, Elio Chicon and Chris Cannizzaro. For he was at it again the very next night, this time with the game entirely in his hands.
            With one run in, two out, last of the ninth and the Giants leading only by 3 to 2, Manager Alvin Dark lifted Stu Miller and waved Garibaldi in from the bull pen.
            The pressure could not have been greater, the situation more perilous.
            But with the thunderous roars of 23,280 fans crashing against his ears, Garibaldi one-pitched the Giants to victory for his first “save.”
            During his slow walk to the mound the crowd reacted kindly. However, when two of his warm-up pitches crashed against the backstop, cruel cat-calls cascaded from the stands. Bob heard them, but he didn’t let them know it. He was busy. He signaled to Plate Umpire Chris Pelekoudas that he was ready, leaned down to squeeze the resin bag, glanced at Richie Ashburn, dancing off first base, and at Chacon at third base. He took his stretch.
·         *   *   *
Sailing Fast Ball Over the Plate
      Kanehl, the first major leaguer he had retired the day before, crouched over at the plate. Rod knew the kid would try with everything he had to get the first pitch over. And he did. A sailing fast ball, in on Kanehl a little, about belt high. Kanehl swung under it and the ball sailed softy to Willie Mays.
      Willie later gave the ball to Garibaldi, Bob’s first trophy, but you can bet not his last.
      Asked why he had decided on the fast ball, Garibaldi smiled and said, “Tom Haller called for it and Haller is a great catcher. I’m not about the shake him off.”
      In retiring the first four major leaguers he faced, Bob threw a fast ball, curve and slider, with a couple of the fast balls coming side-arm.
      “The important thing,” said Dark, “is that he got them over the plate and with something on them. I like him. I even like the way he wears his cap.”
      “He has poise,” said Pitching Coach Larry Jansen, “and he’s not afraid.”
      “I was still scared,” reiterated this modest young man of infinite talent, tremendous honesty and amazing maturity.

Like so many other bonus babies of the 1940s-60s, Bob Garibaldi's career didn't match the hype or justify the amount of bonus received. The $150,000 bonus that Garibaldi was reported to have received was half-again as much as the salary of baseball top two stars, Mantle and Mays.

Garibaldi appeared in nine games, all in relief, for the 1962 Giants. His team got the losing end in all but one of those games. He pitched 12.1 innings, giving up 13 hits, seven runs and five walks, with an ERA of 5.11. He struck out nine.

From 1963-70 Garibaldi spent most of his time with the Giants' AAA teams in the Pacific Coast League. He got into four games with the parent team in 1963, and pitched in one game each season in 1966 and 1969. He never got a big-league win.

At AAA with Tacoma (1964-65) and Phoenix (1966-70), he won 10 or more games almost every year.

After the 1970 season, when he had a career-high 15 wins, Garibaldi was traded to the K.C. Royals.  As the 1971 season opened, he was traded to the expansion San Diego Padres, for whom he pitched at AAA  Hawaii for two seasons before retiring.

Garibaldi didn't make it onto a mainstream baseball card until after his major league career was over. In 1970 Topps pictured him with the S.F. Giants. In 1971, he was pictured on Topps and O-Pee-Chee cards with the Royals, though he never played with them. Each of his Topps cards is in the more expensive high-number series.

Monday, May 2, 2016

New '55 custom wraps up Easter's (MLB) career

In my collecting days I accumulated a decent grouping of Luke Easter items such as photos, regional cards, a Rochester Red Wings payroll check, etc. While I never saw him play, he had become one of my 1950s favorites because of his status as a minor-league baseball deity and the details of his death (you should look it up).

A great biographical summary of Big Luke can be found in the SABR baseball biography project, written by Justin Murphy: Luke Easter bio

Therefore, when I found online a portrait photo I hadn't seen before, showing Easter in the Wahoo-in-C cap that the Indians wore 1954-1957, it stirred my interest. The picture was one from New York photographer William Jacobellis, whose baseball pix were used by Topps and Bowman as the basis for many of their painted card pictures of the early-1950s.

The Easter picture seemed like it would go great on a 1955 Topps-style custom card. The fact that Easter played his last major-league game in early 1954, didn't deter me much; it provided the opportunity to make a card that contained his complete MLB career stats in one of my favorite formats.

Finding an "action" photo to pair with the portrait proved to be more difficult as many of those that I tried couldn't be used in the '55T format because they conflicted with the Indians team logo in the upper-left corner. Finally,  however, the right posed action shot came along and I had all the elements I needed to complete my creation.

If, like me, you're a Luke Easter fan, you should take a minute to check out a blog post I made about four years ago. It includes Big Luke's coincidental connection with the "Cleveland Strangler." Luke Easter blog post 2012 .

I can pretty much guarantee that this won't be my last blog entry about Luke Easter, but I don't know whether there will be any further Easter custom cards forthcoming. Topps and Bowman had him pretty well-covered during his playing days. He can be found on career-contemporary Topps and Bowman cards every year from 1951-54, and on many regionals and team-issues through  the end of his pro playing days in 1964.