Wednesday, July 31, 2019

You're in the Army now ('57T anomolies)

At the bottom of my last post which highlighted the cards I received from Joe Shlabotnik, I said I had held one back because of something interesting I found. The card in question is this one, a 1957T Al Aber. Aber was a 19-year pro at this point having broken in with the Indians' organization in 1945 as a 17-year-old.

After 5+ seasons in the minors, a one-game (complete game win) token appearance in 1950, a stint in the military, and a few more minor league seasons, Aber made the bigs as a regular in 1953. He was traded to the Tigers that June and was a spot starter/reliever for a couple of seasons before becoming a bullpen guy for good. This 1957 Topps card with him at Yankee Stadium represents his final big league season.

It's a pretty standard card for this set, posed action shot with Aber in the old Tigers' road jersey they wore for decades until the went to the plainer version about 1960. But you flip the card over and...

...check out the back of Aber's card. In the stat section his years spent serving Uncle Sam are duly noted but the entry says In U.S. Army.

I have never noticed that previously from Topps. The cards from the 50s (1957 was the first to feature year-by-year career stats) through the 60s that made mention of military time always had In Military Service. I'd never noticed a specific branch mentioned.

I grabbed a handful of  '57s and flipped through them hoping to see if Aber's card was the norm. Did Topps list the branch for every player with a military stretch? I was hoping to find someone who had served In U. S. Navy or maybe the U. S. Marines. I hit the jackpot.

First of all, there are plenty of cards on which a player is credited with a generic In Military Service with Whitey Ford, Preston Ward, and Vern Law being among them.

Clicking the card backs make the service lines easier to see.

And a few cards got minor variations...

Nellie Fox and Tommy Byrne (among others) got the full In United States Military Service treatment. Al Cicotte was graced with two separate notations. I need to look into his story.

Ron Northey had a military year and a DL year. (OK, I'm digging here, I admit)

Sal Maglie had a couple of years shaved out of his stats for a completely different reason, and I love that Topps did this:

They repeated this on his 1959 card, btw.

And then I found what I was looking for...a few more Army vets! Jim Lemon had a season line listed just as Aber had...In U.S. Army. So it wasn't a one-time thing.

But there was also a variation of that. Warren Spahn and Early Wynn, a pair of Hall of Fame pitchers, got their army service year(s) spelled out.

Eddie Miksis got an In U.S. Navy shoutout....

Further digging yielded more gems:

Bob Kennedy in the Marine Corps... (and note the weirdly aligned second line of text in his bio. Something isn't right)

Hank Sauer's card shows his time in the U. S Coast Guard...

But the best of the bunch was this one:

Yup, Teddy Ballgame gets his WWII service credited as being In U. S. Naval Aviation. How cool is that? Interestingly there is no notation for his Korean War service time due to his actually getting some playing time at the beginning of 1952 and late in 1953.

That covers the different notations among the cards I have as I build the '57 set. As I mentioned this is the first set that had full career yearly stats. They went away in 1958 and returned in 1959. A quick flip thru my '59 binder shows only the standard In Military Service, no branch-specific credits.

Once I finish off the set I'll go thru and do a complete count. I love these little card 'quirks'.

Monday, July 29, 2019


Did the title throw you? This is NOT about politics, it's about cards from Joe Shlabotnik. Nice ones, too.

But there is a president involved. JFK led off the thick manila envelope that arrived from Virginia this week. He appeared on a Topps and an Upper Deck card, both new to me. My presidential binder is going to have to be upgraded to a 4-inch model soon.

In this Topps Opening Day card, JFK is tossing out the first ball, not at an Opening Day but at the '62 All-Star game as LBJ watches.

Here is the UD from their 2012 Goodwin Champions set. These are really, really well-done cards.

Also in the package from the same set was this addition to my actress/actor stash, the beautiful Carole Lombard.

She was the queen of the 'screwball' comedy craze of the 1930s and was reportedly the highest-paid star in Hollywood. She was killed in a plane crash outside Las Vegas in 1942 while returning from an appearance to promote war bonds. She was 33 years old.

Of course, Joe included some Orioles cards, new to me, of players known and obscure. I like the design of this '94 UD Miggy Tejada more than anything being produced these days. But, then again, I'm an old fart and prefer the less flashy designs.

I grouped these Bowman/Topps/Paninis together but the scan came out smaller than I thought it would. If you can't tell there are a couple of Trey Mancini cards in there. I'm accumulating a lot of his cardboard. Odds are he gets dealt to a contender this week.

This GQ Palmer looks very familiar but I didn't see it in my quick look thru the binder where it should be so maybe it's new to me.

But the stars of the bunch were these terrific '57s! Joe knocked close to a dozen off my needs list.

Don Kaiser is the first of what is a Chicago-heavy group of cards from Joe. He was 6-15 over parts of three seasons with the Cubs and '57 was his last in the majors.

When I was a kid I often heard the 'Moooose' call at Yankee Stadium. I just love this card. Nice to get it as a gift so I can avoid paying the 'Yankee tax'.

He has a Chicago connection as he was a native of there. If you think 'deep dive' stats are a new thing, check out the blurb on the back of Moose's card.

Harry 'I'm NOT the guy from Night Court' Anderson in Connie Mack Stadium. '57 was his rookie year and he got some scattered MVP votes after hitting at a .268 clip.

Dick Donovan had a fine season in 1957 and finished second in the Cy Young voting to Warren Spahn. OK, Spahn got 15 of 16 votes and Donovan got the other one, but still.

Love this Felix Mantilla card shot in Ebbets Field.

Willard Nixon practicing his look to first. He was in his eighth of nine seasons in the bigs, all with the Red Sox. 

Ron Negray had fought his way up the steep Dodgers minor league system and then got dealt to the Phils. After a couple of years there ('55-'56) he was traded back to the Bums and was again in their system when this card was being pulled from packs.

Ray Jablonski looks and sounds like a tough Chicago dude. He also looks like a guy painted into a Cubs uni after being pictured as a Redleg with whom he'd spent the previous two seasons The thing is, he never played for the Cubs as they traded him to the Giants a day or two prior to Opening Day in '57.

Interestingly, his Baseball Reference thumbnail photo shows him in a Cubs cap.

Showing the back of his card here because I love the backs in this set.

Speaking of the Cubs...doesn't Jim King look like dozens of other players from the 50s? He also was on another team for the '57 season. The Cubs had dealt him to the Cardinals during the first week of the season. They had taken him from St. Louis in the Rule 5 draft two years prior.

And then there's Dixie Howell. He had begun his pro career in 1938 in the Cleveland organization and here we are, 19 years later,  and he's in his fifth big league season. He had done a LOT of pitching in the minors. He returned to the Sox in 1958 but saw action in only one game and spent that year and the next back in the minors. At the age of 40, in the Sox spring camp in March of 1960, he suffered a heart attack and passed at 40 years old.

There was another card in the bunch from Joe, a common, but one with an interesting quirk that I thought would make a good stand-alone post. That's coming soon.

Again, thanks Joe for a great envelope full of Orioles and '57 set chase cards. It's a much appreciated boost at a time I was shoving the hobby towards the back burner.