Tuesday, December 27, 2016

Final Card: Al Lopez

Here is the final card (#527) for White Sox manager Al Lopez. It looks like this photo was taken during the same session as his 1965 card. He also had a card in the 1953 set as the Indians’ manager, and in the 1961 to 1965 sets as the White Sox' manager.

Lopez was a catcher and played in the minors from 1925 to 1929. He had a 3-game cup of coffee with the Brooklyn Dodgers in 1928, before returning to the minors the following season.

Al was the Dodgers' catcher from 1930-35, and made the All-Star team in 1934. He played for the Boston Braves from 1936-40, and the Pirates from 1940-46, although his last 2 seasons with Pittsburgh were as a backup. Al made his 2nd and last All-Star team in 1941.

He played his last big-league season (1947) with the Indians. Retiring after the '47 season, his 1,918 career games caught was a record that stood until Bob Boone broke it 40 years later.

Lopez was a minor-league manager from 1948-50, also serving as his team's backup catcher in 1948.

He managed the Indians from 1951-56, winning the AL pennant in 1954.

Lopez was also the White Sox manager from 1957 to 1965, and won the AL pennant in 1959. His 2 pennants (’54, ’59) were the only times the Yankees DIDN’T win the AL pennant from 1949-64.

After the '65 season he was kicked upstairs to the front office, but returned as field general after Eddie Stanky's firing during the 1968 season.

Soon after that he became ill, forcing him to miss much of the remainder of the '68 season. He returned as manager at the end of the season, managing a total of 47 games in his 2 stints that year. He began the 1969 season as the team's manager, but failing health forced him to retire after 17 games.

Al was inducted into HOF as a manager in 1977.

He passed away in October 2005 at age 97, five days after the White Sox won the World Series (their first championship in 88 years). Lopez was the last living MLB player from the 1920s.

Monday, December 12, 2016

AL / NL Rookie Stars (#598, 624, 641, 658)

In the 2nd-half of the 1960s, Topps set aside a few Rookie Stars cards in the high-numbered 7th Series where players from different teams were shown on the same card. There were either "AL Rookies", "NL Rookies", or "Major-League Rookies" (if they couldn't find 2 players from the same league).

It has always been my contention (although not having definite information) that these were ad hoc cards, where the subjects were not firmed up until the season already began. Then Topps would see which productive rookies they overlooked in their already-formatted Series 1 to 6. (How else to explain Norm Gigon's inclusion in the 1967 set, while players like Gary Nolan and Don Wilson were nowhere to be found?)

By far, the jewel in this dozen is Rollie Fingers. Pitched in 944 games over 17 seasons, Cy Young and MVP winner, and Hall of Famer.

Bob Floyd?  Played parts of 7 seasons as a backup with the Orioles and Royals.  Even less for Larry Burchart - 29 games with the Indians in 1969, then he was done.

After Fingers, Tom Hall is the only other player here with a decent career.  10 seasons with the Twins/Reds/Mets/Royals.  Most of his 358 games were in relief.

Bill Burbach pitched for the Yankees in 1969 and parts of the next 2 seasons.  I sure hope he wasn't touted as "The Next Whitey Ford". Jim Miles pitched 13 games over parts of 2 seasons with the Senators.

In 1970, the Reds had to decide if Darrel Chaney or Dave Concepcion was going to be their shortstop.  They made the right choice. Chaney was a backup for 7 years in Cincinnati and 4 in Atlanta.

Duffy Dyer's extremely big head reminds me of those costumed marchers in the Mardi Gras parade.  (Or those fools providing between-inning entertainment at Milwaukee Brewers' games.)

Terry Harmon was the Phillies' utility infielder from 1969-77. Harmon is one of only 3 Phillies (with Mike Schmidt and Larry Christensen) to play at least 10 years and only for the Phillies.

Looks like this was almost a "Dodgers Rookies" card! Bobby Darwin was a minor-league pitcher for the Angels, Orioles, and Dodgers from 1962-69. He was converted to an outfielder in 1971 and played for the Twins, Brewers, and Red Sox from 1972-77.

John Miller played 6 games for the Yankees in September 1966, and 23 games for the Dodgers in 1969 (mostly as a pinch-hitter).

Tommy Dean played 12 games for the Dodgers in September 1967, then resurfaced in 1969 as the Padres' shortstop.  He played 2 more seasons as a backup with San Diego.

Saturday, December 3, 2016

Mike Hershberger (#655)

Mike Hershberger was a starting outfielder for the White Sox and Athletics through most of the 1960s. On Opening Day 1968, Mike lost his starting job to Reggie Jackson, and would be a backup for his final 4 seasons.

Hershberger was signed by the White Sox in 1959, and after 3 seasons in the minors was called up to the Sox in September 1961.

In 1962 Mike started 106 games as a rookie, mostly in right field. He shared the starting job there with Floyd Robinson, who was the starter in 1961. (Robinson played mostly left field in ’62, replacing the departed Minnie Minoso.)

In ’63 and ‘64 he was one of the Sox’ top 3 outfielders in terms of starts and playing time, but since he split his time between center and right fields, Baseball-Reference.com shows him as a non-starter.

In January 1965 he was traded to Kansas city in a 3-team, 8-player trade, and was the Athletics’ starting right fielder for the next 3 seasons, rarely playing the other 2 spots in those years.

Reggie Jackson joined the Athletics during the 1967 season, and was installed as the starting right fielder at the start of the 1968 season, relegating Hershberger to spot-start duty for a few dozen games in right and left field.

With Rick Monday and Jackson established in center and right fields, and Rule 5 pickup Tommie Reynolds starting half the games in left field, there was even less playing time for Mike in 1969 than in the previous year.

The following January he was traded to the Brewers (with pitchers Lew Krausse and Ken Sanders, and catcher Phil Roof) for 1st baseman Don Mincher and infielder Ron Clark. Mike lasted only 1 season in Milwaukee, filling the dubious role of 7th outfielder.

He was released after the 1970 season, and hooked on with the White Sox for 1971. He played more in his final season than he had since 1968, starting 25% of the games in center field behind Jay Johnstone.

Hershberger passed away in 2012 at age 72.