Monday, February 27, 2012

Painting 101 (the '50s)

Yup, it’s true.  A number of early cards were actually paintings.  Topps ‘53 and Bowman ‘51, ’52 and ’53 all fit the bill. 

Though photos are probably even more likely to catch our heroes in unflattering lights, actual paintings have plenty of room for problems too.  Believe me.  I used to do quite a bit of painting.  I was no Leonardo, but some of my stuff is located in relatives’ closets all over the United States.  Now, I wouldn’t touch a portrait with a 10-foot brush.  There’s just too many things that can go wrong.  Yeah, I realize these were probably all painted on photos, but still …

So, here they are, the de Koonings and Demoiselles d’Avignon of the diamond (did I mention I had an art history minor?) …

No one’s hat looks like this. 

Let me correct that.  No baseball player’s hat looks like this. 

Go-go dancers from the ‘60s might have worn something like this.  But, then again, only if it was in white leather.

More Ted, right here.

So, either this illustrator had a hard time with faces, or Buddy’s nickname was “Pineapple.”  (Wait, isn’t “Buddy” already a nickname?) 

Classic good-field, no-hit infielder.

It’s called foreshortening.  It’s not apparent on this portrait. 

Unless this guy’s nickname was “Stubby.”  Don’t laugh.  There was a Stubby Overmire, as well as a Stubby Clapp.  Okay, you can laugh at that last one.

Don Kolloway’s real nickname was actually “Cab” (creative, huh?).  Like Buddy, Don was particularly good at fielding his position in the infield, but left something to be desired upon stepping into the batter’s box.

Same problem.  I’d think it’d be even more serious in this situation, though, as Whammy’s a pitcher - and that's his pitching arm.

I have no idea where it came from, but the nickname is a classic.  Despite the card, Whammy's sole year in the majors was with the Pirates.  He was actually blind in one eye (in addition to having the withered arm).

Quite a handsome looking fella, by the by.

More fun with foreshortening.  It kind of looks like somebody chopped off Mickey’s upper torso and propped it up on a dismembered leg.

Mickey Vernon was a pretty darn good player.  He led the AL in batting twice and was an All-Star seven times.  Overall, he played 20 seasons and finished with over 1000 runs and RBIs and almost 2500 hits.  He was pretty much the only bright spot for the hapless Senators during the ‘40s and ‘50s.


Looks like Gail’s got a similar kind of problem.  In this one, though, I think the issue is more dwarfism than dismemberment. 

Gail Harris was a journeyman first baseman who was up for six years in the late ‘50s.  He was given a chance at an everyday job with the ’58 Tigers and smacked 20 homers. 

Sorry about the first name, dude.

This is a mess.  Billy looks both totally two-dimensional and like a hamper of dirty bed linen at the same time.  How does he do it?

Billy’s been here before.  Check out Just Plain Goofy: Up Close and Personal for more.

And here they’ve got Spec Shea twisting himself into a pretzel and looking totally flat all at once.  It takes talent to do that.

Francis Joseph Shea  had a couple of nicknames.  “Spec” was from having freckles.  The “Naugatuck Nugget” was from his being from, er, well, Naugatuck, a small town in Connecticut.

Not to be confused, of course, with the “Naugatuck Flash,” the “Naugatuck Wizard,” the “Naugatuck Nightingale,” or the “Napoleon of Naugatuck.”

Okay, somebody was having a little fun here.  I mean, after 30 of these things, I’d start to get a little bored too.

Illustrator 1: “Hey, I know.  This next guy, I’m going to go all Quattrocento on ‘em.  You like the background?  I’m trying to work some serious sfumato in here.  I consider this guy my Mona Lisa."  (Did I ever tell you I had an art history minor?)

More Howie here and here.

Illustrator 2: “Oh yeah?  Well, how do you like this one, huh?  Yup, you guessed it.  Degas it is.  Can you see the Japanese influence?  I’m actually kind of proud of this one.”

A much less aesthetically pleasing Warren right here.

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And here are some modern masters from the '60s.

Monday, February 20, 2012

Roses by Other Names (’50 Version, Polysyllabic Division)

Funny names – you gotta love ‘em.  In my last post, I went all monosyllabic on ya.  In this edition, we look at the guys whose names are just plain weird, however many syllables they might have.


I’m sorry.  All I can think of is that scene from Blazing Saddles.

According to the Wikipedia, McCall was nicknamed "Windy" by Ted Williams as a young player "because he was always asking about Ted's bats."   Nah, I don’t get it either.  (Turns out he was a talker, that’s all.)  Incredibly detailed bio right here.

Why do I always think of this guy as “Golden Gordsbury”? says Gordy “had movie star looks, dressed well, and was said to be a good fielder.”  It doesn’t say anything about his being able to hit however (or whether he really was a good fielder).  A baseball lifer, Gordon Goldsberry was a player, coach, scout, and exec.  He was responsible for signing Robin Yount.


Doddering Dutch Dotterer.  Too bad he never played for the Dodgers.

Five years, 299 at bats, 5 homers, 27 runs, 33 RBIs, .247 average.  What else is there to say?

Oh, yeah.  His real name was Henry.  Shoulda been Don or Doug or something.

Tebbets is kind of a funny name to begin with.  To couple that with a really strange nickname like Birdie, you’d think his given name would have to be something really unusual or awkward, like Timothy or Tecumseh or Taliaferro. 

So, guess what appears on his birth certificate?  Yup, George.

According to Wikipedia, Tebbetts acquired his nickname as a boy when an aunt said of his high-pitched voice, "He chirps like a bird".  Not too sure about that one.  Maybe there were just too darn many Georges in the Tebbets clan.

Take one funny, old-fashioned first name.  Combine it with an equally funny, slightly Dickensian surname.  Result: Vern Bickford.

Also, what is he doing with his eyes?

Another wonderful – and incredibly detailed – bio right here.

Lather, rinse, repeat.  I wonder if anyone called him “Virg” though. 

Also …  Love the ‘brows, bro’!  See here for more.

I’ll let this one stand all by itself.  It’s almost like a little poem.  Memo …  Memo Luna.  Go ahead, say it yourself.

Just to continue the poetical mood …  Memo got into one game.  One game!  Lifetime record?  Two outs, two hits, two walks, two runs.  Memo …  Luna …  Memo Luna …


Where does a name like Repulski come from?  Is it Polish for “son of the repulsive one”? 

Rip’s real name was Eldon.  Not sure how they got “Rip” out of that.

Yes, of course, he did hit a few homers.  But not as many as you’d think.  He only broke 20 twice, and his career total was barely over 100.

Alliteration.  That’s what it is.  You just can’t fight it.

Another George, if you can believe it.  The nickname supposedly came from 1) severe hay fever, 2) ingestion of snuff, or 3) ingestion of snuff to treat severe hay fever.  You pick!

Stirnweiss was the ultimate baseball beneficiary of World War II.  4-F because of a number of ailments (including hay fever, I would imagine), he tore up the AL in ’44 and ’45, leading the league in 12 major categories.  After that, though, it was all back down to earth.


Hmm.  Now, what’s so strange about this guy?  I mean other than his nose and ears.  You gotta remember, we're dealing with names here, right?

Nothing particularly special about his career either.  Five seasons, three teams, .210 lifetime average, no homers.

Okay, here’s the big secret…  His name really wasn’t Neil.  That’s his middle name.   His first name was …  Wait a minute …  Are you ready for this?  Okay, his first name was … You are not gonna believe this.  Okay, here I go …  His first name was … Barbra!  Oh geez, I said it.  Can you believe it?  Barbra!

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More "roses" ... from the '60s and '70s.

Monday, February 13, 2012

Roses by Other Names (‘50s Version, Monosyllabic Division)

It’s from Shakespeare, okay?  I was an English major, alright?  I don’t know, I think it was Troilus and Cressida or something.  The full quote is “A rose by any other name would smell as sweet.”  I think it means that Troilus didn’t care that his girlfriend had the same name as a Toyota.  He loved her just the same. 

For our purposes, I think it means it doesn’t matter if you’re a Clyde Kluttz or a Virgil Stallcup.  You may still be able to groove a nasty slider on the outside of the plate – or, alternatively, flick that slider to the opposite field and get that guy home from third.
In this edition, we look at the guys whose names have that pithy, punchy quality that only comes with monosyllabic first and last names.  Extra points if they both begin with the same letter.  Enjoy!

Guys just aren’t nicknamed “Chick” any more, are they?  I guess this one wouldn’t be so bad if it weren’t for the combination. 

I’m sure this guy musta been some kind of “babe magnet,” huh?  Get it?  “Chick king?”  Babe magnet?  Ah, never mind.

Chick King is also the name of an Irish chain restaurant, “the king of Southern Fried Chicken.”  Not sure who’s the king of fried chicken in Northern Ireland.


I’m sure Dick actually appreciates the alliterativeness of his name.  If, for example, he were to drop the “d” in Drott … 

Dick Drott may be most famous for getting ejected from a game for wheeling Moe Drabowsky to first in a wheelchair after Drabowksy got hit in the foot by a pitch.  Dick’s nickname was “Hummer.”

I don’t know.  I just liked this one.  It’s not quite Reince Preibus (current chairman of the Republican National Committee), but it’s close.

Is it my imagination, or are these guys related? 

If not …  Rance Plebus, meet Reese Press.  Er, I mean, Rebus Plebus, meet Rinse Plants.  Er … Um …


Royce fits right in here with Rance and Reince.  If only his last name was Prince or Plotts or something (though Lint really is priceless in its own way).

By the way, I absolutely love these ’55 Bowmans.  It’s just like watching your players on TV!  (Except you probably had a black ‘n white and the picture was the size of a pack of cards.  But who’s counting?).  Does anything say Fifties more than a design like this?

Just in case you can’t read the signature, it really does say “Matt Batts.”  Matt Batts.  Matt bats.  Matt Batts bats.  Matt Batts bats with a bat.  Hey, I’m Dr. Seuss!

Great detailed bio of Matt right here.  And embarrassing pictures of him here and here.

Hey!  It’s the ol’ alliterative double-whammy.  Not only do both names begin with a “k,” they both begin with a “kl.”  And isn’t that exactly what you’d want if your last name was something like Kluttz?

Hey, here’s a special callout to Chuck Churn.  He made it to the bigs in the late ‘50s, but alas not onto a Topps checklist.  As far as I could tell, that is.  Lots of pictures of Chuck on Google Images, but no cards.  Oh, but I did find the above.  Get it?  So, how old is the hamburger in your grocery store?

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Next week, polysyllabic monstrosities!  Don't miss it!

Monday, February 6, 2012

The Little Guy (’56 Version)

Even more of ‘em …  The 1956 set has a real action shot for most cards.  That was a first for Topps.  (Here are the 54 and 55 mini-me's, if you missed 'em.)

Whoa, Rocky!  Take it easy there, pardner.   That’s way too much hustle for one baseball card.  Let Pete Rose take care of that kind of stuff.

You’ve met Rocky Bridges before.  I just gotta wonder what happened to the chaw in this picture though.  Hope he didn’t swallow it.

Not sure what’s happening with Nellie.  Is he fielding?  Running?  Attempting to fly?

You’ve met Nellie before too, and will probably see him a bunch more.  No boring cards with Nellie. 

Another spazz-out, from another Hall of Famer.  

Little Louie Aparicio is in the Hall, mostly for his defense, which includes nine Gold Gloves.  He was also Rookie of the Year and a ten-time All-Star.  His main offensive claim to fame is leading the AL in steals for nine straight years. 

Karl was probably known as the “The Big Swede” or “The Swedish Galoot” or something like that.  Is it just me, or does he look about twice the size of the first baseman?

Olson’s size (6’3” and 205 lbs.) resulted in only six dingers over a six-year career.   Incredibly detailed bio right here.

Looks like Jim here is doing his best to channel his inner Ty Cobb.  Take that!  Unh!  And that!

One of the best defensive catchers of the ‘50s, Jim Hegan was the guy who caught Feller, Lemon, Score, and Garcia.  He was an All-Star five times, caught six 20-game winners, and was behind the plate for 121 shutouts.


Did they just capture Ken in the middle of booting one?  Ouch!  Not what I’d want to have on my card. 

Pretty darn good player, Ken Boyer was the ’64 MVP and the second third baseman to hit over 250 dingers, and had his number retired by the Redbirds.  He died heartbreakingly young of lung cancer, at age 51.

I went to a baseball game, and a wrestling match broke out.   

I’m not sure Red Schoendienst would have gotten into the Hall on either his playing or managing career alone.  But put them together, and you’ve got a ticket to Cooperstown.  As of 2012, he has worn a major league uniform for 66 consecutive years.  He also had a great takedown move, and could put you in a cradle before you even knew what had happened.


“Look at me!  I’m a bird!  I can fly!  Squawk, squawk!”

Mayo Smith may be the only major leaguer ever named after a condiment.   Searches on for “ketchup,” “mustard,” and “relish” failed to come up with anything.

That’s one huge Q-Tip.  This might tickle a little, Jose.

Sandy Valparaiso was a …  Excuse me ...  Um, Sandy Valpolicella ….  No, I mean …  Sandy Valdosta …  Correction …  Sandy Velveeta …Ah, forget it.

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Topps also had some mini-me's in 1960 and 1963.  You can see some of them right here.

Wednesday, February 1, 2012

The Little Guy (’55 Version)

More mini-me’s.  Like 1954, 1955 featured another disembodied Verne Troyer, but this time on a super-swanky gradient background.


“Another home run.  This is getting so depressing.  When is Skip going to pull me outta here?”

Dean Stone ...  Great name, isn’t it?  Sounds like the name of a baseball player in a movie – or the actor who portrayed him.

“Hey, big fella, take a swish at this one!”

Some cool stuff about Duane Pillette:
  • His middle initial is X.
  • His father, Herb, and he both had the distinction of leading their leagues in losses.

Billy O'Dell had an interesting follow-through.  Instead of falling off to either side like a Bob Gibson or Mitch Williams, Billy fell backwards, right onto his butt.

O'Dell, who was a major college star (at Clemson), was one of the first bonus babies.  He never threw an inning in the minors. Here he is again.


Being the manager – it’s always a challenge.    And I’m sure managing the Cubs is a special challenge.   Sigh …

Stan Hack played 16 years with the Cubbies, and was one of the best third basemen of his day.  He led the NL in hits and stolen bases twice, finishing with over 2000 hits and a .301 average.  Bill James ranks him ahead of Pie Traynor.  Similar players include Eddie Collins, Billy Herman, George Kell, and Richie Ashburn, all in the Hall.

Another mini-me helping his player with some waxy buildup.

Basically a journeyman, Sandy Amoros is most famous for a catch he made in Game 7 of the 1955 World Series to preserve the win and make the Bums world champions.


Art’s mini-me has opted to go with the glove instead.  Not sure if that’s the right move, Art.

Art Fowler bounced around the bigs for nine years, having made it to the Show at the grand old age of 31.  He had a brother, Jesse, who also made the majors.  Interestingly, though, Jesse was 24 years older.  Their MLB debuts were separated by 30 years.

Nope, that was the right move.  Look at the big hunk Ferris’s mini-me’s got ahold of.

Ferris Fain led the AL in batting two years running, ’51 and ’52, and was an All Star for five.  His skills faded, though, after getting in a brawl in a bar with some fans.  He got into trouble again in the late ‘80s, spending a year and a half in the pokie for growing pot. 

Now, we can’t end without mentioning Fain’s all-star nickname, “Burrhead “  Gotta love it.

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1956's mini-me's feature action shots!  Check 'em out right here.