Monday, February 25, 2013

Painting 101 (‘60s Version)

Back in the ‘50s, both Topps and Bowman had a couple of years where they painted their cards, rather than just using photographs.

That same technique made its way into the 1960s as well.  It wasn’t used for whole sets, but instead – I would imagine – for players whose pictures they couldn’t find, or showed them in a completely different uniform, or were of particularly poor quality.  Alternatively, these guys could simply have been in the Federal Witness Protection Program.  I don’t know.

So, here you go, more masterpieces from those modern Michelangelos over at the Topps Company, US Sports & Entertainment Division …

Pretty normal.  In fact, this might just be a photo, with some heavy touch up.  A quick Google Images search of “Cookie Rojas,” though, tells me that Cookie never looked this good before in his life.  If you doubt me, just check out these loser specs from a few years down the road: here, here, and here.

I already included a pretty detailed bio of Cookie there.  But did you know his real name was “Octavio”?  Not sure how they got “Cookie” out of that.  I guess “Ockie” just wasn’t cutting it.

Yup, this guy really did look like this.  I’ve seen photographs.  Poor schmuck.

Jose Tartabull was up for nine years and 1,857 at bats.  Interestingly, he hit only two home runs in that period.  His son Danny hit as many in his first ten games in the majors.  Danny was a lot better looking too.  Man, those light-hitting outfielders get all the chicks.

Okay, now we’re getting into a little weirdness.  For some reason, Don has that beatific look I’ve only ever seen before on prayer cards and portraits in The Lives of the Saints.

Don was nowhere near this beatific looking.  In fact, there’s a 1970 card where he looks old and grizzled enough to be easily confused with the manager …

Less than ten years separate these two cards.  How can that be?  A lot must have happened in that time.

Don Wert was a pretty reliable third baseman for the Tigers through most of the ‘60s.  He got into one All Star game and beat out Brooks Robinson to lead the AL in fielding one year.

Don was part of that crazy eight-player trade that sent Denny McLain to D.C.  Don got into 20 games with the sad-sack Senators, hit .050, and promptly retired.  Extensive bio right here.


This guy simply doesn’t look real.  I think they just made him up.  Chuck Schilling, huh?  Have you ever heard of this guy?

Turns out Chuck was Boston’s starting second baseman in 1961, leading the league in plate appearances and  fielding, and coming in third for Rookie of the Year.  Unfortunately, a bad wrist injury took a major toll, and he was out of the bigs in just a couple more years.

Nope, no relation to that other Boston Schilling – Chris or Carl or Knute or whatever his name was.

So, if I told you we were going to paint your portrait instead of just taking your photo, you’d think we might touch things up a little, smooth some of those corners, spiff you up a bit, right?  But, then again, maybe not.

Not too much to say about ol’ Jack, I’m afraid.  Here’s his complete Wikipedia entry:

Jack Patrick Curtis (January 11, 1937 in Rhodhiss, North Carolina) is a former Major League Baseball pitcher who played for three seasons. He played for the Chicago Cubs from 1961 to 1962, the Milwaukee Braves in 1962, and the Cleveland Indians in 1963.

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Monday, February 18, 2013

A Rose By Any Other Name (‘60s Version)

It’s from Shakespeare.  If you want the full quote and explanation, check out my post on whacky monikers from the ‘50s.  Basically, what it means is that baseball players may have some pretty crazy names, but those names don’t seem to have any effect on their performance.

That said, I don’t exactly see any household names here.  Those guys all had names like Ted Williams, or Bob Feller, or Jackie Robinson.  Interestingly, there have actually been studies that tie odd names with poor outcomes – whether affecting grades, popularity, stress levels, mental health, or the ability to hit the curve ball (okay, I’m making that last one up).

Anyway, take it away Faccundo …  Faccundo??


Yup, his real name was Faccundo.  It’s actually not that uncommon in Latin America.  I’m not exactly sure how they got Cuno out of that though.  Facky would be more like it for me. 

Three years, 163 at bats, .202 average, 1 home run.  Pretty much says it all. 

But would you believe that homer came on his first at bat?  It’s true!  I can’t make this stuff up. 


“Laboy” is bad enough.  But would you believe his nickname was “Coco.”

“Hi, Coco.  Trying to find that pink bat?  I just love how it goes with your chapeau.”  No wonder he went with Jose.

In spite of the major award shown here, Coco Laboy was only good for three more cards.  Hitting below the Mendoza line (.199) the year after this one certainly didn’t help much. 

“Bud” certainly beats “Marion Sylvester,” but it’s the last name that really makes this one.  Heck, he could have been “John,” and I still would have included him.

Bud Zipfel was up for two years with the Senators, getting almost 400 at bats total, primarily at third base.

Oh, by the way, the pig on Green Acres?  He was named “Ziffel,” not “Zipfel.”

“Verle,” huh?  I’m guessing he has a twin sister named “LaVerle.”  It’s hard to get any more white trash than that.  And, of course, if your last name is Tiefenthaler, you certainly don’t want to go with something simple like Jim or Jane.

If this card design doesn’t look all that familiar, there’s a good reason.  They’re actually from a guy named Larry Fritsch, who does custom cards.  Usually, he does reprints, but he’s also done some series of his own.  This one is one of the latter, called “One Year Winners.”  Here’s his site.

Verle was up with the Chisox for 12 days in 1964.  Three games, 3 2/3 innings, 6 hits, 7 walks, 1 HR, 9.82 ERA, 3.54 WHIP.  It’s been nice knowin’ ya, Vern … er, Verle.

Okay, when your name is “Horace Guy,” you’re going to want to have a nickname, right?  Something like “Bud,” perhaps.  Probably not “Dooley.”  Especially if your last name is “Womack.” 

I looked all over and could not come up with the story behind this one.  If anybody knows, please contact me.  I’m desperate.


Man, I love those short, sharp monosyllables.  Not sure how they got “Coot” though.  Well, it does beat his given name, Orville.  Can you believe it?  Orville Veal …  What were his parents thinking?

A glove man, Coot Veal finished with a .231 average and only one homer in 611 at-bats.  He was the first batter for the Washington Senators / Texas Rangers franchise.  Incredibly (seeing as we’re talking about the Senators here), he got on with a single and came around to score. 

Would you believe there's another ballplayer named "Cot" Deal?  "Coot" Veal, meet "Cot" Deal.  Coot, Cot.  Cot, Coot.

BTW, there’s a baseball blog out there called "Coot Veal and the Vealtones."

And ain’t it even better when they both start with the same letter? 

Continuing the musical theme, would you believe there’s a band out there, from Montreal, called the Frank Funk All Stars?  I kid you not.  Check it out.  Positively funkadelic!  Or should I say funkadelique!

Can you imagine a name any more Southern that that?  Interestingly, though, Purnal’s a Jersey boy.  Not sure how that came about.

Purnal’s just not the kind of name you hear every day, is it?  A quick peek at Google does give me some others though:

  • Pernell Roberts, an actor on Gunsmoke
  • Purnal Truett, who seems to be quite popular with genealogists for some reason
  • Purnell Swett, who had a high school named after him in Pembroke, NC

Why, if you’re last name is Windhorn, would you name your child anything other than Jim or Bob? 

Not too much on old Gordie out there.  I do have him down for three years in the majors, and six in Japan.  If I’ve got my Katakana and Hiragana correct, I guess over there he would have been Go-ro-dan Win-da-ho-ron.


So, what exactly is a Dalrymple anyway?  Was is a feature of the landscape by which Clay’s ancestors resided?  Perhaps it was a medieval occupation.  Heck, it could have been a descriptive adjective.  “Och, Gareth, thou art such a dalrymple!” 

My guess is it might be how you say “light-hitting catcher” in some ancient Germanic tongue.  Because that pretty much sums up our Clay.  He was a regular starter for the Phils in the early 60s, but I remember him best as backup for Andy Etchebarren and Ellie Hendricks for my beloved Orioles in the late 60s – i.e., when they were really, really good.

Okay, I found something.  According to, Dalrymple is Scottish and is a “habitational name from a place in Ayrshire, named with Gaelic dail ‘field’, ‘meadow’ + an unexplained second element.”  Just like I thought.

Sorry, couldn’t find anything on Schaffernoth out there.  You’re a mystery, Joe.  You and all those other Schaffernoths.  It’s fun to say, though, isn’t it?  Schaffernoth, Schaffernoth, Schaffernoth.

As for Joe’s baseball career, well, there wasn’t too much on that either.  Basically, three years with two teams, a 3-8 record, a 4.58 ERA, and a couple of forgettable cards. 

Oh, almost forgot …  Joe got one start in his career, and couldn’t get out of the 1st.  Kinda sad, huh?  Sort of like Joe’s expression here.

Too bad Joe wasn’t named Sam, or Steve, or Sylvester.  When you’ve got a really goofy last name, you always want to make sure your first name is equally goofy, alliterative, or both. 


And so we wind up with Raymond Roy Ripplemeyer.  I am not making that up.  I swear.

Ripplemeyer was a one-year wonder, getting in 18 games with the Nats, going 1-2 and sporting a hefty 5.49 ERA and 1.63 WHIP.  Au revoir, Ray.

And here’s to Rimp Lanier.  He made it onto a major league roster, but alas, never onto a Topps – or even a One Year Winner – card.

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Monday, February 11, 2013

The Little Guy ('60s Version)

Topps had several card sets where they had two shots of each player.  Typically, there was a large close-up and a smaller full figure version, often in black and white.  Think of it as two for the price of one.

In the ‘50s, they included these mini-me’s for 1954, 1955, and 1956.  In the ‘60s, it was 1960 and 1963.  Both of those years relied heavily on cut and paste.  By the way, back then, that particular term meant an X-Acto knife and a tub of Elmer’s, not Ctrl-C and Ctrl-V.

So, take it away, Verne Troyer and friends …

I don’t know.  I hope he’s turning the double play.  Otherwise, Bob looks like he’s pretending to ride a pony.  Either that or he’s seriously double-jointed.

Bob Aspromonte was the regular 3rd baseman for the early Houston teams.  Though not exactly known for his big stick, Bob once imitated the Babe and hit a home run (actually, several homers) for a sick kid in the hospital.  Great story


Ted throws like a girl, Ted throws like a girl …

Ted Abernathy was a submarining reliever who twice led his league in saves.   Overall, he finished with 148 saves in 14 years, getting in almost 700 games.

He’s quite a looker too, isn’t he?  Click here if you think you can stand some more.


Now, that’s imaginative.  Couldn’t they at least have blown up and cropped the photo for a head shot on the right panel?  Also, real nice cropping job on the figure to the left.  You didn’t need that left leg now, did ya, big fella?

Mike Cuellar is best known as a member of those incredible pitching staffs that helped Baltimore look so good in the ‘60s and ‘70s.  He was one of their four 20-game winners in 1971, along with McNally, Palmer, and Dobson.  Overall, his career as an O included four 20-win seasons and one Cy Young Award.

Here's another look at Mike.


Now exactly sure what Hal’s doing here.  It could be his follow through.  Alternatively, the photographer could have caught him lurching drunkenly along outside some bar somewhere after the game.  Or perhaps he’s pretending he’s Quasimodo.  Really hard to tell.

Hal Woodeshick summed up his journeyman career with a great quote: “People talk about pressure now, but pressure was driving a wife and child across the country with no contract, a bad back, and not knowing whether you're going to have a job next year.”

Poor Bob.  Looks like they got him again.  This time, though, seems like the problem was with the X-Acto knife.  Whoa! Sorry about the left side of your face, dude.

More Bob right here.

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Monday, February 4, 2013

C'mon Get Happy!

The 1960s were a fun decade.  Hee Haw was on the tube, It’s a Mad, Mad World was at the local movie theatre, and Buddy Hackett was wowing them in Vegas.  Americans were also rioting in the street, drugs and crime were rampant, assassinations were a yearly event, and Charles Manson was on the loose.  Good times, good times. 

And, you know, isn’t that what we really need today?  Enough of this recession, partisan division, and long, slow slide into post-imperial ineffectuality.  Let’s get off our duff, America!  As the Partridge Family once implored, “C’mon get happy!”


Nick Willhite had a pretty uneventful career.  He was out of baseball by age 26, having compiled a major league record of 6-12 with an ERA nearing 5.00. 

Life after baseball was not so happy for Nick.  He divorced three times and eventually ended up on the streets with multiple addictions.  Thankfully, he finally got the treatment he needed – courtesy of MLB’s Baseball Assistance Team (BAT – get it?) – and was able to turn his life around.  Here’s the complete story right here.


Jim Dickson was up for four years with three teams.  He finished with a 5-3 record, 4.36 ERA, and 1.49 WHIP.  His final stats would have been a lot worse except for one year where he got in 68 games and had a 3.47 ERA and 1.34 WHIP.  I’m afraid that’s about all I can find on him, unfortunately.  It does look like he was having a good time though.


“Hee hee hee.  Here comes my fastball.”

You’ve met Dave Wickersham before, where I made fun of his skin.  Dave is one of four players who played for both the Kansas City Athletics and Kansas City Royals.


“So, whaddya think of that changeup?  Did you like it?  Huh, huh?”

Pat Jarvis was an important starter for the Braves in the late ‘60s, winning 16 games for them twice.  He also just so happened to be Nolan Ryan’s first strikeout victim as well as the pitcher of record for Willie Mays’ 600th homer and Ernie Banks’ 500th.  I don’t know …  He seems kinda desperate to get into the record books, if you ask me.

Hope you don't mind my sneaking in this beaut from the '70s. 

Tom Burgmeier was a major-league reliever for 17 years, finishing with just over 100 saves. He was a one-time All Star, in 1980. More than you'd ever possibly want to know about Tom you'll find right here.  Some of the fascinating information we learned from there include:

  • Tom's dad was an  electrician for the Cold Spring Power and Light Company
  • Tom was a member of the Monogram Club in high school
  • He was the first major leaguer from central Minnesota since Rip Repulski
  • Sporting News writer Bob Fowler named Tom and fellow Twins reliever Bill Campbell the top "Bicentennial bullpen" for 1976 


Bob was so proud of his new teeth.

Bob Tillman was a decent catcher, getting in over 2000 at-bats in nine years.  He had 79 homers overall, but batted only .232. 

Some career highlights include hitting a homer in his first official at-bat and catching two no-hitters.  Incredibly detailed bio right here.

With a last name like that, you’re kinda cursed for life, aren’t ya?

A Pittsburgh native, Bob Purkey was drafted by the Pirates, but made a name for himself after getting traded to the Reds. He went 23-6 for them one year and was a three-time All-Star.  After he retired, he returned to the ‘Burgh to sell insurance and do color commentary for the Bucs on KDKA.

Another incredibly detailed bio.  Thank you, SABR.

Oh oh, looks like Uncle Donnie got into the liquor cabinet again. 

Now, I have no idea if Don ever touched a drop.  Somehow or other, though, Don managed to make every card interesting.  Here, for example, he is with eyes closed.  You’ll be seeing more of him, I guarantee it.


I'd go so far as to say that Gus has passed beyond happy and is now approaching completely insane.

You probably already know that Gus was the patriarch of the Boone family. Yup, he was Buddy's dad and David's grandpappy. 

He was a pretty decent player himself. A four-time All Star, he finished his 15-year career with over 1700 games, 200 homers, 900 RBIs, and a .281 average.

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