Wednesday, November 30, 2011

Eyes, Crossed

Technically, it’s called “strabismus.”   Familiarly, it’s just plain old “crossed eyes.” 

It’s actually hard to imagine, though, that it’s a topic that would ever come up in baseball.  It’s hard enough seeing a 5-ounce rock coming at you at 90 miles per hour from 60’ 6” away, without seeing two of them.

Hmm, it just struck me – maybe these guys are all pitchers.  Yeah, and maybe they issued a lot of walks too.  ;^)  A quick look at my candidates below shows them to be pitchers all, and with nary a Whitey Ford or Warren Spahn in sight.  Hmm, I might be onto something here …

Perhaps, though, it was some “artist” touching up the eyes.  I really don’t know.  (But see Something Wrong with the Eyes for more.)

I do know, though, it’s an unfortunate look.  You could have a PhD in particle physics and still wouldn’t look bright enough to figure out that one finger’s a fastball, two’s a slider, and three’s a curve.

So, here’s looking at you kid, both of you …


Pretty tame, but that special look is definitely there. 

Ray Crone was up for a couple of years with the Braves and Giants.  The back of this card says that Ray is “a tremendously talented hurler, his fine curveball keeps the hitters guessing and his sneaky fastball is just as hard to hit.”  I have no doubt he was, and they were.


Same deal. 

Ron Negray got 162 innings in over 4 years with the Dodgers and Phillies.  Comparable pitchers include Rube Peters, Floyd Chiffer, Brent Gaff, and Bill Slayback  Nope, I never heard of any of them either. 

That did, however, seem to be enough to get Ron into the Greater Akron Baseball Hall of Fame.  Way to go, Ron!

Yup, more of the same.

Apart from the great last name (hey, didn’t Bobby Wine play on the same team?), John Boozer’s main claim to fame seems to be being only the second major leaguer ever ejected for using a spitball.  To make it even better, all this happened in pre-game warm-ups.  Boozer died heartbreakingly young, at age 47, of Hodgkin’s.


Still pretty subtle. 

Tom Brewer’s a local boy, a Wadesboro NC native, Elon alum, and lifetime baseball coach at Cheraw SC High.  He also spent his whole career with the Sox, so this guy’s doubly blessed in my book.

Holy Siamese cats!  The three previous cards may have been errors on the part of the illustrators, but this is definitely the real thing.  Google Images doesn’t lie.

Another local boy – Goldsboro NC and UNC.  Clyde King's career didn’t amount to much (32 wins and 11 saves over seven seasons), but his post-playing career sure did. 

Clyde managed the Giants, Braves and Yankees.  He also became something of George Steinbrenner’s aide-de-camp, serving as scout, pitching coach, general manager and – some say – spy. 

More Clyde right here.

You guys at Topps are making these up, right?  The eyes, the goofy expression, the glasses …  One of you posed for this one, right?

Tom Gorman came up with the Yankees, then finished with the Athletics.  Mostly a reliever, he finished one behind league-leader Ray Narleski in saves in ’55, with 18.

There are actually three Tom Gormans in baseball history – our Tom, another pitcher from the ‘80s, and an ump.  I’m sure the others cannot even approach our Tom in all his glory though.

Here's another look at Tom.

* - author has this card

'Brow Bros ('50s Version)

Eyebrows?  I got ‘em.  They’re not quite in the realm of a John L. Lewis or – hey, this is a baseball blog, right? – a Branch Rickey, but they’re close. 

I became aware of that fact when, in college, I found I could untwirl one of those suckers and stretch it all the way down to the tip of my nose.  That was also my signal that I might want to actually take some action about this particular fashion statement, a point that was seconded by a friendly barber.

It doesn’t seem like that was something that it ever occurred to these fellas, though.  No reason to get out the garden shears for these carpet samples now, is there? 

Go for it, man!

Those are pretty good ‘brows, but what I really like is Ralph’s look of total possession. 

Ralph Lumenti was a bonus baby for the Nats.  Seeing as this is the Senators we’re talking about here, don’t be too surprised to learn that Ralph put together a record of 1-3 with a 7.29 ERA before they could finally send him down.  Sandy Koufax he was not.

Do you notice anything unusual about this card?  You guessed it – that’s not actually Ralph.

Turns out this is Camilo Pascual (more Camilo right here).  Yup, they both played for Washington.  Yup, they’re both Italians or Spaniards or something (things weren’t real PC back in 1959).  And, yes, they both have impressive ‘brows.  But, no, they are not the same person.

Poor Ralph.  He just never got any respect. 

More zombie eyes.  I love it!

Bob Buhl was one of those pitchers from the ’50 and ‘60s who were quite good, but are now largely forgotten.  In Milwaukee, he won 18 twice, but was always overshadowed by Spahn and Burdette. 

Bob wasn’t so good with the bat.  In ’62, he set a record for offensive ineptitude, going 0 for the season (70 at bats).  Over his career, he batted .089, striking out 45% of the time.


Arnie was a decent pitcher on some awful teams.  I’m talking Kansas City A’s and ‘50s-era Orioles here.

Portocarrero sure is a mouthful.  At only 12 letters, though, it’s no rival for the Saltalamacchias and Vanlandinghams of the world.  Ouch, I think I just gave myself carpal tunnel syndrome.

What a great name.  Johnny Lindell’s.  Doesn’t it sound like a steakhouse or a bar?  Maybe one that’s been around since the ‘50s? 

Johnnie had quite an interesting career.  He came up through the minors as a pitcher, was an outfielder for the Yankees from ’43 to ‘50 (leading the AL in triples twice), then came back for a final season as a pitcher in ’53 (but going 6-17 – ouch!). 


Furry brows, ugly mug, and dumb look.  It’s a bad baseball card trifecta!

A local boy, Bobby was signed by his hometown Pirates, but quickly traded away.  Somehow, he managed to hang around the bigs for nine seasons (despite a .219 career average).  In a forgiving mood, Del Greco came back to Pittsburgh, where he pitched batting practice for the Bucs into the ‘90s (the 1990s, not his 90s).

Can you believe there's an even better shot out there of Bobby?

Danny Murtaugh will always be a favorite of mine.  Of the Pirates' five world championships, Danny skippered two of them.

Hard to believe Murtaugh was actually a player once.  He had a pretty decent career too, starting for the Phils and Bucs at second base during the ‘40s.  Led the NL in stolen bases one year.

What I like about this card, though, is its socialist realist style.  Look at that gaze off into a proletarian future.  The confident smile of victory over the imperialist lackies.  All he needs is a red star on this cap instead of a “P.”

The author, as a young man.

* - author has this card

Can't get enough brows.  Check out these babes from the '60s and '70s.

Monday, November 14, 2011

Something Wrong with the Eyes (‘50s Version)

John Singer Sergeant once said, “A portrait is a painting with something wrong with the mouth.”  Personally, I think he could just as easily have said, “A portrait is a painting with something wrong with the eyes.” 

And in the early days of baseball cards, there were a lot of things wrong with the eyes.  Back then, cards really were painted portraits, usually starting from touched-up photos.  Yup, that’s right.  Topps had one year (1953) and Bowman three (1950 to 1952) where every card started out as an original painting..

The result, unfortunately, is sometimes a muscular masher who looks like he’s wearing mascara, a pitcher who looks like he was painted by Picasso, or a slugger with a stare that could bore holes in steel plate.  So, without further ado, here’s looking at you, kid …

Alright, let’s start this thing out with a genuine Hall of Famer, Harold “Pee Wee” Reese.  I can readily recognize a lot of things in this portrait.  Those are definitely not his eyes though.  There’s something a little unusual about them, something a little eerie.  My God!  What have you done with him?  What have you done with Pee Wee!?

Here's another Reese oddity.  

Jim Busby was a long-time outfielder in the American League, as well as an alien from outer space.  Seriously, he wasn’t really that weird looking.  I’ve seen photographs!

Jim had a pretty steady career, getting over 500 at bats for six years in the ‘50s, mostly with the Senators.  I’m an old fan of the Nats (went to elementary school with one of their batboys), so Jim’s always been on my radar.  His main claims to fame are an All Star nomination and a lifetime .988 fielding average (16 errors in 3394 chances).

I really wanted to save this guy for my entry on funny names.  You wouldn’t know it from this card, but ol’ George here has one of the greatest monikers in baseball history.  Yup, this is indeed the famous Catfish Metkovich.

But those eyes are just too much.  They’re like too beady little pieces of coal, staring right at me.  They seem to pierce into my very soul.  There’s nowhere to hide!  My God, make it stop!

Plus, one seems to be a little higher than the other, you know what I mean?

It’s a little known fact, but back in the early ‘50s, things were a little rough for Pablo Picasso.  He supplemented his more artistic work with the occasional commercial gig – magazine ads, a little packaging, greeting cards …  Then this guy from this American company contacted him for a slew of little portraits of guys in hats.  That one really didn’t pan out though.  He did the one, got paid for it, but they never called back.  Not exactly sure why.

Another Ted right here.


You are getting sleepy, Murray, very sleepy.  Your eyelids are getting heavier and heavier.  Soon you will be under my control … 

Murray Wall put together 4 years in the major – but over a span of 10 calendar years.  His first year was with Boston in the NL in ’51, and his second was with Boston in the AL in ’57. 

And all through the power of hypnotism!

“Stu?  Have you seen my makeup?  Honey?  I left it on the counter just a minute ago.  Do you know where it went?”

“Oh my God, Stu!  What did you do?  Is that my makeup?  Stu, honey!  Oh my God!”  [wrenching sobs]

Stu Miller actually put together quite a decent career, moving from starter to closer over a span of 16 years.  As a starter, he led his league in ERA; as a closer, he led his league in saves twice.

I have no idea if he liked to put on women’s makeup.

* - author has this card

Monday, November 7, 2011

Phils, Red Sox, Cardinals: Lend Me Your Ears (1956 Version)

In ’56, Topps came up with a truly classic design.  The background is a typical stadium scene, with a small figure of the player off to one side.  The other side has a cutout close-up.  To separate the close-up from the background, the cutout has a subtle white edging.

It’s a really good look … unless you happen to have big ears.  In that case, all the outline does is point out, like a flashing neon sign, just how big those ears really are.  In fact, I’d go so far as to say they make those ears look twice their normal size.

So here they are, a bunch of poor schmoes whose ears really aren’t as big as they look …

Daryl Spencer was a regular infielder in the ‘50s who moved to Japan at the end of his career and made a big splash.   Some great stories here and here.

Great name.  In 1957, George and Frank Zupo became the first battery in the history of baseball whose last names both began with "Z".  George bounced around major league bullpens for eight years, leading the AL in saves in 1956.


Bo Jackson, Deion Sanders, Jim Thorpe …  All guys who played in multiple sports on the major league level.  As was Gene Conley.  Wait.  Gene who?

In fact, Conley did something none of these other guys did.  Not only did he play in MLB and the NBA, but he won championships in both, with the ’57 Braves and with the Celtics from ’59 through ’61.

Russ Meyer was a famous B movie auteur, known for such gems as Faster Pussycat! Kill! Kill! and Vixen!

Wait, no.  Wrong Russ Meyer.  Our Russ was a journeyman starter who pitched for six clubs over 13 seasons.  His main claim to fame was once winning 24 consecutive road starts without a loss.  He also had a major fixation on large breasts.  Wait, no, sorry.  Wrong Russ Meyer. 

Hey, bat wings!  In fact, that would have been a really good nickname for Don.  He doesn’t seem to have had one otherwise.

Don Liddle’s claim to fame is his being on the mound for Willie Mays’ famous back-to-home catch in the ’54 World Series.  In fact, that was the only batter Liddle faced that day.  "Well, I got my man," Liddle reportedly said as he came back to the dugout.  Droll, very droll.

Holy Mickey Mouse!  Lots more of these babies right here.


You know those cute little French bulldogs?  Well, I think Jim might have been one in a former life.

Aw …  So cute!  Just put an old A’s cap on him, and he’s Jim Finigan.  (Ah, if only I could use PhotoShop.)

* - author has this card

So, how about some big ones from the '60s and '70s?