Friday, August 21, 2015

1964 Topps Reds Rookie Stars: Sammy Ellis, Mel Queen

This 1964 Rookie Stars card was not Sammy Ellis's first card. He was signed as a free agent in 1961 by the Reds and made his first MLB start in early 1962.  After a shaky start he was sent down to the minors only to be called up again that September. With a 2-2 record, Topps included him in the 1963 set. He shared a card with Reds catcher Jesse Gonder and Phillies Pitchers Ray Culp and John Boozer. As luck would have it, he then spent the entire 1963 season in the minors.
When he returned to the Reds in 1964 he went 10-3 with 14 saves and even got a few MVP votes. In 1965 he was selected to the All Star team and went 22-10 for the season. In the 1966 and 1967 seasons he led the NL in earned runs. In 1968 he was dealt to the Angels, then in 1969 to the White Sox where his big league journey ended.

Despite only 7 Major League seasons, Ellis was well represented on cardboard. In addition to his 2 rookie cards, he had cards on the Reds in 1965-67 then on the Angels in 1968 and '69. For his Card That Never Was I made a 1970 Topps card with him on his final team, the Chicago White Sox.


Mel Queen began his Major League career in 1964 as an outfielder for the Reds. His Father was a pitcher for the Yankees and Pirates from 1942-1952. After struggling to get playing time on the big league roster and spending most of the 1965 season in the minors, he converted to pitching. In 1966 he played 32 games in the outfield and pitched 7 innings, all in relief. His 1967 Topps card had his position listed as Pitcher/Outfielder.
By 1967 he was a full time pitcher. He went 14-8 with a 2.76 ERA.  In 1968 his shoulder injury limited his playing time and in 1969 he spent most of the season in the minors. After the 1969 season he was bought by the California Angels and operated mainly out of the bullpen. He would still get the opportunity to pinch hit every now and then, even after being dealt to the Angels.In all Queen spent parts of 9 seasons in the Majors, compiling a 3.14 ERA and a .179 batting average. 

After his playing days were over, Queen worked as a pitching coach in several different organization, both major and minor. He even served as interim manager of the Blue Jay for the final 5 games of the 1997 season after Cito Gaston was fired . 

I noticed a couple of gaps when looking at Mel Queen's baseball cards. He had Topps cards from 1964-1972 but was missing in the 1965 and 1970 sets. For his Card That Never Was, I made this 1970 Topps card showing him in his first season in California.


I rate this card a solid 4. Set filler. Even though it was his second rookie card, Ellis had a good year on the mound in 1964. And while Queen's year was not as good, it was interesting to see him listed as an outfielder even though he spent most of his career pitching and even went on to be a pitching coach.

Thursday, August 13, 2015

1967 Topps Yankees Rookie Stars: Stan Bahnsen, Bobby Murcer

It had to happen sooner or later. Finally a rookie card with 2 actual stars on it. Oddly, neither of these "1967 Rookie Stars" played a single out in the Major Leagues in 1967, but for different reasons. Additionally, each player appeared separately on another Rookie Stars card.


 For Stan Bahnsen, it was his first Topps Rookie Stars card.  In 1966 he had a 10-7 record with 151 strikeouts in 170 innings for the Toledo Mud Hens. That was good enough to earn him a September call-up. In his first outing he pitched 2 innings in relief and earned the save. In his next outing he got the start and the complete game win. Despite the fast start, he would spend the entire 1967 season back in the minors.

He would appear on another rookie stars card (using the exact same picture) again in 1968 along with catcher Frank Fernandez. In 1968 he went 17-10 and won the AL Rookie of the Year award. He would go in to pitch in 16 MLB seasons with the Yankees, White Sox, A's, Expos, Angels and Phillies.
I had already created 3 Cards That Never Were for Bahnsen on my other blog. You can see them here, here and here. One of my running themes was to create a Rookie if the Year card similar to the 1975 MVP cards. That usually required me to create an individual rookie card for the players. I would usually follow up with a Card That Never Was from later in their career. For Bahnsen, this was exactly the case. I created a solo card for him from 1968. 

I then paired it with a solo card I created for the NL Rookie of the Year, Johnny Bench in a 1975 ROY card.

I created this 1982 Topps card of him on his final MLB team, the Philadelphia Phillies. Bahnsen pitched in only 13.1 innings for the Phillies, all in relief and never factored in a decision.


The other rookie on this card, Bobby Murcer also appeared on Topps Rookie Stars cards in 2 consecutive years. For Murcer the 1967 was his second. He originally appeared on this 1966 Topps card with Dooley Womack. Murcer was a teenage bonus baby signed by the same scout that recruited fellow Oklahoman, Mickey Mantle. He was called up in lat 1965 and appeared to be the Yankees future shortstop with Tony Kubek retiring at the end of the 1965 season. Instead he spent most of 1966 in the minors. 

In 1967 and 1968 Murcer reported for duty in the US Army. He miss both seasons in their entirety. When he returned in 1969, the Yankees made him an outfielder, drawing more comparisons to Mantle. Murcer thrived in the outfield, earning All Star appearances from 1971-1975 and winning a Gold Glove in 1972. After the 1974 season he was traded to San Francisco for Bobby Bonds. He spent 2 seasons with the Giants before being traded to the Cubs for the reigning batting champion Bill Madlock. In 1979 he returned to the Yankees where he retired in 1983. 

Like Bahnsen, Murcer was part of an ongoing them on my other blog and I already had Cards That Never Were made for him here and here. These were both All Star cards from the years when Topps didn't include them in the set. 

Here is one from the 1972 All Star Cards That Never Were. He shared centerfield (and this card) with the immortal Willie Mays in the 1971 All Star Game.

This one is from the 1973 Topps All Star Cards That Never Were.  In 1972 Murcer made his 2nd of 4 consecutive All Star starts.


Despite the fact that neither of these "1967 Rookie Stars" played at all during the 1967 season and they both appeared on other rookie cards, I have to give this card a 7. It is certainly Binder Worthy.

Friday, August 7, 2015

1963 Topps Rookie Stars: Rogelio Alvarez, Dave Roberts, Bob Saverine, Tommy Harper


In 1963, Rogelio Alvarez was a recent acquisition of the Washington Senators and was expected to be the everyday first baseman. Unfortunately, Alvarez had returned to his home in Cuba during the off season. With tensions between the US and Cuba at their peak, Alvarez was unable to obtain an exit visa from Cuba, A process that had begun in February, took until May when a plea was made directly to Fidel Castro. During that time the Senators sent Alvarez transportation funds 3 different times which somehow "disappeared" in Cuba. The Senators, having traded away their 1962 first baseman Harry Bright for the rookie prospect, traded for Tigers back up first bagger, Bobo Osborne

Rogelio Alvarez finally made it to the US in mid-May. Although he was expected to be the everyday first baseman for the Senators, he was returned to the Reds organization. He played until 1973 in the minors never making it back up to the big leagues.

Alvarez is often cited as the fist Cuban defector in baseball but his only trips to the big leagues came before his "defection". In honor of his first call up in 1960, I created this 1960 Topps Card That Never Was.


When this card was made, Dave Roberts was already a 10 year minor league veteran. In 1962 he hit .322 with 15 homers for the AAA Oklahoma City 89ers. He also hit .245 for the Colts in 16 games as a September call-up. He played his entire 1963 season back down in the minors before getting another chance with the Colts in 1964 then again with the Pirates in 1966. He finally achieved success in Japan. He averaged .275 from 1967-1973. He hit 40 homers in 1968 and over 20 homers 5 of his 7 seasons there. He retired at the age of 40.

His only Topps cards were this rookie card and a 1966 card of him on the Pirates. For his Card That Never Was, I created this 1964 card for him. It was the only season that he spent the majority in the Majors.


Bob Saverine made his MLB debut as a pinch runner in 1959. He scored the only run for the Orioles in a 6-1 loss to the White Sox. He was the youngest player in the AL that season at 18 years old and he wouldn't be called up again until 1962. After playing for the O's from 1962-1964 he was dealt to Houston for Don Larsen. He spent the entire 1965 season in the minors and was picked up by the Senators in 1966 rule 5 draft. He saw most of his action in Washington in 1966 and 1967 as a utility man. 

In 1966 he went 0-12 in a double header against his former teammates as the Senators lost 2 close ones to the Orioles. Losing 5-6 in 14 innings in game 1 then losing 7-8 in game 2. For his Card That Never Was, I made a 1965 traded card of Bob and Don Larsen. This is actually a design that I've been playing around with for a while and I wanted an excuse to use it.


Tommy Harper was a well traveled MLB player. He came up with Cincinnati in 1962. Then trough trades, expansion drafts, franchise relocations, purchases and free agency move, landed in Cleveland, Seattle, Milwaukee, Boston, California, Oakland and Baltimore. He was the first batter ever for both the Pilots and the Brewers. He was the Brewers first representative in an All Star game.  He led the AL in stolen bases for the Pilots in 1969 and the Red Sox in 1973.

I had already created 2 Cards That Never Were for my other blog here and here, The first is an All Star card commemorating his appearance in the 1970 All Star game as a pinch runner.

The second is also a Card That Never Was from 1970. This one is a stolen base leaders card. Topps didn't make leader cards for stolen bases until 1973.


Since my friend Warren said I'm a tough grader, I'm gonna go a little easier on this one. Tommy Harper alone makes this card worth it for me. But he is the only legit All Star on the card. The card does include Rogelio Alvaraz, the first MLB player to defect from Cuba and who's career was derailed due to political unrest. It also includes Dave L. Roberts who never made it in the US but was a star in Japan. This might be a swing too far in the other direction, but I'd put it in my binder. I give it a 7 - Binder Worthy.