Wednesday, March 31, 2010

The Greatest Catcher EVER!!!

Greetings and welcome to the Nitty Gritty Card of the Day! My apologies for the sensationalistic title, but in addition to the card of the day, there is a poll added to this blog. It is for the Best Catcher Ever. Since catchers are the epitome of nitty gritty, it seemed fitting to have that poll up here. This poll will remain for 7 days and during that time the Card of the Day will focus on; yep you guessed it, catchers. Seven days of backstops from the 50s, 60s and 70s. During this time I beg of you, my dear readers, to vote for the top catcher and to also visit my 2 other blogs to vote for the BEST SHORTSTOP and also the BEST SECOND BASEMAN. Okay, with that out of the way, here is today’s Card of the Day: From the 1968 Topps set it is card #89 of New York Yankees catcher Jake Gibbs. Gibbs was a superstar college athlete who chose baseball over football thanks to a whole lot of bonus $$$ from the Yankees. Gibbs was an All American quarterback on the University of Mississippi football team. He led Ole Miss to a 10-0-1 record in 1960 as a senior and the Rebels were voted DuS/NWAA National Champs. He was drafted by both the Houston Oilers and Cleveland Browns, but opted for a bigger contract in New York to play baseball. He jumped directly to AAA ball and spent the next 5 seasons splitting time between the AAA Richmond squad and backing up Elston Howard in New York. He spent the entire ’66 season with the Yankees and when Howard was traded to Boston in 1967 he took over as the Yankees full-time catcher. He was a .230 hitter without much power, but his arm was amazing and he owned a career .986 fielding percentage behind the plate. In 1968 he had 55 assists and threw out 30 would be base stealers. His role as the Yankees starting catcher lasted less than 3 seasons. Thurman Munson arrived, won the Rookie of the Year Award in 1970 and took the job. Gibbs retired from playing after the 1971 season at the age of 32. He played in 459 games behind the plate and threw out 108 potential thieves at a rate of 44%. During his pro baseball career Gibbs was an assistant football coach at Ole Miss in the offseason and in 1995 he was inducted into the College Football Hall of Fame. Immediately after retiring as a player Gibbs took over as Ole Miss’ baseball coach and held that post for 19 seasons. He served as a coach for the Yankees in 1993 and also managed the Tampa Yankees (A-FSL) in 1994 and 1995. He also used a very large mitt. Thanks for reading and thanks for voicing your opinion in the Best Ever polls! 42 years later.

Tuesday, March 30, 2010

The Nitty Gritty Card of the Day!

Yesterday’s Nitty Gritty Card of the Day was of Don Blasingame of the Washington Senators-the Senators who turned into the Texas Rangers. Today’s Nitty Gritty Card of the Day is from the 1960 Topps set, card #9 of Washington Senators outfielder Faye Throneberry. Now these 2 cards came out within 4 years of each other and they have the same team name, but they are 2 totally different teams. The Senators that Throneberry played for in 1960 left Washington for Minnesota the next year and became the Twins. By 1965 they went from American League doormats to American League Champions while Blasingame and the new Senators finished 8th in the AL. Those Sens existed for 11 seasons before packing it in and heading for Texas. Basically, the Nitty Gritty supports both lovable losing teams from our Nation’s Capital. These Senators are a team that I hold a special place for… When my father was a child and his father, my Grandfather (Pop-Pop) worked at the Pentagon they attended many Senators games. My Pop-Pop actually liked the Sens. He was a fan of the underdog. Most politicians attended Sens games because they were right there, but hated the losers from DC. Okay, getting back on track… Faye Throneberry, the older brother of Marvelous Marv, spent most of his 8 year big league career on the bench, but in 1959 he was Washington’s starting right fielder. The Washington Senators won just 63 games in 1959, but that wasn’t due to a lack of offense. Throneberry was 5th on the team with 10 homers, but the real power came from their young third baseman Harmon Killebrew (42), Jim Lemon (33), Bob Allison (30) and Roy Sievers with 21. Beyond the big 5 in their lineup there was a big drop off at the plate and the team had a collective batting average of just .237. Couple that with a team ERA over 4 and you understand why they only won 63 games. Throneberry played in 117 games for them and set career highs in nearly every category. His previous high in games was 98 in his rookie season with the Red Sox. He played in 85 games the next year and just 24 games in 1961, his final season in the big leagues. Over his 8 year career Faye Throneberry played in 521 games, batted .236 and hit 29 homeruns. The back of this card highlights Throneberry at his best in 1959. Thanks goes out to Adam E from the Thoughts and Sox Blog for sending this gem my way… Thanks for reading… 50 years LATER.

The Nitty Gritty Card of the Day

Today's Nitty Gritty Card of the Day is from the 1964 Topps set, card #327 of Washington Senators second baseman Don "Blazer" Blasingame. "Blazer" was the epitome of the gritty second baseman in the 50s and 60s. He could lay down a bunt, steal a base, take the extra base, work a count, move the runner over and he was a solid fielder. He was an All Star in 1958 with the Cardinals the year after he led the NL in at-bats, scored 108 runs and stole 21 bases. Five different times during his career Blasingame had the ONLY hit for his team on the bad side of a one-hit shutout. The poll is closed to vote for the greatest left fielder ever! Eventually every position will be polled to determine the Nitty Gritty All-Time All-Star team. It looks like Ted Williams is the top left fielder, to his right will be Babe Ruth and Henry Aaron, the vote for centerfielder is coming... Oh, this card is Play at the Plate's for the taking. Later.

Monday, March 29, 2010

The Best Left Fielder Ever???

There is only 11 hours left to vote on this poll. 59 more people voted for the top right fielder, lets get some more votes on this one...

Sunday, March 28, 2010

The Nitty Gritty Card of the Day

Today's Nitty Gritty Card of the Day comes from the 1966 Topps set, it is card #74 of left-handed pitcher Don Mossi. I love players with nicknames and Mossi had 2, actually he had a few more, but some are less nice than others... Mossi was known as the Sphinx. He was also called Ears. This is the last card of Mossi as he didn't actually pitch an inning in 1966. He retired after 12 seasons in the big leagues, a career which included a World Series appearance, an All Star game and 101 wins, 55 complete games and 50 saves. This is one of many cards that came to me from Rod of the Padrographs blog. Thanks again Rod! To everyone else, enjoy the true beauty of this card!

Friday, March 26, 2010

We Have A Winner!!!

The list randomizer has made it’s decision on who the proud new owner of the Steve Garvey bat relic card will be… List Randomizer
There were 17 items in your list. Here they are in random order:
1. 9. Mark's Ephemera - WINNER
2. 3. Slangon
3. 13. Field of Cards
4. 16. Teddy Dziuba
5. 1.Night Owlie
6. 4. Jonathan
7. 10. Justin G.
8. 11. Cameron
9. 12. SpastikMooss
10. 5. BA Benny
11. 14. Wicked Ortega
12. 2. Brooklyn Met
13. 15. Carl Crawford Cards
14. 17. Chris Sportscards
15. 6. GCRL
16. 8. Captain Canuck
17. 7. Play at the Plate
Timestamp: 2010-03-27 02:28:02 UTC
You guys also decided that Steve Garvey does NOT belong in the Hall of Fame. The BBWA and the Card Bloggers of the World seldom agree, but on Garvey’s case for the Hall, we do. Thanks to everyone for playing along… We WILL do things of this nature again. The winner should e-mail me their address and the card in question will be shipped out early next week. Now, since you already here, please vote for the top left fielder of all time on the sidebar poll. 66 people have voted for the top right fielder, but only 14 have voted for best left fielder. That just doesn’t seem RIGHT! Thanks again to everyone! And to Steve Garvey-NO PLAQUE FOR YOU!

The Nitty Gritty Card of the Day!

Today’s Nitty Gritty Card of the Day is from the colorful and psychedelic 1975 Topps set, card #555 of Pirates outfielder/first baseman Al Oliver. I don’t know if anyone has noticed, but the last 3 cards I have posted have been from the 70s. This will be the last one for a bit. It will probably be the last ’75 card ever. I prefer to leave that set to the experts. I was sorting, found this and A) Oliver is a favorite player of mine. B) He is one of the most underrated hitters out there and C) This is by far the sharpest ’75 Topps card I have ever owned, perhaps even seen. It looks like a reprint and honestly I don’t know how I got it, where it came from or why I got it… It is a mystery card.
Scoop was one of the top hitters of his generation, but he lacked a defined position, splitting time between left field, right field, first base and designated hitter which require higher power numbers and center field which requires higher stolen base totals. His versatility costs him being remembered as a great at one position, but he does stand out as one of the greatest hitters of his time. He is a rare player who won Silver Slugger Awards at 3 different positions. He is in the top-50 All Time in both hits and doubles. He was an All Star 7 times, a World Series Champ and a batting champ who topped the 300 mark 12 times and holds a .303 life time batting average. For more 1975 Topps click HERE and for Oliver’s career starts click HERE. 35 years LATER!

Thursday, March 25, 2010

The World Champion Pittsburgh Pirates!

Before the Tampa Bay Devil Rays arrived on the scene I was a Pirates fan. I am speaking of the Pittsburgh Pirates-back in the 70s when I got my first Pirates cap you didn’t have to specify. Now if you tell someone you are a Pirates fan they think you are talking about Seton Hall. I still do love the Bucs. I get mad at the team, but I still have a special place for them. I root for them because somebody has to. It hasn’t done any good though… Still as any good baseball fan, I remember my team’s worst moments. I will never forget the game I saw on October 14, 1992. I wasn’t at the game; I was at my friend Bryzan’s house watching it on TV. It was game 7 of the NLCS and Doug Drabek started for the Bucs. He also started and lost game 1 and game 4, but not because he pitched poorly. Anyway, he got the call for game 7 and outdueled John Smoltz. Going into the 9th the Pirates has the lead and looked like they were on their way to their first World Series since 1979, but then Francisco Cabrera came up to pinch hit for Jeff Rearden. Cabrera, the backup catcher who only had 10 at-bats that whole year. Cabrera who was the last guy on the bench for Bobby Cox. Cabrera who should have been an easy out. Cabrera who hit the game winning 2 RBI walk-off single. Freaking Francisco Cabrera. I repeat, Freaking Francisco Cabrera. You ruined a once proud franchise Mr. Cabrera. He delivered the game winning hit, gave Drabek his 3rd loss of the NLCS and effectively ended his time in Pittsburgh. The Pirates 3-time MVP left fielder Barry Bonds left for San Francisco. Andy Van Slyke and Tim Wakefield both left the following year. Jay Bell and Kevin Young stayed for a little while longer, but had nothing around them. Anyway, this was an awful long introduction for tonight’s Nitty Gritty Card of the Day. It is from the 1972 Topps set, card #1. It celebrates the Pirates being World Champions in 1971. They won it all again in 1979-that was the first time that “my team” won it all and I was too young to realize how special it really was. I don't remember much about the '79 season, but the '92 playoffs remain clear in my memory. In 1992 they came close, but couldn’t get past Francisco Cabrera and the Braves. After that, the team was dismantled and hasn’t been rebuilt since. I keep on bringing up 1992 for a reason. That was the last year that the Bucs had a winning season. Yep, last season made 17 straight losing seasons. I think that is a record. I don’t see it changing any time soon either. It isn’t the same team that Roberto Clemente, Willie Stargell and Bill Mazeroski spent their entire Hall of Fame careers with. Sure, they have had some decent players pass through over years. I have become a fan of Al Martin, Jason Kendall, Tony Womack, Aramis Ramirez, Freddy Sanchez, Xavier Nady, Nyjer Morgan, Brian Giles and Jason Bay. They all brought hope, but they were all just passing through on their way to bigger and better things. None of them were there long enough to build a team around either. Nowadays I get excited about Andrew McCutchen, Garrett Jones, Aki Iwamura and Lastings Milledge. If they do live up to their potential, they won’t be in the ‘Burgh for long. So enjoy the card of the day and remember a time, 30 seasons ago, when the Pittsburgh Pirates were Kings and no one laughed when you said their name. LATER!

Nitty Gritty Card of the Day

Today's card of the day comes from 1963 Topps, card #50 of left-handed pitcher Billy Pierce. Pierce was coming off a year in 1962 where he went 16-6 and helped lead the Giants to a National League Pennant. The back of the card mentions that he led the American League with 21 complete games in 1956 with 21. He would lead in that category the next two years as well. Enjoy!

Wednesday, March 24, 2010

Nitty Gritty Card of the Day

Today's Nitty Gritty Card of the Day is card #37 from the 1964 Topps Giants set featuring Hall of Fame pitcher Juan Marichal. Oh, if only this giant sized card showed a full vertical photo of Marichal's awesome leg kick... If only. It does on the back, but man I wish it was on the front! I won't spoil this with a bunch of words. Enjoy!

Tuesday, March 23, 2010

The Nitty Gritty Card of the Night!

Before Mr. October became Mr. October he was just plain old Reginald M. Jackson or Reggie for short. Reggie had an amazing year in 1969 when he was an All Star led the league in slugging percentage and runs scored and hit 47 homers and drove in 118. The following year the only categories he would pace the league in were caught stealing and strikeouts. It looked like ’69 might have been a fluke. Obviously it wasn’t. Jackson is and will always be Mr. October. He has 4 World Series rings, 18 postseason homers and a plaque on the wall in Cooperstown. Still, none of that was certain just yet when this card was printed. After seeing the amazing Thurman Munson card from this same set on the Night Owl’s blog, I decided to counter by making card #20 from the 1971 set the Nitty Gritty card of the Day. There is just something I like about this card. Something innocent, uncertain, classy and cool about this one. Can’t put my finger on it… Thanks for reading! 39 years LATER!

It Is Time for the Nitty Gritty Card of the Day, From 1957 Topps Baseball, It's...

Chuck Harmon. That's right, it is time for the Nitty Gritty Card of the Day! Today’s card is from 1957 Topps, card #299 of Reds outfielder Charles B. Harmon. Harmon is on the list of 23 players battling it out to be the next player that I collect. Harmon has yet to get any votes, but that makes sense because I don’t think he has any certified autographs or relic cards. That eliminates him from the guidelines, but it doesn’t mean he isn’t an interesting player to collect. He just has a whole lot less cards than most guys on the list. He has his own website which shows off his cards, his career stats, accolades and accomplishments. He is currently living in Cincinnati, where he has lived and worked since retiring from pro baseball. He is a super TTM signer for those interested in that sort of thing. Like Larry Doby he had several careers in pro athletics. He played for the Indianapolis Clowns of the Negro Leagues in 1947. He starred for the Boston Celtics of the NBA in the early 50s. He spent 3 years in the Navy during World War II and he was “the Integrator” of the Cincinnati Reds and also played for the Philadelphia Phillies and St. Louis Cardinals. After hanging up his spikes, he worked as a scout for the Cleveland Indians, Atlanta Braves and Indiana Pacers. He originally signed with the St. Louis Browns in 1947 after graduating from the University of Toledo. He was among the first African Americans to sign a major league contract, but he wouldn’t make his big league debut for another 7 years. He spent a total of 11 seasons playing minor league ball, before and after his big league career. Over that span he owns a career batting average of .320. He topped the .300 mark 8 times and topped the .350 mark 4 times. After being traded around to several different organizations, he ended up in the Reds system in 1952 and on April 17, 1954 the Cincinnati Reds became the 15th major league baseball team to integrate. In the same game two players, pinch hitter Nino Escalera and Chuck Harmon made their debut. Escalera, who was a star in Puerto Rico and in the minor leagues, saw limited playing time in his only big league season, but Chuck Harmon enjoyed a longer career. It was really long if you believe the back of this card which says he played in 223 games in 1954. According to Baseball Reference he only played in 94 games in ’54, splitting his time between 1st base and third base. Over his career he spent time at those positions along with all 3 outfield spots. As a 30-year-old rookie Harmon batted .238 with 2 homers and 25 RBI. The next season he set his career best mark in the majors with 5 homers and 28 RBI. On May 10, 1957 Harmon was traded to the St. Louis Cardinals for Glen Gorbous. He is in a Cards uniform on this card and batted .333 for the Red Birds. His time in St. Louis was VERY brief. He played in just 9 games, mainly as a late inning defensive replacement in the outfield, but also as a pinch runner. He had just 3 at-bats for the Cards, but his lone hit was an RBI triple. After St. Louis, he spent his final days in the big leagues with Philadelphia, appearing in 56 games for the Phillies and batting .256. In 1959 he batted .300 with 11 homers and 101 RBI in AAA and he played AAA ball up until 1962, but never returned to the big leagues. He retired as a player in 1962, but continued as a scout. He is now in his 80s and fully retired from the game that he loves, but he still enjoys going to Reds games and talking baseball. He also enjoys getting fan mail and signing autographs through the mail. You can find his mailing address on his website, Chuck Harmon dot org. Don't forget to add this blog to your rolls and enter the contest on the previous post. 52 years, LATER!

Monday, March 22, 2010

A Nitty Gritty Contest...

I had a promised a little contest over here if this page reached 25 followers. It is currently at 26 so I figure I owe you guys. I am giving away some serious cards on my other page. I am gonna start slow here with one card. The last 4 cards I have posted here have been of Hall of Famers, I am one person who believes that this player belongs in the Hall of Fame, too. He holds the NL record for playing in 1207 consecutive games, he was a 10-time All Star who started the game 9 times, once as a write-in. He owns a .338 career postseason batting average with 8 doubles, 3 triples and 11 homers in October. He also had 31 RBIS and a couple of steals. He was part of 5 NL Pennant winning teams over his career and was a World Champion with the Dodgers in 1981. He won 4 Gold Gloves, topped the 200 hit plateau 6-times and paced the NL in hits twice. He won the NL MVP Award in 1974, was the All Star MVP and the NLCS MVP in 1978 and won a second NLCS MVP in 1984. He took the Roberto Clemente Award in 1981 and the Lou Gehrig Memorial Award in 1984. He was one of the most consistent hitters and fielders in the National League throughout his 19 year career. His 2,599 hits ranks him 75th of all time. He topped the 300 mark 16 times over his career and owns a lifetime .294 average. He appeared on the HOF ballot for the maximum of 15 times, achieving his highest support of 42%, his first year on the ballot in 1993. He is currently in Hall of Fame limbo. I should have mentioned that I was speaking of first baseman Steve Garvey, but I figured that you guys are smart and could figure that out. The card of him that will serve as prize is a 2002 Upper Deck Sweet Spot Classic game used bat card. This is from the days when the back of the card actually said “On the front of the card is an authentic piece of a bat used by Steve Garvey in an official Major League Baseball game.” I will try and throw in a few extras with this for whomever the randomizer chooses. Thanks to everyone for reading. To enter, just comment with your name. Be sure that you are following this blog and that it is on your blogrolls. To enter you must comment on this post. There will be 2 days to enter. I put up a poll to go along with it, when the poll closes, so does the contest. The poll question is "Does Steve Garvey belong in Cooperstown?". Thanks! If you keep reading, I will keep on posting. A different vintage card EVERY day. Good luck! Later.

The Nitty Gritty Card of the Day-1965 Topps Bill Mazeroski

Today’s card of the day is number 95 from the 1965 Topps set of Pirates second baseman Bill Mazeroski. According to the poll on my other blog, the Collective Troll, Maz is in a heated race with his former teammate Roy Face and fellow Hall of Famer Larry Doby to be the next player that I collect. I am not going to go over any of Maz’s career numbers, but you can find all of his career stats right HERE. He was elected to the Hall of Fame in 2001 based on the amazing glove work he provided over his 17 year career with the Pittsburgh Pirates. He was a decent hitter who hit one of the most famous homeruns in MLB history. A walk-off winner against the Yankees in the 1960 World Series. Topps mentions that one on the back of the card along with his complete major and minor stats. 1965 is one of my favorite sets of all time, I love the design and the photography, but the cartoons on the blue card backs seal it for me. Maz was a ten-time All Star and won 8 Gold Gloves. He led the NL in fielding percentage 3 times and owns a career mark of .983. More impressively, he led the NL in assists 9 times and double plays 8. In 1961 Maz turned 144 double plays and over his career he turned two 1706 times, which is a major league record for second baseman. Thanks in part to his famous homerun and leading the Pirates to a World Championship in 1960, the Sporting News named Maz the Major League Player of the Year in 1960. He retired after the 1972 season, one year after winning a second World Series with the Bucs. Don’t forget, there is just one more day to vote for my new player collection. That also means just one more day till the big CT Contest Giveaway! Thanks for reading! 45 years LATER!

Saturday, March 20, 2010

The Nitty Gritty Card of the Day-1965 Topps Gaylord Perry

Today’s Nitty Gritty Card of the Day comes from the 1965 Topps set; it is card #193 of San Francisco Giants pitcher Gaylord Perry. I am not going to go into a full history of Perry’s career like I normally do. We all know that he won the Cy Young Award in both leagues, he won 15 games or more in 13 consecutive seasons, he won over 300 games and he is deservedly in the Hall of Fame. I picked this card because it came out before he became that guy. He was just a young guy fighting for a spot in the rotation. He would win over 20 games the next year, 1966, and he and Juan Marichal would be a one-two punch that rivaled Koufax and Drysdale, but in 1965 he was just Jim Perry’s little brother. 45 years, LATER!

Friday, March 19, 2010

The Nitty Gritty Card of the Day-1952 Bowman Don Newcombe

Welcome to the Nitty Gritty Card of the Day! This wasn’t what I had planned for tonight’s post, but a forgotten flash drive has limited my options. I had a scan of this card front and back saved on my hard drive as a reminder that I used to own it. The card is number 128 from the 1952 Bowman baseball set of Dodgers pitcher Don Newcombe. I loved the picture on this card. He looks so fed up, disinterested, frustrated and angry all at once. Like he just recieved the news he was going to Korea. Newk won the National League’s Rookie of the Year Award in 1949 and was an All Star in each of his first 3 seasons before missing the entire 1952 and 1953 seasons for military service. He came back rusty in 1954, but he returned to his All Star form in 1955, winning 20 games again on the mound and batting .359 with 7 homers while leading the Brooklyn Dodgers to their FIRST World Championship. The following year he had a historic season, winning 27 games and the National League’s Most Valuable Player Award. He was also named the first ever Major League Baseball Cy Young Award Winner. He is the only player to win the Rookie of the Year, Cy Young and MVP Awards. In ’56 the Dodgers repeated as NL Champs, but fell to the Yankees in the Series. That would be the last time Newk would win 20 games, in fact his highest win total after that was 13 games. The Dodgers traded Newk to the Reds in 1958 where he played till 1960 when he signed with the Indians. He retired from the majors after the 1960 season at 34 years of age. He had a career record of 149-90. That is just one win less win than Hall of Famer Dizzy Dean. His career is another that makes fans wonder “what if?” he had not loss two full seasons in the prime of his career to military service. Incidentally, Newcombe has received several votes to be the next player I collect. He does have some very pricey cards, including this one of one listed on eBay for a BIN price of $275.00. He also has a long name with a manufactured patch card for each letter which could be tough to track down, not to mention he played in the 40s and is in 1952 Topps and has Cy Young duel autographed cards paired with Whitey Ford. Whether I collect him or not, here is one card I want to track down, cuz I do LOVE refractors! Either way, the choice is up to you the reader. Thanks for reading! (image borrowed from an auction site) 58 years, LATER!

Thursday, March 18, 2010

The Nitty Gritty on the Legendary Larry Doby!

Today’s Nitty Gritty Card of the Day (evening edition) is from the 1958 Topps set and features one of my favorite players of all time, it is card number 424 of Cleveland Indians outfielder Larry Doby. This is another one of the great vintage cards that came my way from Chris of the Project 1962 blog. I keep on promising to post the whole lot of cards that he sent, but I continue to post them one at a time over here. Sooner or later they will all get posted. There is a poll up on the Collective Troll encouraging readers to vote for the next player that I collect. Larry Doby is one of my favorites of all time; he was a fantastic player who basically had 2 separate All Star careers in 2 separate leagues. He is historically significant and was truly one of the best ever. He would be a no-brainer to collect, but there is one problem… I want to collect one of EVERY SINGLE CARD EVER made of the player that I collect. Doby has a lot of pricey cards. I don’t mind paying for his late 40s and early 50s classic vintage cards, but cards like this one here which is listed on eBay with a BIN price of $499.00 make me nervous. I know that just because they are asking it doesn't mean that is what its worth, but I am pretty sure I can't find this card for 5 bucks. Just saying. On a good day I might pay 100 bucks for a vintage card of a player that I love. I have paid 200 bucks for a vintage rookie of a player that I really liked that was in a set I was trying to finish. I don’t plan on doing that ever again, but I still wouldn’t pay more than 30 bucks for a current card, no matter how great the player is or how rare the card is. It’s a good looking card of a great player, but it’s practically a mortgage payment. Can’t do it. The other guys that y’all seem to be leaning towards like Oscar Gamble and Roy Face would be much more logical options. That said I will collect whomever the Troll readers choose. If y’all pick Doby, I will gladly scour the countryside for bargains on each and every one of his cards and I will be proud to own them. The reason why I say he was a man with two careers is that during the 1940s he was an All Star second baseman for the Newark Eagles from 1942 until he joined the Cleveland Indians in 1947. In between those teams he lost a couple of years serving in World War II. With the Eagles, he played alongside a number of future Hall of Fame players including Willie Wells, Ray Dandridge, Monte Irvin and Leon Day. The Eagles won the Negro World Series in 1946 and the following season Doby broke the color barrier in the American League when he joined the Indians in July. As a rookie his play was limited and he only made it into 29 games, mainly as a pinch hitter. The following season however, he took over as the Indians starting centerfielder and he batted .301 to help lead the Indians to the World Series. In the Series he batted .318 with a homerun and 2 RBI and the Indians defeated the Braves to win the World Championship. In 1949 he was named to his first All Star team in the major leagues. It would begin a streak for him of 7 consecutive All Star appearances, highlighted in 1950 when he started the game in centerfield and played the entire game and reached base twice with a double and a run scored. He owns a .300 career All Star batting average in the majors. In 1954 he entered the game as a pinch hitter and hit a homerun in his only at-bat. During the regular season in ’54 he had another great year at the plate. He batted .272 and slugged 32 homers and drove in 126 runs. He paced the AL in the latter 2 categories. He also led the Indians to a second American League pennant. Larry Doby had a subpar Series and the Tribe fell to the Giants who were led by his former teammate and friend Monte Irvin. 1955 his run production fell off a bit and it was the last time he was named to the All Star team, but he did not play. After the ’55 season he was traded to the Chicago White Sox for Chico Carrasquel and Jim Busby. With the Sox he topped the 100 RBI plateau for the 5th time and the 100 walk mark for the 4th time. His time in Chicago was short-lived and he would be traded to the Baltimore Orioles in a 7-player deal after the 1957 season. He never played a single inning for the Orioles and was traded back to the Indians right before the first pitch of the ’58 season when this card was produced. The back of the card mentions that Doby was a 4-sport athlete in high school and that he led the AL in homers twice with 32 homers each time. It also calls him one of the most consistent RBI men in the game. He would drive in 45 runs for the Indians in 1958, but he played in only 89 games that year. They traded him again, this time to the Detroit Tigers prior to the ’59 season in exchange for Tito Francona. He would only play in 19 games in Detroit before they sold him back to the White Sox. 1959 would be Doby’s final season. Injuries had slowed him down and he retired from the Major Leagues at age 35. He would return to the game to begin a third career playing in Japan in the 1960s. His final career numbers included 253 homers and 970 RBI over 1533 games and 13 seasons. He owns a career batting of .283 and a .490 slugging percentage. He led the AL in homers twice and also paced the league in runs scored, runs batted in, slugging and on-base percentage. His major league career was cut short by injuries and it started late due to segregation and that didn’t allow Doby to post the career numbers that many of his peers in the Hall of Fame did, but even with only 10 full seasons of production, he was among the league’s best during those 10 seasons. He was in the top ten in slugging percentage, walks, total bases, times on base and at-bats/homeruns 8 times. He was in the top ten in homers and RBI 7 times and was among the top ten in runs scored 6 times. Baseball Reference dot com shows his 162 game average including a .283 batting average with 107 walks, 103 runs scored, 160 hits, 26 doubles, 5 triples and 27 homeruns in addition to 103 runs batted in and an OPS of .876. After retiring as a player Doby was a coach with both the Cleveland Indians and the Montreal Expos. He also briefly managed the Chicago White Sox for 87 games in 1978. He received the ultimate honor for a baseball player when the Veterans Committee elected him to the National Baseball Hall of Fame in 1998. He was inducted along with turn of the century infielder George Davis, fellow negro league star Bullet Joe Rogan, executive Lee MacPhail and 300 game winner Don Sutton. Doby was able to attend the ceremony and accept the honor. He passed away 5 years after being immortalized. He will forever be ingrained into the rich history of baseball and will live forever in the hearts and memories of fans. Thanks so much to Chris of Project 1962 for this great card and all of the fond memories that came along with it. For the current cards that came from Project 1962, click HERE. For the rest of the vintage he sent, stay tuned! To the dear readers who stuck it out and read this entire post, I thank you! It happens so often that I begin to post about a single card and drift off into their life story. I just love this game and this hobby and it’s legends soo much! 52 years, LATER!

Al Kaline is the Nitty Gritty Card of the Day

Today’s Nitty Gritty Card of the Day is from the 1964 Topps Giants set, card #12 of Detroit Tigers Hall of Famer Al Kaline. I love a player with a great nickname and Kaline had a very appropriate one, he was known as Mr. Tiger. From the day he signed as a bonus baby in 1953 to the day he retired in 1974 he ONLY wore a Detroit Tigers uniform. He never spent a day in the minor leagues, he went right to the majors as an 18-year-old rookie and by the time he was 20-years-old he was a major league superstar. He won his first and only batting title at 20 years of age in 1955 when he batted .340 with 200 hits, 27 homers, 102 RBIs and 121 runs scored. He finished second in the AL MVP vote behind Yogi Berra (who batted 68 points lower, but did it behind the plate) and established himself as a superstar. He played in his first of 18 All Star Games and had 14 assists from right field. He didn’t win his first Gold Glove Award until 1957 and he would win 10 of those awards over his career. He never won another batting title, but he finished in batting average 3 times and posted a .297 career batting average with 3007 hits. The back of this card from 1964 states “One of Al’s biggest ambitions is to lead the Tigers to a pennant and play in a World Series”. He and his Tigers did just that 4 years later when they won the World Series in 1968 behind his .379 average, 2 homers and 8 RBI against the Cardinals. That was the final piece missing from the legend that is Mr. Tiger, Al Kaline. The true final piece came in 1980 when he was elected to the Hall of Fame in his first year of eligibility. In 5 days there will be a contest on the Nitty Gritty’s brother blog, the Collective Troll which will feature an Al Kaline certified autograph as a prize. Thanks for checking out the biggest card I own of Mr. Tiger, Al Kaline. Statistics from Kaline’s remarkable 22 year career can be viewed HERE. 46 years, LATER!

Wednesday, March 17, 2010

The Nitty Gritty Goes Face to Face...

I am probably putting the cart ahead of the horse with this post… Generally I post new cards and where I got them on the Troll page before they become Nitty Gritty Cards of the Day, but I am in a rule breaking mood tonight. Yesterday I posted the first half of the Blogger Kindness package I received from Chris of the Project 1962 blog. I showed only the current, modern cards he sent and I promised to post up all the vintage goodies next. Well, I still haven’t finished scanning all of them and I have been busy posting because my mailbox has been staying busy. Of course I will dedicate a proper post sometime in the near future, but right now I am going to focus on two of the cards that Chris included in that super awesome package. They are both of Pittsburgh Pirates reliever Elroy Face. One is from 1961, card #370 and the other is from the 1960 set, card #20. Roy Face has been among my favorite pitchers of all time for as long as I can remember. As he retired in 1968 I never had the chance to actually see him pitch, but I learned his name early on because my first baseball encyclopedia was an edition from the late 70s. According to that book he was the National Leagues leader in games with 846 and also in saves with 193. He was also the leader in relief wins with 96 and most innings pitched in relief (1,211). Those things made me take notice. His name was Elroy and I had never known of anyone with that name outside of the Jetzons. He also threw a forkball which was super cool and he had a great nickname, The Baron. My Uncle Harry was a professor at Lehigh University when I was a kid and he always sent me Pirates stuff as Christmas gifts, so even before I lived in Pirate City, I was following the team and its records. Other things that blew me away as a kid statistically were that he pitched in 9 straight games, he won 22 games in a row and of course his record in 1959 was astounding to me then and still is. He posted an 18-1 record for the Pirates. The next year he won 10 more games in relief, appeared in 68 games and helped the Pirates win the National League Pennant for the first time in 33 seasons. He set a record by saving 3 games in the World Series. The record has been tied since, but has yet to be broken 50 years later. They weren’t one pitch saves either, those 3 appearances covered 10 innings of World Series work. Face worked hard for his saves. He held the National League record for saves (193) until 1986 when future Hall of Famer Bruce Sutter surpassed him. To achieve his 193 saves Face pitched 1314 innings. Trevor Hoffman is the present leader in saves with 591 and he just passed the 1000 inning mark last season. Bruce Sutter, who is in the Hall of Fame with his 300 saves, worked 300 less innings than Face did. He also won 28 fewer games than Face. Roy Face led the National League in saves 3 times and spent nearly 2 decades as the career leader in that category, but the role of closer has changed greatly of late and he has fallen to 41st All Time in that category and will likely continue to fall. He has remained in the top 20 in games finished (574) and ranks 33rd in games played with 848. He remained on the Hall of Fame ballot for 15 years, but never received more than 18% of the vote and was removed from the ballot in 1990. He has more wins and a higher winning percentage than several pitchers in Cooperstown and can make a solid case for enshrinement, but he is in the hands of the Veteran’s Committee. It has been a few years since I have seen Mr. Face, the bullpen at Pirate City is named in honor of him and I have the pleasure of meeting him and sitting down for a lengthy chat. He loves the game that I love and I was thrilled to be able to speak with him about it. I recently received another very special card of Roy Face from another Blogger Kindness package and I am strongly considering adding him as my next player collection. His accolades speak for themselves; he was the BEST reliever of the 60s. As far as me collecting him, that is a decision for the Blog-O-Sphere to make over the next week. If you would like to cast your vote, there is a poll up on the Collective Troll with 23 players to choose from, including Roy Face. There is a post explaining why I decided to leave it up my readers rather than myself that you can read HERE. Face’s career stats can be viewed HERE. A six-time All Star, Face retired after the 1969 season with a career mark of 104 wins against 95 losses and a 3.48 ERA. He had 193 saves and also pitched 5 complete games. He also revolutionized the game and the role of a bullpen pitcher. Thanks so much for these great cards and everything that you sent my way! Check out Chris’ blog, Project 1962. It is about (you guessed it) the 1962 Topps set, the Chicago Cubs and baseball and life in general, check it out! For those of you who read this and my other blog, the Collective Troll, you know that there is a reader appreciation contest which goes live one week from tonight (3-23) and has prizes which include certified autographs from Hall of Famers Al Kaline and Brooks Robinson. There will be a contest here as well. It won’t offer prizes to that same extent, but there will be a prize offered. This contest will go up as soon as 30 people add the Nitty Gritty to their blogrolls, so get on it! Thanks for reading about one of the finest relief pitchers, EVER… 50 years, LATER!

Tuesday, March 16, 2010

The Nitty Gritty Giant Card of the Day!

Another giant sized gem from Mark’s Ephemera (there will still be 3 more) is today’s Nitty Gritty Card of the Day. It is card #35 (out of 60) in the 1964 Topps Giants set and shows Detroit Tigers pitcher Dave Wickersham. Wickersham went to Detroit in the Rocky Colavito trade between the Kansas City Athletics and the Tigers after the 1963 season. Topps was on the ball and included him in this set and he responded by having a career year setting personal bests in Ks (164), innings (254), complete games (11), starts (36) and wins with 19. His mark of 19-12 with a 3.44 ERA was by far the best of his 10 year career as he never won more than 12 games in any other season. During the ’64 season Wickersham was ejected from a game during the 7th inning, he left with the scored knotted at 1 and received a no-decision. The Tigers went on to win the ball game, which could have been his 20th win. After the ’67 season the Tigers traded him to the Pirates for Dennis Ribant. From there he went to the Kansas City Royals and after the ’69 season he was traded to the Atlanta Braves, but never pitched for them. 1969 would be his final big league season. His career line reads 68-57 with a 3.66 ERA, 29 complete games, 5 shutouts, 18 saves and 638 strikeouts. You can view his complete stats here. Wickersham is also one of only 4 players to have played for both the Kansas City Athletics and KC Royals. The back of this card credits Wickersham as being the Athletics most active pitcher prior to his trade to Detroit. Thanks again to Mark’s Ephemera for sending this giant chunk of cardboard my way! 46 years, LATER!

Friday, March 12, 2010

A Story About My Family, Baseball and Tony Lazzeri

Yes, I am Italian. I am Mexican and Irish, too, but on my Mom’s side it is 100% Italian. Her mother and her parents arrived in Ellis Island from Sicily in 1928. A group of 16 family members including my Grandmother who was a young girl. When my sister lived in New York she was able to get a copy of the “sign-in sheet” from their arrival. The Tucciarone family settled in Bridgeport, Connecticut and most of their children remained there as adults. This country was super racist back then and many races of people were hated. It was not uncommon to see signs that said things like “No Italians Served” or worse. There were also many small communities that welcomed Sicilian immigrants. My family adjusted quick and became involved in construction and did well for themselves. They also became big baseball fans. The quickest way to Americanize was to learn their pastimes and baseball was huge in the 1920s. My family immediately adopted the New York Yankees. Not just because they were the best at the time, but because of their second baseman, “Poosh Em Up Tony” Lazzeri. He became the household hero. I am told that a photo of him hung on the wall with the rest of the family photos in my great-grandparents home. He was a pitchman for Lucky Strike and because of that, the whole family smoked and smoked Luckys. All of the Tucciarone kids were huge Yankees fans. This 1961 Fleer Baseball Greats is the only card I have of Tony Lazzeri, but I wouldn’t mind tracking down some more, especially the Diamond Stars card I show at the bottom of this post. He paved the way for many great Italian-American Yankees like Frank Crossetti, Yogi Berra and Joltin Joe DiMaggio, but he also made my own family feel at home. My Grandma Philomena loves the Yanks and she took me to my first game at the Stadium in 1981. They weren’t too good then. She took me to many more games from 1981 up till 1993 when I moved away. They were never very good. I never liked them either. I was that rare kid who grew up between New York and Massachusetts who didn’t like the Yankees or the Red Sox. I hated both teams, but I loved the times I spent with my family at Yankee Stadium. My Grandma took me most often. We rode the train to New York and took the subway to the Bronx to get to the Stadium. We never drove in a car. There were a few times that my Great-Aunts and Uncles would come, too. I will never forget going to the stadium in the mid-80s with my Uncles Julius and Jack and my Aunts Edna, Rita, Eleanor, Lena and my Grandma Phil. In the late 80s when Steve Balboni returned to the Yankees we went to a lot of games. My Uncle Julius was a big Balboni fan. He was big guy period. So was Balboni. He called him Baby Babe. We were there when big Steve hit a homer and you would have thought it won the WS the way my family carried on. He had loved the Yankees since he was a little boy and Tony Lazzeri was still winning World Series with the Yankees. He cheered for Frank Crosetti, Phil Rizzuto, Yogi Berra and Joe D and he kept on cheering for Dave Righetti, Joe Peppitone and Joe Torre. Had he still been alive he would be nominating Joe Girardi for sainthood right about now. Much of my family (on both sides) were involved in politics. Uncle Julius was, too. When he passed away at his funeral there were 3 photos above his casket. He and Frank Sinatra, he and Joe DiMaggio and a photo of him and John F. Kennedy. Everyone there knew who Joe Dimaggio and Frank Sinatra were, but I heard a lot of people ask who that other guy was with Julius in reference to Kennedy. That was a long story for a little card, but I wanted to explain where my love of the game came from. I do thank my Mom’s side of the family for sharing their love of the game with me and taking me so often to the House That Ruth Built. They always called the Yankees our home team. I disputed this once because we lived an equal distance from Shea Stadium and Fenway Park. The response was “This is where we are, this is our home team”. Fair enough. I did take in plenty of games at Shea and Fenway and even Olympic Stadium, but when I was with a Tucciarone, we were always home at Yankee Stadium.
Moving back to Tony Lazzeri… He played in the big leagues for 14 seasons from 1926 until 1939, mainly for the Yankees, but also with the Cubs, Dodgers and Giants. He hit double digits in triples six times and topped 100 RBI 7 times. He went to 7 World Series, six times with the Yankees and once with the Cubs against the Yanks. He was on the winning side 5 times. He was an original All Star in 1933 and received votes for American League MVP in 5 different seasons. His best year statistically came with the Salt Lake City Bees of the Pacific Coast League in 1925. He batted .355 with 60 homers and 222 RBI. He had 512 total bases that year! At the big league level in 1929 he hit .354 with 18 homers and 106 RBI. He drove in runs from the top of the order on the powerhouse Yankees teams of the late 20s and was the smallest member of Murderers Row. His highest All Time ranking is in triples. He sits at 108th of All Time with 115 3-baggers. He was elected to the Baseball Hall of Fame in 1991, 45 years after his death. The Veterans Committee realized what my family knew all along, that Tony Lazzeri was a hero.