Top Ten Baseball Cards Of The 60’s

'68 Ryan

This Old Duck first fell in love in the 60’s (no, her name wasn’t Daisy), so I can certainly relate to this story that was on the Internet a few years ago. It is titled “I went to bat for her engagement ring” and the sad tale is as follows –

 

“My girlfriend and I had been together for about three years and I was sure she was the one I wanted to marry. Problem was, I didn’t exactly have enough money to get her a good engagement ring. So, in order to raise funds, I put my collection of baseball cards on eBay. We’re talking a collection that spanned, like, 20 years, thanks to some cards handed down by my Dad. I was totally bummed to part with them because they were so important to me, but I really, really loved this girl. I ended up making more than enough money to pay for a ring. Problem was, when I got down on one knee, she told me she couldn’t see spending the rest of her life with me. I should’ve stuck with Shoeless Joe Jackson.”

 

If you’re still young enough to be this stupid, here’s some advice about the difference between marriage and baseball cards…if you pamper your cards, they’ll still look just as good in 20 years.

 

In honor of those beautiful girls I knew in the 60’s, here’s my top ten of the decade… as requested by some readers, you’ll also see the current value of each card in Excellent (EX) condition as defined by a grade of “5” by PSA or Beckett.

 

 

1) 1968 Topps Nolan Ryan (#177) – Even though he shares the card with Jerry Koosman, the “Ryan Express” rookie card is still one of the most sought after cards in the hobby. The Hall of Fame fireballer will always have a certain mystique for his legendary fastball and career longevity. ($350)

 

2) 1964 Topps Pete Rose (#125) – Rose’s rookie card from 1963 is missing from this list because it may be the most unattractive high-demand card in history. In that year, Topps put small head-shot photos of four rookies on certain cards and you almost needed a magnifying glass to recognize the “Hit King”. His ’64 card is much more appealing to Rose fans…and much less expensive. ($100)

 

3) 1960 Topps Carl Yastrzemski (#148) – The player who had the difficult task of replacing Ted Williams in LF is shown on a beautiful horizontal format rookie card. His Hall of Fame career speaks for itself. ($100)

 

4) 1962 Topps Roger Maris (#1) – Not only is this the card that shows 61 home runs on the back, but it is also the #1 card in the set and, therefore, difficult to find in nice condition. ($90)

 

5) 1969 Topps Reggie Jackson (#260) – The rookie card of “Mr. October”. ($90)

 

6) 1962 Topps Lou Brock (#387) – An under-appreciated Hall of Famer with over 3,000 hits, this is his rookie card. It is also an ugly reminder to Cub fans that he was traded to the Cardinals in 1964. ($70)

 

7) 1967 Topps Tom Seaver (#581) – Another Hall of Fame Pitcher originally with the Mets, “Tom Terrific” shares his rookie card with Bill Denehy. ($375)

 

8) 1968 Topps Johnny Bench (#247) – Arguably the greatest Catcher in history, this is his rookie card. As with many Topps issues of the era, he also shares the card with another player…Ron Tomkins. ($60)

 

9) 1966 Topps NL Batting Leaders (#215) – A great example of the type of subset cards that Topps added to their sets, this one features Roberto Clemente, Hank Aaron & Willie Mays. ($30)

 

10) 1967 Topps Bob Uecker (#326) – This choice may seem “just a bit outside” but it was the final season for “Mr. Baseball”. ($10)

 

To reinforce the depth of collecting during this decade, rookie cards that didn’t make the list include Willie McCovey (1960, $75), Joe Morgan (1965, $35), Steve Carlton (1965, $70), Jim Palmer (1966, $40) & Rod Carew (1967, $150).

 

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Spahnie, How I Love “ya

Spahn SI

For most fans, baseball is about memories. Maybe that clutch hit you got in Little League or the first baseball card of your favorite player. How about the first big-league game you attended or even playing catch with your Dad? And, if you ask any fan you know if they have at least one baseball autograph, the answer will assuredly be “yes”.

 

Sports autographs can be linked back to the early 20th Century when Babe Ruth was more famous than the President of the United States. In fact, in 1930 the Babe was asked about his $80,000 salary and the fact that it was $5,000 more the than the salary of President Hoover and the Bambino replied, “I know, but I had a better year.”

 

Ruth became the first full-fledged sports icon and children would line up in droves just to see him and get him to sign a baseball they bought for 50 cents. Obviously, just like every other baseball fan, they didn’t know what they held in their hands. To them, it was a piece of their hero.

 

For me, the autographed baseball I got from Ted Williams when I was a 12 year-old will always have a special place in my home and my memory. In the 1980’s, I embarked on another project involving autographs. As a subscriber to Sports Illustrated Magazine since the 1960’s, I had saved many of the issues because of the beautiful photography…especially on the covers. A local sports-themed apparel store was having a grand opening with Dale Murphy signing autographs for free. I had a beautiful cover from his MVP season in 1983 and decided to take advantage of the offer. Then, I found out that my next-door neighbor was a cousin of Gary Carter, so he got another ’83 cover signed for me. At that point, I started to visit the exploding category of sportscard shows in Southern California and added Hank Aaron’s autograph on the SI cover showing his 715th HR from 1974. As with many “labor of love” projects, this one essentially developed a life of its own. Over the next 20 years, the collection expanded to almost 200 autographed covers. It completely overran my house and now fills every wall in my garage and a number of boxes on the floor. A few years ago, 30 of the covers (each signed by a baseball Hall of Famer) were part of a Spring Training display at the art gallery of the Peoria (Arizona) City Hall.

 

As you’d expect, every cover has a back-story, but today we’ll talk about Warren Spahn. One of the greatest pitchers in the history of the game, his story is amazing. He debuted in the majors during the 1942 season but only appeared in 4 games without a victory. Then, he served in World War II and missed the next three seasons. Back with the Boston Braves in 1946 (at age 25), he got his first win on the way to a record of 8-5.

 

Listed generously as 6′ and 172 pounds, this diminutive left-hander led the NL in IP (289.2) & ERA (2.33) in 1947 while compiling a record of 21-10. That was the first of 13 times that “Spahnie” won 20 games or more including a 23-7 record in 1963 at age 42! He led the NL in Wins eight times and complete games nine times. Add in 14 All-Star teams and a Cy Young Award in 1957 (he finished 2nd three times) with a total of 363 victories in his career and you have the stuff legends are made of. He became a Hall of Fame member in 1973.

 

In the mid-90’s when my autograph project was going full-bore, there was a huge collectibles show that afforded the opportunity to get multiple signatures over the course of a weekend. Spahn was one of the available guests and I managed to find a beautiful SI cover from 1956 showing him in that classic Braves uniform with his unmistakable wind-up. I waited in line patiently for the opportunity to get the autograph of this unique player. When he arrived, the fans were somewhat taken aback by his appearance. Like most players of his generation, he came attired in a suit  & tie (on a hot Summer day) and he looked much older than his years (early 70’s). The process seemed to be a struggle for him, but he was cordial and attentive to the fans. As I got closer to the head of the line, he could be seen leaning toward the show promoters and quietly telling them something. When it was finally my turn, he looked straight at me and said, “Would you mind waiting while I go take a piss”? The fans laughed and then applauded as he slowly walked toward the rest room. They applauded again when he returned and he smiled and asked me how I would like him to personalize the autograph. The result is what you see today.

 

Just one of 200 stories, but certainly one of my favorites.

 

 

 

 

Putting The Clutch Halfway In

Parra Heritage

The definition of “clutch” seems to be somewhat elusive for many people. The slang dictionary describes it as “the ability to deliver when peak performance is needed” and your imagination can take that beyond the realm of sports. The urban dictionary concurs by saying, “the ability to perform well on a certain activity at a particular moment, despite external pressures, influences or distractions.” Of course, the term also has a tendency to fit other circumstances such as, “you are really craving a beer…you go to the fridge and there’s one left…so clutch.”

 

For long-time baseball fans, clutch has always been linked with RBI’s. After all, don’t the leaders in that statistical category come through in the clutch? The answer, of course, is never that easy. The folks who study baseball statistics have known since the 70’s that raw stats can be misleading. Batting in runs is a very important factor in a player’s success but that outcome is influenced greatly by where he hits in the line-up, whether he has protection in that line-up and, more importantly, how many runners were on the basepaths when he came to the plate. To this end, baseballmusings.com gives you the historical data to determine “RBI Percentage”. It is a result of a player’s (RBI – HR) / Runners On, or in simplistic terms, what percentage of baserunners did a player drive in during the season. In 2017, the stat told us that Charlie Blackmon of the Rockies (22.4%) was the best clutch hitter in baseball and less than ten hitters had a number over 20%.

 

So, as the halfway point of the season comes and goes, let’s look at the best (and worst) clutch hitters in the game. The statistical information is as of June 30th and includes players who had at least 100 runners on base when they came to the plate. Many of these names will surprise you.

 

1) Gerardo Parra, Rockies OF 23.4% – Most pundits felt he wouldn’t get much playing time with the pending emergence of Ryan McMahon, David Dahl and others.

 

2) Daniel Descalso, D’Backs 2B 21.9% – One Phoenix sports columnist argued that the All-Star roster should include at least one “Utility” player.

 

3) Evan Gattis, Astros DH 21.6% – Back in April, there was talk of him being released.

 

4) Jesus Aguilar, Brewers 1B 21% – No longer just a platoon player.

 

5) Yolmer Sanchez, White Sox 3B 20.5% – Carlos was Clark Kent, Yolmer is the super-hero.

 

6) Ben Zobrist Cubs OF 20.5% – If you were wondering how he would find playing time on the Cubs roster, here’s one answer.

 

7) Jean Segura, Mariners SS 20.3% – A major factor in Seattle’s ’18 success.

 

8) Freddie Freeman, Braves 1B 20.2% – Have you noticed Atlanta’s record? He’s their MVP.

 

9) Jed Lowrie, Athletics 2B 20.2% – A career year at age 34, he has 56 RBI’s.

 

10) Matt Adams, Nationals 1B 20% – Just off the DL, he’s had some big hits for Washington.

 

11) Matt Kemp, Dodgers OF 19.9% – Wasn’t expected to make the opening day roster…Jenny Craig had a similar season back in the 80’s.

 

12) Andrelton Simmons, Angels SS 19.3%% – As if playing Gold Glove SS isn’t enough.

 

Red Sox OF/DH J.D. Martinez leads the major leagues in RBI’s through June and his RBI percentage of 19% has him in the top 20.

 

When it comes to everyday players, the bottom of the barrel looks like this…

 

> Jarrod Dyson, D’Backs OF 6.3% – He’ll be a pinch-runner with A.J. Pollock and Steven Souza back in the line-up.

 

> Carlos Gomez, Rays OF 6.5% – He has great bat speed against the Gatorade cooler.

> Christian Vasquez, Red Sox C 6.8% – Catchers can keep their job in spite of this.

 

> Kolten Wong, Cardinals 2B 7% – Maybe it’s time to admit that he’s no longer a prospect.

 

> Alex Gordon, Royals OF 7.7% – He went over-the-hill in 2016 and hasn’t looked back.

 

> Jonathan Scoop, Orioles 2B 7.9% – Looked like a budding star in 2017, now just part of a dismal team in Baltimore.

 

For those of us from a certain generation, it would have been nice if Carlos Gonzalez had made the list because it would have brought back memories of “Clutch Cargo”.

 

We’ll re-visit the numbers in October and determine flukes from facts.

Baseball Quotes – Part Deux

Brockmire

About a year ago, we touched on some great quotes from the 150 year history of our grand old game. The overwhelming response made it clear that baseball fans can never get enough when it comes to the characters of the game. As always, there will be the humorous one-liners and comic observations, but we’ll also cover a few philosophical entries. After all, there was a minor league player in the 1940’s named Aristotle Lazarou, a Cardinals Catcher from the 50’s named Dick Rand could have had a relative named Ayn, Socrates Brito is hitting .350 at AAA and batters do have to walk from the on-deck circle to the Plato.

 

> Royals reliever Dan Quisenberry on what happens when his sinker wasn’t working, “The batter still hits a grounder, but the first bounce is 360 feet away.”

 

> Giants Coach Rocky Bridges on why he refused to eat snails, “I prefer fast food.”

 

> “You know you’re having a bad day when the 5th inning rolls around and they drag the warning track.” – Mike Flanagan, Orioles Pitcher

 

> Reds SS Barry Larkin on his future with the 2003 team, which had an interim Manager and no General Manager, “We’ve decided to take a wait-and-see approach – mostly wait, because we don’t know who to see.”

 

> “You can sum up the game of baseball in one word – You never know.” – Joaquin Andujar, Cardinals Pitcher

 

> Phillies Pitcher Don Carmen after getting only his second major league hit (in about 80 at bats) was promptly picked off second base. When asked about it after the game, he said, “I had never been to second base.”

 

> Indians broadcaster Nev Chandler said, “That base-hit makes Cecil Cooper 19-for-42 against Tribe pitching.” His partner in the booth Herb Score added, “I’m not good at math, but even I know that’s over .500.”

 

> Browns Manager Luke Sewell responded to a sportswriter who had suggested his team played like dogs by saying, “Don’t call ’em dogs. Dogs are loyal and they run after balls.”

 

> “Last night I failed to mention something that bears repeating.” – Mariners broadcaster Ron Fairly

 

> “A baseball park is the one place where a man’s wife doesn’t mind him getting excited over somebody else’s curves.” – Brendan Francis

 

> “Hitting is timing. Pitching is upsetting timing.” – Warren Spahn, Hall of Fame Pitcher

 

>  “The greatest feeling in the world is to win a major league game. The second-greatest feeling is to lose a major league game.” – Chuck Tanner, Manager

 

> “Baseball statistics are like a girl in a bikini. They show a lot, but not everything.” – Toby Harrah, Rangers Infielder

 

> “The best way to catch a knuckleball is to wait until the ball stops rolling and pick it up.” – Bob Uecker

 

> “Baseball is like church. Many attend but few understand.” – Wes Westrum, Giants Catcher

 

> “Baseball is the only orderly thing in a very unorderly world. If you get three strikes, even the best lawyer in the world can’t get you off.” – Bill Veeck, Team Owner

 

> “I don’t want to play golf. When I hit a ball, I want someone else to go chase it.” – Rogers Hornsby

 

> “With those that don’t give a damn about baseball, I can only sympathize. I do not resent them. I am even willing to concede that many of them are physically clean, good to their mothers and in favor of world peace. But while the game is on, I can’t think of anything to say to them.” – Art Hill

 

> “Nolan Ryan is pitching much better now that he has his curveball straightened out.” – Joe Garagiola

 

> “It breaks your heart. It is designed to break your heart. The game begins in Spring, when everything else begins again, and it blossoms in Summer, filling the afternoons and evenings, and then as soon as the chill rains come, it stops and leaves you to face the Fall alone.” – A. Bartlett Giamatti, Commissioner

 

> “I am convinced that every boy, in his heart, would rather steal second base than an automobile.” – Thomas Campbell Clark

 

> “You can’t tell how much spirit a team has until it starts losing.” – Rocky Colavito, Indians Outfielder

 

> “If it weren’t for baseball, many kids wouldn’t know what a millionaire looks like.” – Phyllis Diller

 

> “Every day is a new opportunity. You can build on yesterday’s success or put its failures behind and start over again. That’s the way life is, with a new game every day, and that’s the way baseball is.” – Bob Feller

 

> After losing a game 15-0, Pitcher Bo Belinsky said, “How can a guy win a game when you don’t give him any runs?”

 

> “Losing streaks are funny. If you lose at the beginning, you got off to a bad start. If you lose in the middle of the season, you’re in a slump. If you lose a the end, you’re choking.” – Gene Mauch, Manager

 

> “There have only been two authentic geniuses in the world. Willie Mays and Willie Shakespeare.” – Actress Tallulah Bankhead

 

> “You don’t realize how easy this game is until you get up in that broadcasting booth.” – Mickey Mantle

 

> “The baseball mania has run its course. It has no future as a professional endeavor.” – Cincinnati Gazette editorial, 1879

 

> “Pitchers are dumb. They don’t play but once every four days. They’re scratching their ass or pickin’ their nose or somethin’ the rest of the time. They’re pitchin’, most of them, because they can’t do anything else.” – Ted Williams

 

Of course, you may also enjoy fictional baseball quotes, so let me recommend the IFC TV series called “Brockmire”. Hank Azaria stars as a former big league announcer who self-destructed his career with a drunken in-the-booth meltdown ten years ago. Now he’s back as the play-by-play voice for the minor-league Morristown Frackers. A number of his quotes are inappropriate for this audience, but here’s a few acceptable samples to wet your appetite…

 

> To his girlfriend, “Most of all, I like that we seem to have the same exact level of functional alcoholism.”

 

> “Knowledge and assumptions, those are like Loggins and Messina. They seem similar, but time proves one of them to be completely worthless.”

 

> That baseball will never be buried in a Jewish cemetery because it just got tattooed.”

 

> “There are three kinds of people in this world – poor people, rich people and famous people. Rich people are just poor people with money.”

 

> ” Let’s not make baseball out to be any more important than it really is. It’s just a diversion that keeps us from pondering our own personal hells. So what do you say folks? How about we kill another three hours on our slow and painful march to the grave. All right, top of the first…should have a good one here this afternoon.”

 

 

And don’t forget, there’s no crying in baseball.

Get A Whiff Of This

Whiff Duo

Would you be a more successful Fantasy player if you were sequestered following the Draft and not allowed to watch baseball during the season? After all, enthusiasts of this endeavor are the lords of statistics, aren’t we? We’re Moneyball as opposed to “Old School”, SABRmetricians first and Scouts second and always in Brian Kenny’s corner when he’s debating Harold Reynolds.

 

As with most questions, there isn’t a simple answer. Can any of us deny that we’ve allowed what we see on the field to impact our opinion of a player despite what the statistical analysis might say? Haven’t we all traded or dropped a player too soon because he looked terrible in a game we happened to be watching? And what could possibly look worse than a member of your team striking out three times in a game (“Hat Trick”), four times in a game (“Golden Sombrero”) or even the dreaded five times in a game (“Platinum Fedora”)? So, let’s take a closer look at what you may call the “K”, the “Punchout” or the “Whiff”.

 

Some baseball statistics are difficult to analyze while others just jump off the page. One easy to decipher trend is that since 2007, more batters are striking out every season for a total increase of 27% over that period. In fact, each of the last ten seasons have set a new record in the history of baseball, with 2018’s number at 8.5 batters per game. Earlier this month, the Cubs & Mets played an extra inning game where one team struck out 24 times and the other 15 times…there were three “Hat Tricks” and two “Golden Sombreros” in the same game! In 1941, Joe DiMaggio & Ted Williams combined for 997 AB’s…and struck out a total of 40 times! There are numerous theories about this increase and most have a persuasive argument. It certainly isn’t a coincidence that strikeouts have gone up and batting average has gone down every year since the Mitchell Report was released and stronger PED testing became part of the baseball landscape. In 2007, MLB BA was .268 and Slugging Percentage was .423. So far in 2018 (through June 16th), the numbers are .245 & .405.

 

An easy explanation is that hitters are compensating by swinging harder in an attempt to hit for power. Another factor is that Pitchers are throwing at a higher velocity than ever before and starters are generally being removed before facing the opposing line-up a third time. For those of us who cling to our memories of the 50’s & 60’s when 300 IP was common, this means that a tiring starting pitcher is being replace in the 6th or 7th inning by someone like Jordan Hicks (100 mph average fastball), Tayron Guerrero (98.7 mph) or Joe Kelly (97.8 mph).   While all this makes sense, the real question is what has happened to plate discipline? And how does this impact your Fantasy team?

 

Intuitively, it seems that there are categories of strikeouts that are significantly different when we watch the game. There’s a great pitch that fools the batter for a called third strike. Or a 95+ mph fastball in the strike zone that the hitter just can’t catch up with. Worst of all, however, is when your Fantasy stud swings at pitches out of the zone and ends up heading for the dugout. If you believe that last example seems to be happening to your team at a higher rate than in the past, you are absolutely correct. A recently developed stat is called “O-Swing %” and it tracks the percentage of pitches a batter swings at outside the strike zone. In 2005, that percentage was 20.3% and by 2018, it has increased to 30.3%.

 

Even though Ted Williams once said that “Pitchers are dumb”, they are at least smart enough to figure out that if they don’t need to throw strikes to get you out, they won’t throw you strikes. And that leads us to the implications for your Fantasy team. While it appears that the players we draft aren’t going back to the days of making more contact and creating productive outs (that add RBI’s), there still seems to be a number of ways to look at hitters when it comes to strikeouts.

 

First, there are the free swingers who have some semblance of plate discipline. A few years ago, the poster boy for this type of hitter was always Adam Dunn. While he struck out at a very high rate, he also managed to accumulate a large number of base on balls including over 100 walks in eight different seasons. So, his 2,379 K’s were partially offset by his 1,317 walks leading to a respectable On Base Percentage (OPB) of .364 and a On Base Plus Slugging (OPS) of .854. During that time, he also hit over 450 Home Runs and had over 1,100 RBI’s making him a productive member of his actual baseball team and your Fantasy squad.

 

To prove how productive this type of player can be for your team, let’s look at some numbers as we get close to the 1/2 mark of the 2018 season. Aaron Judge of the Yankees has struck out 91 times but also has managed 48 walks while producing a .397 OBP & .963 OPS. Paul Goldschmidt of the D’Backs has been punched out 86 times but also has 39 walks giving him a .370 OBP & .883 OPS. If we own either of these players, are we concerned that they may strike out 150 times this year?

 

Second, there are the free swingers that don’t seem to have a handle on the strike zone. Joey Gallo of the Rangers has 106 strikeouts and 30 walks while Yoan Moncada of the White Sox has 97 strikeouts with only 26 BB’s. Their Home Runs don’t make up for that kind of performance. Chris Davis of the Orioles has 86 K’s and 19 BB’s resulting in an embarrassing WAR number of -2.2. The Marlins keep Lewis Brinson in the line-up because they have no choice but his 78 K’s & 10 BB’s equals almost no value to the team. Despite the athletic ability, Billy Hamilton has put his career in jeopardy with 72 K’s and 26 BB’s…from a player who doesn’t hit the ball 200 feet.

 

Third of course, are the players we all desire. The guys who command the strike zone and give us the categories we need to defeat our evil adversaries.  How about the  Angels Mike Trout with 60 K’s, 60 BB, .328 BA and 1.147 OPS? Or the Red Sox Mookie Betts line of 31 K’s, 26 BB, .340 BA and 1.115 OPS? Is Freddie Freeman a MVP candidate with 53 K’s, 42 BB’s, a .342 BA and 1.012 OPS? Was signing Lorenzo Cain a good move for the Brewers? How about 48 K’s, 42 BB’s, .291 BA & .839 OPS…not to mention Gold Glove caliber defense in CF. Is Jose Ramirez for real? His numbers of 36 K’s, 40 BB’s, .288 BA and .989 OPS gives you the answer. Find players with more walks than strikeouts (Joey Votto is another) and you’ll be in the pennant race.

 

It doesn’t appear that we’re going back to the days of contact hitters anytime soon, but looking at the stats a little more closely will help your team be more successful.

 

 

 

 

Where Disco Lives Forever – Top Ten Baseball Cards of the 70’s.

'75 Brett 7

It was easy to tell when “Disco” died. In the classic movie “Airplane” (1980), you hear a DJ say “WZAZ, where disco lives forever” just before the plane’s wing shears off the radio station’s tower on the final approach into Chicago. As usual, baseball managed to skirt the social issues of the day and create some classic memories for fans.

 

The decade began with the Orioles (and Series MVP Brooks Robinson) topping the Reds and included three titles for the Oakland Athletics as well as two each for the Reds, Yankees & Pirates. It was the end of an era for many Hall of Fame players and the beginning of legendary careers for others. The Topps company still dominated the marketplace and issued large sets (as many as 726 cards) to satisfy collectors. While some of this writer’s choices may not be the most valuable of the decade, they all have historic significance for baseball fans. As requested by some readers, you’ll also see the current value of each card in Near Mint (NM) condition as defined by a grade of “7” by PSA or Beckett.

 

1) 1975 Topps George Brett (#228) – Topps finally got away from multiple player rookie cards in this beautiful set and the Royals 3B is the key card ($90). For the first (and only) time, Topps also made a “mini” version of their set and the values are slightly lower.

 

2)  1973 Topps Mike Schmidt (#615) – Even though the Phillies star had to share his rookie card with two other players, it is still one of the high-demand collectibles of the decade ($225).

 

3) 1970 Topps Nolan Ryan (#712) – Despite the fact that is the 3rd year card of the “Express”, it is difficult to find because it is part of the scarce “high series” ($150).

 

4) 1973 Topps Roberto Clemente (#50) – The final card of the Pirate legend was actually issued after his tragic death in December of ’72 ($32).

 

5) 1979 Topps Ozzie Smith (#116) – The rookie card of the “Wizard”, it is a tough card to find in nice condition, as many of the cards were off-center due to poor quality control in this set ($55).

 

6) 1976 Topps Hank Aaron (#550) – The final active card for “Hammering Hank”, it is one of two Aaron cards in the set…the other one commemorates his home run record ($22).

 

7) 1971 Topps Thurman Munson (#5) – The best looking card of the Yankee Captain, its black borders make it challenging to find in nice condition ($220).

 

8) 1978 Topps Eddie Murray (#36) – The rookie card of the Orioles great switch-hitting 1B ($45)

 

9) 1975 Topps Robin Yount (#223) – Imagine two Hall of Famers who each played for only one team and accumulated over 3,000 hits having their rookie cards in the same set and only five numbers (see Brett) apart ($55).

 

10) 1974 Topps Willie McCovey (#250) – There were two versions of this card…the Padres were close to leaving San Diego and re-locating to Washington, D.C., so Topps issued an alternate card with “Washington” on the front ($15).

 

Other cards of note included the rookie cards of Don Baylor / Dusty Baker in ’71 ($42), Dave Winfield in ’74 ($35), Jim Rice in ’75 ($25), Dennis Eckersley in ’76 ($27) and Paul Molitor / Alan Trammell in ’78 ($60). As an example of the depth of baseball history streaming through the decade, the 1978 set has over 20 members of the Hall of Fame. Sorry, John Travolta and the Bee Gees aren’t inlcuded.

 

 

Vintage Baseball Nicknames

'12 Brown 2

Spending lots of time over the years with 100 year-old baseball cards has helped me define many of the differences in today’s modern game. From visual aspects such as uniforms and gloves to social issues like players of color being absent, our cherished game has certainly come a long way. It seems, however, that one area where the sport has gone backwards is in the category of nicknames.

 

In 2018, as the game has become richer and more corporate, original and appropriate nicknames have begun to disappear. Of the top players in the game, is there a decent nickname among them? Looking at baseball-reference.com, it appears that many of them have nicknames, but even the most ardent fan might not recognize them. Have you ever heard of the “Millville Meteor” or “Bigfoot”? Those are the nicknames listed for Mike Trout and Giancarlo Stanton. And Clayton Kershaw is “The Claw”? Add this to the weak efforts of “Miggy” for Miguel Cabrera and “Goldy” for Paul Goldschmidt and you can see that the new era of baseball is a wasteland for nicknames. Max Scherzer is “Blue Eye”, Justin Verlander is “JV”, Bryce Harper has three nicknames and they are all boring…”Bam-Bam”, “Mondo” & “Harp”. Maybe you like “Votto-matic” for the Reds 1B?

 

So, as we work our way into June, let’s travel back to a century ago and see what kind of nicknames we find for the players in the 1909-11 T206 tobacco card set.

 

> Frank “Home Run” Baker, A’s 3B – This Hall of Fame member supposedly got the nickname by hitting home runs off both Rube Marquard and Christy Mathewson in the 1911 World Series. To put some perspective on the “dead-ball” era, Baker led the AL in HR’s in three consecutive seasons (1911-13) with totals of 11, 10 & 12.

 

> Charles “Chief” Bender, A’s P – Another Hall of Famer, he was a member of the Ojibwa tribe and dealt with racial discrimination during his career.

 

> Charles “Heinie” Berger, Cleveland Naps P – One of over 20 major league ballplayers of the era that had the nickname, it was popular for German-Americans who played the game.

 

> George “Scoops” Carey, Senators 1B – Mostly a minor leaguer, he was known for his slick fielding around the bag.

 

> “Three Finger” Mordecai Brown, Cubs P – Your guess is correct, as he lost parts of two fingers on his pitching hand in a farm-machinery accident as a child. Elected to the Hall of Fame in 1949, he had a lifetime ERA of 2.06. If you’ve been playing Fantasy baseball for at least 20 years, you probably know that Antonio Alfonseca had twice as many fingers as Mordecai.

 

> Josh “Pepper” Clarke, Naps OF – His bother Fred was a Hall of Famer, but most of Josh’s career was in the minors. He once played for the Des Moines Undertakers and later managed the Omaha Robin Hoods.

 

> “Wahoo Sam” Crawford, Tigers OF – Had over 2,900 hits in his Hall of Fame career and played alongside Ty Cobb. He was born in Wahoo, Nebraska.

 

> James “Steamer” Flanagan, Pirates OF – Only played seven games in the majors, but he was on the same team as Honus Wagner.

 

> Miller “Might Mite” Huggins, Cardinals 2B – The diminutive Huggins (5’6″) eventually became the legendary Manager of the Yankees in the 1920’s.

 

> George “Peaches” Graham, Phillies C – His son, John “Jack” Graham, played with the Dodgers & Giants in the 1940’s.

 

> Walter Johnson “The Big Train”, Senators P – One of the greatest pitchers of all-time, he posted 417 Wins.

 

> Ed “Battleship” Gremminger, Tigers 3B – His first major league campaign was with the Cleveland Spiders in 1895.

 

> “Wee Willie” Keeler, NY Highlanders OF – This Hall of Famer was only 5′ 4″, but had a lifetime BA of .341.

 

> Myron “Moose” Grimshaw, Boston Americans 1B – To give you an idea of the size of the players in this era, “Moose” was only 6′ 1″ and 173 pounds.

 

> Christy “Big Six” Mathewson, Giants P – A member of the first Hall of Fame class in 1936, the nickname referred to his height of 6′ 1″.

 

> Charlie “Eagle Eye” Hemphill, Browns OF – You guessed it, he was an outstanding defensive player.

 

> “Iron Man” Joe McGinnity, Giants P – Pitched over 400 innings in two different seasons, winning over 30 games both times.

 

> “Silent John” Hummel, Dodgers Utility – Played in Brooklyn for over a decade and actually wore the uniform of the Superbas, Robins & Dodgers.

 

> Honus Wagner “The Flying Dutchman”, Pirates SS – Another member of the inaugural Hall of Fame class, he is arguably the greatest shortstop in history.

 

> Frank “Bald Eagle” Isbell, White Sox IF – Yes, he lost his hair at an early age.

 

> Denton “Cy” Young, Red Sox P – The most wins of all time with 511 victories. “Cy” was short for “Cyclone”.

 

> “Bad Bill” Dahlen, Giants SS – After his playing days, he  became a Manager and was thrown out of 65 games!

 

> Davey “Kangaroo” Jones, Tigers OF – Batted lead-off for the Bengals in front of Ty Cobb.

 

> “Wild Bill” Donovan, Tigers P – His nickname came from his penchant for walking opposing hitters. While the Manager of New Haven in 1923, he was killed while sleeping in the lower berth of a train during a wreck that killed a total of eight people. Team owner George Weiss was in the upper berth, survived his injuries and went on to become a Hall of Fame baseball executive.

 

> Jack “Schoolboy” Knight, Yankees SS – Signed out of the University of Pennsylvania at age 19.

 

> “Slothful Bill” Lattimore, Naps P – Evidently, he moved very slowly.

 

> Ulysses Simpson Grant “Stoney” McGlynn, Cardinals P – He had more names (5) than seasons in the majors (3).

 

> Harry “Rocks” McIntire, Cubs P – Led the NL in hit batters three times.

 

> Tom “Dearfoot” Needham, Cubs C – His defensive skills kept him in the big leagues for a decade.

 

> Ennis “Rebel” Oakes, Cardinals OF – Not surprisingly, he was born in Louisiana. He was the player-manager of the Pittsburgh franchise in the Federal League (1914-15) and they named the team the Rebels.

 

> Barney Pelty, “The Yiddish Curver”, Browns P – One of the first Jewish ballplayers, he obviously had a great curveball. Of the 117 games he lost over ten years, the Browns were shutout in 32 of them.

 

> Bob “Dusty” Rhoads, Naps P – You didn’t really think the Giants OF of the 50’s was the first one, did you?

 

> George “Admiral” Schlei, Giants C – Named after a hero of the Spanish-American War, Admiral Schley.

 

> “Death Valley Jim” Scott, White Sox P – Born in Deadwood, South Dakota (1888).

 

> Ed “Tubby” Spencer, Red Sox C – Had nine major leagues seasons at 5′ 10″, 215 pounds.

 

> Irvin “Kaiser” Wilhelm, Superbas P – The other Kaiser Wilhelm was the Emperor of Germany from 1888-1918.

 

> Charles “Deacon” Phillippe, Pirates P – He was a church choirmaster in the off-season.

 

> Ed “Batty” Abbaticchio, Pirates P – The first player of Italian heritage to play in the major leagues (1897). Prior to his baseball career, he was one of the first pro football players (1895).

 

> “Strawberry Bill” Bernhard, Naps P – Won 15+ games in seven separate seasons…and had red hair.

 

> Russell “Lena” Blackburne, White Sox IF – His claim to fame in baseball history is that, in 1938, he found the unique mud near the Delaware River that would dull the shine on baseballs without staining them. The product was known as “Lena Blackburne Rubbing Mud” and has been used by organized baseball ever since.

 

> J.J. “Nig” Clarke, Browns C – Sad to say that this nickname was racial in nature due to his dark complexion.

 

> Harry “The Giant Killer” Coveleski, Phillies P – He beat the Giants three times in five days during the pennant race in 1908.

 

> Louis “Bull” Durham, Giants P – Only pitched 29 innings in his major league career and after his last minor league season in 1913, he became an actor in silent films.

 

> George “Pinch” McBride, Senators SS – A very poor hitter, he only seemed to come through in clutch circumstances such as pinch-hitting.

 

> Frank “Yip” Owen, White Sox P – Won 20+ games in three consecutive seasons and was born in Ypsilanti, Michigan.

 

> Charles “Gabby” Street, Senators C – The nickname came from his non-stop talking behind the plate and he is the legendary player who caught the ball dropped from the Washington Monument in 1908.

 

> Luther “Dummy” Taylor, Giants P – Another nickname that tells you much about the times, as he was deaf.

 

With over 500 players in this baseball card set, we could go on for pages and the dozens of guys nicknamed “Dutch”, “Red” & “Doc” haven’t even been mentioned. In fact, two guys named “Rube” (Marquard & Waddell) are in the Hall of Fame. Much of the source material comes from “The T206 Collection” book by Tom & Ellen Zappala.

 

Hope you enjoyed this throwback history lesson.