Monday, August 27, 2012

Before There Was Dentistry (‘50s Version)

I don’t see this happening in this day and age.  Heck, every American seems to get their teeth whitened, straightened, starched, pressed, and re-grouted as a matter of course these days.  And it doesn’t seem to matter if you’re a movie star or a forklift operator. 

It’s hard to remember that teeth don’t naturally look that way (though paying a couple of orthodontist’s bills does help – take it from me).  Even so, that “all natural” look sure can make you look a little … um … er … stoopit.

You’d think, though, that a ballplayer would have the dough to be able to straighten things up a little.  Yeah, I know, ballplayers didn’t make nearly as much back then (and I’m sure some of them drove a forklift in the offseason too).  Still …

Not too bad.

Hal Smith bounced around for 10 years with five clubs, usually part of a platoon.  His main claim to fame was hitting a homer in the bottom of the 8th to put the Pirates up in the last game of the 1960 World Series.  Of course, the Bucs gave up the tying run in the top of the 9th, then came back to win it with another homer in the bottom of the inning.  I forget who hit that one.  Some Polish guy, I think. (By the way, did you know Hal had quite the schnozz as well?)



Lou Limmer was up in the bigs for only two years, but managed to do pretty well, getting 19 homers, 63 RBIs, and 66 runs over 530 at-bats total.  Unfortunately, all that went with a .202 average.

Some interesting facts about Lou:
  • He graduated from the Manhattan High School of Aviation
  • He was known as the Babe Ruth of batting practice
  • He’s a member of the Philadelphia Jewish Sports Hall of Fame

Yeah, you can definitely tell on this one.

You’ve met Billy Pierce before, where I shared some of his HoF-level stats.

Sweet orthodontia!  You could drive a bullpen golf cart through those.

Elston Howard is is a pretty familiar name.  He was the first African-American Yankee, won an MVP award in 1963, and was in ten World Series (including one with the Red Sox!?!?)

He died at only 50 of a rare heart disorder.  New York Times columnist Red Smith wrote that "the Yankees organization lost more class on [that] weekend than George Steinbrenner could buy in 10 years."  Amen!

* - author has this card

And don’t forget to catch us next week, when we look at some guys who shilled out a couple of bucks and got a little work done.  In fact, you might say they got a little too much work done.

Monday, August 20, 2012

Dumb, Dumber, and Dumbest

Lou Gehrig went to Columbia.  Mike Mussina studied physics at Stanford.  Harvard claims 16 players in the major leagues.  Even MIT has a couple.

Hey, wasn’t it Yogi Berra who said “95% of baseball is half mental”?  And he should know, right?   I mean, the guy’s got honorary degrees from Montclair State and St. Louis University!  It’s not called the “thinking man’s game” for nuttin’, ya know.

Let’s start with Johnny Kucks, the incredible pitching hamster.

Except for 1956, Johnny’s career was pretty pedestrian.  In that year, though, he went 18-9 and pitched a 3-hit shutout to clinch the Series for the Yanks.   His second year in the bigs, 1956 was also his last winning season.  Four more years of futility, and then it was all over.

Larry Sherry came into the bigs with a major bang.  After coming up with the Dodgers on the 4th of July, he went 7-2, with a 2.19 ERA.  He played a major role in helping the Dodgers capture the pennant, then the World Series.  In the latter, he won two games, saved two more, and was the MVP.

Larry and brother Norm formed the first all-Jewish battery in MLB history.  Norm looked kind of dumb too, by the way.


One of the original Colt .45s, Al Spangler was a starter for them for three years.  Overall, he was up for 13 years, getting in over 900 games.  His nickname was “Spanky.”

Al is actually a fine Duke University grad – as is yours truly.  Must have been a bad day for Al though.  I can’t say he’s really projecting the correct image for that esteemed institution in this particular shot.  

Hint to Mike: close your mouth.

Mike Roarke was a classic good-field, no-hit backup catcher.  He was up for four years with the Tigers, getting not quite 500 at-bats in that time.  After that, Mike was a coach, minor-league manager, and pitching instructor for almost 50 years. 

Mike went to Boston College, by the way.

Choo Choo Coleman was one of the original Mets.  He was with them for three years and the Phillies for another, finishing with a career average under the Mendoza Line.

As for the nickname, announcer Ralph Kiner once asked him about it:

Ralph: “Why do they call you ‘Choo Choo,’ Choo Choo?”
Choo Choo: “I don’t know, Ralph.”

It was short for Clarence, by the way.

Another weak-hitting backstop, Jim Coker was up for nine seasons, getting over 100 at-bats only twice.  He finished with a .231 average, as well as a fairly respectable 16 homers.

So, what is it about catchers anyway?  Tools of ignorance, right?

Chuck Hinton was a minor star for the expansion Senators.  His best year was 1962, when he hit .310 with 17 homers, 75 RBIs, 73 runs, and 28 stolen bases.  He made the All Star team two years later.

Chuck’s another NC grad.  He went to Shaw, in Raleigh.  I’m thinking phys ed major.


Jim Roland was up for ten years, mostly with the Twins and A’s, primarily as a reliever.  Comparable ballplayers include Tom Hilgendorf, Marshall Bridges, and Dyar Miller.  And that’s some pretty impressive company, let me tell ya.

More odd looks from Jim right here.

How about a little more dumb, from a little later in the century?

* - author has this card

Monday, August 13, 2012

Don Mossi: King of Kings and Host of Hosts

Admit it: Don Mossi pretty much had it all.  Jug ears?  Check.  Long, lumpy face?  Got it.  Multiple chins?  Yup.  Eyes pointed in slightly different directions?  Check.  Nose slightly askew?  Got it.  All he’s really lacking is the classic unibrow (see Unibrow for more), though he’s not that far away, even on that.

Turns out Don wasn’t a bad ballplayer.  Heck, you had to be halfway decent to stick around for 12 years.  Don was in the rotation for six of those years, going 17-9 for the Tigers once.  When he wasn’t in the rotation, he was usually the number two man out of the bullpen, picking up from five to ten saves.  Not a bad career.

More importantly, though, it sounds like Don was also a pretty decent guy, being laid-back, pleasant, humble, and able to laugh at himself.  He sounds like the ultimate family guy too.  Looks aside, I think we should all be more like Don Mossi. 

1955, his rookie year, with Bowman. 

Warning: it’s not going to get better over time.


1955, with Topps.  1956 was exactly the same shot.  He must have broken the camera or something.


1957.  Don led the Indians in saves this year. 

Don’t you think these far-away shots work better?


1958, the year Don made the All Star game.  That’s what I attribute the smile to.  I think it adds a little something.  Too bad this was the only card he tried it on.


1959.  Like in the Topps 1955, the from-below shot doesn’t really help much.  It just seems to scream out, "DOUBLE CHIN!  DOUBLE CHIN!" 


1960, the year he went 17-9.  Just the hint of a smile.

I particularly like the mini me, over on the left.  Poor Don looks like Gumby.


1961.  Ooh, action shot!  Unfortunately, we’ve now added gangly to ugly.  Maybe he really did look like Gumby.

By the way, kind of boring card design, wouldn’t you say?


1962.  He went 15-10 that year. 

Same action theme, same sad result.

1963.  Probably the best of the bunch.  The three-quarter shot makes the ears looks less prominent.  I’ve got to wonder what a full profile would have looked like, though it would probably have emphasized the nose too much.  Three-quarters definitely seems the way to go.  Too bad it was never used again.

1964.  Basically, the same pose from ’61 and ’62, just a little closer and a little uglier.

God, I swear the guy looks like a bat (the animal, not the baseball, variety).


1966, his last year.  Wow!  Talk about going out with a bang.    This is like Justin Verlander breaking 100 mph in the 9th inning or Teddie Ballgame hitting a home run in his last at-bat.  Without a doubt, my favorite.

* - author has this card

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

Monday, August 6, 2012

Wally Moon: Unibrow God

He’s not an unattractive fellow.  If it weren’t for a certain … um … er … feature …  Wow!  It’s really something, isn’t it?  There’s just no pause as it crawls across his brow.  You can’t help staring straight at it.

Wally actually had a pretty decent career, playing twelve years with the Cards and Dodgers.  In his first year, he led the league in plate appearances (716!) and won the Rookie of the Year award.  In subsequent years, he:
  • Was a league leader in triples and on-base percentage
  • Was a two-time All Star
  • Won a Gold Glove
  • Came in the top 10 in MVP voting once

Still, there’s just one thing that really stands out when it comes to Wally.  I’ve got  other pages dedicated to guys with unibrows, but there’s no doubt in my mind Wally deserves a page of his own.  So, take it away, Wally Moon, god of the unibrow …


1955, the great rookie year.

I’m skipping 1956, as it was the exact same shot.  Topps used to do that in the early days.  Cheap bastards.


1957, an action shot.

1958, the first year on the All Star team.

Another “action” shot.

1959.  Up-close-and-personal this year.  As we definitely should be with Wally, right?


1960, his best year.  Looks really similar to ’59, though, doesn’t it?


1961, his only Golden Glove year. 

Hey, except for the uniform, this is the same shot as ’57.  I feel cheated.


1962.  Still your basic head shot, but sans chapeau this time.

1963.  Man, these all look the same, don’t they?

1964.  Quintessential Wally Moon.  If I had to pick just one card, this would be it.

I wonder if he ever combed that thing.


1965.  Same as 1958.  Was there something in his contract that limited him to three basic poses?

This was his last year.  After that, he coached college and the minors for a number of years.  He was also a guest star on Wagon Train, playing a sheriff and catching a bullet in a shootout with the bad guy.

Oh, I couldn't forget - Wally's got his own site.

* - author has this card