Monday, December 28, 2009

Final Card: Steve Ridzik

Steve Ridzik (#294) began and ended his career with the Philadelphia Phillies.

He spent 7 seasons in the Phillies farm system (1945-51) with only 1 appearance in Philadelphia in September 1950. In 1952, Steve joined the Phillies as a reliever and spot starter, a role that he would maintain for 3 full seasons.

In late-April 1955, Ridzik and catcher Smoky Burgess were traded to the Reds for catcher Andy Seminick and 2 other players. He only made 13 appearances in Cincinnati, along with 15 appearances for triple-A San Diego.

After the 1955 season, he was purchased by the Seattle team in the Pacific Coast League, but a month later the New York Giants selected him in the rule 5 draft. He appeared in 56 games with the Giants during 1956-57 (mostly in relief), and another 21 games with the Giants' triple-A team in Minneapolis during 1957.

Steve's travel plans kicked into high gear after 1957, as he switched teams every year for awhile. He was purchased by the Indians in April 1958, but spent most of the season in the minors. The Cubs purchased him in May 1959, but he spent the entire season in triple-A.

In April 1960, Toronto (International League) purchased him from the Cubs. He spent 4 seasons (1960-63) with triple-A Toronto, before resurfacing in the majors with the Senators in 1963. He also played with the Senators fulltime in 1964 and 1965.

Prior to the 1966 season, he returned to the Phillies, and appeared in 2 games for them, the last on May 10th. He spent the remainder of the 1966 season with the Phillies' triple-A San Diego team.

Monday, December 21, 2009

Final Card: Bob Skinner

This is the final player card for Bob Skinner (#471). Bob began his career in the Pirates' system in 1951. After 2 years in the military, Skinner made his major-league debut in April 1954. As a rookie, he was the Pirates' regular first baseman, starting 116 games there.

The following season, he was back in the minor leagues. I wonder if this was injury/rehab related, because he only played 98 games, it was in double-A, and the next season (1956) he was back in Pittsburgh.

In 1956, Bob was used primarily as a pinch-hitter, but also saw some action at first base and corner outfield. The following season, he became the Pirates' primary left fielder, starting about half the games, with Frank Thomas and several others getting the remaining starts.

Bob took over as the everyday left fielder in 1958, starting 141 games there, while making only 3 pinch-hitting appearances. Coincidently, he also started 141 games in 1959, while starting 140 in 1960. With the exception of one game at first base in 1959, after 1957 he played exclusively in left field for the Pirates.

In 1961, Bob's playing time dropped off, as he only started 96 games, while making about 20 pinch-hitting appearances. He came back in 1962 to play almost 140 games in left, which by now was a standard season for him.

In May 1963, Skinner was traded to the Reds for outfielder Jerry Lynch, a former Pirate. A year later, he moved on to the Cardinals, where he played until being released after the 1966 season.

Bob went on to manage the Phillies' triple-A team in San Diego during the 1967 and 1968 seasons. This put him in position to assume the Phillies' managerial job for the last 100 games in 1968, following Gene Mauch's firing. He also managed them for the first 100 games in 1969, before he was also fired. Here is his 1969 card:

I found this on Skinner's Wikipedia page, regarding who was to blame for the Phillies' poor showing in 1969:

"Nonetheless, Skinner's personal responsibility for the Phillies' pathetic performance is much in doubt, as the alleged baseball club sank to even greater depths under Myatt, Frank Lucchesi, Paul Owens and Danny Ozark in the 4 years after his departure, with rosters made up of also-rans whose only competition was between indifference of attitude and inability to hit at even AA levels of proficiency."

Friday, December 18, 2009

Final Card: Vic Power

Vic Power (#192) was released by the Angels on April 1, 1966, so although this is his final card, his final season was 1965.

Power began his minor league career in 1949 with an independent team in Drummondville, Quebec. Following the 1950 season, Vic was acquired by the Yankees, and spent the next 3 seasons playing for the Yankees' triple-A teams (including 1952 and 1953 in Kansas City).

After the 1953 season, he was traded to the Philadelphia Athletics, in a deal involving ten other players. For the 1954 Athletics, Vic was 4th in at-bats, but his playing time was spread out over all 3 outfield spots, and first base. The Athletics moved to Kansas City in 1955, and Power moved to the regular first baseman's job, which he held until mid-1958.

("1B-INF" is a weird position combination for a baseball card!)

In June 1958, Power and utilityman Woodie Held were traded to the Indians for outfielder Roger Maris and 2 other players. He was the Indians' regular first baseman for 3 1/2 seasons, except for starting 40 games at third base in 1958.

A week before the 1962 season, the Indians traded Vic to the Twins for pitcher Pedro Ramos. In his 2 1/2 seasons in Minnesota, he was the regular first baseman, and started a few games at 2B.

In June 1964, Power was involved in a 3-team, 5-player trade that sent him to the Los Angeles Angels. He didn't get too settled, because 3 months later he was traded to the Phillies for pitcher Marcelino Lopez. After the 1964 season, the Phillies sold him back to the Angels, so in essence, he was a 3-week rental for Philadelphia's failed 1964 stretch drive.

In his final year with the Angels (1965), Power played 107 games at first base, but only started 30 of them. The primary first baseman was Joe Adcock who, like Power, was also 37 years old. (I suspect that Power may have been a defensive replacement for Adcock.)

(Wow! Adcock, Malzone, and now Power. The Angels were really amassing a collection of old-timers that year!)

Also check out this link

Tuesday, December 15, 2009

Final Card: Don Mossi

Small children...avert your eyes!

Don Mossi (#74) was a relief pitcher, primarily for the Indians and Tigers.

Topps failed to include his minor-league stats, which tell us that he began playing in 1949. After playing for Indians' minor-league teams for 4 seasons, he inexplicably played for a Cincinnati Reds' farm team in 1953, before making his major-league debut in April 1954 with Cleveland.

Mossi spent 5 seasons with the Indians, primarily as a reliever. He pitched in the 1957 all-star game (the only season with Cleveland where he made more than 5 starts).

After the 1958 season, Don was traded to the Tigers for second baseman Billy Martin. With the Tigers, he was mostly a starting pitcher. Mossi, Jim Bunning, and Frank Lary all won 17 games in 1957. Those 3 would form the nucleus of the Tigers' rotation for the next 5 years, as others such as Phil Regan, Hank Aguirre, and Mickey Lolich would also join the rotation.

After the 1963 season, Bunning and Mossi would leave the Tigers. In his final 2 seasons (1964 and 1965), Don was strictly a relief pitcher. Mossi was sold to the White Sox in March 1964, but was released after the season.

After being out of baseball for a few months, the Athletics picked him up at the end of May 1965, and he made 51 relief appearances for Kansas City, with his final game coming on October 1, 1965.

Sunday, December 13, 2009

Final Card: Frank Malzone

Here we have the last card for Frank Malzone (#152). After 11 seasons with the Red Sox (whose uniform he's wearing here), Frank wrapped up his career in 1966 with the Angels.

Malzone began his career in the Red Sox organization in 1948. He missed the 1952 and 1953 seasons due to military service. His major-league debut with the Red Sox was on September 17, 1955. In 1956, Frank divided his time between Boston and their triple-A team in San Francisco.

Frank took over the full-time third base job from opening day in 1957. (Billy Klaus, the 1956 regular third baseman, moved over to shortstop.) He finished 2nd in the rookie of the year voting in 1957, and played in over 140 games (all at third base) in every season from 1957 to 1964.

In 1965 (at age 35), time finally caught up to Malzone, as he shared the third base job 50-50 with 2nd-year man Dalton Jones. He was released by the Red Sox on November 30th, and signed by the Angels on the same day.

In 1966, Malzone played in 82 games for the Angels - 35 at third base, and the rest as a pinch-hitter. He was released after the 1966 season.

Wednesday, December 9, 2009

Final Card: Roger Craig

Roger Craig (#543) was signed by the Brooklyn Dodgers in 1950. He played 2 years in their farm system before missing the 1952 and 1953 seasons due to military service. Once out of the military, he was back in the minors for another year and a half.

Craig made his major-league debut with the Brooklyn Dodgers on July 17, 1955. During his 7 seasons with the Dodgers, he was both a starter and reliever, but was primarily a starter during the 1956 season.

After the 1961 season, Roger was selected by the Mets in the expansion draft, and was their #1 starter in 1962 and 1963. He led the league in losses both years (24, 22) but I suppose that wasn't hard to do, given the number of games the Mets lost in those seasons.

After the 1963 season, he was traded to the Cardinals, but only pitched in one season for them. Craig was the Cardinals #4 starter, but also made 20 relief appearances.

In December 1964, he was traded to the Reds, but was released just before the start of the 1966 season. The Phillies signed him on the same day, and he pitched for the first 3 months of 1966 until being released in mid-July.

Roger went on to manage the San Diego Padres in 1978 and 1979, and the San Francisco Giants from 1985 to 1992.

Sunday, December 6, 2009

Final Card: Joe Cunningham

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Joe Cunningham (#531) was an outfielder and first baseman for 3 teams, primarily for the Cardinals in the late 1950s and early 1960s. Joe started playing in the Cardinals farm system in 1949, then missed the 1952-53 seasons due to military service.

Joe made his major-league debut on June 30, 1954. After appearing in 85 games with the Cardinals in 1954, he spent all of 1955 and most of 1956 with their triple-A team in Rochester, NY.

In 1957, Joe was back in the major leagues to stay. He played in 122 games, but was primarily the backup to first baseman Stan Musial and rightfielders Del Ennis and Wally Moon. (He did manage to start 22 games at first, and 42 games in right.)

1958 was much of the same for Cunningham, backing up Musial, Ennis, and Moon. Joe played in 131 games, starting 91 at first, left, and right.

1959 was a breakout season for Joe, as he took over the rightfield job, making 104 starts there, in addition to another dozen starts in left. He played a few games at first base, but not many since Musial had a new backup: Bill White, who was acquired from the Giants in the off-season. Cunningham made the all-star team as a reserve.

Joe continued as the regular rightfielder in 1960 (108 starts). Over at 1st base, the pecking order was now Bill White, followed by the 39-year-old Stan Musial, and then Cunningham (14 starts).

In 1961, Cunningham was still the Cardinals' primary rightfielder, but only made 76 starts there. Maybe he was injured for part of the year? After the season, he was traded to the White Sox for outfielder Minnie Minoso.

1962 was Joe's last season as an everyday player. He switched over to first base (making 142 starts there) while playing only 5 games in right field. In 1964, rookie Tom McCraw took over at first base, and Joe was the backup first baseman until July 1964, when he was traded to the Senators for 1st baseman Moose Skowron.

Joe shared the Senators' first base job with Dick Phillips in 1964, and with Bob Chance and Dick Nen in 1965.

Since this baseball card is a late-season high-number, we see that Topps was able to add a note that Cunningham was released by the Senators on April 25, 1966. Joe had started 3 of the Senators' first 4 games at first base, then didn't play again.

Thursday, December 3, 2009

Final Card: Jerry Lynch

Jerry Lynch (#182) began playing minor-league baseball in 1950 for the Greenville (MS) Bucks, an unaffiliated class-C team. Before the 1951 season, the Yankees purchased his contract, but he spent the 1951 and 1952 seasons in the military. After the service, he played for the Yankees' class-B team in Norfolk, Va in 1953.

After the 1953 season, the Pirates selected him in the rule 5 draft, meaning he had to stay on the major-league roster. In 1954, Lynch was part of a 3-way left field platoon with Dick Hall (who would later pitch for the Orioles and Phillies) and Frank Thomas. Lynch also played in right field.

In 1955, rookie Roberto Clemente joined the team and took over right field. Frank Thomas started 81 games to lead all Pirates left fielders. Thomas also started 55 games in center field, so Lynch played left field for 30 of those games, as well as spelling Clemente in right field for 30 games.

Lynch must have been injured in 1956, because he only appeared in 19 games that year, and only 1 game in the field. After the season, he was selected by Cincinnati in the rule 5 draft.

Jerry played for the Reds from 1957 until May of 1963, when he was traded back to the Pirates for outfielder Bob Skinner. In 1957, Lynch was a backup to regulars Frank Robinson, Gus Bell, and Wally Post. Before the 1958 season, Post was traded to the Phillies, which opened up right field for Lynch.

In 1959, the lineup was Lynch in LF, rookie Vada Pinson in CF, and Gus Bell in RF. Hey, I learned that for most of 1959 and half of 1960, Frank Robinson played first base! In 1960, Jerry's playing time got squeezed, as Robinson moved back to the outfield, and Post was reacquired from the Phillies for rookie outfielder Tony Gonzalez.

Cincinnati's outfield continued to be crowded in 1961, as Robinson and Post would mix-and-match as the starters in left and right, with Lynch backing up in left and Bell backing up in left and right. (Pinson was a fixture in center.) This same dynamic continued in 1962, except that Marty Keough replaced Gus Bell.

In 1963, Lynch returned to the Pirates, and for 2 years became Pittsburgh's regular left fielder (alongside Bill Virdon and Roberto Clemente), although he had rookie Willie Stargell breathing down his neck. In 1965, Stargell took over as the regular, with Jerry backing up.

1966 was Lynch's last season, and he was relegated to pinch-hitting duty, appearing in 64 games, only 4 of them in the field.

Saturday, November 28, 2009

Final Card: Johnny Keane

Johnny Keane (#296) took over as the Cardinals manager midway through the 1961 season and managed them through 1964, culminating in their World Series championship over the Yankees.

After the season, he left the Cardinals and was hired to manage the Yankees, replacing 1st-year skipper Yogi Berra. Unfortunately, the Yankees glory years were now over, as 1964 was their last post-season appearance for many years.

He was fired 20 games into the 1966 season, and replaced by Ralph Houk, who had previously managed the Yankees from 1961 to 1963. He passed away less than a year later from a heart attack, while an Angels' scout.

More info: here

Friday, November 27, 2009

Final Card: Ray Herbert

Ray Herbert (#121) began his career in 1949 with the Toledo Mud Hens, the Tigers triple-A team. After playing for Detroit in 1950 and 1951, Herbert missed the 1952 season due to military service. He returned to the Tigers in 1953 and spent the next 2 seasons as the Tigers' top relief pitcher.

Early in the 1955 season, Herbert was sold to the Athletics, where he was a starter and reliever for the next several seasons (although he would spend the entire 1956 and 1957 seasons in triple-A).

Midway through the 1961 season, the Athletics traded Herbert to the White Sox in a 4-for-4 deal. He was strictly a starting pitcher in Chicago. In 1962 Ray won 20 games, and in 1963 he led the AL with 7 shutouts.

After the 1964 season (and 2 weeks before his 35th birthday) Herbert was traded to the Phillies for youngsters Danny Cater and Lee Elia. He spent his final 2 seasons in Philadelphia, making 19 starts in 1965, but appearing primarily in relief in 1966.

Tuesday, November 24, 2009

Final Card: Ed Bailey

Ed Bailey (#246) was a starting catcher from the mid-1950s to the mid-1960s, mostly with the Cincinnati Reds.

Isn't this just what you would expect a catcher to look like?

Ed started in the minor leagues in 1950 with class-C Ogden (UT) Reds. After 2 years in the military, Bailey returned to the minors with the class-AA Tulsa Oilers. He made his major-league debut in the last week of the 1953 season.

After spending much of 1955 in the minors, Bailey took over as the Reds' #1 catcher in 1956, making 102 starts (compared to 53 starts for Smoky Burgess, the regular catcher in 1955).

A pair of rookie catchers (Jerry Zimmerman, Johnny Edwards) took over the Reds catching duties in 1961, so in late April, Bailey was traded to the Giants.

After starting in 1961 and time-sharing with Tom Haller in 1962 and 1963, Ed was traded to the Milwaukee Braves after the season with Felipe Alou, Billy Hoeft, and Ernie Bowman for Del Crandall, Bob Hendley and Bob Shaw. Before spring training in 1965, he was traded back to the Giants for Billy O'Dell. Four months later, he was traded to the Cubs (this time with Bob Hendley).

Although this card says "Cubs", Ed was sold in January 1966 to the Angels, who released him in early May after appearing in only 5 games - all as a pinch-hitter. This brought an end to Bailey's 14-year career.

Friday, November 20, 2009

Lum Harris (#147)

We haven't had a manager's card for awhile. Here we have Lum Harris, the manager of the Astros (or is he?)

On the back of the card, after going on and on about Harris' career, Topps wraps up with the statement "Lum was released as manager of the Houston Astros on December 12, 1965."

This raises several questions:
1) How inept was the Astros' front office that it took until December 12th before they decided to fire their manager? What losses occurred between October 1 and December 12?

2) Why would Topps bother to include a Harris card? After reading this a second time, I noticed that the text starts off "Lum was the manager...". (Not "is", "was".) So a sentence about his firing wasn't just tacked on to the end of an already-composed card back. It's at the top! Why not just pull the card, replace it with another Astros player, and catch up later in the summer after the Astros have decided who the new manager will be?

Harris went on to manage the Braves from 1968 to 1972.

Thursday, November 19, 2009

Final Card: Lenny Green

Here's a card I've been meaning to post since my note about players without 1967 cards, but I got sidetracked - first by the World Series, and then by some cards of long-time veterans. Now, heeerrreeee's Lenny!

Lenny Green (#502) began his pro career in the Orioles organization. His major-league debut with Baltimore came on August 25, 1957. Throughout his career, he was strictly an outfielder, primarily playing in centerfield, with some time in leftfield and a few rare appearances in rightfield.

In early 1959, he was traded to the Senators (who became the Twins) for outfielder Albie Pearson. Lenny was the Twins regular centerfielder in 1961 and 1962, playing alongside rightfielder Bob Allison and leftfielders Harmon Killebrew ('61) and Jim Lemon ('62). In 1963, he began to play less and less as he lost his starting job to rookie Jimmie Hall.

In mid-1964, the Twins traded Green to the Angels in a deal that also involved the Indians, and players Vic Power, Jerry Kindall, Billy Moran, and Frank Kostro. In early September, he was re-acquired by the Orioles, and finished the 1964 season with them.

In March 1965, the Red Sox bought Lenny's contract and put him in a centerfield job-share with Jim Gosger. In 1966, with Boston's acquisition of Don Demeter, centerfield playing time was hard to come by, so Green was used primarily as a pinch-hitter, although he got some playing time at his old position. With Reggie Smith slated to join the Red Sox in 1967, Boston cleaned house of some excess outfielders, giving Green his release in October 1966.

The Tigers signed him before the 1967 season, and used him mainly as Willie Horton's backup in leftfield, and as a pinch-hitter. In both 1967 and 1968, Green also had significant playing time with the Tigers' triple-A team in Toledo. In 1968, he only appeared in 6 games for Detroit before being released in early July, ending his 12-year career just 3 months before the Tigers' World Series appearance.

Sunday, November 15, 2009

Who didn't get a card, but shoulda...

Here are some players who didn't have a card in 1966, though playing in the majors for some time:

Joe Adcock
Joe was a long-time first baseman for several American League teams in the 1950s and 1960s. His last player card was in 1963, although he continued to play regularly for 3 more full seasons with the Angels. After retiring following the 1966 season, he was immediately hired as the Indians manager, and has a 1967 manager card.

Dick Hall
Hall was a relief pitcher for the Pirates (1955-59), Athletics (1960), Orioles (1961-66, 69-71), and Phillies (1967-68). He had Topps cards in 1955-57, 1960-63, and 1967-71. The missing cards in 1958 and 1959 are to be expected, since he spent most of 1957 and 1959 in the minors, and was either out of baseball or injured during the 1958 season. However, there doesn't appear to be a baseball reason for the missing cards from 1964 to 1966, since he was a full-time major-league player with plenty of appearances from 1960 to 1971.

Maury Wills
Wills didn't have a Topps card until 1967. I read a note from Ted Taylor saying that Wills was under contract to Fleer (he had a Fleer card in 1963) and Fleer would not release him to Topps.

Chris Short
Like Wills, Short's 1st card was in 1967. He had been pitching regularly for the Phillies since 1960.

Tony Horton
Tony was a backup 1B-OF for the Red Sox between 1965 and early 1967. Although he only played 6 major-league games in 1966, in 1965 he appeared in 44 games for the Red Sox, playing 344 innings at 1st base. This should have warranted a card for 1966.

Doug Clemens (added 2/28/10)
Clemens was in the major leagues for parts of every season from 1960 to 1968, and continuously since opening day in 1964. He had 218 at-bats in 1964 and 340 at-bats in 1965, yet his only baseball card was in 1967.

I will continue to add to this list as others are discovered. Please email or comment if you have any others. (Players who were sent down during the previous season are likely to not have a card in the following season, especially if they are marginal players or aging veterans.)

11/30/09 edit:
Hey, I got a mention in Ted Taylor's column:

The Mail Bag…

Jim from Downingtown writes…

“My question relates to vintage Topps baseball cards. There are some veteran players that don't have cards for certain years. I can understand that when a player spends significant time in the minors one season, he may not have a baseball card for the next season, but here's a few that don't fit that mold.”

Question - Joe Adcock's last card was in 1963, although he played significantly for the Angels from 1964 to 1966.

Answer - Fleer owned his rights, wouldn’t release them. When they did, he was no longer playing. The Adcock card is a very tough one in the ’63 Fleer.

Question - Tony Horton - A part time player in Boston for 1965 and 1966, and a fulltime first baseman in Cleveland since mid-1967, yet he has no baseball card until 1970. In fact, no Cleveland Indian's first baseman card was printed in 1968 or 1969, so it's not as though Horton was passed over for another player.

Answer – Clay Luraschi at Topps says there is no one at the company that remembers why Horton was skipped. It assumes it was contractual, but I doubt the contract was with Fleer. Maybe he was holding out for more money from Topps. Luraschi adds that the exclusion could be as simple as the person putting the set together didn’t want that player in it. (That, unfortunately, often has to do with who gets included and who doesn’t. The old personal preference card.)

Question - Why No Chris Short card until 1967?

Answer – Not sure, but since his team (Phillies) and Fleer were both in Philadelphia we suspect it was that he was under contract to them.

Question - Why no Maury Wills card until 1967?

Answer – This one we know for sure. Maury Wills was under exclusive contract to Fleer and they maintained his rights, despite not producing baseball cards since 1963 until the contract expired. He was their highest profile player.

Thanks Ted!

Saturday, November 14, 2009

Final Card: Billy Hoeft

Billy Hoeft (#409) began his minor league career in 1950 with the Richmond (Indiana) Tigers.

His major-league debut came in 1952 with the Tigers. After his first season, Hoeft was primarily a starting pitcher for the Tigers, with his best seasons coming in 1955 and 1956. (He led the league with 7 shutouts in 1955.)

Early in the 1959 season, Hoeft was traded to the Red Sox. Only a few weeks later, he moved on to the Orioles. After 3 more seasons in Baltimore (mostly as a reliever), he was constantly on the move. Three succesive off-seasons brought trades to the Giants and Braves, and a release from the Braves following the 1964 season.

The Tigers re-signed him in November 1964, but but he was cut prior to opening day. The Cubs signed him in early 1965, and used him in relief for 2 seasons, before releasing him in late 1966. He pitched for the Giants during September 1966, and was released after the season.

Hoeft is one of only 40 pitchers to strike out the side on 9 pitches.

Wednesday, November 11, 2009

Final Card: Harvey Kuenn

Harvey Kuenn [pronounced "Keen"] (#372) was a shortstop and outfielder from 1952 to 1966, primarily for the Tigers and Giants.

He joined the Tigers in September 1952, and took over the starting shortstop job. The next season, he was the American League rookie of the year, and led the league in hits and at-bats in his first 2 full seasons, while playing in every game.

Harvey was the Tigers regular shortstop until switching to the outfield in 1958, where he would play for the rest of his career (except for some games at 3rd base during his time with the Giants).

Except for 1957, he was among the league leaders in batting average for all his years with the Tigers, and won the AL batting crown in 1959. After the 1959 season, he was traded to the Indians for Rocky Colavito, who had won the AL homerun title that same year. (It's odd that a league leader would be traded; stranger still that two would be traded for each other!)

After only 1 season with the Indians (in which he hit .308), Kuenn was traded to the Giants for pitcher Johnny Antonelli and outfielder Willie Kirkland.
[I don't understand this trade at all. From looking at stats, Antonelli appeared to be on a downward slide, and although Kirkland was a 20-plus homerun hitter, the Indians two other starting outfielders (Tito Francona and Jimmy Piersall) were in the same power range, but hit for higher average than Kirkland. It seems like giving up Kuenn's .308 average for Kirkland's mild power (already duplicated by Piersall & Francona) makes the trade seem like a bad move for Cleveland. Maybe someone with knowledge of the Indians or Giants at that time can make sense of it.]

In his first season with the Giants, Kuenn shared left field with Orlando Cepeda. The next season, he was the regular leftfielder, as Cepeda was moved to first base. In 1963, Willie McCovey took over as the starting left fielder, so Kuenn joined the backup outfield mix (along with Matty and Jesus Alou), backing up McCovey in left and Felipe Alou in right.

Before the 1964 season, Felipe Alou was traded to the Braves, but younger brother Jesus took over in right field, leaving Kuenn and Matty Alou to back up the corner outfield positions. In late May 1965, he was traded to the Cubs, where he was used primarily as a pinch-hitter and backup leftfielder. In mid-April 1966, he was sold to the Phillies, where he finished out the season.

Kuenn also managed the Milwaukee Brewers in 1982 and 1983, including their World Series appearance vs. the Cardinals in 1982.

Sunday, November 8, 2009

Final Card: Bob Friend

(Now that the World Series is over, I'm putting away my Yankees and Phillies cards, and will focus on players' final cards for awhile.)
----> Related link

Yes, I just said I was putting my Yankees cards away, but Bob Friend (#519) is not a Yankee, he's a Pirate. (Just look at the card back!)

Topps tends to omit minor league stats for long-time veterans, but here we see that Bob spent 1 year in the minors in 1950.

Bob joined the Pirates in 1951, and after a few years, he was not only a horse for the Pirates, but one of the best pitchers in the league during the late 50s and early 60s. In fact, the stats on the back of this card don't do him justice, so I'm including this link.

After the 1965 season, Friend was traded to the Yankees for pitcher Pete Mikkelsen. His time in the AL was short-lived, as after 12 games with the Yankees (8 starts), Bob was sold to the Mets on June 15th. He pitched in 22 games for the Mets (12 starts), and was released after the season, ending his 16-year career.

Thursday, November 5, 2009

Final Card: Gene Freese

Gene Freese (#319) came up with the Pirates in 1955. After 3 1/2 years with Pittsburgh, he became quite the traveler as he moved on to the Cardinals, Phillies, White Sox, and Reds in the next 2 1/2 years. He had a 3-year stay in Cincinnati before going on the move again, for 2nd tours with the Pirates and White Sox.

Here's something you don't see too often: In 1956, Freese played for the PCL team in Hollywood, California. (That team became redundant when the Dodgers moved to LA in 1958.)

From the back of his card, it appears that his heyday was 1955 to 1961. The only thing I knew about Gene Freese prior to obtaining this card earlier this year was that the Phillies traded him to the White Sox for outfielder Johnny Callison after the 1959 season.

This is Gene Freese's last baseball card. Midway through the 1966 season, the White Sox traded him to the Astros, and he finished his major-league career on 9/3/1966. He continued to play minor-league ball for the Cubs, White Sox, and Senators' triple-A teams in 1967 and 1968.

Saturday, October 31, 2009

Ray Culp (#4)

This is Ray Culp's last Phillies card. He spent 4 years with the Phillies (1963-66), and made the all-star team as a rookie. Although primarily a starter, he made quite a few relief appearances in 1964 and 1966.

After the 1966 season, he was traded to the Cubs for lefthanded pitcher Dick Ellsworth. (I recently learned that Culp pretty much talked his way out of Philadelphia after the 1966 season.)

After one season in Chicago, he was traded to the Red Sox, where he spent his final six seasons (the first 4 as one of Boston's top starting pitchers).

Friday, October 30, 2009

Final Card: Hector Lopez

Hector Lopez (#177) was signed by the then-Philadelphia Athletics, and played in their farm system from 1951 to May 1955. His major-league debut was on May 12, 1955 with Kansas City. From 1955 to 1959, he played 3rd base and some 2nd base.

In May 1959, he was traded to (naturally) the New York Yankees. (Fellow Athletics' teammate Roger Maris would follow him at the end of the season.) Beginning in 1960, Lopez played exclusively in the outfield, usually in left field.

For those of you who never heard of Hector Lopez (and I was among them, before poking around on a few years ago), here's how he fit into the Yankees outfield (click to enlarge):

(I used 1966 as the cutoff, because Maris and Lopez left after 1966, and Mantle moved to 1st base in 1967.)

Lopez was released by the Yankees following the 1966 season. He played 2 more seasons with the Senators' triple-A team in Hawaii (1967) and Buffalo (1968).

Tuesday, October 27, 2009

Bo Belinsky (#506)

Bo Belinsky was probably more famous for his off-field exploits with the ladies (especially during his 3 years with the Los Angeles Angels) than for his baseball prowess. How fitting that the back of his card lists "Hollywood" as his home.

After kicking around the Pirates and Orioles farm systems for 6 years, the Angels picked him in the rule 5 draft after the 1961 season. He spent 3 years with them before being traded to the Phillies.

Bo was with the Phillies for all of 1965 and part of 1966 (spending most of '66 in triple-A). Following the 1966 season, he was again a rule 5 draft pick, this time by the Houston Astros. (In May 1967, the Phillies purchased pitcher Turk Farrell from the Astros, so this was basically a Belinsky-for-Farrell wash.)

Belinsky spent all of 1967 with the Astros, but was in the minors for most of 1968-1970, with a few major-league appearances in 1969 and 1970. Along the way, he found himself in his THIRD rule 5 draft, following the 1968 season.

Pedro Ramos (#439)

For the next several days, my 3 card blogs will take on a Phillies and Yankees flavor, as we gear up for the World Series.

Pedro Ramos played for both the Yankees and the Phillies toward the end of his career. He began his career with the (old) Washington Senators in 1955. At that time, he was primarily a starter.

After 7 seasons, the Twins traded him to the Indians for 1B Vic Power and P Dick Stigman. During his 2 3/4 seasons in Cleveland (1962-64) he was used more and more as a reliever, so that by the time he was sold to the Yankees in early September 1964, he was strictly a relief pitcher, and remained so for the rest of his career.

Following the 1966 season, Ramos was traded to the Phillies for pitcher Joe Verbanic. The Phillies saw enough of him in 2 months to give him his release in late May 1967, and replace him with organizational yo-yo John Boozer. He spent the rest of 1967 and 1968 in the minors, was up and down during 1969, and finished his major-league career with the (new) Washington Senators in April 1970. After 2 more seasons in the minors, he hung up his glove.

Monday, October 26, 2009

Final Card: Chuck Dressen

Time for a manager's card!

Back in the day, I had heard the name Charlie Dressen (probably from listening to Richie Ashburn and By Saam ramble on during Phillies' broadcasts), but since he wasn't managing in 1967 (my first year of collecting baseball cards), I didn't know anything about him, other than he was one of the "old-time" managers (like Jimmie Dykes, Birdie Tebbetts, Leo Durocher, Danny Murtaugh, etc).

Earlier this year, I began collecting 1966 cards, and bought some from This card was among the bunch:

Since he was the Tigers' manager in 1966, and the Tigers finished the '66, '67, and '68 seasons in 3rd, 2nd, and 1st place respectively, I wondered "Why would the Tigers replace Dressen prior to the 1967 season?" I learned that he had a heart attack prior to the 1965 season, and a second one during the 1966 season. Dressen passed away in August of 1966.

The card back alludes to a long playing and managing career, but obviously can only skim the surface. I'll let this Wikipedia page tell the story (where we also learn he was an NFL quarterback in 1920).

Sunday, October 25, 2009

Final Card: Roy McMillan

Roy McMillan (#421) began playing pro baseball in 1947. As with many long-time veterans, Topps has omitted McMillan's minor-league stats from the card back.

He made his major-league debut in 1951 with the Reds. In his first year, he was the backup SS/3B. In 1952, he took over the shortstop position, and was one of two Reds players to play in all 154 games. McMillan continued as the Reds starting shortstop for nine years. A durable player, starting in 1952, he played in 150 or more games in 7 of the next 10 years.

After 1960, he was traded to the Braves for pitchers Joey Jay and Juan Pizarro. After 3 years as the Braves regular shortstop, he was traded to the Mets in early 1964 for pitcher Jay Hook. Once again, McMillan was the regular shortstop for the Mets during 1964 and 1965.

Before the 1966 season, the Mets acquired shortstop Ed Bressoud, and the 2 players shared the shortstop job fairly evenly in 1966. McMillan was released by the Mets following the 1966 season, although his last game was in early August.

Roy also managed the Mets during the 2nd half of 1975.

Friday, October 23, 2009

Final Card: Dick Stuart

Dick Stuart (#480) was a good-hit, no-field first baseman who primarily played for the Pirates and Red Sox.

In 1956 he hit 66 homers in the minors. He came up to the Pirates in 1958, and was the Pirates' first baseman in the 1960 World Series.

After the 1964 season, he was traded to the Phillies for pitcher Dennis Bennett. After one year, the Phillies saw enough of Dr. Strangeglove, and shipped him to the Mets prior to the 1966 season. (Actually, he became unnecessary for the Phillies after they acquired Bill White following the 1965 season.)

In 1966, Stuart played 30-plus games each for the Mets and Dodgers. He played in Japan in 1967 and 1968, but made a brief comeback in 1969 with the Giants' triple-A team in Phoenix, and with the Angels.