Tuesday, November 23, 2010

#8 Chuck Harrison "A Neck with Face and Eyes"

Ok, I mean to show as much respect to the players in this classic 1960's set but come on! He does look like a neck with face and eyes! That line comes from my all time favorie TV show, Mystery Science Theater 3000. Most people are aware of the show (a guy and two puppet/robots, sitting in a movie theater making fun of really bad movies) and have no cluse what the show is called. That line comes from an episode featuring a made for TV movie called San Francisco International Airport starring Pernell Roberts (from Bonanza and Trapper John fame), Clu Gulager, Tab Hunter, and David Hartman who was the lucky recipient of the neck with eyes joke. If David Hartman were not smiling in the picture to the right of my words here, you would see what they meant. Anyway, if you are unfamiliar with the show or the TV series, I recommend watching them uninterrupted on hulu and check out the rifftrax series on their site.                                          
I know next to nothing about Chuck Harrison and I thought even less of his baseball card pictured here. Chuck Harrison had an extremely short career which spanned all of five seasons and because he was young, and played most of '66 Topps decided to make a card for him. His batting stats weren't that great but, as was often the case with these short timers, his fielding numbers were pretty good. Only 8 errors in 114 games in '66 is nothing to sneeze at. Sure others have done better but he was called up for a reason and that reason was likely to fill in for an injured starter. As the link, shows, he played briefly for the expansion Kansas City Royals and that was it.

The card looks pretty plain for the set and that is saying something considering the set is pretty low key to begin with. Harrison is pictured in just a head and shoulders shot looking well over the photographer. He is standing beneath expansive blue skies which leads me to only guess that the picture was taken at the Astros 1966 spring training. Another clue which leads me to this conclusion is the fact that many of the Astros players featured in the set have pictures taken during spring training. None of the pictures feature players taken in doors so no one was pictured in the eight wonder of the world, the Astrodome.
The team's name on the card front, with its powder purple coloring never made the card any better in my mind either. I still wonder what was Topps formula for deciding when to print the players name and position in white and yellow as opposed to just black. Look at the other cards as i posted them, you might be able to help answer this question for me.

As far as I know, Chuck Harrison has had two Topps cards made for him. This one and one from the '69 Topps set. I believe that players were compensated, $100 dollars for each time they were featured on a sports card. Just imagine what that figure is now......Chuck Harrison, today, with his solid playing and average hitting stats would guarantee him a stable spot on the Pirates in field with a salary of $1.2 million a year for as long as he remains healthy. The President of the United States still only makes one third of that per year. Incredible...

Thursday, November 4, 2010

#7 Don McMahon : AKA Steve McQueen

 The title explains how I felt about this card as a kid. You have to admit, the picture of the pitcher posing as though he is peering in for the sign from his catcher, resembles Steve McQueen.  Aside from that, I never thought much about this card and to be honest, I was never the biggest fan of Steve McQueen's acting.

I always felt that McQueen was McQueen in all of his movies instead of the character he was playing. The mark of a good actor is when you see his or her film, you cease to think of the person on the screen as an actor and solely see them as the character they are portraying. With this in mind, Tom Cruise, Ben Affleck and many more are lousy actors. Jack Nicholson, Alec Guinness and Anthony Hopkins are good actors. And that will end my lesson on how to determine the quality of an acting performance, but this aside I did love some of McQueen's movies especially "Bullit"

This is the first Red Sox card to appear in this '67 set and  unfortunately, McMahon is featured in those dreaded and vested Cleveland Indians jersey instead of the standard and unchanging Red Sox uniform. Some things just don't have to be changed and that is true with some uniforms. The Tigers, Yankees, Red Sox and Cubs all have had the same uniforms form decades. 

The color scheme on the card is a little unusual too. The Red Sox logo is orange while the player name is white and the position is yellow and while these colors could overwhelm the card, the understated design of the '67 set makes it accessible to the eye. The head and shoulder shot is
standard as well as the fact that McMahon is pictured without a cap.  Around 1960, Topps came up with the bright idea to take pictures of players without hats just in case they end up being journeymen in the MLB. This saved them a good deal of bother for the '61 set which featured the recently relocated Minnesota Twins. You will find no Twin players in uniform in the '61 set and no Mets in uniform in the '62 set and so on.

As you can guess I, never really analyzed this players stats before but they do look impressive for a career reliever.  He began his major league career pitching for the World Series Championship Milwaukee Braves in '57. He led the NL in saves (15) and games finished (49) in '59. He went on to pitch for the Colt 45's(or Astros), Indians, Red Sox, White Sox, Tigers and finally with the Giants. Not many of baseball journeymen find a home to call theirs late in their career but McMahon found one with the Giants. He finished his final five seasons in San Francisco still pitching his heart out well into his 40's. For more details into his stats, Please check my source.

Tuesday, November 2, 2010

#6 Dick Simpson : The Journeyman

To be honest, I never thought much of this card because I never thought much of any of the Indians and Reds baseball cards. Look at the uniforms! I grew up feeling queasy
when seeing the Houston Astros orange and yellow nightmare of a jersey but at the very least and if nothing else, they didn't have a vest! another strike against this card is it follows a card featuring one of the greatest Yankees pitchers of all time in Whitey Ford and that makes a little known utility outfielder for the Reds seem smaller than he really is, but come on! He was a professional baseball player not a career minor leaguer who never made it out of the bush league!

Dick Simpson was a journeyman who played for seven different teams over the course of his seven years in the majors. His career batting average was not anything to write home about, just .207 and over the course of seven seasons, he managed only 107 hits. I do not know the man, or his family but I imagine if there were any player around who remembers every home run he ever hit in the majors, Dick Simpson would be him. He only hit 15 in his career. I imagine Jose Oquendo and Tom Lawless would remember their home runs too. Lawless hit two in his eight seasons and Oquendo hit just 14 in his 12 years in the big leagues.

Since Simpson was not the greatest hitter he must have been near perfect in the outfield and he was. In 211 games, he committed only 8 errors and managed 6 assists.

As I said, the uniforms of the Reds and Indians just look rotten to me. I don't know if it was an Ohio thing or what but vests in baseball just do not seem right in that state or anywhere else, but you be the judge.  The red pinstriped hat and vest wasn't helping much either. The team name with its yellowish green lettering matches the color of the Spring training ball field behind Simpson. This is yet another Spring training photo because you see a small outfield wall which is likely covered with advertisements for local hardware and liquor stores.

Some of my all time favorite cards show the majestic stadiums in the background. Almost all of the stadiums in these old cards are long gone, in fact only two and half are still standing. Fenway, Wrigley and half of Tigers Stadium (Detroit.....if you are going to tear the damn thing down, just do it and don't leave it half destroyed like the rest of your city).

The card back says Simpson was part of the Frank Robinson deal that sent the slugger to the Orioles but I decided to make note of that tidbit at the end of this entry. I can't stand it when lesser known players are best known because of someone else's successes. Examples Ed Hearn was part of the David Cone to Mets trade. Stu Miller is only known for giving up Mantle's 500th home run. Al Downing (who had a tremendious career too) gave up the Aaron's 715th home run and on and on. These were baseball players, not people on the wrong side of history. They deserve the respect of anyone who never made it that far in any profession and who have never tried.