Sunday, November 29, 2009

Phillies Team (#102)

Since Topps began issuing team cards in the late 1950s, most team pictures have been superimposed on a yellow background. In 1967, some team photos were superimposed on a red background, or in the case of the Atlanta Braves, the original photographed background was used. The Phillies Team card was the only one to use a blue background, because the yellow team name and the players’ red caps made the yellow and red backgrounds unusable.

There are 33 uniformed men in the picture. Manager Gene Mauch is front and center in the first row, and I assume he is flanked by two coaches on each side, which leaves 28 players pictured. In the first row, Johnny Callison appears to be on the far right, with Richie Allen next to him.

The back of the team cards always include team statistics from the previous season. Each pitcher with a decision is listed, with their record per opponent.

We can see that Jim Bunning, Chris Short, and Larry Jackson were the top 3 starting pitchers. Bob Buhl, Rick Wise, and Ray Culp all performed both as starters and relievers. Rookie Darold Knowles, (acquired from the Orioles before the season) was the top relief pitcher, appearing in 69 games and collecting 13 saves. All the other listed pitchers were bullpenners, mostly with ERAs over 5.00. John Boozer, Fergie Jenkins, Steve Ridzik, and Grant Jackson all appeared in less than 3 games each, and had no record.

In 1967, Bunning, Short, Wise, and Larry Jackson returned as starting pitchers, but the remaining staff was swept clean. Culp was traded to the Cubs for starting pitcher Dick Ellsworth, bullpen ace Knowles went to the Senators for outfielder Don Lock, Joe Verbanic was sent to the Yankees for reliever Pedro Ramos, John Morris was traded to the Orioles for reliever Dick Hall. Bo Belinsky was lost to Houston in the rule 5 draft. Roger Craig, Ray Herbert, Ed Roebuck, and Terry Fox were released during or after the 1966 season, and Gary Wagner spent the 1967 season in triple-A.

Only Bob Buhl survived the off-season purge, and he got his walking papers before the end of May.

Friday, November 27, 2009

Final Card: Earl Battey

Here is the final card for long-time Twins' catcher Earl Battey (#15). Starting in the 2nd series, Topps put a dot between the player's name and position. On this 1st series card, the player's name and position just run together.

Battey began his career in the White Sox organization in 1953. He had brief cups of coffee with the White Sox in 1955 and 1956. In 1957, Earl split the season between the Los Angeles Angels (the Brooklyn Dodgers' triple-A team), and the White Sox.

In 1958, Battey made the major leagues to stay, as the backup catcher to Sherm Lollar in 1958, and the #3 catcher behind Lollar and Johnny Romano in 1959.

Just before the 1960 season began, Battey was traded (along with rookie first baseman Don Mincher) to the Washington Senators for first baseman Roy Sievers. Earl immediately assumed the #1 catching job, a role he would keep through the 1966 season.

The three Twins catchers in 1966 and 1967 (Battey, Russ Nixon, and Jerry Zimmerman) were all the same age (31 in 1966). Battey was the starter through 1966, but in 1967 he played the least of the three, with Zimmerman taking over the #1 spot.

In 1967, Battey caught 41 games, and pinch-hit in 7 other games. His last game was in the final week of September.

1967 Topps Poster Inserts

No cards today. Here's a link to a site by Dan Austin featuring the 1967 Topps posters that were wax-pack inserts.

(I have most of these somewhere, but can't locate them.)

There are 32 posters, with each team being represented at least once.

Red Sox - Carl Yastrzemski
Yankees - Mickey Mantle, Joe Pepitone
Orioles - Frank Robinson, Brooks Robinson, Boog Powell
Senators - Frank Howard
Indians - Sam McDowell, Leon Wagner
Tigers - Denny McLain, Al Kaline
White Sox - Tommie Agee
Twins - Harmon Killebrew, Tony Oliva
Athletics - Bert Campaneris
Angels - Bobby Knoop

Mets - Cleon Jones
Phillies - Johnny Callison
Pirates - "Bob" Clemente, Matty Alou
Cubs - Ron Santo
Cardinals - Orlando Cepeda
Braves - Hank Aaron, Joe Torre, Felipe Alou
Reds - Chico Cardenas
Astros - Joe Morgan
Giants - Willie Mays, Willie McCovey, Juan Marichal
Dodgers - Don Drysdale, Ron Hunt

I'm not sure why Ron Hunt, Joe Pepitone, Felipe Alou, Bobby Knoop, and Chico Cardenas were selected for the posters.

It seems like Pete Rose or Tony Perez would have been more obvious choices for a Reds' poster.

And Bobby Knoop? What about Jim Fregosi or Don Mincher for the Angels?

And Joe Pepitone? A featured star at the expense of Bob Gibson and Ernie Banks?

Tuesday, November 24, 2009

Final Card: Don Demeter

This is the last card for Don Demeter (#572). It's from the 7th series (a/k/a the "high-numbers").

Don began his career in the Brooklyn Dodgers organization in 1953. In fact, he played in 3 games in late September 1956 with the Brooklyn Dodgers, and was therefore one of the last active ex-Brooklyn Dodgers.

After serving as a backup outfielder in 1958, the regular centerfielder in 1959, and sharing centerfield in 1960 with Tommy Davis and Duke Snider, Demeter was traded to the Phillies in May 1961 along with third baseman Charley Smith for pitcher Turk Farrell and infielder Joe Koppe.

It was in Philadelphia (and later, Detroit) that Demeter had his best years. With the Phillies, he was a starting CF/LF, although in 1962 he started 95 games at third base. After the 1963 season, he was traded to the Tigers for pitcher Jim Bunning.

He continued in the same "swing" role he had with the Phillies - getting regular playing time, but spread out at different positions (usually CF and 1B). After 2 1/2 seasons in Detroit, he was traded to the Red Sox for pitcher Earl Wilson.

After taking over the regular centerfield job in 1966 (starting 50 games after his mid-June acquisition), Demeter became a spare part in 1967 with the emergence of rookie centerfielder Reggie Smith. In early June he was shipped to the Indians along with first baseman Tony Horton for pitcher Gary Bell, who helped shore up the Sox' rotation in their quest of the AL pennant in 1967.

Demeter's final game was in late August 1967.

Saturday, November 21, 2009

Al Ferrara (#557)

Night Owl, I just read your 9/30/09 post that included the 1967 Dodgers team card. You said you wouldn't collect 1967 cards because the high numbers were too hard to find. Here's a high number AND a Dodger for you.

Al Ferrara was a promising young outfielder for the Dodgers in the mid-1960s. The back of this card states that since outfielder Lou Johnson broke his ankle on 4/26/67, Ferrara would likely see increased playing time.

Not so, because Len Gabrielson had to go and join the Dodgers on May 10th, making frequent starts in the Dodgers outfield. (Since Willie Davis and Ron Fairly were fixtures in CF and RF, there was only one spot left for the others.) Unfortunately for Ferrara, Lou Johnson was back in 6 weeks, and put a hammerlock on the left field job, leaving Ferrara and Gabrielson fighting for table scraps.

In 1968, Ferrara broke his leg in the second game, and was lost for the season.

Fortunately for Al, 1969 brought 2 new NL teams via expansion, and Ferrara was drafted by the San Diego Padres. He immediately became their starting left fielder, playing in 138 games in both 1969 and 1970.

In 1971, he only appeared in 17 games with the Padres before being traded to the Reds on May 13th. His last game was on September 1st, 1971.

Also check out Ferrara's 1966 card.

Friday, November 20, 2009

Final Card: Billy O'Dell

One side-benefit of scanning all these cards is that, after all these years, I'm finding out which cards could use an upgrade. This is probably the most beat-up of my 1967 cards.

Billy O'Dell (#162) was winding down his career in 1967. He started pitching in 1954 with the Baltimore Orioles (their first year after moving from St. Louis). Although the card back says 'Major & Minor League Pitching Record', Billy never played in the minor leagues.

[Since blogging here, I've learned that:
1) Billy O'Dell, Dick Groat, and Sandy Koufax never played in the minors. (I already knew about Al Kaline.)
2) Some players (like Harmon Killebrew) played in the majors before playing in the minors. After seeing several of these players, I noticed that they were also all "bonus babies", so I assume the requirement was that they spend X amount of time on the major-league roster after signing a contract.]

After returning from the service, Billy joined the team full-time in 1957, appearing in 35 games (15 starts) and pitched 140 innings, 5th-most on the team. 1958 was more of the same, as he started 25 of the 41 games he pitched.

After one more season with the Orioles, he was traded to the Giants, where he pitched for 5 seasons, including the Giants' 1962 pennant-winning season. That season, O'Dell led the rotation (which included Jack Sanford, Juan Marichal, and Billy Pierce) in games, starts, innings pitched, and complete games, and was second in wins to Sanford's 24.

After the 1965 season, Billy was traded to the Milwaukee Braves for catcher Ed Bailey. After a year and a half with the Braves (mostly as a reliever), he was traded to the Pirates in mid-1966, and retired following the 1967 season.

Thursday, November 19, 2009

Final Card: Bill Skowron

This is the final baseball card for long-time Yankee Bill "Moose" Skowron (#357).

Moose began in the Yankees farm system in 1951, and advanced to Kansas City in 1952. (This is when Kansas City was officially the Yankees' triple-A farm team, as opposed to the mid-to-late 1950s, when the Yankees seemed to use the Athletics club as a feeder team!)

Anyhoo, Skowron made the Yankees in April 1954, and spent the next 9 years as their regular first baseman. This coincided with 7 World Series trips, with the Yankees winning 4 times. (Skowron just missed the string of 6-for-6 World Series championships from 1947 to 1953!) Each year from 1960-1962, Moose was the Yankees #3 homerun threat behind big boppers Mickey Mantle and Roger Maris.

After the 1962 season, the Yankees needed to find playing time for young first baseman Joe Pepitone, so while still at the top of his game, Skowron was traded to the Dodgers for pitcher Stan Williams in the off-season. After only 1 season in LA (playing behind the younger Ron Fairly), Moose was purchased by the Senators in 1964, but his time there was short, as he was traded to the White Sox in mid-season for first baseman Joe Cunningham.

Once in Chicago, Moose became a fixture at first base, starting 70 games in 1964 (after the mid-July trade), and 140 games in 1965. In 1966, he shared the position with Tom McCraw. McCraw took over at first base in 1967, which relegated Skowron to 8 pinch-hitting appearances, until Moose was traded to the Angels on May 6th.

Skowron finished out the 1967 season in California, playing in 62 games (half as a pinch-hitter, and half at first base (giving regular Don Mincher a rest). He retired at age 36, ending his 14-year career.

Sunday, November 15, 2009

Topps Baseball Cards: The Complete Picture Collection (A 35-Year History, 1951-1985)

About a year ago, I was at a used book store near my home, and I found this book about Topps baseball cards:

Topps Baseball Cards: The Complete Picture Collection (A 35-Year History, 1951-1985)

So of course, I bought it! This is a large, heavy coffee-table style book. It has a picture of every Topps baseball cards from 1951 to 1985. In the back, there is a player index listing all years and card numbers for each player. A revised edition (1951-1990) is also available. This is a great reference.

(About 5 months later, I found the football cards equivalent book at an antique store in Orlando, FL. Now I have both.)

Saturday, November 14, 2009

Johnny Podres (#284)

Johnny Podres is probably best known for winning 2 games in the 1955 World Series, (including the deciding game 7) to give Brooklyn its only World Series championship.

After 3 seasons in the Dodgers farm system (including 1 with the triple-A Montreal Royals), Podres joined the Brooklyn Dodgers at the start of the 1953 season. At age 20, he was the #5 starter on a staff led by Carl Erskine.

After helping the Dodgers to the World Series championship over the Yankees in 1955, "Pods" missed the 1956 season due to military service. He returned in 1957, and led the league in ERA and shutouts (7). He never won 20 games, but in 1961 his .783 winning percentage was tops in the NL.

Podres never rose above being the #3 starter (first behind Erskine and Don Newcombe, then after returning from the service, behind Sandy Koufax and Don Drysdale).

Johnny missed most of the 1964 season, making only 2 starts (both losses). [I've never seen another card indicating that a player was on the disabled list for part of the season.] Podres returned in 1965 as the #4 starter, but pitched far fewer innings than Koufax, Drysdale, and Claude Osteen.

In May 1966, he was traded to the Tigers, and appeared in 36 games (18 starts).

The comment on the back of this card mentions Podres having the lowest ERA among Tigers lefties in 1966. Unfortunately, in 1967 his ERA was higher than 10 other Tigers' pitchers. He was released following the season.

Normally, this would have been the end of Johnny's career, but after being retired for 1968, the expansion Padres signed Podres, and he pitched for one more season.

Johnny went on to be a pitching coach, winding up as the Phillies' pitching coach during Jim Fregosi's managerial tenure (including 1993). Then due to failing health, he cut back to being a part-time minor-league instructor.

Thursday, November 12, 2009

Final Card: Joe Adcock

This is Joe Adcock's first and last manager card (#563). Joe retired as a player at the end of 1966, and was immediately hired to be the Indians' manager, without any previous major or minor league coaching or managerial experience. (!?!) He finished the season with the Indians, but was replaced for 1968 by Al Dark, fresh off Dark's firing by the Athletics the previous August.

I'm posting Joe's manager card here because his last card as a player was in 1963, even though he was the Angels' regular first baseman from 1964 to 1966. It's a mystery why he didn't have a card for those years. (None of the usual reasons, like diminished playing time, an extended trip to the minors, or a late-season release apply in this case.) While browsing the internet yesterday for possible reasons, I found none, but also learned that Orioles' pitcher Dick Hall didn't have a card from 1964 to 1966 either. If anyone knows why these players didn't have a card, please comment below.

You can view his stats here: minor-league major-league

Joe began his pro career in 1947 in the Reds system. After 3 seasons, he made the Reds team in 1950, and played for 3 seasons in Cincinnati, primarily as an outfielder.

Prior to the 1953 season, Adcock was traded to the Milwaukee Braves in a 4-team deal that also included the Phillies and the Brooklyn Dodgers. Once with the Braves, he switched to first base, staying there for the rest of his career. Joe hit 35 or more homers twice while with the Braves. He also played in 2 World Series with the Braves, both times against the Yankees (winning in '57, losing in '58).

Following the 1962 season, Joe was traded to the Indians. He only played one season in Cleveland, as after the season he was sent to the Angels for slugging outfielder Leon Wagner. Adcock was the team's full-time first baseman for his first 2 seasons with the Angels, and shared the position with Norm Siebern in 1966. He was released after the season, ending a 17-year playing career.

After managing the Indians in 1967, he managed the Angels' triple-A team in Seattle for the 1968 season.

Wednesday, November 11, 2009

Final Card: Vern Law

A few days ago on my 1966 blog, I posted the card of Pirate great Bob Friend. Vern Law (#351) was the other half of the Pirates' long-time 1-2 punch at the top of their rotation. Law's career paralleled Friend's, except that Law missed 2 years early on to the military, and stayed in Pittsburgh 2 years after Friend was traded.

1960 was a big year for Vern as he was a 20-game winner, and won the Cy Young award. He also won 2 games in the World Series, as the Pirates defeated the Yankees.

The 1961 to 1963 seasons seem to have been troublesome ones for Vern. Maybe this was due to injuries? He only made 10 starts in 1961. In 1962 he was back, appearing in 23 games (20 starts), but still not the 35-40 games that top starting pitchers made back in those days. In 1963, Law appeared in 18 games (12 starts) but only pitched 76 innings. He also made 2 starts for class-A Kinston. (Sent down to class A? This seems like a rehab assignment.)

In 1964, Law returned to the Pirates rotation full-time, but by now Bob Veale (who has previously been a reliever) was the top dog. Eventually, aging stars like Bob Friend and Vern Law were squeezed out by the younger Steve Blass and Woody Fryman.

Law's final appearance was on August 20, 1967, ending his 16-year career.

Tuesday, November 10, 2009

Final Card: Stu Miller

Here's one for you Orioles fans:

Stu Miller (#345) began his minor-league career in 1949. His major-league debut was in 1952 with the Cardinals.

In early 1956, the Cardinals traded him to the Phillies (along with Harvey Haddix) for 2 guys named Murry Dickson (a 39-year-old starting pitcher who led the league in losses from 1952 to 1954) and Herm Wehmeier. At the end of the season, the Phillies traded him to the New York Giants for Jim Hearn, a pitcher in his mid-thirties.

After having been a starter and reliever during his career, Miller became primarily a reliever beginning in 1959. In 1961, he led the NL in saves, and appeared in the all-star game. (I remember Richie Ashburn telling a story on the radio of how Miller was blown off the mound during a game in San Francisco's Candlestick Park. I later learned it was the 1961 all-star game.)

After the 1962 season, Miller was traded to the Orioles in a 6-player deal. He led the AL in games and saves in 1963. He was the Orioles closer for the next 4 years, before being phased out in late 1966 and 1967 in favor of Moe Drabowsky and Eddie Watt.

Prior to the 1968 season, Stu was sold to the Braves, where he made 2 appearances before being released before the end of April. Following that, he appeared in 13 games with the Cardinals' triple-A team in Tulsa.

Monday, November 9, 2009

Final Card: Johnny Klippstein

I started collecting baseball cards in 1967. This set was my original source of all major league baseball player knowledge. Aside from a few players like Mickey Mantle, Roger Maris, Yogi Berra, and Johnny Callison, I didn't know who any of the players were prior to 1967.

Since the high-number 7th series was not sold in my neighborhood that year, most of the players in that series remained a mystery to me. When the 1968 cards came out, I got my first look at the likes of Rocky Colavito, Juan Pizarro, Mickey Stanley, etc, but names like Johnny Klippstein, Jack Sanford, Jim Owens, Jimmy Piersall, and Don Demeter (all whose last card was in 1967) remained unknown to me for almost two decades, until I completed most of that series.

Here we have the final card for Johnny Klippstein (#588), who began his minor-league career before the end of World War 2!

After five years in the Cardinals organization and one with the Brooklyn Dodgers' double-A Mobile team, he made his big-league debut in 1950 with the Cubs. Johnny was a swingman early in his career, but beginning in 1958, he became almost exclusively a reliever.

Along the way, he played for the Cubs, Reds (twice), Dodgers, Indians, Senators, Phillies, Twins, and Tigers. He pitched in two World Series: 1 game for the Dodgers in 1959, and two games for the Twins in 1965 (which I recently saw on the MLB Network).

The Tigers signed him the day before the season opener in 1967, and after 5 appearances (6 innings) released him on June 2nd, ending his 18-year career.

(Notice that the wrong heading was used for his pitching statistics!)

Sunday, November 8, 2009

Final Card: Lou Burdette

(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.)

Is it "Lou" or "Lew" Burdette? says "Lew", but this card says "Lou" in 5 places, including his autograph.

This is the last card for 18-year veteran Lou Burdette (#265). His big-league debut came in 1950, where he appeared in 2 games for the Yankees (for a total of 1.1 innings). In August 1951, the Yankees traded him to the Boston Braves for pitcher Johnny Sain. (This appears to be a regrettable move for the Yankees.)

In 1952, Burdette appeared in 45 games for the Braves (mostly in relief, and notched 7 saves. He also made 9 starts. He was the team's closer in 1953 as well, but in 1954 he joined the starting rotation, teaming up with lefty Warren Spahn. In 1955 Bob Buhl would join them, to make an excellent trio of starters through the 1962 season.

(When there was more than one team in a city, Topps usually put (A) or (N) next to the city in the stats, if it isn't otherwise stated on the card. They forgot here.)

Burdette began to slip in 1963, and was traded to the Cardinals in mid-season. This began 3 consecutive years of mid-season trades for Burdette, first to the Cardinals, then the Cubs, and finally to the Phillies in mid-1965.

The Phillies released him after the season, and he was quickly signed by the Angels, where he played the last 2 years of his career, before being released a week before the 1967 season ended.

As with many long-time veterans, Topps omitted his minor league statistics, which can be found here.

Thursday, November 5, 2009

Tony Cloninger (#490)

Tony Cloninger was the Braves' top starting pitcher during their final years in Milwaukee. This was the era between Warren Spahn and Phil Niekro, when Cloninger led a rotation that also included Ken Johnson, Denver Lemaster, and Wade Blasingame. (Niekro wouldn't become a starter until mid-June 1967.)

Cloninger won 19 games in 1964, and 24 games in 1965. After winning 14 games in 1966, his career took a downturn. Oddly enough, while winning a total of 38 games in 1965 and 1966, he also led the league in walks and wild pitches in both years.

On the card back we learn that Cloninger also hit 2 grand slams in the same game, as he collected 9 RBI in the Braves' 17-3 rout of the Giants on 7/3/1966.

In mid-1968, Cloninger was traded to the Reds along with relief pitcher Clay Carroll and 2nd baseman Woody Woodward for pitchers Milt Pappas and Ted Davidson, and utility infielder Bob Johnson. His 3 1/2 years with the Reds was unremarkable, and he was traded to the Cardinals prior to the 1972 season. The Cardinals released him in mid-1972.

As a youngster in 1967, I would sometimes hear Tony Cloninger's name on the radio during Phillies vs. Braves broadcasts. I would also occasionally hear Tony Conigliaro's name mentioned, but it wasn't until late in the season (probably when I got this card) that I realized they were 2 different players.

Also check out Cloninger's 1966 card.

Sunday, November 1, 2009

Final Card: Bob Buhl

Bob Buhl (#68) began his minor-league career back in 1947, with the White Sox and then the Braves. After 2 years in the service, he made the Milwaukee Braves team in 1953, winning in double-digits for 6 of the next 8 seasons. Those 2 "off-seasons" were not what they appear to be. In 1954 Buhl was used primarily in relief, and in 1958 he appeared in less than a dozen games due to injury.

For most of the 1950s, he was the #3 starter behind the great Warren Spahn and Lew Burdette. Buhl usually gets short-changed by most people nowadays as the washed-up stiff that the Phillies acquired for Fergie Jenkins, but he apparently was quite a good pitcher back in the 1950s.

In April 1962, he was traded to the Cubs, where he continued to win. It wasn't until 1966 that he slowed down. Unfortunately for the Phillies, he was in their employ at the time.

Buhl's last game was on April 30th. The Phillies released him on May 16th, as part of their early-season purge of ineffective, aging relievers that included Ruben Gomez (May 8) and Pedro Ramos (May 31).