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.

1 comment:

  1. You are right about Mexican League statistics not being readily available. Baseball Reference doesn't have much. There is a site in Spanish that does have stats, but I don't remember how to find it right now. There is also a Mexican League encyclopedia published in 2002, "The Mexican League: Comprehensive Player Statistics 1937-2001" by Pedro Treto Cisneros that does a good job statistics-wise for the league. Used copies of the book, often library discards, can often be purchased for less than $20.

    From that book, Scull batted .314 in 657 games for Pozo Rica (1963-1968). He also hit 49 home runs and drove in 341 in his 2,351 at bats.

    Thanks very much for spotlighting Scull; I greatly enjoyed reading your piece about him.


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