Thursday, April 20, 2017

#56 - Jose Tartabull of the Boston red Sox

Up next is someone who I grew up thinking of as just Danny Tartabull's father. The New York Yankees slipped into irrelevancy in 1989 and fell even further in 1990 with Steinbrenner's temporary ban/suspension/agreement for his involvement in the Spira affair centered on Dave Winfield. The Yankees were slowly developing young talent but still were fishing in free agency for players. After replacing Winfield with Barfield didn't work out, they tried Danny Tartabull and he did for 4 strong years. His production numbers remained respectable though his batting average dropped from its peak. In alot of ways, Danny Tartabull is the forgotten New York Yankee. The team was becoming relevant but were in the shadow of the Toronto Blue Jays. The '94 strike year also diminished the Yankees on that team that were not around in '96 for their championship run. Luis Polonia, Steve Farr, Steve Howe, Mike Stanley, Matt Nokes, and Danny Tartabull aren't names as readily remembered by Yankee fans.

Jose Tartabull wasn't the power hitter his son turned out to be , in fact he has two home runs in his career. Tartabull however was a gifted base stealer and a valuable utility player in the outfield. He went on to see action in all 7 World Series games in 1967. His pro career began when he was 19 in the Giants farm system and ended in the Athletic's farm system when he was 33.

I like the look of this card. It's a picture taken in Yankee stadium, Tartabull in this pose takes up alot of space within the borders, and the orange lettering compliments the look of the Red Sox uniform well in this setting. The cards with Sox players photographed in Spring Training with the yellowish looking grass aren't as striking to the eye. It's the grass that does it I think.

Wednesday, April 19, 2017

#55 LA Dodgers HOFer Don Drysdale

 Next up is 5 card. Topps saved their biggest star cards for cards ending in 5 or 0 and this time it's Don Drysdale whose Major League career speaks for itself. Miuch like Sandy Koufax, and Carl Erskine in the 50's, Drysdale saw alot work and it took its toll on his arm. So much so that all three had careers end in their early 30's. It is unheard of today having starters appear in over 40 games in a season. Drysdale did it 5 seasons in a row. It paid off for the team since they won 2 titles during that stretch. He was an 8 time all star, led the majors in strikeouts 3 seasons and had a 3-3 record in the World Series. You could make an argument that Drysdale's arm began to give out in '66. The Dodgers won the pennant but he still had a losing record and was 0-2 in the World Series with a 4.50 era against the Orioles who sailed to a championship in a sweep.
I had an opportunity to get Drysdale's autograph at a card show on Rt 27 in New Jersey. My parents opted to get the Duke of Flatbush's autograph and I was thrill to meet him. Drysdale wasnt as high a priority as the man who hit the most home runs of anyone during the 1950s. Drysdale however died about 5 years after that card show of a heart attack. I never had the opportunity to meet him again. Him doing shows, especially in New Jersey turned out to be rare given his busy broadcasting career.

The card itself looks great for the set. The Dodger card have that great red lettering which implies they are America's team with the red superimposed against the white and blue of the Dodger jersey. I believe the photo is from Shea Stadium but I could be mistaken. It's not an angle you can clearly identify which stadium it is. Visiting teams occupied the 3rd base side dugout so it makes sense where the picture is taken. Shea Stadium was easier to identify after it was renovated in the mid 80s.

#54 Dick Green Kansas City Athletics - Those Minty Green cards

 I'm sure this isn't the time to rant but I must say, the Athletic cards in this set are the blandest most unremarkable cards possible and Dick Green's card is the starkest example of how bland they are.

You have the light blue lettering against the uniforms which themselves are mostly grey and maybe a shade darker than winter green. Truly unremarkable. Compare this to some of the cards with vibrant lettering like the bright red of the Dodgers or Yankees or the YELLOW on the Orioles. Was Topps planning to do that? Make the player cards on the prominent teams of the era stand out over the lesser teams?

The Athletics were definitely a lesser team who hadn't managed a winning season since the Mack family owned it in 1952, It was after Finley moved the team to Oakland that the franchise began to win again. The Athletics did not have a single winning season in Kansas City.Their best season was in '58 with a 73-81 record.

The history of how the Athletics came to end up on KC is worth researching. Here is a brief summary. The Mack family failed to adapt to the changes in Major League Baseball during the Depression and the war years. After the war ended in '45, other teams were more prepared to bring a competitive team back to the field, the Athletics, still reeling from their money troubles before the war floundered. The Mack family ultimately was forced to give up their team to former Yankee executives who I believe maintained a strong tie to the Yankee franchise. It was such a strong tie that the Athletics seemed like a Yankees triple A team that happened to be in the Majors. Players that could fill a hole in the Yankee lineup came from the Athletics and when the Yankees ran out of room for someone or was shipping someone out at the end of their career, he ended up in KC. The Yankees got Hector Lopez, Roger Maris, and Bobby Shantz from the Athletics.They shipped out and later brought back Enos Slaughter from KC. They sent Hank Bauer, Billy Martin, Norm Siebern and Jerry Lumpe out to KC when they were done with them. People have tried to debate that these transactions actually benefited the Athletics more than the Yankees but I look at the records. The Yankees appeared in 9 World Championships while the A's were in KC, winning 4 of them and the A's never had a single winning season. The A's started to keep their young talent when Charlie Finley took over the team and this started to pay off only after he moved the team to Oakland but it wasn't until the Royals in 1971 that the people of KC got to see a winning MLB franchise.

Dick Green was one of those young prospects the Athletics were fully planning to keep around and they did during the entirety of his Major League career. Green was one of those utility players who saw action from 1st to 3rd and even catcher on rare occasions. His career batting average of .240 was good but it's his career fielding percentage of .983 that made him indispensable to the A's. He saw action all three of their World Series championships from '72 to '74.

Sunday, March 5, 2017

1955 Bowman #97 Johnny Podres Photo Variations?

This is obviously not 1967 Topps set related but this really has been bugging me. Are there photo variations in the '55 Bowman set or is this a printing issue? I don't own the specific cards pictured here but I do have the two cards with the two differences. Podres on the top is looking toward the camera and Podres on the bottom looks to be looking well over it.

I never noticed it before last night because I never owned two at the same time before and I tried to consult a bonafide expert in the field but learned he passed away last January so, anyone out there with info. Please comment. Given the value of error cards in the Bowman set, I am not expecting much in the way of value difference but if this is a sign of a characteristic in the Bowman set, it could open the door to other variations.

#53 Philadelphia Phillie Catcher - Clay Dalrymple

 Up next is long time Phillie catcher, Clay Dalrymple. Dalrymple had regular work with the Phillies from '61 to '68 before being a backup Catcher on the Orioles from '69 to '71. He has a 1.000 batting average in World Series play. Going 2 for 2 in the '69 World Series.

His career batting average remained in the low to mid ,200s with some power. His fielding was considerably more impressive with a career 49% caught stealing percentage. That's equal to Yogi Berra's percentage.

The card has a good friend. The bright red hat stands out, the cold blue eyes, the yellow lettering and especially the field in the background all adds up to a good looking card. Typically, you just see massive sky in the back, here, you have a good shot of the stands, and the left field foul line. A nice break from the standard images used.

'Dimples' was featured regularly in Topps sets from '60 to '71. His rookie is a high number which carries some value. While he never made it to an all star game, he no doubt developed into being a fan favorite in Philadelphia.

#52 Dennis Higgins - Chicago White Sox Pitcher.

Dennis Higgins is featured on his first solo card in this set. Higgins hit the ground running in the Majors. His '66 stats are very impressive for a reliever. He pitched in 42 games, starting in one, saving 5 and with a 2.52 ERA. He went on to see alot of work for the Senator in '68 and '69 and with the Indians in '70. His career ended with St Louis in '72. Relievers didn't get much respect until the mid 70s with pitching counts making their role more prominent. That's when they started getting national attention. Only the World Series teams seemed to have relievers that national audiences really noticed. Fans saw pitchers like Larry Sherry, Ron Perranoski, Moe Drabowsky, Joe Page, Bob Kuzava be called on to save a team's season in the clutch and respond in heroic fashion. The Higgins' of the league on teams that never made it to a 90 win season didn't get much recognition unfortunately.

The White Sox cards in the '67 set must have been a little confusing for fans at the time. The White Sox were one of those teams that changed their uniforms, often and I mean, often. This did not really begin to kick in until 1967. Higgins is featured in the '66 uniform which is still like the Go GO White Sox uniforms of the 50's. '67 featured a navy blue tinge to the road and home jerseys in place of the black and white uniforms of the era Higgins is featured in here. This blog post has gone on long enough without me going into the 5 or 6 other changes in their uniforms up until 1991 so I will leave it at that.

This card never made much of an impact on me. The grass looks a little yellowish and it is a standard spring training photo from probably 1966.

Higgins had cards in the '66, '67, '68. '69, '71 and '72 sets.

Random thought. Did Topps hire photographers to take photos, pay the teams for photos or paid for photos already taken by freelancers? Topps during this era broke from their tradition of taking photos during a season at local ball parks. Spring Training photos were not as common in the late 50s as they would become by the 60s. I feel it was a change in company policy to hire their own photographers and fly them to Florida or Arizona and work for a handful of weeks and be done with the whole project instead of keeping photographers busy all year taking photos at Shea or Yankee Stadium. They surely did both but spring training photos became characteristic of Topps cards until the early 90s when the demand for more action photos in the sets was elevated by Score and Upper Deck.

#51 Astros Rookie Stars Dave Adlesh & Wes Bales

Next is our 2nd rookie star card in the set and our first for the Houston Astros. These cards were hit or miss depending on the success of the prospects featured. I never liked them although I do like that the '67 card doesn't stick four prospects on it like in '63 or in the mid to late 70's sets. Dave Adlesh struggled to gain a toehold in the Majors. Astros looked at 3 or 4 catchers a year in those days and usually settled on John Bateman. Adlesh knocked around in the minors until 1970 but he never quite developed.

Wes 'Lee' Bales also had his struggles breaking into the Majors. He too went through various levels of the minors for years.

Bales was never featured on a card again while Adlesh appeared in the '68 set on his own card in the semi high number series and in the '69 set, posed without a hat and listed as being on the Cardinals although he never played for them in the Majors.

It's just a reminder how difficult a game it is to break into. If it's not injuries, it's the competition and in those days, the draft was an additional complication.

The card never appealed to me any more than the other Rookie star cards with the yellow borders, maybe even a little less with the terrible airbrush job done to Bales hat. They were no doubt trying to hide the fancy A of the Atlanta Braves on the hat. Bales debuted with them in '66.