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.