Sunday, December 26, 2010

The Nitty Gritty Card of the Day

Today's Nitty Gritty Card of the Day is card #110 of legendary Chicago Cubs third baseman Ron Santo. I have long coveted this card and the thing is, when people get a nice old Santo card, they don't want to part with it...

This one came my way via the Cardboard Junkie and it brought friends! I think everyone is well aware of Santo's accomplishments on the field. He was THE BEST third baseman in the National League during the decade of the 1960s. He is one of the best all around thirdbasemen of All Time. He never won a ring, but he was loyal to the Cubs for nearly his entire career and got as close as a Cubs team could get.

I'm not going to write much more, just that Ron Santo epitmozed Nitty Gritty, he Belongs in the Hall of Fame and he is missed on this earth. Thanks dayf for this awesome card! I love this hobby!
I love this set and I LOVE this card! 45 years LATER!

Saturday, December 25, 2010

The Nitty Gritty Card of the Day!

Today’s Nitty Gritty card of the Day comes from 1965 Topps baseball, card #84 of Giants pitcher Ron Herbel.

Herbel had a 9 year big league career, mainly with the Giants. He was a very active pitcher, beginning as a spot starter with San Francisco in 1964. Statistically his best year came when this card was released in 1965 when he was 12-9 with a 3.85 ERA in 47 games, 21 of them starts. As the decade progressed he pitched more and more out of the bullpen. He was most active in 1970 with the Mets and Padres. He was 9-7 in a league leading 76 games. He made one start, finished 38 games and notched 10 saves that season. His career record is 42-37 over 331 games with 11 complete games, 3 shutouts and 16 saves.

Borrowing a line from Heartbreaking Cards of Staggering Genius, "Everybody’s Got a Record". Mr. Herbel’s record is a dubious one… Over his 9 year career as a pitcher in the National League Herbel appeared in 332 games, he also went to the plate 225 times. When you take away the few times he walked and laid down a bunt, he had 206 at-bats and hit safely 6 times… Yep, over his career Herbel was 6 for 206 at the plate. He hit 2 doubles and drove in 3, but his .029 batting average is the WORST career mark for anyone with over 100 at bats. His best year came in 1967 when he had 3 hits in 28 at bats (.107) including 2 doubles, but he had many lean years. He went three full seasons (’68-’70) without a hit in 33 at bats.

Being good enough on the mound to be that bad at the plate makes Ron Herbel Nitty Gritty… I love this game; I love its history and I LOVE this hobby! 45 years LATER!

Friday, December 24, 2010

The Nitty Gritty Card of the Day!

Today's Nitty Gritty Card of the Day comes from 1963 Topps Baseball, card #60 of New York Yankees catcher Elston Howard. One of the greatest catchers of All Time, Howard played on Pennant Winning teams in 10 of his 14 seasons in the Major Leagues. The back of the card mentions that he had hit 5 World Series homers. Playing in 10 different Series, Howard hit 5 homers with 19 RBI and won 4 rings as a World Champion with the Yankees in 1956, '58, '61 and '62. In 1963, the year of this card, Howard batted .333 in the Series, but his Yanks fell to the Dodgers in a 4-game sweep. Howard did have his finest year at the plate in power output hitting a career high 28 homers in 1963. It was his third straight year with 20 or more homers and his 7th straight season being named an All Star. Howard would take home a Gold Glove Award in '63 as well as American League MVP honors. Elston Howard was traded from the Yankees to the rival Red Sox in 1967 and became a veteran leader during their impossible dream Pennant run. Howard would retire after the 1968 season. Over his 14 year career Howard was a 12-time All Star and was a member of 10 different Pennant winning teams. After retiring as a player, Howard returned to the Yankees as a coach and would win two more World Series rings in the late 70's. He retired with a .274 batting average, 167 home runs, 1,471 hits, 762 RBI, 619 runs, 218 doubles, 50 triples and a .427 slugging percentage in 1,605 games. Any player who spent time in the Negro Leagues is automatically Nitty Gritty as are war veterans and World Champions. Howard was all 3 and a classy individual to boot. He looses some points for being a Yankee, but...
I love this game, I love this hobby! 47 years LATER!

Sunday, December 12, 2010

The Nitty Gritty Card of the Day

The Nitty Gritty Card of the Day comes from 1950 Bowman. It is card #190 of St. Louis Browns outfielder Ken Wood. Not to be confused with the stereo company, Ken Wood was an outfielder who played in the Major Leagues for 6 seasons from 1948 till 1953. His best years came with some really bad Browns teams. In 1951 he led the last place Browns in homeruns with 15. He was actually the only player on the team with double digit homers. Ned Garver somehow won 20 games that year, account for more than 30% of the Browns wins. Wood showed serious power in the minors, as mentioned on the card back. He belted 32 homers for the AAA Baltimore Orioles in 1949. Did I mention his name is Ken Wood?
I love this hobby! 60 years LATER. Nitty Gritty out.

Friday, December 10, 2010

The Nitty Gritty Card of the Day

Today's Nitty Gritty Card of the Day is card #108 from 1955 Topps Baseball featuring Brooklyn Dodgers catcher Albert "Rube" Walker. Walker spent 11 seasons in the Major Leagues, breaking in with the Chicago Cubs before being signed by the Brooklyn Dodgers in 1951. He spent the bulk of his career with Brooklyn and he moved to Los Angeles with them in 1958. Soon after the move West, Walker would retire as an active player. With Brooklyn Walker's job was backing up 3-time MVP Roy Campanella.

This meant he didn't see a ton of playing time, but also meant he was on some pretty amazing teams. With the Dodgers in 1955, the year this card came out, Walker's Dodgers won it all. "Rube" Walker didn't see any action in the World Series, but won a ring just the same.
After retiring as a player, Walker spent the next couple decades as a coach in the Majors. Most of his time was spent with the New York Mets where he spent 15 years as their pitching coach. He coached the staff featuring Nolan Ryan and Tom Seaver on the Miracle 1969 Mets where he won his second World Series ring.

At one time I set the goal to collect a 1955 Topps card of ALL of the '55 Dodgers. This is my first and I don't think I am gonna get any further... I love this game, I love this hobby! 55 years LATER!

Tuesday, December 7, 2010

The Nitty Gritty Card of the Day

Today’s Nitty Gritty Card of the Day is card #21 from 1959 Topps Baseball of Baltimore Orioles starting pitcher Connie Johnson. A tall and lanky right-handed pitcher, Clifton “Connie” Johnson broke into the Major Leagues with the Chicago White Sox in 1953 at the age of 30.

Johnson began his professional pitching career in 1940 when he was just 17 years old. That same year he pitched in his first All Star game, pitching one shutout inning in the 1940 East West All Star Game. At age 19 he was part of one of the greatest pitching staffs in baseball history. Along with Hall of Famers Satchel Paige (36) and Hilton Smith (35), Johnson (19) helped the 1942 Kansas City Monarchs sweep the Homestead Grays in the ’42 Negro League World Series. His fastball was legendary and he and Smith and Paige were among the greatest fireballing strikeout pitchers of their time.

After the ’42 Series his pro baseball career was interrupted by World War II where he served for 3 years. He returned and rejoined the Monarchs in 1946 soon after Jackie Robinson had been signed by the Dodgers. Johnson was able to return to form after missing so many prime years to the War. In 1950 he pitched the middle 3 innings in the last ever East West All Star Game. He struck out 3 as the West won 5-3. Johnson took the win and hit a triple to help his own cause.

The next year he was signed by the White Sox organization. He made his MLB debut at age 30, but his arm was tired and sore and his velocity was nowhere close to where it was before he went to war. He put together a record of 11-9 in 2-1/2 seasons in Chicago before being traded to Baltimore in 1956.

In 1957, with the Orioles, Johnson relied on savvy and experience and had his best season in the Major Leagues for Baltimore. At the age of 34 he ranked in the top-10 in nearly every pitching category. His record was 14-11 and his 14 wins ranked 7th. His 3.20 ERA was 9th. His 177 strikeouts were 3rd best, just 7 K’s behind Early Wynn (184) for the League Lead. Johnson did pace the AL in Strikeouts to walks ratio with 2.682. He was 3rd in complete games with 14 and 4th in shutouts with 3. His 242 innings pitched were 4th in the AL.

Eating all of those innings irritated his already sore arm and 1957 would not only be his best big league season, it would be close to his last. He pitched in just 118 innings in 1958. That would be his final year in the major leagues. He did pitch several more years in AAA and still had success as he approached 40 with a damaged right arm. He retired after the 1961 season, 22 years after his pro debut. His career line in the Major Leagues was 40-39 with a 3.44 ERA and 497 strikeouts.
A tiny bit of intrigue before I sign off… When I Googled Connie Johnson to do this post I found out that there are 2213 Connie Johnsons living in the United States. Johnson is the 2nd most popular last name in the country while Connie ranks 150th in popularity. Johnson was born Clifton Johnson and pitched under that name during his interrupted 10 year career with the Kansas City Monarchs. I don’t know when, where or how he picked up the name Connie. Anybody know?
Okay, that is all for now… For those of you who don’t know, I obsessively collect ANY and ALL alumni of the Negro Leagues and love uncovering the stories left behind from these Legends. From a teenage phenom to a crafty veteran hurler, Clifton “Connie” Johnson epitomizes all that is Nitty Gritty. I love this game, I love this hobby! I love ’59 Topps! 51 years LATER!

Monday, December 6, 2010

The Nitty Gritty Card of the Day!

Todays Nitty Gritty Card of the Day come from 1950 Bowman Baseball, it is card #224 of Brooklyn Dodgers relief pitcher Jack Banta. Banta began his professional career in the Dodgers organization in 1944 as a 19 year old starting pitching. He rose through the ranks and by 1948 he was 19-9 with 20 complete games and 194 strikeouts for the AAA Montreal Royals. This earned him a spot on the Opening Day roster for Brooklyn in 1949. Banta was a busy pitcher. He was a spot starter and a frequent reliever. He appeared in 48 games for the Dodgers, pitching 152 innings. He was 10-6 that year for Brooklyn and the young group won the National League Pennant. This was the Dodgers 3rd Flag in the 1940s, they lost in the World Series each time. Banta was on the mound on the last day of the season and won the game that clinched the NL and sent Brooklyn to the World Series. Banta appeared in 3 games in the Series in relief. The Dodgers fell to the Yankees in 5 games. A sore arm limited Banta to just 16 innings of work in 1950. That would be his final year in the Major Leagues. He attempted a minor league comeback, but retired from playing all together in 1952. He would become a coach and manager for the Dodgers farm system, but retired from baseball all together after the 1957 season. Banta looked to figure in the Dodgers plans for the future after 1949. The team would succeed and the group led by Robinson, Reese, Snider and Campanella would win 5 NL Pennants in the 1950s, capped off with World Series victories in 1955 and '59, but Banta would be a part of those teams. 1949 would be his lone full big league season, but it was a good one, he was 10-6 with a 3.37 ERA, 3 saves and 97 strikeouts. He passed away in his hometown of Hutchinson, Kansas in 2006. I love this game, I love learning about all those who played it and I LOVE collecting little cardboard reminders of past greatness. This card has been handled ALOT, and hopefully enjoyed and appreciated. It is well worn. I made the scan extra large to show all the details of this cards long life. I love 1950 Bowman. I love the images and the backgrounds. I love Banta's expression. So young, eager and unsure of what is to come. 60 years LATER.

Saturday, November 27, 2010

The Nitty Gritty Card of the Day!

Today’s Nitty Gritty Card of the Day comes from 1965 Topps Baseball, card #318 of San Francisco Giants outfielder Matty Alou.

In 1965 Alou was in his 6th and final year with the San Francisco Giants. He broke in with them in 1960 as a 21 year old playing in 4 games. As a rookie in 1961 Alou batted .310 in 81 games for the Giants as a part time outfielder. The next year he continued to platoon and batted .292 in 78 games for the National League Champions. As the back of the card reminds us, Alou batted .333 (4 for 12) in the World Series against the Yankees.

In 1963 Matty Alou made history along with his brothers Felipe and Jesus when the 3 Alou brothers filled the Giants outfield with all 3 starting the same game. 1965 would be Matty Alou’s most active year with the Giants playing in 117 games, but his batting average dipped down to .231 and he was traded to the Pittsburgh Pirates after that season for Joe Gibbon and Ozzie Virgil.

In his final year in San Francisco Alou made his pitching debut throwing the final 2 innings of a game – he faced 10 batters, gave up 3 hits, allowed zero runs and struck out 3.

His trade to Pittsburgh sparked huge career resurgence. In his first season with the Bucs his batting average skyrocketed .111 points! From .231 up to .342. He set career highs in games (141), runs (86), doubles (18), triples (9), RBIs (27), steals (23) and batting average with his .342 mark.
He won the 1966 National League batting crown by a 15 point (.015) margin. Second in the batting race was his brother and former teammate Felipe Alou who batted .327 for the Braves.
Matty Alou would never win another batting crown, but he had a breakout year with the Bucs in 1969 when he batted .331 with a career high and league leading 231 hits and 41 doubles. He also scored 105 runs and stole 22 bases and was the NLs starting center fielder in the All Star Game.

He would leave Pittsburgh after the 1970 season, traded to the Cardinals for Vic Davilillo and Nellie Briles. After 5 seasons in Pittsburgh Alou owned a .327 batting average. He did nearly as well in St. Louis, batting .314 over 3 seasons as a Cardinal. Matty Alou would be traded 5 times over his last 3 years in the big leagues before retiring after the 1974 season with the Padres. Along the way he stopped in Oakland and won a World Series ring with the A’s in 1972.

He retired a 15 year veteran with a .307 career batting average (134th All Time!), 1777 hits and 780 runs scored.

I believe at some point this card was used to patch a hole in someone’s roof and the tar remains on the front as a reminder. That fits in well with Matty Alou – a hardnosed, hard tar sticky and Nitty Gritty guy.

I love this game and I love this hobby! I really love this set, too. If you are so inclined, you can find my shrinking want list for 1965 Topps right here. I have dupes to trade and have a number of vintage singles that I would gladly trade for any card on this list.

Tuesday, November 2, 2010

The Nitty Gritty Card of the Day

Today's Nitty Gritty Card of the Day is card # 999 from 1968 Topps featuring Giants All Star slugger Willie McCovey.

1968 was a pretty good year for Big Mac - he was the NL's homerun (36) and RBI (105) leader and was the NL All Star starting 1st baseman for the 2nd year in a row. He stepped things up even more in 1969 when he once again led the league in homers (45) and RBI (126) with much higher totals. He also raised his batting average up to .320, lowered his strikeouts and nearly doubled his walk total. He would also lead the League in OBP (.453), SLG (.656), OPS (1.108), OPS+ (209) and also intentional walks with 45. Mac came within .028 points of winning the Triple Crown and won the National League MVP Award. Earlier that year he hit 2 homers to help the NL All Star Game and took home MVP honors there as well.

Willie McCovey's career started in 1959 with the Giants where he played in just 52 games but still managed to be the unanimous choice for Rookie of the Year after posting marks of (.354/13/38) in his short time on the field. Starting with a bang Big Mac never fizzled. He played for 22 seasons in the Major Leagues, 19 with the Giants, from 1959-1980.

He is one of only 3 players to hit homers in 4 different decades. He was the NL's homerun king 3 times and hit 521 for his career. He also hit 18 grand slams, the most by any player in the National League. McCovey made it to the World Series 1 time over 22 seasons, in 1962 when he was platooning with Orlando Cepeda. McCovey batted only .200, but did homer in the Giants effort. San Francisco would fall to the Yankees in 7 games and Big Mac would never return to the Series.

Stretch McCovey retired after the 1980 season and was elected into the Hall of Fame in 1986, his first year on the ballot. Last night over 50 years after Willie McCovey stormed into the big leagues, the Giants won a World Series, and after half a century in MLB Stretch got his first ring. Congratulations the Giants winning their first World Series since 1954 - finally proving they could win without Willie Mays and Monte Irvin.

Oh, by the way - they don't name a Cove after you if you ain't Nitty Gritty. I love this game, I love this hobby! 42 years LATER.

Saturday, October 30, 2010

Nitty Gritty Card of the Day

Today's Nitty Gritty Card of the Day once again comes from my favorite Topps set of all time, 1965 Topps Baseball. It is card #260 of Hall of Fame hurler Don Drysdale. My want list for this set stops at 252, so I didn't get to scratch this card off, but considering I how 83 cards from #1 up to 100, I think I might add another 36 cards (4 pages) to my list.

Most of my '65s have come from my local card shop - he has a knack for finding big lots in decent condition at good prices and ALWAYS calls me when these blue backed beauties walk in. This particular card was a gift to myself courtesy of an auction site. I had a gift card with $2.77 left on it so I started searching the 'Bay and I set the parameters to look for cards with free shipping ranging in cost from .01 up to $2.77. I searched key word 1965 Topps and within the first page I found this card. I really couldn't believe it. This 45 year old piece of cardboard was mailed to me for LESS than the cost of a single pack of 2010 Topps baseball. That blew me away.

The value makes the card better, but what makes it great is that it is in fact a card of Don Drysdale. Truly one of the best ever. 1965 was one of his best seasons, too. The back of the card mentions that DD hit 7 homers in 1958. The cartoon proclaims the hurler as Ruthian. Well, in 1965 he equaled that total and did it with an amazing stat line, batting .300 with 7 homers, 19 RBI, 18 runs scored and a .508 slugging percentage.

On the mound in '65 he was 23-12 with a 2.77 ERA in 42 starts. He threw 20 complete games, 7 shutouts and struck on 210 batters in over 300 innings pitched. His Dodgers finished 1st in the National League - a fact that is documented in pencil in the top corner of the card. That is probably the reason I was able to snag this card for under 2 bucks. DD and the Dodgers followed their hot season into the World Series and beat the Twins to win Drysdale his 3rd ring with the Dodgers. He was Los Angeles' game 1 starter, but got knocked out quickly. He returned to start Game 4 and pitched a complete game 5 hitter, striking out 11 Twins as the Dodgers won 7-2. Don Drysdale would retire a couple of years after this card came out.

He spent his entire 14 year career with the Dodgers in Brooklyn and LA. Over that time he was a 9 time All Star and started the game 5 times. He won 12 or more games 12 years in a row and struck out more than 200 batters 6 times, leading the league in that category 3 times. He retired in 1969 at the young age of 32, a time when many pitchers are just finding their stride. He left behind a career tally of 209-166 with a career ERA of just 2.95.

Despite his early exit from the game, he ranks in the top 30 of All Time in several categories. His 2486 strikeouts are 30th best, while his 49 shutouts is 21st best. His scariest stat is the unfortunate 154 who were hit by Drysdale. He led the league in hit batsmen 5 times and ranks 18th All Time in that category and I bet each of the 154 victims will never forget that experience.

Don Drysdale was finally voted in the National Baseball Hall of Fame in 1984, his 10th year on the ballot. I have only seen him pitch in videos of classic games, and it isn't possible to capture his brilliance on the field in a short blog post, but he epitomizes Nitty Gritty.

I love this game, I love this hobby! 45 years LATER.

Wednesday, October 27, 2010

The Nitty Gritty Card of the Day

Today's Nitty Gritty Card of the Day is card #1 from 1972 Topps showing the World Champions of 1971, the Pittsburgh Pirates. 38 years later the Series starts today. In 1971 Game 1 was a match of Aces, too. For the Pirates it was Dock Ellis (19-9) versus Dave McNally for the Baltimore Orioles. The Orioles bats knocked out Ellis quickly as he was pulled after just 2-1/3 innings giving up 4 earned runs on 2 homers. McNally was superb and went 9 innings allowing 3 unearned runs and striking out 9 for the win. Dock Ellis did not return for the Bucs while McNally took the loss in Game 5 and returned the next game to pitch the final frame in Baltimore's 3-2 extra inning victory to earn the win. The Pirates would go on to beat the favored Orioles in 7 games behind Series MVP Roberto Clemente who batted .414 with a pair of timely homers and 4 RBI. 4 runs batted in doesn't jump out at you as amazing, but consider that the Pirates scored only 23 runs over 7 games and it becomes a bit more impressive as he drove in nearly 20% of their runs. It would be Clemente's final World Series. I love this game, I love this hobby, I love it's stories. I can't wait for the first pitch of the 2010 World Series! If you like the Pirates and their cards - I recently received a package with literally 100s of Pirates cards from the 60s, 70s and beyond from Cam at the Reds and More blog. Stick around as I will eventually get these up. The Pirates will ALWAYS be my team in the National League no matter what. Even if they are OLD memories, at least us Pirates fans have the memories of greatness. 38 years LATER.

Tuesday, October 26, 2010

The Nitty Gritty Card of the Day

Today's Nitty Gritty Card of the Day is card #130 from the 1965 Topps Baseball set featuring Detroit Tigers outfielder Al Kaline. Mr. Tiger spent all of his 22 seasons in baseball playing for the Tigers where he was an 18 time All Star, a 10 time Gold Glove Award winner and a World Champion. He retired after the 1974 season with 399 homers and 3007 hits for Detroit. He was inducted into the Baseball Hall of Fame in 1980 and will forever be known as Mr. Tiger and was a pretty Nitty Gritty guy as well... I love this hobby. 45 years LATER.

Monday, October 25, 2010

The Nitty Gritty Card of the Day

Today’s Nitty Gritty Card of the Day comes from 1965 Topps Baseball and features Baltimore Orioles reliever Harvey Haddix. At 39 years old, 1965 was Haddix’ final season in baseball and he spent it in the bullpen in Baltimore with Don Larsen, Dick Hall, Stu Miller and a 19 year old named Jim Palmer. Haddix had been a successful starter for a decade before moving to the pen and in ’65 he was coming off a remarkable season. He was 5-5 with a 2.31 ERA and 10 saves. He appeared in 49 games for 89 innings striking out 90 against 23 walks.

The Orioles were Harvey Haddix’ 6th and final team. His career spanned 14 seasons and started off with the Cardinals in 1952 pitching in 7 games. He returned to St. Louis in 1953 as a 27 year old starter and still held onto to his rookie status. He had one of his best seasons on the mound of his storied career that year. He appeared in his 1st of 3 straight All Star Games and finished second to Dodgers second baseman Junior Gilliam in the Rookie of the Year voting. Had the Cy Young Award existed in ’53, he would have received many votes for that a
ward as well. As a rookie Haddix posted a 20-9 record with a 3.06 ERA. He completed 19 games, including a league leading 6 shutouts.

After his success in St. Louis Haddix was traded twice before ending up on the Pittsburgh Pirates in 1959. It was with the Bucs that Haddix pitched one of the most famous games in MLB history. On May 26, 1959 Haddix pitched 12 PERFECT innings against the Braves before yielding a hit and losing the game in the 13th inning. He holds the MLB record for retiring 36 consecutive batters in a single. A record that likely will never be approached.

He took the loss in that famous game, but the next year he was on the mound for the win (in relief) for another famous game. The Pirates walk-off World Series win against the Yankees in the 1960 World Series. The Pirates won the Series and Haddix’ owned a 2-0 mark against the Yankees in the Series. That would be his only ring as a player, but Haddix would earn another with the Pirates in 1979 as their pitching coach.

Over his 14 year playing career Harvey Haddix was a 3-time All Star, a World Series Champ, a 3 time Gold Glove award winner and drove in 64 runs as a hitter. A great hitting pitcher and all around athlete. Haddix was known as one of the top fielding pitchers of his era. His career mark is 136-113 with a 3.63 ERA. He pitched 99 complete games and 20 shutouts and struck out 1575 against only 601 walks.

He was nicknamed Kitten early in his career as he resembled a young Harry “the Cat” Breechen.

Pitching in 2 of the most memorable games of all time and a 14 year career as a starter and then reliever, a World Champ and an unbreakable record all combine to make Harvey Haddix as Nitty Gritty as they come. This blog is proud to sponsor his Baseball Reference page.
I love this hobby! 45 years later.

Friday, October 22, 2010

The Nitty Gritty Card of the Day

Today’s Nitty Gritty Card of the Day is from 1956 Topps Baseball, card #86 of Raymond Leo Jablonski, third baseman of the Cincinnati Reds. While searching for Play at the Plate cards from 1956 Topps, I came across this gem, which appears to be a play at third base.

I believe that is Jabbo putting down the tag on the base runner, but I have never been sure. This card has always confused me. I wasn’t alive in 1956, but I always thought that the Redlegs wore red hats or at least white hats with a red C, not a blue hat. I had wondered if it was error, but looking around I have noticed that just about every Red in this set is wearing a blue cap. Hmm…

Jabbo’s professional baseball career began in 1947 in Class D ball with the Red Sox organization. Unlike many players whose career was interrupted by World War II, Jablonski served 2 years overseas BEFORE his playing career. When he did his career going he spent 6 years in the minors, the first five in the low levels. He spent 1951 in the B League where he hit .363 with 28 homers and was voted Carolina League MVP. After that season he jumped to AAA with Rochester in 1952 where he hit .299 with 10 triples, 18 homers and drove in 103.
Those numbers were good enough for him to begin the 1953 in St. Louis with the Cardinals. He had a remarkable campaign as a 26 year old rookie third baseman. He tied a rookie record by playing in 157 games. He went to the plate 640 times and batted .268 with 21 homers and 112 RBI to place himself second on the Cards behind Stan Musial. He would place 3rd in the National League Rookie of the Year balloting behind Junior Gilliam and his 20 game winning teammate Harvey Haddix. His team would win 83 games, but ranked third in the NL with Brooklyn taking the flag.

As a sophomore Jabbo avoided the jinx and was the NL’s starting third baseman in the 1954 All Star Game. In the 4th inning of the AS Game Jabbo singled off of Sandy Consuergra, drove in his teammate Stan Musial and pulled the NL within 2 runs of the AL making the score 4-2. Jabbo scored when the next batter, Jackie Robinson hit a bases clearing double to tie the score. The AL would win the game 11-9 after Nellie Fox drilled a 2-run single in the bottom of the 8th.

After his All Star season (.296/12/104) the Cardinals traded Ray Jablonski with Gerry Staley to the Reds for reliever Frank Thomas Smith. Jabbo never was the same player after that trade. He became a journey man and bounced to 5 different teams over the next 6 seasons. His best year came in 1956 when he hit .256 with 12 homers and 66 RBI for the Reds. Jablonski would leave the big leagues after playing in just 21 games for the KC A’s in 1960. He would stick around and spend 4 more years at the AAA level where he topped 20 homers 3 times, but his major league career was complete. He owned a .268 batting average with 83 homers and 438 RBI for his career.

Jablonski was never known for his glove, but the back of the card tells us that he could field at every infield position and he did. When your Nitty Gritty, you go where your needed – you tell your Coach you wanna play, you don’t care where, you are there to drive in runs and win ballgames.

Raymond Jablonski died young, in 1985 of kidney failure. He was a World War 2 vet, serving in France, and a Major League All Star AND a Nitty Gritty ballplayer. Jablonski is also, now, the first player page that the Nitty Gritty has sponsored on Baseball Reference. I love this game, I love this hobby! 54 years LATER!

Thursday, October 21, 2010

The Nitty Gritty Card of the Day

Todays Nitty Gritty Card of the Day comes from 1956 Topps, card #117 of Detroit Tigers pitcher Virgil Oliver Trucks. Everyone knows the story of "Fire" Trucks. The back of the card shows a brief synopsis mentioning his 4 no-hitters in the minor leagues and his two no-hitters for Detroit in 1952. It also mentions that he paced the League in shutouts in both 1949 and '52. His 33 career shutouts ranks him 87th of All Time, which becomes more impressive because 229 hurlers started more games than him in their careers. This card shows Trucks on his second stint with Detroit. He was traded to Kansas City after the 1956 season. The rendering on the side shows him appearing to field a grounder from third base. Thanks for reading! I love this hobby! 64 years LATER!

Thursday, October 7, 2010

The Nitty Gritty Card of the Day

Today’s Nitty Gritty Card of the Day is card #15 from 1967 Topps baseball featuring Minnesota Twins catcher Earl Battey. If you thought that Joe Mauer was the first Twins backstop that could handle the bat, you would be incorrect… Battey's stats don't jump out at you, but consider the era when you look at numbers on the back of this 43 year old slab of cardboard. Battey lived behind the plate in Minnesota for 7 seasons and during his tenure he was a 5-time All Star (4 starts) and 3-time Gold Glove winner. His best output at the plate came in 1963 when he was in the top-10 in batting, homers and runs batted in with marks of:.285/26/84. He made one trip to the World Series in 1965, but his Twins fell to Sandy Koufax and the LA Dodgers. It was triumph enough that they kept the Yankees out of the postseason that year. Here is to hoping that Joe Mauer, Delmon Young and Jim Thome can send the Yankees home this year. I love this game, I love this hobby! 43 years later!

Tuesday, October 5, 2010

The Nitty Gritty Card of the Day

Today's Nitty Gritty Card of the Day comes from 1964 Topps. This is my least favorite set of the 1960's. The pale orange card backs and boring design don't do it for me. And who thought it would be a good idea to rub your cards with a nickel or dime? And what would have happened if you rubbed with a penny, or a quarter? I don't want to know... That said, vintage still rules and 1964 is most certainly vintage. This card is one of my favorite players of all time and is one of the few '64s I own. Anyway, without further adieu, today's Nitty Gritty Card of the Day is 1964 Topps card #310 of Los Angeles Dodgers infielder Jim Gilliam. Gilliam, who was nicknamed Junior, was not actually a Junior. He got the nickname because he started playing competitive baseball at such a young age. He spent his entire Major League career with the Dodgers. From 1953 when he was the Rookie of the Year, up till his untimely death in 1978 when the Dodgers won the NL Pennant. In 26 seasons with the Dodgers, they were NL Champs 10 times. As a player he won 4 World Series Crowns with them. His number 19 was retired by the team in 1978, days after his death. I love this game and I love this hobby and all of the stories it unlocks. Oh, as an endnote - I just noticed that Foul Bunt posted Gilliam's 1955 Topps card today. I love random coincidence... 46 years later!

Saturday, August 21, 2010

The Nitty Gritty Card of the Day

Today's Nitty Gritty Card of the Day is card #25 from the 1965 Topps baseball set featuring Pittsburgh Pirates reliever Al McBean. McBean was at the peak of his career when this card came out. In 1964 he was 8-3 with a 1.90 ERA and 22 saves. He was named the Sporting News National League Relief Pitcher of the Year, an Honor that was awarded from 1960-2004. The year prior he was 13-3 in relief and pitched a streak of 22 straight scorless innings. 1963 was his first season in the bullpen-in '62 he was a part of the Pirates rotation and posted a 15-10 mark as a starter. McBean was born in the Virgin Islands and one of the first big league players from there. In fact, 50 years after his debut he is still the ONLY big league pitcher to hail from the Virgin Islands and is one of only 11 players from the Islands to make it to the Majors. At 5'11" and 165 pounds he looked more like an infielder than a pitcher and although he never played the position as a professional in the US, he was quite a shortstop and fielded that position during batting practice to the delight of everyone looking on. I love this game, I love it's history and I love all the stories behind every character to play the game and appear on a card in the hobby I love. 45 years LATER!

Friday, August 13, 2010

The Nitty Gritty Card of the Day

Today's Nitty Gritty Card of the Day is card #320 from the 1965 Topps Baseball set featuring St. Louis Cardinals pitcher Bob Gibson. If you don't think Bob Gibson is Nitty Gritty you are gonna have some sore ribs cuz a brushback is coming! I have lucked into several Gibby cards of late and I plan to feature them all eventually so I won't get into too many of Hoot's amazing accolades as a player. His Cardinals defeated the New York Yankees in the 1964 World Series and there is a World Series subset (which I have completed!) in the '65 set which celebrates his postseason heroics. The back of this card mentions that Gibby won 2 games against NY in the series and also shows his complete stats up to that point. One thing I find interesting is Gibson didn't exactly put up huge numbers in the minors. Decent, but not indicative of what was to come from the most dominant right hander of his generation. After winning the Championship in '64 the Cards fell from grace a bit and finished in 7th place in 1965 with a record of 80-81. At 29 years of age Gibson was just hitting his stride. He won 20 games for the first time that year, was an All Star, won a Gold Glove and struck out 270 batters. What I found most interesting and perhaps most Nitty Gritty was his hitting that year. He batted .240 with 5 homers, 19 RBI and a couple of stolen bases. Those are very respectable numbers for a pitcher, but if you compare him to his teammates in '65 his homerun total equaled the total of Dick Groat, Julian Javier and Mike Shannon. Those 3 combined for 1181 plate appearances and totalleed 5 homers betweeen them. Gibby hit 5 in just 119. Thats just awesome. More Gibby to come. I love this game, I love this hobby! 45 years LATER!

Saturday, August 7, 2010

Nitty Gritty Card(s) of the Day! 1965 Topps Traded, Traded to Me!!!

A few months back I got a surprise package from reader Deron in Atlanta. He had written me asking if I had any 2008 Topps. Hell yeah I did. I went crazy with 50% off blasters of that, but never tried to put a set together. I had about 100 cards he needed and shipped them right away. Since I didn't really care about '08 Topps I was just happy to find a good home for the cards and I wasn't expecting anything in return. Well, I did get something in return. Within a week I got the aforementioned surprise package from the ATL. It was a nice envelope full of 1965 Topps baseball, plus a few other bonuses. He had a note saying that he couldn't find my wantlist, but he knew I was working on the set. For anyone concerned, my wantlist for '65 Topps is HERE. I am collecting cards 1-272 right now. As I get closer with those I will extend my list and add more pages to the binder. After having the Steve Carlton rookie stolen within a week of buying it soured me on chasing the whole set, so I am taking baby steps getting back into. Anyway, for someone who couldn't find my list he did pretty darn well. He sent 8 1965's and I needed 6 of them, plus one that wasn't on my list turned out to be a nice UPGRAYDE. I will focus on 2 of the cards he sent, cards I have dubbed '65 Topps Traded. The first one is an excellant example of a horrible airbrushing disaster. It is card #404 of pitcher Stan Williams. People ask me what makes a card or a player Nitty Gritty. There are a lot of different things that get you that status, being an aggressive rough and tumble player, playing down and dirty, being a certified bad-ass, being a catcher in full gear or having a vintage action shot or just being cool. Having a cool name or nickname can sneak you in, too. Stanley Williams was also none as Big Daddy. I don't know where he picked the name up, but he was a big righthanded pitcher, he stood 6'5" and weighed 230 pounds, thats a big daddy! He was a part of the Dodgers World Championship team in 1959 (also Nitty Gritty) and from 1960-'62 he won 14 games or more for the Dodgers. He was 14-10 with 175 Ks in 1960 and made both NL All Star Teams that year. In '61 he topped 200 Ks for the Dodgers before being traded to the Yankees for Moose (also Nitty Gritty) Skowron after the 1962 season. He was the 5th starter on the '63 Yankees team that won the AL Crown and repeated with them in '64, but had moved down the rotation to a spot starter and reliever. He became expendable in New York and was sold to the Cleveland Indians in spring of '65, right before this card came out. They mention him being dealt on the back of the card, but were not able to take a photo of him on the Tribe, so this is his '65 Topps card. He is clearly wearing Yankees pinstripes, Topps didn't bother hiding the NY on his jersey or taking out the other Yankees behind him in this pic that was taken in the spring of '64. They did black over the NY on his cap, but it still shows through. He is labeled as an Indian on the card. Big Daddy spent 4 years with the Tribe. He won 25 games and saved 22 more splitting time between the rotation and the closer role. He won 13 for them in '68, but was traded again after the 1969 season. He and Luis Tiant went to Minnesota in exchange for Dean Chance. At 33 years of age Big Daddy had one of his top years on the mound for the Twins. He pitched in 68 games, all in relief and posted an amazing 10-1 mark over 113 innings. He had a 1.99 ERA and saved 15 games for Minnesota. They lost to the Orioles in the ALCS that year, but Big Daddy was dominant. He appeared in relief in 2 games and pitched 6 scoreless innings It was his final postseason, but over his career he never allowed a run in the playoffs or World Series. He totaled 11 innings, allowed 4 hits and no runs. Not too shabby. After the Twins he made stops in St. Louis and Boston before calling it a career in 1972. He posted a career mark of 109-94 with a 3.48 ERA, 1305 strikeouts, 11 shutouts and 43 saves. He won a ring with the Dodgers in '59 and played against them in a losing effort with the Yanks in '63. He was also a part of the Yanks team that lost to the Cards in the WS in '64. After retiring as a player he spent many years as a coach in the big leagues, most recently with the Mariners up till 1999. It all started with me being fascinated by a lame airbrush effort from Topps, but opened up a story of a very interesting big league career. The other card I am going to show off today wasn't one on my wantlist. I had this card, but I really appreciate the upgrade. It is card #162 of Boston's backup catcher Russ Nixon. After 3 years with the Bo Sox Nixon was traded to the Minnesota Twins, too. He went from backing up Bob Tillman to relieving Earl Battey. The original owner of my card had updated Nixon's team name to the Twins after he was sent to Minnesota in the spring of '66 in the deal that got the Sox Dick Stigman. Nixon spent 2 years as a Twin before returning to Boston in 1968 where he ended his big league career. Nixon spent 12 years in the Majors and played every inning behind the plate, catching for 5506 innings. That's alot of squatting! Nixon spent most of the 1970s managing in the minor leagues before he took over the job of being the Reds skipper in 1982. He would then replace Chuck Tanner as the Atlanta Braves manager before Atlanta ushered in the Bobby Cox era which began in June of 1990. Wow, this post went far longer than expected... Just think, I only posted about 10% of what Deron sent me! A huge thanks to Deron and to everyone who has helped me in my quest (again) for 1965 Topps! You can find my wantlist here, I am slowly chipping away and have several completed pages to show off. This is my favorite set of all time and I hope to have a binder full of it again! If you are collecting this set too, get in touch, I have a couple of dupes and I love to trade! I love this game, I love it's history and I LOVE THIS HOBBY!!! Thanks for reading, I hope to always keep it Nitty and Gritty. 45 years LATER!!!

Friday, August 6, 2010

The Nitty Gritty Card of the Day

Welcome to the Nitty Gritty Card of the Day! Today's card is number 147 from the 1957 Topps set of Albert Bluford "Rube" Walker, catcher for the Brooklyn and LA Dodgers. Walker spent 8 years with the Dodgers and those 8 seasons came at the same time as Roy Campanella was winning MVP Awards and starting All Star games. This left Rube Walker without much playing time... He was still a part of some of the great Brooklyn teams of the 50's and found himself on this bad-ass card that I will probably post again. This is what Nitty Gritty is all about... I love this card, I love this hobby! 63 years LATER!

Thursday, August 5, 2010

Wicked Card of the Day!

It has been a LONG time since a post over here, but I am going to roll right into it... This card didn't come from the Wicked One, but it is a card of a mutual favorite player of ours. Wicked Ortega and I are both Latino bloggers who live in Florida. 3 big things we have in common. I am Mexican and he is Cuban and being Cuban he collects cards of Cuban players. In the 1960's there were a number of great players from the island in the big leagues. Minnie Minoso, Tony Oliva, Tony Perez, Mike Cuellar, Luis Tiant and Bert Campaneris to name a few. Another player from Cuba who both Wicked and I collect is former outfielder and father of my favorite player of all time, Jose Tartabull. He is the focus of today's card of the day, card #56 from 1967 Topps baseball showing him on the Boston Red Sox who took the AL Pennant in 1967. The Bo Sox' outfield was tight in '67. Yaz in left, Reggie Smith in center and young Tony Conigliaro in right. Tony C actually shared time with Hawk Harrelson and Tartabull. Actually Tartabull played all 3 outfield positions that year, coming in often as a late inning defensive replacement or pinch runner. His most famous moment came at the end of the 1967 season when he gunned Ken Berry down at the plate with a perfect throw during the stretch run that year. The Red Sox won that game and ultimately won the AL Flag. I got into the elder Tartabull after collecting Danny. Jose Tartabull was never an All Star and never really played full-time in the majors, but he was still a remarkable fielder, a great baserunner and an important part of baseball history. I just picked up a heap of vintage cards, so I hope to do a lot of quick posts here in the coming days and weeks. Go Rays! 43 years LATER.

Saturday, June 12, 2010

Nitty Gritty Old Versus New

The Nitty Gritty lives!!! Sorry for the lack of posts... I am on the last day of a 72 hour work week.. Busy busy. No time for any thoughts on these cards, so I will leave that up to you the reader. The card(s) of the day are #298 of Jim Golden from 1961 Topps and the modern version, card #298 of Wade Davis from 2010 Heritage. The Golden card looks more like a Chicle painting to me. Apparently he was a hot prospect on the Dodgers farm. He won 2 games for the Dodgers over two seasons before being picked by the Colt 45s in the expansion draft. Golden was 7-11 in Houston in 1962. His MLB career lasted parts of 4 seasons. For his career he was 9-13 with 5 complete games and 2 shutouts. He was also twice traded for Hall of Famers-Nellie Fox and Sparky Anderson. Golden's modern day twin is Wade Davis of the Tampa Bay Rays. Davis is 5-6 for the Rays so far this year. Thats all the time we have folks, thanks for reading! I have 56 1961 Topps cards, so that means about 50 more of these posts as soon as I get the 2010 version. I am not going to collect this set, so any card I post is up for trade for a card from my '65 Topps list. I love this hobby! 49 years LATER!