When you become a septuagenarian, recalling details can be a challenge. For those of us who are lifelong baseball fans, remembering players from long ago isn’t that difficult. Maybe all that time we spent reading the backs of baseball cards left the information in our gray matter forever.
Looking through collections at the baseball card shop makes me feel like a winning contestant on “Jeopardy”. As I flip through the pages of a dusty album or rummage among the cards in an old shoe-box, the stories of the players bounce directly to the front of my brain. Fortunately, the customers seem entertained by these recollections as the stories unfold. We’re not talking about the famous players. After all, even casual fans know about Yogi, Ted, Hank, Roberto, Willie, Mickey and the Duke. It is the obscure story and the infamous player that gets their attention. Do you know which Yankee wore #3 after Babe Ruth and #7 before Mickey Mantle? You’ll find the answer at the end of our visit.
In a recent blog, the 1957 Topps set was highlighted and we talked about the Hall of Famers. But, what about the hundreds of other ’57 cards in that shoe box? Let’s grab a handful of cards and see what history we can find.
- #155 Jim Brosnan, Cubs P – Won 55 games in a modest nine-year career. His fame, however, came from being the first ballplayer to write an “insider’s” book about the game. 1960’s “The Long Season” took readers behind the scenes and into the locker room. It is still a great read after all these years.
- #167 Vic Power, A’s 1B – Played 12 seasons and won 7 Gold Gloves but the back story is about his name. One of the first stars from Puerto Rico, his given name was Victor Pellot. His first minor league stop was in Canada (in 1950) and it turned out that “pellot” was a rather risqué word in French. So, he became Vic Power and the name stuck for his entire career. In fact, some of his baseball cards have him listed as Victor Pellot Power.
- #173 Roger Craig, Dodgers P – A baseball “lifer”, he pitched for 12 years and managed for another 10. Taken by the expansion Mets for the 1962 season, he was the best Pitcher on a sorrowful team. His record for 1962 was 10-24 and then 5-22 in ’63. 46 losses in two seasons!
- #174 Willie Jones, Phillies 3B – 15 seasons and over 1,500 hits but he is best remembered for his nickname…”Puddin’ Head”.
- #184 Tito Francona, Orioles OF – Yes, this is the dad of Indians Manager Terry Francona.
- #187 Virgil Trucks, A’s P – Yes, his nickname was “Fire”.
- #192 Jerry Coleman, Yankees IF – A legendary broadcaster after his career, he was one of only two players to serve in both World War II and Korea. The other one was Ted Williams.
- #3 Dale Long, Pirates 1B – One of only three major league players to hit home runs in eight consecutive games. The other two? Don Mattingly & Ken Griffey Jr.
- #217 Gene Stephens, Red Sox OF – A back-up for BoSox, he set a major league record in 1953 by getting three hits in one inning as the Sox scored 17 runs against the Tigers.
- #225 Harry Simpson, A’s OF – Played for five different teams in his eight-year career, so his nickname was “Suitcase”.
- #96 Hank Aguirre, Indians P – Just in case you don’t believe in the DH, over 16 seasons he went 33-for-388 as a hitter (.085).
- #201 Sandy Amoros, Dodgers OF – Made that sensational catch in Game 7 of the ’55 World Series to help the Dodgers win their first title.
- #103 Joe Nuxhall, Redlegs P – Another long-time broadcaster, he was the youngest player to appear in a big-league game at age 15 in 1944. Didn’t get back to the “Show” until 1952.
- #117 Joe Adcock, Braves 1B – Broke up Harvey Haddix’s 12-inning perfect game in 1959.
- #28 Gene Conley, Braves P – At 6’8”, he pitched 11 seasons and also won three NBA championships as a member of the Celtics.
- #37 Frank Torre, Braves 1B – Yes, he’s Joe’s Brother.
As with all vintage baseball card sets, every picture tells a story.
As for our trivia question, the Yankees had a rookie OF in 1948 who wore uniform #3. After Babe Ruth’s passing, the team retired the number and the player took #7 in 1949. When Mickey Mantle joined the team in ’51, “The Mick” wore #6 and only became #7 after this player was traded. He was Cliff Mapes.
Drop in at the card shop and we’ll talk baseball.