Monday, October 29, 2012

Are You Sure You're a Ballplayer ('60s Version)

Baseball is a game of skill more than pure athleticism.  If I can make a small round object do strange things, or hit that object coming at me at very high speeds with a piece of wood, or catch that round object in a big glove-cum-leather-basket, it really doesn’t matter what I look like. 

I can look like an accountant, or a butcher, or a junior high-school kid, or my grandfather.  Maybe it’s my imagination, but even taking the A-Rods and Robertos into account, baseball players tend to look less like studs and matinee idols, and more like just plain, old you an’ me.

So, here they are …  Catcher or chiropractor?  Accountant or ace?  Pinch hitter or programmer?  Grandpa or groundball pitcher?

Are  you sure you’re not my Grampa?

Bob Nieman had a pretty decent career – 12 seasons, .296 average, 1000+ hits.  His main claim to fame was hitting homers in his first two major league at-bats. 

By the way, Bob was only 33 when this photo was shot.  I’m not sure what aged him prematurely like that.  It might have been playing with the ‘50s Orioles for four years right before moving to St. Louis.  Yup, that’d do it alright.


Hmm, are you sure you’re not my Granma?

Howie Koplitz’s career started with a bang.  After winning the Minor League Player of the Year Award for 1961 (hence the little star), he then won seven straight in the majors.

He then, unfortunately, went two for nine and that was pretty much that.  Overall, he was 9-7, had a 4.21 ERA, a 1.52 WHIP, and looked more like he should be in the kitchen baking cookies than any other ballplayer I can think of.


Are you sure you’re old enough to drive? 

Darrell Sutherland bounced around for four seasons, finishing 5-4, with a 4.78 ERA and a 1.55 WHIP.  Interestingly, all his wins were in relief, and all his losses were as a starter.

Darrell was actually 26 when this shot was taken.  Being an incredibly gangly 6’ 4” and 169 pounds undoubtedly helped him keep those youthful looks.   I would definitely have had to card him.


Are you sure you got enough muscles to lift that bat?

Charlie Dees was 6’ 1” and 173 pounds.  I think he could have taken ol’ Darrell.  Not so sure he would have been able to hit the ball out of the infield though.  Kind of makes you wonder what he was doing at first base.

Couldn’t find much on Charlie other than his stats.  And those were pretty non-descript – three years, 260 at-bats, .265 average, and three homers.  I’m pretty sure most major league teams would want their first baseman to average more than one homer per year.


And are you sure you’re not Tony, the guy down at the pizza place?

Dave Adlesh was the prototypical backup catcher.  I’m talking six years, 256 at-bats, .168 average, and five different jersey numbers.  He did catch a no-hitter though, one of Don Wilson’s two.

Who knows?  Maybe he worked at the local pizzeria in the offseason.  It certainly looks like he consumed a few in his time.

Are you sure you’re not Mr. Rollins, my high school science teacher?

You may have heard of this guy.   Rich Rollins was the Twins’ regular third baseman for seven years, getting in an All Star game one year and leading the league in triples another.  Not too bad.

Wikipedia had a great story about an incident in his minor-league career I just had to share.  Basically, Rollins was on first when he got the hit-and-run sign.  He then “ran for second, heard the bat, and saw the shortstop move over to cover the bag.  Rollins slid, then figured the shortstop had been faking and assumed the ball had gone through for a hit. He got up, dashed for third and slid in again. Only then did he figure out that the batter had popped out to first.”


Hmm.  Are you sure you’re not Mr. Duren, my social studies teacher in junior high school?

Ryne Duren actually used his poor eyesight to his advantage.  He was famous for throwing a few hard fastballs to the backstop during warm-ups, then peering in all squinty-eyed when the batter tentatively stepped to the plate.

And here's a vide at Ryne with some shades.


Hey, aren’t you Mr. Mikkelsen, my nerdy Scout leader?

Pete Mikkelsen was a steady reliever for nine seasons and five different teams.  Comparable players of a more recent vintage include Andy McGaffigan and Shigetoshi Hasegawa.  Yup, he was that good.

Would it surprise you to learn that Pete was an ex-Marine?  I don’t know about the glasses, but only an old jarhead would sport a bad crew cut like that.

Hey, Pete made it into the same post as Ryne.


And, you, are you sure you’re not the guy who shot all those people?   From that tower?

Frank Kreutzer was up and down with two teams over six separate seasons.  I’m talking 1.33 innings one year, 5 another, and 1 to finish it all off.  Maybe that’s what made him snap, I don’t know. 

He was a quiet guy, said his neighbors.


And, finally, are you completely sure you’re not Pee Wee Herman?

George Alusik was up a couple of years, so there are a number of cards of him out there.  Amazingly, in each one, he somehow managed to capture that look of the math genius about to get his ass kicked at the school bus stop. 

It’s hard to believe, but George was 6’ 4” and actually had some power.  In fact, he held the Athletics record for consecutive games with a homer (five) until Frank “The Big Hurt” Thomas came along and set a new one.  Over 652 career at-bats (a little over a full season), George smacked 23 dingers.

* - author has this card

And don’t forget the dentists, accountants, mechanics, and math teachers of the 1950s and 1970s.

Monday, October 22, 2012

The Mysterious Mr. Kirkland

I don’t know about this guy.  I saw my first card of him and was intrigued by his pensive look.  I found a couple more cards of him, and noticed he had the same pose in all of them. 

At the same time, I also noticed that he typically had a toothpick stuck in his mouth.  The combination was actually rather jarring.  It made me start to wonder about that pensive, innocent look.  Maybe he’s just totally pissed off, looking away from the photographer in disgust.

Okay, enough jawin’.  Let me show you what I mean …

1962.  That first card I saw. 

What is he looking at?  What is he thinking?


1961.  Even more pensive.  He seems to be pondering life itself while he looks up to the heavens.

But is that a toothpick?


1964.  You can't tell from this shot, but he does indeed have a toothpick. Also, is he contemplating his place in the cosmos or is he just a little pissed off at being asked to pose?

1965.  Yup, that’s a toothpick.  Yup, he’s pissed off. 

If these cards had thought bubbles, this one would say, “Get out of my face, honky!  I’m way too cool for this shit.”

So, who was this odd fellow?  Well, he wasn’t a bad ballplayer.  He was up for nine years, with four different teams.  He was a starter for most of those years, hitting over 20 homers in four.  Overall, he got almost 3500 at bats and hit almost 150 homers.  Unfortunately, his lifetime average was only .240.

That average may have had something to do with his heading off to Japan.  Unlike most American players, though, he found the Land of the Rising Sun pretty welcoming.  He played there for six years, learned the language, and married a Japanese girl.  I don’t know, maybe she just had a thing for guys with toothpicks.

* - author has this card

Monday, October 15, 2012

The Nose Have It

Its basic purpose is to funnel air into the lungs.  It also just so happens to condition that air so that it’s moist and warm, which the lungs seem to really dig.  It points downward to keep out stuff like rain, and falling leaves, and sticks and things.  It also has little hairs in it, to filter even more gunk out.  And would you believe it also does double-duty and operates as a pretty sophisticated smeller?

Yup, in case you haven’t guessed it already, it’s the nose.  You may actually know it better, though, by one of its many nicknames – schnozz, beak, hooter, proboscis, bill, sniffer, snout, honker, conk, snotlocker (snotlocker?), the ol’ schnozzola …

Suffice it to say, it’s a prominent part of the face.  And they do seem to come in many shapes and sizes.  Here, let me show you …

This one isn’t too bad, just a little …  um, er … off kilter.  Seriously, what happened to this guy?  It’s like someone detached it, moved it to the left an inch, and then sent poor Hal on his way.

You’ve met Hal Smith before, where I made fun of his teeth.  No smile on this card, unfortunately.  So we’ll just have to get our jollies from that incredible honker of his.  You know, if you add in the hair (or lack thereof), Hal’s actually quite the triple crown candidate, isn’t he?

I’m having a hard time imagining Walt was actually born that way.  My guess is he was a former boxer, played football before face guards, or once caught a fastball with that thing.

Walt Dropo was not a boxer, but he was drafted by the NFL and NBA.  As for baseball, he was Rookie of the Year in 1950, leading the league in RBIs, hitting 34 homers, and batting .320.  “Moose” had a fine career after that, but never quite approached those heights again.

You're not going to believe this, but Walt made my funny place names blog. Turns out he was born in the awesomely named Moosup, CT. In fact, some folks say that's where his nickname comes from.

Sounds like we can definitely tie this one to something specific – an elbow in a high school basketball game.  That said, Hank’s probably got one of the most classically gnarled visages I’ve ever come across. 

Tommy LaSorda once said of Bauer, “This guy's tough. He had a face that looked like it'd hold two days of rain.”  Someone else – some guy named Anonymous – said Bauer’s face “looked like a clenched fist.”

You can see more of it right here.

Another full frontal shot.  With noses like these, guys, you really want to tilt it to the side, just a little

You’ve met Al before.   I forgot to mention there that, after his playing career was over, he went on to coach in the Cubs organization and then in high school, where he coached Keith Foulke and Jeff Bagwell’s son Jamie.

Wow!  This thing is vaguely obscene.  And don’t they say something about the size of a guy’s nose …  Wait a minute, that’s the hands, right?  Or is it the feet?

Eddie Bressoud was up for 12 years, a good five or six of them as a starter.  He really took advantage of a stay in Boston, using the Green Monster to total 14, 20, and 15 homers there, never getting into double figures anywhere else.  He subbed for an injured Luis Aparicio in the ‘64 All Star Game.


Kinda looks like a squid, don’t it?  Between the squid, the crewcut, and the maniacal smile, this has got be one of my all-time favorites.  This guy could be the star of his own horror film.

You may know Tito better as Terry’s dad, but he actually wasn’t a bad ballplayer himself.  Overall, he was up for 15 years, finishing with over 5000 at bats, as well as a .272 average and 125 homers.  He was an All Star, came in second for Rookie of the Year, led the AL in doubles once, and came in fifth for AL MVP one year.

His best year may have been 1959, where he had the highest batting average in the majors (.363), but fell just short of the required number of at bats (443 vs. 477).

* - author has his card

Monday, October 8, 2012

Celebrity Skin

Alright, alright, I know this is cruel.  These guys can’t help it, at least not in those days before Accutane.  And, heck, some of them were probably just teenagers anyway.  All in all, they’ve already suffered enough, without me piling on here.

So, let’s jump right in!


No zits.  Instead, we’ve got something else.  This reminds me of that scene in This Is Spinal Tap, where David and Nigel do an interview with very prominent er, um … things – like Billy here.

Billy O’Dell had a 13-year career and went 105-100, with a 3.29 ERA, over 1000 Ks, and two All-Star berths. Not too shabby.

And, yes, you have seen him before.


No zits.  But aren’t those the most prominent freckles you’ve ever seen?  No, no.  I mean the guy on the left.

Jim McGlothlin pitched for nine years, mostly with the Angels and Reds.  He got in an All Star game with the former and two World Series with the latter.  Tragically, he died of leukemia at the extremely young age of 32, a little over two years after his final game.

 Okay, zits.

Billy Hoeft must have been doing something right.  He was up for 15 seasons, with six different teams.  He was a one-time All Star and one-time 20-game winner.   Billy once struck out the side on nine pitches – only the ninth player to ever do that.   

More zits.  As if it wasn’t enough to be named “Zoilo.”

Zoilo Versalles may have been the most obscure MVP in the history of MLB.  Though Zoilo did lead the league in runs, doubles, and triples, he did it with a league-leading 666 at bats.  He also led the league in strikeouts.  His .272 average didn’t even make the top ten.

He may actually not have been the best player even on the Twins.  Teammate Tony Oliva finished first in the league in average and hits.

More Zoilo right here.


Zits plus a rather unusual skin tone.  With the latter oddly matching the shirt.

Dave Wickersham was up for 10 seasons, mostly as a starter.  He had one great year, where he went 19-12 for the Tigers.  He could have won his 20th, but got ejected from the game, the only time in his career that ever happened.

And here's our Dave in a little happier moment.

Zits, definitely of the teenager variety.

Bob Nelson, known more commonly as “Tex” (and also called the “Babe Ruth of Texas”), was a classic bonus baby gone bad.  Starting at age 19, he was on the O’s roster for three seasons – batting .205 in 122 at-bats – before they could send him down.


Another teenager.

Fred Newman is an actor, a basketball player, a Marxist-Leninist philosopher – and a baseball player.  Oh, wait a minute.  I think these might be separate guys.

Our Fred was in the majors at 20, and out of the majors at 25.  Arm trouble.  In the interim, he went 33-39 with a 3.41 ERA over 610 innings.


All I can say is, “poor guy.”

John was one of the original Colt .45s, and actually led them their first year in HRs (a measly 10 though) and RBIs (a miserable 59).  He also caught two no-hitters, the first one for both the Astros and Expos (he was an original Expo as well).

Poor John. It doesn't get any better. Click here for more.

* - author has this card

Tuesday, October 2, 2012

Photography 101

I used to do a little photography.  Nothing big.  Had a totally manual camera, took a lot of black and white shots (usually of artsy things nobody else would ever even think to take photos of), took a couple of courses at the local community college...  I eventually moved on to other hobbies, but I did manage to learn a few things about composition, lighting, depth of field … that sort of thing.

So, I’m assuming the guys who took these photos might have been exposed to some of those same basic ideas also.  But ... then again ... maybe not. 

Honestly, some of these photos look like they might have been taken by fans.  They look like they’d be more in place in an old photo album with shots of birthday parties, Christmases, and first communions.   All they need is the Rambler or Nash parked in the background, at least one person with their eyes closed (see Eyes Wide Shut), and a light pole coming straight out of Uncle Ernie’s head.


It’s called centering.  It’s a pretty simple idea.  Not sure why it was so hard to accomplish on this card.

Fred’s career was pretty nondescript.  Four years, 5.08 ERA, six wins …  Comparable players include Leon Pettitt, Emilio Palermo, and Buster Ross.  Yup, those guys.

Hey, nice signature.  No more coffee for you, Fred.


No, Del, over here! A little to your left. No, your left, my right.

Del Rice has been here before, looking a little ... er ... well ... drugged. I didn't mention it in that post, but Del played over three decades, from 1946 to 1961. Over those 17 years, he was a one-time All Star and also caught a no-hitter. He was also in the World Series twice, posting a pretty decent .333 average over 15 at bats. 


It's like an exercise in negative space.

Ty Cline was not Ty Cobb. He was up for 12 years, getting over 300 at bats only once. And two of those seasons were below the Mendoza line. Ty was, however, an All-American at Clemson.

By the way, this Ty is actually a Tyrone.


And here’s a nice picture of the sky.  Oh, wait a minute.  There’s something down there at the bottom.  It looks like a guy of some sort.  Oh hey, it’s Eddie Robinson.  Hi, Eddie!

You already know Eddie Robinson, right?  In addition to his being a baseball lifer, he was also one of the genuine minor stars of the ‘50s.  Over 13 years in the bigs, he hit 20 or more homers four times, cracked 100 RBIs three times, and made the All Star team four times.


More centering issues.  And how did they get the sky to match Tommy’s eyes?

Not everyone knows there’s a lot more to this guy than getting his elbow whittled on.  Would you believe he was in the majors for 26 years?  That he was twelve wins short of 300?  That he came in second for the Cy Young award twice?  That he won 20 three times?  That he was 6-3 with a 2.65 ERA and 1.20 WHIP in the post-season?  Comparable pitchers include Robin Roberts, Fergie Jenkins, Bert Blyleven, Early Wynn, and Don Sutton – all in the Hall.


More spacious skies.  And don’t those skies do a real nice job emphasizing Johnny’s knob-like head?

Johnny Temple was the Reds starting second baseman for most of the ‘50s.  He was a four-time All Star and finished his career with more walks than strikeouts.

Life after baseball was not so kind to Johnny … bankruptcy, alcoholism, fired from a state job for embezzlement, and arrested for grand larceny.  Sounds like he was able to turn things around at the end though.

Some centering issues, plus I really like the way the fence is going right through Joe’s head.  I just keep thinking Steve Martin.

Everyone knows Joe Nuxhall was the youngest player in the majors, at 15.  You might not know, however, that he was a major leaguer for 16 seasons and a Reds announcer for 40!  Talk about a baseball lifer.

See!  I swear, I cannot tell these guys apart.


Sam Jones was famous for inventing the baseball bonnet.  Somehow or other, though, it never quite caught on.

I introduced you to Sam and his eye-popping stats back in one of my ugly posts.  Some other interesting things about him:

  • He was part of the first all African-American battery in AL history
  • He was the first African-American to throw a no-hitter
  • He was traded for both Ralph Kiner and Bill White

Also, what particular atmospheric conditions make the sky turn green?  I do realize he was playing in Detroit when this card was issued, but still ...

* author has this card