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.