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.