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.

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

Aaahhh one of my all-time favorite players!