Monday, July 30, 2012

Yogi: Hall of Fame Ugly

He’s one of the best catchers ever.  He was a pretty darn good manager as well.  He also seems like a really nice guy, someone who’s down to earth, can laugh at himself, and has a big heart.   He’s the guy that everybody loves, Yogi Berra.

That said, there’s no getting around the fact that Lawrence Peter (“Yogi”) Berra is probably one of the ugliest guys ever to play organized baseball.  He really does have it all, doesn’t he?  Big ears, big nose, dumb look, goofy grin, rubbery face.  I think only Don Mossi can beat Yogi at this game. 

So, here they are, a couple of decades of serious ugly …

1953.  I realize these cards were painted, but this one looks like somebody else.  How much did Yogi have to pay the illustrator?  It’s probably the least ugly he’s ever looked in his life.

1956.  The ears are definitely grabbing all the attention on this one.  Amazing how those white outlines help make anyone’s ears that much more prominent (see here for more).

1957.  An ugly card design meets an equally ugly subject. 

Hey, at least we’ve got him trying to crack a smile.  He is trying to crack a smile, isn’t he?

1960.  An interesting expression, and very un-Yogi-like.  Not sure what’s going on here. 

And how about the mini-me over on the left?  Poor Yog’s looking a little deformed and rather toad-like.

1962.  It’s the ears again.  Great smile though. 

1963.  Starting to show our age a little.  And for a guy like Yogi, that means bigger nose, bigger ears, bigger ugly. 

I have to admit, though – I don’t see a big difference between this and the 1957.  How did he get so youthful for that ‘62 card?  That’s either a lotta makeup or a lotta airbrushing.

1964.  We’re approaching some sort of apotheosis here.

1965.  The last year.  I love seeing Yogi go out with a genuine smile.  He’s still ugly as sin though.

You may be wondering what happened to ’the 61, or  ’59, or ’54 cards.  It’s hard to believe, but in some of those missing years, Yogi actually didn’t look that bad.

Click here for some more ugly mugs from baseball’s Golden Age.

Monday, July 23, 2012

John Roseboro: Major League Crazy

I’m afraid all I really remember about this guy is his getting conked on the head with a bat by Juan Marichal.

As is turns out, John Roseboro was actually a pretty darn good baseball player.  In a 15-year career, he won a Gold Glove twice, was an All Star four times, and was the starting catcher in four World Series.  Overall, he finished just short of 5000 at bats, and got just over 100 HRs and 500 RBIs.

It also appears – based on these baseball cards, if nothing else – that John Roseboro was also clinically insane.  I have never seen such a collection of maniacal grins, crazy stares, and downright straight-outta-the-state-hospital looks in my life.

So, take it away, Mr. Seriously Deranged Mental Patient …


1959.  More goofy than crazy, Roseboro managed to look slightly less insane for his first card.

It was a good year for a rookie – 114 games, 14 homers, and an All Star berth.  The Series was another story, however.  I’m talking two hits in 21 at bats, for an .095 average.


1960.  Okay, here we go …

Very similar to the previous year, though with a little falling off in BA.


1961.  Same look, but this time with hat.

A definite falling off – less than 300 at bats and a .213 average.  Might have been hurt.  Might have been involuntarily committed.  Who knows?


1962.  From the side.

Another All-Star berth, and a career-high 18 homers.

1963.  Other side.

Back down to seven dingers, but still in the Summer Classic.

1965.  Action shot.

Over 400 at-bats, a career-high .287 average, but only three taters.


1966.  Is that a smile?

This is the year of the incident.  Pretty average otherwise though.  It was his best year in the Series.  He hit .286, 129 points higher than his career average.


1968.  Action shot.

Under 300 at bats for the first time in four years.  And at 35, that’s a pretty good sign it’s the beginning of the end.

1970.  After 11 years, John Roseboro finally looked the camera in the eye. 

His last year is with the Nats, getting in less than 100 at-bats, then calling it quits.

After his playing career, Roseboro was a coach and hitting and catching instructor.  He also opened his own PR firm and acted in a handful of TV shows and one film.  Guess he wasn’t so crazy after all.

* - author has this card

Monday, July 16, 2012

Johnny Klippstein: the Guy with the Ears

Johnny Klippstein was known for many things.   Unfortunately, the main thing might have been his lack of control.  Can you believe he was once pulled in the 7th  inning of a no-hitter, after giving up eight walks?   It wasn’t just that one game though.  In four of his 18 seasons, he had more walks than strikeouts.   His nickname of the “wild Man of Borneo” seemed to be well-earned.

To give him his due, though, Johnny must have been doing something right to stay in the bigs for 18 years.  And he was, in fact, a league leader four times.  Unfortunately, two of those were for wild pitches and one for hit batters.  On the plus side, he did lead the AL in saves in 1960 (though with a measly 14).

Over those 18 years, Johnny played with eight different clubs.  He began as a starter, but really found his niche in relief.  He was famous for being able to warm up with just ten pitches.

He loved the Cubs, though, and actually retired in the Windy City.  In fact, he died in Elgin IL, at age 76, listening to a Cubs game on the radio.  Not a bad way to go.

Okay, now that’s all very nice.   What I want to know, though, is why doesn’t anybody ever say anything about this guy’s ears?  I mean, they’re huge!  This guy is to ears what Wally Moon is to unibrows and Don Mossi is to ugly.

So, take it away, Johnny.  ‘Ears to you!

1953.  It’s a painting, so maybe the illustrator toned things down a little.  Previous cards – all paintings too – are much the same.

One of the years he led the league in wild pitches.


1954.   Photos don’t lie.  Johnny looks like he could flap those things and take off.

I also like the mini-me off to the side.  Looks like Johnny is about to throw us a … screwball!

1961.  Hat off, three-quarter shot, and dark background really make ‘em stand out on this one. 

This is for the year he led the AL in saves, by the way.


1962.  Sans chapeau, encore. 

You can always tell the guys who moved around a lot.  Why bother with a hat when you know you’re going to be someplace else next year? 

For Johnny, ’62 was in Cincy, ’61 was in DC, ’60 was in Cleveland, and ’59 was in LA. 

1965.  My favorite.  It’s basically the same as the ’61 shot, but somehow or other, the ears seem to have grown to the size of long-playing records or small serving trays.

He actually had a couple more years after this, hanging ‘em up after the ’67 season.

* - the author has this card

Tuesday, July 10, 2012

Rocky Bridges: The Man with the Chaw

I’m not sure if Rocky had a contract with Red Man or what, but I was unable to find a card of his that didn’t feature a big ugly wad of cancer-causing mush distorting his facial features. 

It might simply have been part of his tough guy image though.  About Rocky, The Great American Baseball Card Flipping, Trading and Bubble Gum Book writes, “Bridges looked like a ballplayer. In fact, he may have looked more like a ballplayer than any other ballplayer who ever lived.”

I’m a little suspicious however.  The whole image thing seems a little contrived.  In psychology circles, there’s a concept called “overcompensation.”  It’s basically “a strategy whereby one covers up, consciously or unconsciously, weaknesses, frustrations, desires, feelings of inadequacy or incompetence, [leading] to striving for power, dominance, and self-esteem.”  (Psychology Wiki)

Okay, let’s look at the evidence.  First, you’ve got the name.  You’ve got to admit, “Rocky” does sound a lot tougher than “Everett,” even if it doesn’t make a whole lot of sense. 

And let’s not forget that Bridges was 5’8”.  That means middle infield, 16 homers in 2537 plate appearances, and a lifetime slugging percentage of .613. 

So, whatever the deep dark motive behind the lump in his cheek, here he is, Rocky Bridges, the Man with the Chaw …


Very early in his career.  The chaw is restrained, he signs his name “Everett Lamar,” there’s no grimacing at the camera.  Doesn’t look like Rocky’s quite identified his “brand image” just yet.


Very late in his career.  In fact, it’s his last card.  He’s definitely looking like the tough, grizzled veteran in this one.  In fact, Rocky’s starting to look a lot like the career minor-league manager he would become.  Love the smirk!


Not sure why Rocky looks so worried in this one.  His gaze seems to be directed at his mini-me over on the left.  Should I have my butt down more?  Do I look tough enough?  What happened to my crotch? 

More tough guy, but note the hint of a smile.  Aw, he’s just a big puddy tat.

By the way, could there be a more boring card design that this one?  Topps 1957 was definitely not a winner.

Okay, much better.  Here’s the scrappy little bastard we’ve all come to know and love.

I have to admit, though, that neon yellow background is just too much.  Not my favorite design either.


Yup, that’s it.  Quintessential Rocky.  Chaw, mussed-up crewcut (how do you mess up a crewcut?), one eye closed in a kind of pirate look …

That’s it!  Rocky Bridges was a pirate!  Can’t you just hear him saying “Arrgh”?  Give him an eye patch and put a parrot on the guy’s shoulder, fer Pete’s sake!

* - author has this card

Just can't get enough of that brown slimey stuff?  Click here for some more champion chewers from the '50s.

Monday, July 2, 2012

Earl Torgeson: Dr. Phil and Mr. Hyde

Boy, does this guy look mild-mannered.  The glasses, the name, the slight paunchiness, the blank expression.  I was tempted to put him in my Are you Sure You’re a Ballplayer? post.

Turns out, though, that this dude was one of the major brawlers of modern baseball.  Earl Torgeson got into fights for getting thrown at, getting tangled up at first base, having a catcher mess with his bat, and “overhearing vulgar language in the presence of his wife.” (SABR Bio Project)  And you never knew it what was coming until Earl took off his glasses and socked you in the kisser. 

Torgeson was also a pretty decent ballplayer.  He was up for 15 seasons, getting in just short of 5000 at-bats.  He had a famous batting eye, finishing with a .386 OBP.   He led the league in runs one year, and was a 20-20 man the year after. 

Who’da thunk it?

1954.  Earl is 29.  It was several years since his big years, but he was still a respectable regular. 

So what do you think?  Guy down at the local garage?

1956.  The last year Torgeson would get over 500 at bats. 

I don’t know.  I’m thinking maybe neighborhood butcher.


1958.  Some slightly shady character that Robert Duvall might play?  Also, is he packin’ some chaw?


1959.  Switching to the pointy glasses.  Makes Earl look more like a …  geez, I don’t know what.


1960.  I think my grandma had a pair like these, though I do believe the women’s version was a tad skinnier.


1961.  Are the pointies gone?  And Earl’s definitely packin’ some chaw in this one.

This is Torgeson’s last Topps card.  Looks like he’s ready to head back to Snohomish (his home town), buy that garage he’s always had his eye on, and get a little huntin’ and fishin’ in.

I have no idea where this one came from.  The Yankees were, however, Earl’s last team.  So, this is most likely his very last card.  It certainly is an all-time classic.  I can’t decide if Earl looks more like a math teacher, accountant, or mechanical engineer. 

That Earl.  He’s like a chameleon!  I consider him the Merryl Streep of baseball!

Does Earl look familiar?  You’ve actually seen him before, swinging his bat hard enough to screw himself into the ground.