Tuesday, January 17, 2017

#49 Roy Face - Pittsburgh Pirates - Closer before the era of pitch counts

Pitch counting is something that was not so popular until around the time of the '69 Mets and their fleet of incredible young arms. Preserving their natural strength while they built their mechanics made sense. It made even more sense during the era of free agency which came about in the early 70's. Higher investments means higher concerns for a pitcher's throwing arm. A solid bullpen player wasn't as revered as it would become during the 70's with Rollie Fingers or Tug McGraw or Al Hrabosky. That brings me to one of the unsung bullpen aces of his day, Roy Face. All one has t do is look at the stats of the '67 Topps card to see how a career relief pitcher's best stats are ignored. A career 91-84 record and a 3.56 ERA is not very impressive when you look at it on the back of the card. The card looks like his one highlight was his winning 18 consecutive games in relief in 1959.

Digging deeper into the stats reveals Face's true worth as a pitcher. Three times he led the league in games finished and three times he led the league in saves. Face came up when the Pirates were struggling for wins. They had a string of 9 straight losing seasons until they named Danny Murtaugh their manager and that's when they became serious.

Face had a length career which spanned 3 decades and ended in his early 40's. I have admiration for Face since we're both the same height but he made the most of it as a professional athlete, having a career last 17 years in the Majors is impressive by every standard and it's doubly impressive when considering he was a 3 time All Star. He was featured strongly in the '60 World Series where he registered 3 saves in their 4 wins.

This Face card is a bit of an enigma. I want to think the photo was taken in a Major League ballpark but it looks more like a spring training field. The stands look to be a single tier and spring training photos weren't unusual for this set. The action behind Face is a nice change of pace from other posing photos are standard fare.

Much like the Tiger cards, the Pirates lettering is striking with a deep purple color super imposed against the photo. The black/white/gold color of the uniforms with that lettering in the foreground is a nice touch.

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