Tuesday, March 31, 2015

1959 Topps Joe Shipley

After just posting a 4-player rookie card, the random number generator took it easy on me and gave me a single player rookie card from 1959.

Joe Shipley pitched 39.1 innings for the Giants from 1958-1960 but logged nearly 1500 innings as a minor leaguer from 1953-1965. In 1963 the White Sox took another chance on Shipley at the age of 28. He appeared in 3 games gave up 3 runs and logged his only MLB decision. It was a loss. 

Since I could only find one photo of Shipley in a Sox uniform I had to go with the 1963 Fleer format for his Card That Never Was.

Like most of the 1959 Topps Rookie Stars, Shipley never lived up to expectations. So I've graded his Rookie Card a 2, "Good For Flipping".

Thursday, March 26, 2015

1963 Topps Rookie Stars: Bill Faul, Ron Hunt, Bob Lipski, Al Moran

Here is another randomly selected 4 player rookie card. These always make for nice, long posts. This one is from 1963 and includes 2 players from the Mets.

The first player is Tigers pitcher Bill Faul. Bill  was named to the Baseball Digest All-Flake team in 1985. He was rumored to have bitten the heads off live parakeets and eaten toads to put some "hop" into his pitches. He wore the number 13 for the Tigers and the Cubs and hypnotized himself before games. Don't just take my word for it.  Look at the cartoon from the back of his 1966 Topps card. 

Aside from alleged flakery, Bill was an All-American pitcher in college in 1961. He was drafted by the Tigers in 1962 and made his first appearance on the Big-League club that year. In 1963 he went 5-6, and spent most of 1964 in the minors before being sold to the Cubs. Although he had Topps cards in 1964 and 1966, he was skipped over in 1965. So here is a 1965 Topps Bill Faul Card That Never Was: 


Ron Hunt was the Rookie of the Year runner up to Pete Rose in 1963. In all fairness, Rose got 85% of the vote to Hunt's 10%. But Hunt put up decent numbers his rookie year and in 1964 was the starting 2nd baseman in the All Star game. Hunt is best known for his willingness to take one for the team. He led the league in Hit-By-Pitches 7 consecutive years. In 1971 he was hit 50 times, just 1 shy of Hughie Jennings all-time record while playing for the Baltimore Orioles in 1896. 

Ron hunt played for the Mets, Dodgers, Giants, Expos and Cardinals from 1963-1974. Topps managed to include him in every set, so I had to stretch things a bit for his Card That Never Was. Hunt was claimed off waivers from the Expos by the Cards in September of 1974. Obviously Topps would not have made 1974 Traded card for a September transaction. But I would. Topps did make a 1975 card of Hunt in a Cardinals uniform, but he retired during spring training when St. Louis wanted to cut his pay.


Bob Lipski's entire MLB career consisted of 2 innings and 1 at-bat. He struck out. He was signed by the Indians as part of a rule 5 draft in 1963. Since he wasn't used he had to be returned to the Phillies. Even though he was quite literally one and done, I created a second rookie card for him for his Card That Never Was. 

 I teamed him up with a player who made his MLB debut in 1964 and a childhood favorite of mine. Walt "No Neck" Williams. I chose "No Neck" for two reasons. First, that sweet Colt .45's uni and second the great nickname. Harry Caray once refered to the outfield of Walt Williams, Pat Kelly and Carlos May as "No Neck, No Arm and No Thumb." Carlos May had his thumb blown of as an Marine Reserve.


Another Mets middle-infielder, Al Moran also graces this card. Moran was "the player to be named later" in the 1962 trade that sent the Red Sox's first black player, Pumpsie Green, to the Mets for Felix Mantilla.  In his rookie year, Moran hit .193 for the Mets as their primary shortstop. In 1964 he was replaced by Roy McMillan, a former gold glover who was 9 years older and batted a mere .211. Moran played only 16 games for the Mets in 1964 then spent the next 2 years in the minors.

Al Moran's entire two-year MLB career is fully documented by Topps with cards of him in both the 1963 and 1964 sets. So for his Card That Never Was, I created a 1963 Fleer card of him.

And now to grade the card.  Bob Lipski never even had a full "cup of coffee" in the Majors and Al Moran batted under the Mendoza Line in his only full season. But Bill Faul was a bonus-baby back in the day and was immortalized in Baseball Digest as a member of the "All-Flake Team". And then there is Ron Hunt. The first Met to start in an All Star Game and is still a fan favorite in NY. The fact that there are 2 Mets from their 2nd year in existence including a genuine All Star and I have to grade it a 5: "Trade Bait". And I'm looking at you, Warren.

Thursday, March 19, 2015

1962 Topps Howie Koplitz

Howie Koplitz looks every bit the part of the Postal Clerk he would become after blowing out his shoulder in 1966.  But in 1962 expectations were high. You may have noticed the pinstripes on his "Tigers" jersey and the unusually large Old English "D" on his cap. That is because it is actually a Birmingham Barons jersey.

This is a picture of him after throwing a No-Hitter for the Barons in 1961. He had an incredible season going 23-3 with a 2.11 ERA, 166 K's and 18 complete games. He was the MVP of the Southern Association and The Sporting News Minor League Player of the Year. When the Tigers called him up late in 1961 he won 2 games with an ERA of 2.25. 

While researching Koplitz, I came accross this on MiLB.com:

"Heart is what Koplitz has got," Birminham Manager Frank Skaff told The Morgantown Post after the no-hitter. "He hit a popup to short at one point. He knew he had a no-hitter going with a seven-run lead. He was tired because it was very hot. How many guys would have run the ball out? But he did. He ran like a champion and he made it to second when the ball fell out of the shortstop's hand."

In 1962 he pitched in only 10 games for the Tigers but still went 3-0. In 1963 the Tigers sent him back down to the minors where he was picked up by the Senators in the Rule 5 draft. He spent 1964-66 in Washington until his career-ending injury. He then spent another 38 years with the Post Office.

In addition to his rookie card, Koplitz had Topps cards in 1963, 1964 and 1966. But was skipped over in 1965 which turned out to be the MLB season where he saw the most action, pitching 33 of his 54 big league games. So here is his missing 1965 Topps Card That Never Was:

And of course we still need to grade that rookie card. This is a tough one, I want to give a higher grade based on his 1961 season. But the fact is, he never achieved that potential. Add to that the airbrushed "D" on the cap plus a pinstriped "Tigers" uni and the grade drops from a 4, "set filler", to a 3, "hide it in a box".

Thursday, March 12, 2015

1974 Topps Rookie Pitchers: Wayne Garland, Fred Holdsworth, Mark Littell, Dick Pole

For the first time the random number generator has picked a 4 player card for me. Specifically this 1974 Topps Rookie Pitchers card, so this will be a lengthy post.

Wayne Garland went 5-5 in 20 starts in 1974 but that was still not enough for Topps to give him a card in 1975. In 1976 he was back in good graces with Topps. He got his own card and 20 wins and even a Cy Young award vote (just one). After the 1976 season, he got 3 things: a nice big free agent contract with the Indians, a Sporting News cover story, and a sweet fro:

He promptly lost 19 games in 1977 to lead the league in futility. Despite his fat contract, he never had another winning season and retired in 1981. For his Card That Never Was, here is his missing 1975 Topps card:

Fred Holdsworth pitched in only 8 games for the Tigers in 1974. He lost all 3 of his decisions. This was enough for Topps to grant him a card in the 1975 set. He spent the entire 1975 season in the minors and was traded mid-season to the Orioles. In 1976 Topps gave up on him but the Orioles didn't. He was 4-1 with 2 saves in relief and was back on cardboard in 1977. He continued to bounce between the majors and minors until 1981. Overall he was 7-10 in parts of 7 Major League seasons with a 4.40 ERA. Here is his missing card from the 1976 Topps set:

Despite going 1-3 in 8 games (or perhaps because of it) in 1973, Mark Littell didn't pitch a single inning at the big league level in 1974. He would come up again for the Royals in 1975 and have a similar 1-2 record in 7 games and Topps would again feature him on a rookie card in 1976:

1976 would be his career year, coming out of the bullpen with 8 wins and 16 saves. He also garnered a few MVP votes. He would go on to have a respectable career as a solid relief pitcher for the Royals and Cardinals. He went 32-31 with 56 saves over 9 seasons. But it was his post-career that I found interesting while researching him. First I found this card of questionable judgement from 1990:

Apparently Swell has a fairly liberal definition of "Great".

Mark Littell is also a renown inventor.  He invented and sells the Nutty Buddy. No, not the cookies, but rather a high-tech personal protective device for your "boys".  It comes in 5 sizes (and I am not joking): the hammer, the boss, the hog, the trophy, and mongo!

Rather than fill in a missing 1975 card between his 2 rookie cards, I made a 1978 Hostess card depicting him on the Cardinals. His 1978 Topps card still had him on the Royals. He was traded in December of 1977 for the "Mad Hungarian", Al Hrabosky.

On the heels of  Littell's Nutty Buddy, I am doing my best to stifle my inner 9-year-old's snickers at the name of the next guy.  In 1974 Dick Pole was 1-1 with a save in 12 games. From 1973-76 he pitched for the Red Sox compiling a record of 14-14. He was picked up by the Seattle Mariners in the expansion draft and was 11-23 over the 1977 and 1978 seasons. He was released by the Mariners in the spring of 1979.  

But it was his career as a coach that was more impressive. In 1983 he began as a minor league coach for the Cubs. Greg Maddux credits Dick Pole with helping him develop his style. He spent time as a pitching coach with the Cubs, Reds, Giants, Expos, Indians, Red Sox and Angels. Here is a Card That Never Was of him on his second tour of duty with the Cubs in 2003:

And now for the important part. The 4 pitchers on this card were a combined 6-9 with 1 save in 1974. Not a single one of them ever made an All Star team, but they all had serviceable careers. A couple had even better careers after their playing days were over. Overall not a great card but still it gets my highest grade yet.