Monday, January 20, 2014

1963 Rookie Stars (Reds / Phillies)

In 1963, Topps began issuing multi-player Rookie Stars cards. These were weird “floating head” cards that featured players from multiple teams. (Beginning in 1964, Topps switched to team-specific Rookie Stars cards, featuring 2 to 3 “normal” photos of players from the same team.)

What’s unusual about this card is that it features 2 sets of teammates.

I have already featured all 4 of these players on other blogs, so I’m just going to link them here:

Sammy Ellis played from 1962-69, primarily for the Reds as a starting pitcher.

Ray Culp debuted with the Phillies in 1963. After 4 seasons there and 1 with the Cubs, he played 6 seasons for the Red Sox.

Jesse Gonder played for 5 teams from 1960-67, but got most of his playing time with the Mets and Pirates from 1963-67.

John Boozer bounced between the Phillies and their farm system from 1962-69, as a long reliever and spot starter.

Sunday, January 12, 2014

Dodgers' Big Three (#412)

The Rangel, Ralph Houses of Manhattan's Coogan's Bluff are visible through the Polo Grounds' ironwork as a special trio of pitchers pose for this 1963 Topps card. Johnny Podres, Don Drysdale and Sandy Koufax were indeed the Dodgers' Big Three that season as they led the club to a World Series sweep of the Yankees. The three pitched all but 2/3 of an inning of the Series as the staff held the Yanks to a .207 average.

The three players represent 522 wins, 6317 strike outs, 17 All Star selections, and 4 Cy Young Awards between them. Koufax and Drysdale of course are Hall of Famers. Many of the Dodger clubs they pitched for after the franchise's move to Los Angeles were light hitting teams that relied on pitching and defense. They were so much dependent on pitching that Don Drysdale, away from the club on family business, is said to have asked "Who won?" when he was told that Koufax had pitched a no-hitter in his absence.

Podres had his last double digit win total (14) in '63. In fact he never again won more than 7. Drysdale won 19 as he came off his Cy Young season of 1962. His 251 whiffs were actually 19 more than his league leading total of the previous season. They were both very good, but Koufax was so dominant in 1963 that he was chosen as the NL's MVP.
"I can see how he won twenty-five games. What I don't understand is how he lost five." - Yogi Berra talking about Sandy Koufax.
This card has been on my radar for ages. I picked up this less than sterling copy recently. It's creased within an inch of it's life but I'm glad to have it.

Thursday, January 2, 2014

Robin Roberts (#125)

Here we have Hall of Fame pitcher Robin Roberts looking resplendent yet somewhat odd in his orange and black Orioles' cap. Although he pitched three plus years for my Birds and some for the Astros I still have a hard time thinking of him as anything but a Philadelphia Phillie.

For a six year stretch across the first half of the 1950s Roberts was the dominant right hand pitcher in the National League. From 1950 through 1955 he led the league in wins four times, starts six times, innings pitched five times and strikeouts twice.

Roberts was a three sport star playing baseball, football, and basketball for Lanphier High School in Springfield, Illinois. Roberts attended Michigan State on a basketball scholarship, but he also pitched for the Spartans' baseball team. He was signed by the Phillies for a $25,000 bonus, pitched for half a season in the minors, then made his debut for Philadelphia in June 1948.

He was a Phillie for 14 seasons and went 286-245 for teams that more often than not finished well below the .500 mark. He was instrumental however in the Phils' Whiz Kids pennant winning season of 1950. It was his second full season in the majors and he won 20 games for the first time, a feat he'd accomplish six consecutive seasons.

He started Game Two of the 1950 Series against the Yankees and in typical Roberts fashion he pitched all ten innings dueling Allie Reynolds and lost 2-1 when Joe DiMaggio reached him for a home run in the top of the tenth. He pitched one inning of Game Four but never again reached the post-season. He might have had more chances he not been released by the Yankees in May of 1962 after having been purchased in the off-season.

While he was still a productive inning-eater for Philadelphia, Roberts numbers slowly declined over the course of the second half of the decade. A 1-10 record in 1961 brought about his sale to the Yankees who thought his experience would benefit the staff and had several starters who were subject to military call-ups in '62. Rain and open dates and lack of opportunities kept Roberts off the mound and he was released late in April. He had offers from Japan and the Reds but only the Orioles met his salary requests and he signed and pitched for the Birds for three and a half seasons while putting up surprisingly good numbers for a guy with so much wear and tear on his arm.

He was released by the Orioles in mid-season 1965 and moved on to the Astros for whom he pitched a year before finishing with the Cubs in 1966.

From Baseball Reference:

Notable Achievements

  • 7-time NL All-Star (1950-1956)

  • 4-time NL Wins Leader (1952-1955)

  • 5-time NL Innings Pitched Leader (1951-1955)

  • 2-time NL Strikeouts Leader (1953 & 1954)

  • 5-time NL Complete Games Leader (1952-1956)

  • NL Shutouts Leader (1950)

  • 15 Wins Seasons: 10 (1949-1956, 1958 & 1959)

  • 20 Wins Seasons: 6 (1950-1955)

  • 25 Wins Seasons: 1 (1952)

  • 200 Innings Pitched Seasons: 14 (1949-1960, 1963 & 1964)

  • 300 Innings Pitched Seasons: 6 (1950-1955)

  • Baseball Hall of Fame: Class of 1976

Roberts' Hall of Fame bio:

Robin Roberts was the ace of the Phillies staff for most of his 14 years in a brilliant 19-season Major League career. The durable workhorse with a superior fastball and pinpoint control won 286 games and compiled six consecutive 20-victory seasons. In 1950, he paced the Phils to their first flag in 35 years with a 20-11 record. A tough competitor, he was a frequent league leader in victories, innings pitched, complete games, shutouts and strikeouts, topping the National League in wins from 1952-55.