Changing The Color Of Baseball

No matter your political persuasion, there’s no doubting that social justice is a topic that currently resonates throughout the country. As a baseball fan who was born before the color line was broken, looking back always helps me to keep my perspective. There is no better example of institutional racism than major league baseball.


From the end of World War II until 1961, there were 16 major league teams playing baseball. Beginning in 1947, it took 12 years for all teams to roster a black player. As a kid growing up in Boston, the Red Sox and Ted Williams were my passion. I knew every player, their stats and their uniform numbers. One of the things I didn’t really notice was that all the members of the team were white. Once my parents gifted me with a transistor radio and I was able to pick up the Dodger broadcasts from Brooklyn, it was easy for the “Bums” to become my favorite National League team. It also opened my thoughts to the society around me because the Dodgers had numerous players of color who excelled in Brooklyn. The Red Sox were the last team to roster a Black player and it happened in 1959, a full 12 year gap. Tom Yawkey owned the team from 1933 until his passing in 1976 and even today, his legacy is tainted by this lack of inclusion by the franchise. Ironically, Williams’ Hall of Fame induction speech in 1966 was highlighted by his appeal for African-American players to be considered for Hall of Fame consideration. That moment opened the door for Negro League stars to be acknowledged.


Today, we’ll look at the 16 players who were part of this history. From Hall of Fame members to guys you’ve never heard of, it is a unique baseball club…


1947 – Jackie Robinson, Brooklyn Dodgers. Team owner Branch Rickey was the driving force and his desire to find exactly the right individual paved the way. If the experiment with Robinson failed, there’s no telling how long it would have been before another player got the chance. A ten-year career with six NL pennants led to Jackie’s induction to the Hall of Fame in 1962. In case you think that 15 years changed everything, he was only listed on 124 of 160 ballots from the writers.

'47 Robinson RD


1947 – Larry Doby, Cleveland Indians. Arriving from Newark of the Negro League at age 23, he became a stalwart in the Tribe’s line-up during the 50’s and had over 100 RBI’s in five seasons. The Veteran’s Committee voted him into Cooperstown in 1998.

'49 Doby RD


1947 – Hank Thompson, St. Louis Browns. A unique part of this story, Thompson was a Negro League player who joined the Browns at age 21. He only had 78 AB’s that season and was released prior to the 1948 campaign. Wonder what ever happened to him?

'50 Thompson RD


> 1949 – Hank Thompson, New York Giants. Back in the Negro League in ’48, he signed with the Giants in 1949, making him the first player of color for two different franchises. Had seven productive seasons at 3B, including 24 HR’s and a .302 BA in 1953.


1949 – Monte Irvin, New York Giants. He and Thompson broke into the big leagues on the same day…July 8th. After playing nine seasons in the Negro Leagues, he became a major leaguer at age 30. Seven solid years with New York including a league-leading 121 RBI’s in 1951. Voted into the Hall of Fame by the Negro League Committee in 1973.

'52 Irvin RD


1950 – Sam Jethroe, Boston Braves. Playing across town from the Red Sox, this speedy outfielder first played in the Negro League in 1938. As a 33 year-old, he won the NL Rookie of the Year award in ’50, leading the NL in steals with 35. He had another productive season in ’51, leading the league in SB’s again. His 1952 season was hampered by injury and illness and when the Braves relocated to Milwaukee in 1953, he wasn’t offered a contract.

'50 Jethroe RD


1951 – Orestes “Minnie” Minoso, Chicago White Sox. One of the most exciting players of the era, this Cuban Outfielder thrilled the fans on the South Side of Chicago. He made six All-Star teams in the 50’s and won three Gold Gloves for his defense.

'52 Minoso RD


> 1953 – Bob Trice, Philadelphia Athletics. One of the more obscure members of this group, he pitched three seasons for the A’s with a lifetime record of 9-9.


1953 – Ernie Banks, Chicago Cubs. “Mr. Cub” was a star from day one and is still the most popular player in franchise history. Won two NL MVP’s in the 50’s and had 512 lifetime HR’s. Inducted into the Hall of Fame in 1977.



> 1954 – Curt Roberts, Pittsburgh Pirates. Was the regular 2B in ’54 but never had another productive season. Back in the Minors by 1957.


> 1954 – Tom Alston, St. Louis Cardinals. With the Redbirds for four seasons but never got regular playing time.


> 1954 – Chuck Harmon, Cincinnati Reds. Another part-time, four season major leaguer. His lifetime BA was .238.


> 1954 – Carlos Paula, Washington Senators. Another Cuban OF, he was a part-time player for three seasons.


1955 – Elston Howard, New York Yankees. Unlike the Dodgers & Giants, the Yankees were late coming to the party. Howard was an outstanding player for the Bronx Bombers, making nine consecutive All-Star teams from 1957-65. He played in ten World Series and was the AL MVP in ’63.

'55 Howard RD


> 1957 – John Kennedy, Philadelphia Phillies. The shortest career on our list, he had two AB’s without a hit and went back to the Minors, never to be in “the show” again.


> 1958 – Ozzie Virgil Sr., Detroit Tigers. From the Dominican Republic, he played two seasons with the Giants before joining the Bengals. Had a nine-year career as a back-up at multiple positions.


1959 – Pumpsie Green, Boston Red Sox. This middle-infielder was the last of the pioneers. A part-time player in Boston for four seasons, he finished his career with the Mets in 1963. In a sports-related side note, the Boston Celtics were the first NBA team to draft a black player…Chuck Cooper in 1950.

'60 Green RD


16 names to be remembered…

Hurling More Trivia

After the response to a recent column filled with useless information, it appears that most of you readers are easily amused and entertained. So, this time the Old Duck will hurl more baseball tidbits your way by focusing on pitching facts from our national pastime. As always, thanks to SABR and for much of the source material.


Warren Spahn had 20 or more Wins in 13 separate seasons…and 10 of them came after the age of 30!

Spahn SI


> Greg Maddux had 15 or more Wins in 18 separate seasons.


> Don Sutton had 10 or more Wins in 21 separate seasons.


> Nolan Ryan registered at least 5 Wins in 26 consecutive seasons.


> Hoyt Wilhelm won 124 games in relief.


> Gene Garber lost 108 games in relief.


> Andy Pettitte pitched 18 seasons and never had a losing record.


> Phil Nierko won 121 games after the age of 40.


> Steve Barber issued 10 or more walks in a game four times!


> In 1958-59, the Pirates Roy Face had 22 consecutive Wins.

'59 Face RD

> Bert Blyleven won 15 games by the score of 1-0.


> Nolan Ryan had 7 No-Hitters and 5 One-Hitters.


> Tom Seaver started on opening day 16 times.


> Hall-of-Famer Robin Roberts allowed 505 Home Runs!


> Chris Sale has the best Strikeout / Walk ratio in history…5.37.


> Sandy Koufax pitched for 12 years and held opposing hitters to a Batting Average of .205.


> Pedro Martinez pitched for 18 years and held opposing hitters to an On-Base Percentage of .276 (Koufax was at .285).


> In his 1974 Cy Young Award season with the Dodgers, Mike Marshall pitched in 106 games and finished 83 of them.


> Bob Feller had 36 complete games in 1946.


> In the Mets inaugural season of 1962, Roger Craig lost 24 games (he had 10 Wins).

'62 Craig RD

> Ron Guidry’s 1978 season produced the highest winning percentage (.893) of any 20-game winner in history…he was 25-3.


> Bob Gibson’s 1968 ERA of 1.12 is just ahead of Christy Mathewson (1.14 in 1909) and Walter Johnson (1.14 in 1913).

'68 Gibson RD

> In 1985, the Cardinals John Tudor pitched 10 Shutouts…he only had 6 others in his 12-year career.


> Francisco Rodriguez had 62 Saves in 2008…the next highest is 57 by Bobby Thigpen (1990) and Edwin Diaz (2018).


> Pitching for the Mets in 1994, Bret Saberhagen had a strikeout-to-walk ratio of 11-to-1.


> In 1966, Tony Cloninger of the Braves threw 27 Wild Pitches and led the NL in Walks, but finished with a winning record (14-11).


> Johan Santana won the pitching “triple crown” (Wins, ERA & Strikeouts) in 2006 with the Twins.


> Jose Lima started 33 games in 2000 and 32 games in 2005…his ERA in those seasons was 6.65 & 6.99.


> Bobo Newsom’s 5.08 ERA in 1938 was the highest ever for a 20-game winner.

'53 Newsom RD

> In 1916, Babe Ruth pitched 323 2/3 innings and didn’t allow a home run.


> Steve Carlton’s 27 Wins for the last-place Phillies in 1972 equaled 46% of their 59 team wins.


> Rick Sutcliffe (1984) & Bartolo Colon (2002) each won 20 games in a season during which they were traded.


> Wally Bunker of the Orioles won 19 games in 1964 when he was 19 years old.


> Pitching for the Mariners in 1980, Mike Parrot had a record of 1-16…the year before, he was 14-12.


> The 1971 Orioles had four 20-game winners…Dave McNally, Pat Dobson, Jim Palmer & Mike Cueller.


> Juan Marichal had six seasons in which he had 20 Wins, 200 Strikeouts and an ERA below 3.00.


> Tom Seaver struck out the last ten batters of the game against the Padres in 1970…he had 19 for the game.


If you’ve hung in there this long, a bonus is in order in the form of a few fielding facts to test your knowledge.


> In 1984, Steve Garvey of the Padres played 159 games at 1B and didn’t make an error.


> Dick Stuart finished last in fielding average for 1B in 1961, 1963 & 1964…you don’t get nicknamed “Dr. Strangeglove” for no reason.


> In his rookie season of 1984, the Phillies Juan Samuel made 33 errors at 2B.


> Graig Nettles & Brooks Robinson each had over 400 assists at 3B in two separate seasons.


> Lou Brock made 19 errors in the outfield for the 1966 Cardinals.


> As the CF of the Phillies from 1949-1958, Richie Ashburn had 495 or more Putouts six times.


> In 2003, Mike Matheny caught 138 games for the Cardinals and didn’t make an error.


> In 1974-75, Yankees Catcher Thurman Munson made a total of 45 errors.


> In 1968, the Cubs Randy Hundley caught 160 games…he caught 150+ in two other seasons.


> In 1974, Reds Pitcher Clay Kirby made 10 errors.


Hope a few of these names brought back some memories…talking baseball never gets old.




Roberto, Not Bob

Clemente Auto 2

Thought about Roberto Clemente the other day, as I sold an authentic autograph of his from 1955 on eBay. It was part of a huge collection that I’ve been allowed to curate and market for the last seven months. Included have been autographs of Ty Cobb, Cy Young, Nap Lajoie, Jimmie Foxx and many more Hall of Fame baseball players. Not surprisingly, however, the Clemente signature created the most demand. In reflection, I’ve updated a blog from four years ago about the career of this baseball legend…


While baseball historians have done a splendid job of chronicling Jackie Robinson and his contributions to the game, it seems like fans born after the mid-60’s don’t always have an appreciation of Clemente’s greatness and  legacy. The barriers in major league baseball for African-Americans in the early-to-mid 50’s were significant, but those same barriers applied to Latin American players and the culture of baseball took a long time to change.


Clemente started playing professional baseball in his native Puerto Rico at age 18 and a beautiful replica jersey hangs in my closet with the logo of the Cangrejeros de Santurce team that he played for in the Winter League of 1953-54. In 1954, the Brooklyn Dodgers signed him to a contract, but instead of adding him to the major league roster (which was filled with star players), they attempted to slightly circumvent the rules of the day and sent him to their AAA team in Montreal. Can you even imagine a 19 year-old kid trying to acclimate to an environment where they spoke two languages he didn’t understand? And, Tommy Lasorda was one of his teammates, so a third language was probably also in play. The Dodgers tried to keep him under wraps and he only hit .257 in 148 AB’s, but the lowly Pirates had him on their radar. The Pirates were bad enough to have the first pick in the off-season Rule 5 Draft and Clemente was their choice on 11/22/54.


In Pittsburgh, Roberto was the starting RF from day one and played 18 seasons with Bucs making the NL All-Star team 12 times and winning 12 Gold Gloves for his defensive prowess. On the last day of the 1972 season, Clemente got his 3,000th major league hit and then tragically lost his life on December 31, 1972 when the plane he was on crashed into the sea on its way to bring relief aid to earthquake victims in Nicaragua.


As a youngster collecting baseball cards, I remember that Clemente’s early cards in the 50’s always listed him as “Roberto”. Later, after he became a star, the Topps Company issued many cards that “Americanized” his name to “Bob”. Even writers and broadcasters seemed to think that this reference (and even “Bobby”) was appropriate despite the fact that it always was a point of contention with Clemente. Imagine what would happen today if someone referred to Pedro Martinez as “Pete” or Miguel Cabrera as “Mike”?


If you don’t consider yourself an expert on Clemente’s legacy, here are a few quotes from this talented and compassionate Hall of Famer…


> “I was born to play baseball.”


> “I am from the poor people; I represent the poor people. I like workers. I like people that suffer because these people have a different approach to life from the people that have everything and don’t know what suffering is.”


> “I want to be remembered as a ballplayer who gave all he had to give.”


> If you have a chance to accomplish something that will make things better for people coming behind you, and you don’t do that, you are wasting your time on Earth.”


> “When I put on my uniform, I feel I am the proudest man on Earth.”


> “A nation without heroes is nothing.”


In the field of collectibles, it appears that Roberto is finally getting the level of respect that he deserves. His Rookie Card from the 1955 Topps set has been steadily climbing in value. The current book price for one in “Near Mint” (NM 7) condition is $7,500. Even one in mid-range condition (EX 5) will sell for $2,500-$3,000.


Better check that old shoe box in the attic. “Donaldo” will be waiting for your call.




Baseball By The Generations

In my community, we have a very active sports interest group that includes scores of avid baseball fans. Over the past ten years, we’ve been fortunate enough to host wonderful presentations by sports legends who have been kind enough to visit us out of the goodness of their heart (we offer no compensation other than our thanks). Our guests have included writers, broadcasters, players like Josh Hamilton, John D’Acquisto and Matt Williams as well as Hall of Fame members Ferguson Jenkins and Roland Hemond.


A few years ago, we were lucky enough to meet both Jerry Hairston Sr. and Mike Bell. What makes their appearances unique is that they represent two of only four families in history to have three generations play in the Major Leagues. So, for today’s history lesson, let’s look at these baseball family trees and see what it would take to collect the baseball cards of each branch.


The first family to achieve the distinction (in 1992) of having the Grandfather, Father & Son play in the “Show” was the Boones –


Ray Boone played 13 seasons in the Majors beginning with the Indians in 1948…his best years came with the Tigers in the mid-50’s when he made two All-Star teams…had a .275 career batting average with 151 Home Runs…his rookie card was in the 1951 Bowman set and is worth $40 in NM (near mint) condition

'51 Boone RD


> Bob Boone was one of the most durable Catchers of his era and played 19 seasons starting in 1972…won seven Gold Gloves and accumulated over 1,800 Hits…his rookie card can be found in the 1973 Topps set and books for $10


> Bret Boone was an outstanding 2B who made his debut in 1992 and played 14 seasons…he won four Gold Gloves and hit over 250 Home Runs…the low $2 price of his 1991 Upper Deck rookie card is reflective of the over-production from that era


> Aaron Boone followed his Brother to the Majors in 1997 and played 12 years which included an All-Star appearance in 2003…will always be remembered for his walk-off Home Run for the Yankees against the Red Sox in the 2003 ALCS…his 1995 Bowman rookie card is also $2


In 1995, the Bell family became the second in this elite company –


David “Gus” Bell came to the Majors in 1950 as an Outfielder with the Pirates and went on to play 15 seasons…his prime years were with the Reds and he made four All-Star teams between ’53 & ’57 while accumulating over 200 Home Runs and a .281 lifetime Batting Average…the 1951 Bowman set is where you’ll find his rookie card and it will set you back about $40

'51 Bell RD


> David “Buddy” Bell was an excellent 3B who broke in with Indians in 1972 and played 18 seasons…six Gold Gloves and over 2,500 hits gives you an idea about his consistency…he later managed the Tigers, Rockies & Royals…his rookie card from 1973 Topps is about $3


> David Bell played 12 seasons after his debut in 1995 and had 20+ Home Run campaigns in both leagues…he shares a rookie card with Jason Giambi from the 1994 Topps set


> Mike Bell played 13 professional seasons starting in 1993 and was a member of the Reds in 2000…had over 20 Home Runs twice at the AAA level and is now the highly respected VP of Player Development for the Diamondbacks…he was still a teenager when his rookie card appeared in the 1994 Topps set


The  Hairstons became the third family in 1998 –


> Sam Hairston was a member of the Negro Leagues in the late 1940’s and became the first African-American to play for the White Sox in 1951


> Sam’s Brother, John Hairston, was the next family member in the Majors when he appeared briefly for the Cubs in 1969…he played professionally for seven seasons


Jerry Hairston Sr. made his debut with the White Sox in 1973 and played 14 seasons as a Major League Outfielder with a .258 lifetime Batting Average…his rookie card can be found in the 1974 Topps set

'74 Hairston RD


> Jerry Hairston Jr. came to the big leagues in 1998 and had a 16-year career…an indispensible utility player, he could fill in all over the diamond…his rookie card is in the 1998 Fleer Update set


> Junior’s Brother, Scott Hairston, is the most recent addition to the family legacy…he came up in 2004 and played 11 big-league seasons …the 2000 Bowman Chrome set is where his rookie card can be found


In 2010, the fourth family joined this elite list as the Colemans came on board –


> Joe Coleman pitched only one game for the Athletics in 1942 before spending three years in the service during World War II…he returned to the A’s in ’46 and spent 10 seasons in the Majors notching 52 Wins in the American League…his career included an All-Star appearance in 1948…his rookie card from 1950 Bowman is valued at $25


Son Joe Coleman (not a Junior) came to the Majors in 1965, only 10 years after his Dad retired and had a 15-year career…had solid production with 142 victories and posted 20, 19 & 23 Wins in consecutive seasons for the Tigers in the early 70’s…his 1966 Topps rookie card is about $3

'50 Coleman RD


> Joseph “Casey” Coleman became the 3rd generation member of the clan when he joined the Cubs in 2010…he played three seasons with the Cubs and one with Royals…his rookie card is in the 2010 Topps Pro Debut set


Will there be another addition to the legacy? Think about this…there have been over 200 Father-Son combinations in the major leagues including current Sons Cam Bedrosian, Cody Bellinger, Bo Bichette, Cavan Biggio, Robinson Cano, C.J. Cron, Vladimir Guerrero Jr., Fernando Tatis Jr. & others.




The Short WAR Of 1994

As we sit here on June 10th, no major league baseball season is scheduled. Owners want 50 games, players want 114 games, fans want games, Fantasy players want box scores and I want baseball cards to be relevant again. It’s an easy cliché to say that the millionaires & billionaires need to figure this out, but none of them are getting any sympathy from us.


This depressing state of affairs isn’t completely self-inflicted, but the two sides have a history and they certainly don’t seem to have learned their lesson from 1994. Those of you under 40 may not know the details but the owners & players couldn’t resolve their differences over the collective bargaining agreement (CBA) and the players went on strike in August, never to return to the field that season. No playoffs, no World Series and essentially, no hot stove season as the issues weren’t resolved until April of 1995.


For those fans that lived through that debacle, the only memory left is “what might have been”. The best teams were the Yankees in the AL (70-43) and the Expos in the NL (74-40). Of course, the Bronx Bombers went on to great success later in the decade, but Montreal lost their opportunity and, eventually, their franchise.


Let’s take a look at the best players from 1994 and what might have been. We’ll use the Wins Above Replacement (WAR) statistic to help guide us.


> #1 Greg Maddux, Braves P (8.7) – In the prime of his career at age 28, his season was other-worldly. 16-6 with a 1.56 ERA gave him his third of four consecutive Cy Young Awards.


#2 Jeff Bagwell, Astros 1B (8.2) – Won the MVP with 116 RBI’s (more than one per game) and an OPS of 1.201.

'94 Bagwell RD


> #3 Kenny Lofton, Indians OF (7.2) – Won the Gold Glove, hit .349 and the led the league with 60 SB’s.


#4 Ken Griffey Jr., Mariners OF (6.9) – 40 HR’s and a Gold Glove at age 24. Could he have hit 60?

'94 Griffey RD


> #5 David Cone, Royals P (6.9) – 16-5 and the AL Cy Young Award.


> #6 Frank Thomas, White Sox 1B (6.4) – The AL MVP led the league in Runs and OBP. He had 109 BB and only 61 K’s.


> #7 Barry Bonds, Giants OF (6.2) – 37 HR’s and a Gold Glove in his second season by the bay.


> #8 Roger Clemens, Red Sox P (6.0) – Won only 9 games but led the AL in ERA+ and only allowed 6.5 hits every nine innings.


> #9 Bret Saberhagen, Mets P (5.7) – 14-4 with a 2.74 ERA and the best K/BB rate in the NL (11.00).


> #10 Albert Belle, Indians OF (5.7) – Hit .357, corked 36 HR’s and led the league in total bases.


A few other noteworthy performances are worth remembering…


> Jimmy Key was 17-4 for the Yankees…he never had a 20-win season.


> Lee Smith has 33 Saves at age 36 for the Orioles.


> Tony Gwynn hit .394 and won his fifth of eight batting titles…what if he’d hit .400?


> Matt Williams had 43 HR’s and won a Gold Glove at 3B for the Giants. Staying on pace would have given him 61 Homers for the season…holy cow!


Your humble scribe only has two words left…Play Ball!

1956 Topps Baseball Cards

If you are a baseball fan of a certain age, there is a baseball card set that is your favorite. For some, the appeal is the format and style. For others, it is the memory of opening packs when you were ten years old and finding the star player from your hometown team. And, for many of us, it is the recurring nightmare of that moment when your Mother decided to throw your cards away.


For the Old Duck, the 1956 Topps set combines all the attributes that make baseball card collecting such a great hobby. This 340-card set used a horizontal format with beautiful photography and a dual image of each player. On the back, you’ll find previous year and lifetime stats along with a three-panel story highlighting moments from the player’s career. If that wasn’t enough, over 30 of the individuals pictured on cards in this set are in the Hall of Fame.


Recently, I had the opportunity to purchase a ’56 collection from the original owner. For those of us who dabble in the hobby of collectibles, that is a distinct advantage. First, there’s a reasonable chance that the cards are in decent shape and secondly, you are assured that none of the cards have been altered. When vintage cards have gone through multiple owners, there’s always the possibility that an unscrupulous seller has trimmed or re-colored a card to give it better eye appeal. The first six star cards that came back from the grading company flew off the shelf in my eBay store within two weeks.


So, let’s focus on the Hall-of-Famers. You’ll see a scan of the six cards sold and the values listed are for ones in Excellent (EX 5) condition. A complete set in this condition books for $6,000.


> #’s 1 & 2 League Presidents ($35 & $25) – Will Harridge of the AL and Warren Giles of the NL are pictured on these one-of-a-kind cards.


#5 Ted Williams, Red Sox OF ($180) – The third most valuable card in the set, the Hall of Famer was still a few years away from hanging up his cleats.

'56 Williams 4 Tom


> #8 Walter Alston, Dodgers Manager ($20) – The skipper of the ’55 World Champs, he was entering the 3rd of 23 years leading the Dodgers in Brooklyn and Los Angeles…and he never had more than a one-year contract.


> #10 Warren Spahn, Braves P ($40) – The winningest left-hander in baseball history with 363 victories.


> #15 Ernie Banks, Cubs SS ($55) – “Mr. Cub” hit 44 HR’s in ’55 and was well on his way to becoming the most popular player in the history of the franchise.


> #20 Al Kaline, Tigers OF ($40) – Hit .340 in ’55 with over 100 RBI’s…played all 22 years of his career with the Bengals.


#30 Jackie Robinson, Dodgers 3B ($175) – This legendary figure was entering his last season with the Brooklyn franchise.

'56 Robinson 4 Tom


#31 Hank Aaron, Braves OF ($150) – ’55 was his second season in the majors and the signs of his potential were already there…27 HR’s & 106 RBI’s.

'56 Aaron 5 Tom


#33 Roberto Clemente, Pirates OF ($225) – ’55 was his rookie season and he would go on to accumulate 3,000 hits before his tragic death on New Year’s Eve 1972.

'56 Clemente 6 Tom


#79 Sandy Koufax, Dodgers P ($150) – Another ’55 rookie, it would take until the early 60’s in Los Angeles before he became the best pitcher in the game…led the NL in ERA the last five years of his career.

'56 Koufax 5 Tom


> #101 Roy Campanella, Dodgers C ($60) – “Campy” won his 3rd MVP award in ’55, leading the Dodgers to their World Series title.


> #107 Eddie Mathews, Braves 3B ($35) – Hit 41 HR’s in ’55 on his way to 512 lifetime “dingers”.


> #109 Enos Slaughter, A’s OF ($20) – In the twilight of his career at this point, “Country” will always be remembered for the 1946 World Series when he scored the winning run in game 7 for the Cardinals.


> #110 Yogi Berra, Yankees C ($75) – Better known today for his famous “Yogi-isms”, this legendary player won three AL MVP awards in the 50’s and was one of the cornerstones of the Yankee Dynasty…and he always cut his pizza into six slices because he couldn’t eat eight slices.


> #113 Phil Rizzuto, Yankees SS ($50) – The “Scooter” was one of the most popular players of the era…later a Yankee broadcaster, he was in the booth and screamed “Holy Cow” when Roger Maris hit his 61st HR in 1961.


> #118 Nellie Fox, White Sox 2B ($25) – Only 5′ 8″, he led the AL in hits four times on his way to the Hall of Fame.


> #120 Richie Ashburn, Phillies OF ($25) – Led the NL in hits three times and was one of the fastest baserunners of the era.


#130 Willie Mays, Giants OF ($130) – The “Say Hey Kid”…there was never a better all-around player.

'56 Mays 5 Tom


> #135 Mickey Mantle, Yankees OF ($925) – This card was the prelude to what was one of the most impressive offense statistical seasons of all time…he won the Triple Crown with 52 HR’s, 130 RBI’s and a .353 BA.


> #150 Duke Snider, Dodgers OF ($50) – The third member of the great CF debate during the 50’s…can you sing, “Willie, Mickey and the Duke”?


> #164 Harmon Killebrew, Senators IF ($50) – A 1950’s “Bonus Baby”, he languished on the bench for the better part of five seasons before breaking out with 42 HR’s in 1959.


> #165 Red Schoendienst, Cardinals 2B ($20) – Ten All-Star teams and the roommate of Stan Musial.


> #180 Robin Roberts, Phillies P ($25) – Won 23 games in ’55, his sixth consecutive season with 20+ victories.


> #187 Early Wynn, Indians P ($20) – Played from the 30’s to the 60’s and had exactly 300 Wins.


> #194 Monte Irvin, Cubs OF ($20) – One of the first black players signed after Jackie Robinson broke the color barrier in 1947…in 1940, he hit .422 for the season in the Negro League.


> #195 George Kell, White Sox 3B ($20) – Ten All-Star appearances and a lifetime BA of .306.


> #200 Bob Feller, Indians P ($50) – Came off an Iowa farm at age 17 in 1936 to become one of the most intimidating pitchers ever…missed almost four seasons while serving in World War II and still led the AL in strikeouts six times.


> #240 Whitey Ford, Yankees P ($55) – The “Chairman of the Board” before Sinatra, he has the highest winning percentage (.690) of any pitcher in the modern era.


> #250 Larry Doby, White Sox OF ($20) – The first player to cross the color barrier in the AL…only three months after Jackie Robinson’s debut with the Dodgers.


> #255 Bob Lemon, Indians P ($20) – The stalwart of those great Cleveland staffs of the late 40’s & early 50’s, he won over 20 games in six seasons.


> #260 Pee Wee Reese, Dodgers SS ($65) – Harold Reese, the diminutive leader of the “Boys of Summer”. The nickname wasn’t due to his height (5′ 9″), but for winning the national “Pee Wee” marbles championship as a youngster.


> #292 Luis Aparicio, White Sox SS, ($60) – The rookie card of “Little Louie”, who won multiple Gold Gloves and amassed over 2,600 hits.


> #307 Hoyt Wilhelm, Giants P ($20) – Possibly the greatest Knuckleball pitcher in baseball history, he didn’t get to the Majors until age 29 and pitched for 21 years.


Quite an impressive group, wouldn’t you say?

The Pursuit Of Trivia

Do you have any idea how much baseball information there is in your brain? For even casual fans, numbers like 60 & 61, 714 & 715, 56 & .406 in ’41, 300 & 3,000 are forever part of the sport’s landscape. Statistics are what separates baseball from every other sport. Even avid followers of basketball can’t recite the all-time scoring numbers and football fans are stuck with over 50% of the positions having no real stats at all. Beyond all the famous history, baseball also leads the world in trivial information. Many a bar bet has been won or lost on the answer to a baseball quiz, as in “Which Pitcher threw a no-hitter and didn’t lower his ERA”? The answer, of course, is Bob Feller who hurled a no-hitter on opening day in 1940.


So, to have some fun as we wait for a possible 2020 season to begin, here’s a look at stats you don’t know. In other words, useless information that does you no good at all but might make you smile when you see a familiar name from the record books.


> Ty Cobb, Mel Ott, Al Kaline & Robin Yount all reached 1,000 hits before they turned 25. Cobb is the only player to reach 2,000 hits before the age of 30.


> Ted Williams has the highest lifetime On-Base Percentage at .482…Babe Ruth is 2nd.


Former Senators & Tigers SS Ed Brinkman had over 6,000 major league AB’s and hit .224.

Brinkman RD


Ron Herbel has the lowest batting average by a Pitcher at 0.29 (6-for-206).

Herbel RD


> Harold Baines had 113 RBI’s in 1985 but didn’t have another 100 RBI season (103) until 1999…a 14 year gap.


> Padres OF Phil Plantier had 100 RBI’s in 1993 but only had 292 RBI’s in his entire career.


> Mike Potter had 23 career AB’s in 1976-77 with the Cardinals and never got a major league hit.


> Rob Deer was the easiest batter to strike out (1K every 2.5 AB).


> Craig Biggio was hit by pitches 285 times…it is the all-time record.


> Rickey Henderson hit leadoff home runs in both games of a doubleheader for the A’s in 1993…Brady Anderson did it for the Orioles in 1999.


> Stan Musial & Nate Colbert each hit five HR’s in a Doubleheader.


> Hank Aaron & Eddie Mathews hit home runs as teammates in the same game 75 times.


> Al Rosen, Jim Gentile & Davey Johnson all hit 40+ HR’s in a season but fewer that 200 in their career.


> Ron Fairly hit 215 career HR’s but never hit 20 in a season.


> While with the Dodgers, Tommy Davis hit a home run three times to give Sandy Koufax a 1-0 win…including a walk-off against Bob Gibson in 1962.


> Cardinals Pitcher Adam Wainwright hit a home run on the first major league pitch he ever faced (2006).


> In April of 2000,  the Angels Mo Vaughn, Tim Salmon & Troy Glaus all homered in the same inning twice.


> In April of 1986, Padres Pitcher Craig Lefferts hit a walk-off HR in the 12th inning to beat the Giants…it was the only home run of his 12-year career.


> In April of 1999, the Cardinals Fernando Tatis hit two Grand-Slams in the same inning against the Dodgers.


> In 1948, Ted Williams had three plate appearances in the same inning against three different pitchers.


In 1953, Gene Stephens had three hits in one inning.

Stephens RD


> In 1962, the Mets Frank Thomas was hit by the pitch twice in the same inning.


> In 2004, Ichiro Suzuki had 264 hits and 225 of them were Singles.


> In 1961, when Roger Maris broke Babe Ruth’s HR record by hitting 61, he had zero intentional walks.


> In 1962, Harmon Killebrew hit .243 and led the AL in RBI’s with 126.


> In 2003, the Tigers Ramon Santiago finished last in the AL in BA, HR & RBI’s thus winning the Triple Crown Loser Award…Hall of Famer Ozzie Smith did the same for the Padres in 1979.


> In 1963, Red Sox OF Carl Yastrzemski led the AL in both Hits & Walks.


> In 1977, the Twins Rod Carew won the AL batting title by 52 points (.388) over the Angels Lyman Bostock (.336).


> Between 1969 and 1978, Bobby Bonds had 30-30 (HR & SB) seasons five times and played for five different teams.


> In 1978, Pirates SS Frank Taveras had 654 AB’s with 0 (zero) home runs.


> In 1995, Rockies OF Dante Bichette hit 40 HR’s and only walked 22 times.


In 1960, the Tigers Charlie Maxwell hit five (5) extra-inning home runs.

Maxwell RD


> In 1948, Hall of Famer Ralph Kiner of the Pirates hit 31 HR’s at home and only 9 on the road.


> Babe Ruth broke the season home run record in 1919 (29), then again in 1920 (54) and 1921 (59).


> During his major league career, Todd Zeile hit home runs for 11 different teams.


> Ray Boone and his son Bob combined for 256 lifetime home runs…Ray and his grandson Bret combined for 403.


> Hall of Fame Catcher Carlton Fisk hit 72 home runs after the age of 40…and his uniform number was 72!


> In three consecutive seasons, “Shoeless” Joe Jackson hit .408, .395 & .373 but didn’t win the batting title in any of the three (1911, 1912 & 1913).


In 1947, Braves Pitcher Johnny Sain won 21 games and hit .346 (37-for-107).

'48 Sain


In a future visit, we’ll share some oddities from pitching stats. Don’t forget to send along the Old Duck’s commission on those bar bets.

The 1952 Topps Baseball Card Set

Almost any conversation about baseball cards eventually gets around to the 1952 Topps set. Even though the Bowman company produced cards in the late 40’s & early 50’s, the iconic ’52 issue from the Topps company is considered the beginning of the modern baseball card era. At 407 cards, it was the largest ever produced and included an amazing array of legendary stars. Due to the less-than-perfect quality control of the time, it is also a collector’s dream (or nightmare) filled with scarcities, rarities, errors and variations.


The set was issued in six separate series and the story of the last run (#’s 311-407) is part of the mystique. Production of the final series is believed to have been short-printed and distribution was limited because retailers expected a drop in demand with football season (and school) already starting. Rumor has it that Topps still had 300-500 cases of the high number series in their warehouse that were never sold and in the late 50’s, they hired a garbage boat to take the surplus cards from the Brooklyn headquarters and dump them into the Atlantic Ocean.


The cards themselves were beautiful with a 2-5/8″ by 3-3/4″ format, a color photo of the player, the team logo and a facsimile autograph in a frame on the bottom. And, there were some famous players missing from the set – Ted Williams and Whitey Ford were both in the military at the time and Stan Musial had an exclusive contract with Bowman.


With that backdrop, let’s look at the Hall of Famers in this remarkable set. For this exercise, the current valuations are based on a card in “Excellent” (EX) condition, which is graded 5 on a scale of 1-10.


> #11 Phil Rizzuto, Yankees SS ($175) – “The Scooter” was the Minor League Player of the Year in 1940, served three years in the Navy and won the AL MVP in 1950. He later became a legendary broadcaster and yelled “Holy Cow” when Roger Maris hit #61 in ’61.


> #26 Monte Irvin, Giants OF ($60) – A veteran of the Negro Leagues, he didn’t get to the majors until age 30 in 1949. He was coming off his best season in ’51, when he led the NL with 121 RBI’s.


> #33 Warren Spahn, Braves P ($120) – At this point in his career, “Spahnny” had 108 Wins at age 30. By the time he retired, he was the winningest lefthander in history with 363 victories.


> #37 Duke Snider, Dodgers OF ($150) – “The Duke of Flatbush” was one of the three great centerfielders on the New York teams of the 50’s.


> #59 Robin Roberts, Phillies P ($75) – The workhorse of the Philadelphia rotation, he won 20+ games for six consecutive seasons beginning in 1950 and pitched over 300 innings in each of those campaigns.


> #65 Enos Slaughter, Cardinals OF ($75) – “Country” was his nickname and he was the Cards Captain, having broken in with the team in 1938.


> #88 Bob Feller, Indians P ($110) – Another all-time great who gave up three years in his prime to serve in the Navy, he was coming off a 22-8 record in ’51.


> #91 Al Schoendienst, Cardinals 2B ($55) – “Red” played 57 games and handled 320 chances without an error in 1950. That broke the record…that he set in 1948!


> #129 Johnny Mize, Yankees 1B ($60) – “The Big Cat” broke into the majors in 1936 and despite losing three years in his prime to military service, his 351 home runs were the most by any active player at the end of the ’51 season.


#191 Yogi Berra, Yankees C ($300) – Not much you can say about this incredible character of the game that hasn’t already been said, he was coming off a MVP season in ’51.

'52 Berra PSA 5


> #216 Richie Ashburn, Phillies OF ($90) – A great lead-off hitter and outstanding outfielder, he led the NL in hits and putouts in 1951.


> #243 Larry Doby, Indians OF ($50) – The man who broke the color barrier in the American League in 1947, he was a consistently good power hitter in the Tribe’s line-up.


> #246 George Kell, Tigers 3B ($50) – A solid contributor for Detroit, he won the AL Batting Championship in ’49, finished 2nd in ’50 and 3rd in ’51.


#261 Willie Mays, Giants OF ($3,000) – “The Say Hey Kid” won the NL Rookie of the Year Award in ’51 at the age of 20 and went into the Army by the time this set hit the shelves. After missing almost two full years, he came back to win the NL MVP in 1954.

'52 Mays PSA 5


> #268 Bob Lemon, Indians P ($55) – Part of that great Cleveland rotation of the 50’s, he won over 20 games seven times.


> #277 Early Wynn, Indians P ($55) – It was said that he’d brush back his grandmother if she dug in at the batter’s box. 300 wins later, she still didn’t have a single hit.


#311 Mickey Mantle, Yankees OF ($40,000) – Through some twist of fate, this legendary player was on the first card of the scarce high-number series. Even though “The Mick” had his actual rookie card in the ’51 Bowman set, this card is the “holy grail” for collectors of modern baseball cards. When the card was issued, he was taking over in centerfield for Joe DiMaggio, who retired following the ’51 season. And, no, the price is not a typo.

'52 Mantle PSA 5


> #312 Jackie Robinson, Dodgers 2B ($2,650) – After five seasons,

this pioneer was already established as one of the best in the game. He was coming off a ’51 campaign where he hit .338 and set a National league fielding record.


> #314 Roy Campanella, Dodgers C ($950) – “Campy” was the NL MVP in ’51 when he hit .325 with 33 HR’s & 108 RBI’s.


> #315 Leo Durocher, Giants Manager ($215) – “Leo the Lip” was one of the most colorful skippers to ever post a line-up card.


> #333 Pee Wee Reese, Dodgers SS ($500) – The Captain of the famous “Boys of Summer”, he had been the team’s regular shortstop since 1940, except for three years in the service. Harold’s nickname was hung on him as a boy when he was a marble champ.


> #392 Hoyt Wilhelm, Giants P ($375) – Wounded in the Battle of the Bulge, this knuckleballer ended up pitching in over 1,000 major league games.


> #394 Billy Herman, Dodgers Coach ($200) – His playing career extended from 1928 to 1950 and he was chosen to every NL All-Star team from ’31 to ’41.


> #396 Dick Williams, Dodgers OF ($250) – This was his rookie card as a player, but his Hall of Fame credentials include over 1,500 wins and two World series titles as a Manager.


> #400 Bill Dickey, Yankees Coach ($450) – As a Catcher, this durable backstop hit over .300 in 11 of the 16 years he was a Yankee.


> #407 Eddie Mathews, Braves 3B ($5,000) – The value of this particular card is driven by three factors…1) it is the rookie card of a Hall of Fame player…2) it is from the scarce high series in the set…3) as the last card in the set, it was susceptible to significant damage when kids like me wrapped our card collection with rubber bands.


If you’re motivated to add a ’52 Topps set to your collection, you might want to start saving soon. In the condition described, it will take around $80,000.

The Last Card

Baseball Card collections are only limited by the imagination of the fan. Some concentrate on their favorite player. Others build complete sets of a particular year (like the year they were born).  Others focus on their home-town team from childhood, while the last twenty years has motivated collections of autograph cards. And, of course, there are those who are drawn to Cooperstown and the Hall of Fame.


With very few exceptions, the first card of a Hall of Famer is the most valuable. Collectors pride themselves in having these “Rookie Cards” whether it’s Nolan Ryan from 1968 or Mike Trout from 2011. Thanks to a collector who shared his passion on a baseball card website, we have another interesting approach to Hall of Fame players. Topps has been producing complete baseball cards sets since 1952 and the research tells us that 116 Hall of Famers have their last card in a Topps set. From Yogi Berra in 1965 to Wade Boggs in 2000, they are all there in their glory. So, he went on a quest to complete a collection of all “The Last Cards” and it was certainly a challenge.


As an old-school fan, what drew me to the collection was the fact that over a dozen of these legends had their final cardboard appearance in the 1950’s when Topps was just getting started.  Interestingly, some years (like ’52 & ’54) didn’t have a single Hall of Famer with his last card while others years had as many as four. Let’s look back at the first dozen of these beautiful collectibles…


!953 Johnny Mize #77

'53 Mize



The big 1B played from 1936-53 and missed three prime seasons serving in World WAR II. He had 359 lifetime HR’s and made ten All-Star teams.


> 1953 Ralph Kiner #191 – He had a relatively short (1946-55) but spectacular career, leading the NL in HR’s for seven consecutive seasons.


1953 Satchell Paige #220

'53 Paige



The best Pitcher in the Negro Leagues, he didn’t get to the majors until 1948 at age 41. He began pitching professionally in 1927.


> 1955 Hal Newhouser # 24 – Many of the game’s stars were serving in the War, but this Tiger Pitcher was 4-F due to a heart valve issue. From 1944-46, he won 80 games in three seasons with two AL MVP Awards.


1956 Jackie Robinson # 30

'56 Robinson 4 Tom



The player who broke the color barrier in 1947, his legend still grows today.


> 1956 Phil Rizzuto # 113 – The scrappy Shortstop of the Yankees, he won the AL MVP in 1950.


> 1956 Monte Irvin #194 – This Outfielder was another Negro League star and he was a mainstay in the Giants line-up during the 50’s.


1956 Bob Feller #200

'56 Feller



This Iowa farm-boy was one of the best Pitchers in baseball for 20 years after beginning his career in 1936 at age 17.


1957 Topps Roy Campanella #210

'57 Campanella MG



A three-time MVP winner in the 50’s, this Catcher was involved in a tragic automobile accident after the ’57 season and his injuries prevented him from ever playing for the Dodgers once they moved to Los Angeles.


> 1958 Topps Bob Lemon #17 – The leader of the Indians dominant rotation in the 50’s, this Pitcher won 20 or more games in six seasons.


> 1958 Topps George Kell #40 – This outstanding 3B had over 2,000 lifetime hits and made ten All-Star teams.


> 1958 Topps Pee Wee Reese #375 – The Shortstop and Captain of the Dodger teams known as “The Boys Of Summer”.


!958 Topps Ted Williams #1 & #485

'58 Williams AS0001



“Teddy Ballgame” had both a regular card and All-Star card in this set. Although he played in ’59 & ’60, Topps no longer had him under contract.


There’s a “Baker’s Dozen” of great Hall of Fame players who left the diamond in the first decade of Topps.


Baseball Card Quacktoids

'89 Ripken, B

Your first inquiry is, “What is a Quacktoid?”. The answer is quite simple – it is an insignificant or trivial fact presented by a Duck. For this visit, we’ll ramble on about related and unrelated baseball card facts that will probably cause you to say, “Why am I reading this?”


Spending multiple days each week at a baseball card shop as the resident “expert”, customer questions about collections always challenge my knowledge and expertise. Each day brings new information that is always of interest to baseball fans. After all, the Old Duck must live up to his nicknames…OG (original Google), Muffin Man (the staff loves muffins), Rotisserie Duck (the Fantasy Baseball connection) and Don Cardleone (who will make you an offer you can’t refuse).


Collectors get involved with the hobby for diverse reasons. Some collect their favorite player or team. Others cherish having a complete set from a particular year. Or maybe, they only concentrate on “Rookie Cards” or just Hall-of-Famers. For those of us who become so-called experts, the amount of interesting information is never-ending.


Award-winning baseball writer Joe Posnanski once wrote a lengthy column reminiscing about the numbering system of Topps cards when he was growing up in the 1970’s. He reminded all of us that the more famous players seemed to always get the memorable numbers on the back of their cards. In 1975, for example, Brooks Robinson was #50, Fergie Jenkins #60, Mike Schmidt #70, Carlton Fisk #80 & Willie Stargell #100. And that’s just in the first 100 cards of a 660-card set. In case you think it was a fluke, Reggie Jackson was #300 and Nolan Ryan #500. Sherlock Holmes would call this investigating by using “deducktive” logic.


Being slightly older than Joe, my recollection goes back to the 50’s and it seems that Topps started this system in 1957. Of course, you must remember that Topps designed their product based on the current status of a player, so you’ll almost never find a valuable rookie card falling into this category. The ’57 set had Willie Mays as #10, Hank Aaron #20, Pee Wee Reese #30, Gil Hodges #80, Warren Spahn #90 & Eddie Mathews #250. Just to be contrary, however, Mickey Mantle was #95? And, of course, Ted Williams was #1.


Each year that followed had much of the same, but never any pattern you could analyze. Mantle, however, wasn’t represented by a crooked number again for the next ten years. He was #50 twice, #150 twice and #200 three times during that span.


Of course, scarcity creates a value in itself and with card companies having less than perfect production values, there are many error cards that had to be corrected in particular sets. Sometimes these cards are also known as variations and one of the most famous examples is the Billy Ripken card from the 1989 Fleer set that mistakenly came out with a profanity on the bat knob in the picture. Fleer made four different attempts at re-printing the card and today, the first re-print is actually more valuable ($175) than the original card.


Real scarcity comes from a card that was produced and then pulled from production. Even people who aren’t sports fans have heard about the 1910 T (Tobacco)-206 card of Honus Wagner. One of the best players in the game during that era, Wagner threatened to sue because he was opposed to the use of tobacco and only a few remained in the market. Today, the most recent example of that card sold in October for $1.35 Million.


A similar tale took place in the 50’s as Ted Williams had appeared in Bowman sets during the early part of the decade. In 1954, Topps persuaded “Teddy Ballgame” to sign with them and he was so iconic at the time, they made his cards the first and last in the set. Bowman was struggling with the stiff competition from Topps and decided to put a Williams card in their ’54 set despite the lack of an agreement. Certainly with the backing of Topps, Williams had his lawyer send Bowman a “cease & desist” letter and they caved in immediately. Even though Red Sox Outfielder Jimmy Piersall was already #210 in the set, they produced a second Piersall card numbered #66 to replace the Williams cardboard. Other than “The Splendid Splinter’s” rookie card from 1939, the ’54 Bowman is the toughest card to find. In Near Mint (NM 7) condition, it books for $2,500.



Of course, there are also interesting methods of increasing value that have nothing to do with card manufacturer’s mistakes or bad decisions…


> In 1984, Fleer was trying to compete with Topps and issued an “Update” set that sort of paralleled the Topps Traded sets of the early 80’s. The set included rookies who weren’t in the standard issue along with players that were traded during the season. A modest little set of 132 cards, it sold for $4. It also happened to include the first cards of Roger Clemens, Kirby Puckett & Dwight Gooden. Even with the Rocket’s fall from grace, those three cards are worth $235 today.


> In 1991, Topps showed their patriotism by issuing a parallel set to their regular run that was titled Desert Shield and had a gold military shield on the surface of the card. Only a minimal amount were produced and they weren’t very popular at the time. In retrospect, we learn that the set contained the Rookie Card of future Hall-of-Famer Chipper Jones. His card from the regular set is now worth $3, while the “DS” version is at $500.


> In 1997, Fleer issued a rookie card of a Twins prospect named David Arias. Shortly after that, Arias changed his professional name to Ortiz and you may now know him as “Big Papi”. Admittedly, I’ve found a few of these rookie cards (worth around $40) in bargain bins over the years because people just didn’t do their homework.


Thanks for reading, I’ll keep the Quacktoids coming.