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!