Thursday, December 6, 2012

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Tuesday, September 18, 2012

My Archie Manning custom was on ESPN

As an Ole Miss fan, there were few highlights on Saturday night's telecast of the Texas-Mississippi game on ESPN.

I saw some encouraging moments from Jeff Scott and transfer quarterback Bo Wallace (could there BE a better name for an SEC quarterback?), but overall the 66-31 beating the 'Horns put on Ole Miss was painful t watch.

There was a personal highlight for me, however, when my 1955 Topps All-American style Archie Manning custom card was shown -- twice!

Luckily I had recorded the game because I had to pick my wife up from the airport. At 33 minutes into the game, in a cutaway before a commercial break, I caught a glimpse of something familiar. I had to rewind to be sure my eyes weren't playing tricks on me.

Sure enough; there was my Archie Manning custom on the screen.

It came on again at 2:33 into the game, in a little longer segment about Manning. The corner of my Eli Manning custom card was also visible on the screen. 

If you go back to my blog posting of just about a year ago, on Sept. 25, 2011, you can find the story about how my four Ole Miss customs came to be on display in Hollingsworth-Manning Hall on the campus.

It was a real thrill to see my work on national television.

In that same 2:33-in segment, a photo of Archie Manning in an Ole Miss baseball uniform was shown. I'd love to get a copy of that photo to create some sort of custom of Archie Manning as a baseball player.

As the on-air commentators did a couple of times towards the end of the game, I have to mention the class shown by Texas coach Mack Brown in not running up the score on their last drive. As bad as the loss was, having an opponent score 70+ points would have been even worse.

Sunday, September 16, 2012

Boys of summer?

When I left the employ of Krause/F+W publications in May, 2006, I arranged to buy about a million sportscards that had accumulated in the company's warehouse.
These were mostly cards that had been sent to our sports collectors' periodicals (SCD, Tuff Stuff, Baseball Cards/Sports Cards, et al.) by the card companies for product reviews, cataloging, etc.

The vast majority of the cards were from the 1990s.

As I sorted through these cards, a couple of themes caught my attention, and I thought it might be fun to see how many cards I could find that fit that theme. I limited my searching to baseball cards, though I imagine the same, or similar, themes could have been found among the football, basketball and hockey cards. 

One theme that I noticed was cards of players who were dressed for cold weather.  Baseball is largely thought of as a summer game, but in the early days of the season and in the postseason in northern climes, the weather can be awfully chilly.  

By the mid-1990s the proliferation of card companies, and the proliferation of card sets from each of them, flooded collectors with new cards. At the peak of (over)production, there were at least 20,000 new baseball cards being produced each year.

Most of these cards used at least two, and sometimes three, photos on each player's card. This created unprecedented demand for player photos . . . portraits, candids and game-action. Today, with far fewer cards, the need for photos is nowhere near as acute, so photos such as these are seldom seen on cards from the late-1990s to date.

I came up with about 40 cards that fit the cold-weather theme; there are probably more. Putting together a collection like this proves that the card hobby can still be fun, and isn't exclusively the province of superstars, autographs, game-used inserts and 1/1s. 

Friday, September 14, 2012

Pretty Pictures: The unserious side of baseball

Continuing with my periodical presentation of vintage photos amassed over 30+ years in the sportscard publishing world is this pair of photos of baseball players cutting up for the camera.

In today's world of professional baseball, the players are evidently too cool for such antics.

The first photo is undated, but based on the caption most likely dated to 1949. 

Joe Migon shot the photo for International News Soundphoto. The caption on the back pretty much says it all . . . 

You just can't hardly get rookies like this no more
Miami, Fla . . . The prize rookie of the season showed up today when Jimmy Durante reported to the Dodger training camp. Here the 'Snozz' looks as if he's trying to convince catcher Roy Campanella, left, and pitcher Don Newcombe that 'Dis baseball playin' is a serious business.' Their acquisition of Durante-type noses doesn't help matters, however.

Back then, it seems making fun of the proboscisally-enhanced wasn't a matter for the political correctness police.

The second photo is also undated, but appears to be a 1964 shot.

A newspaper clipping that accompanies it reads . . . 

BASEBALL'S BEATLES--There may be only three, but Tracy Stallard, right, now with the St. Louis Cardinals; Phil Linz, center, of the New York Yankees, and Jim Bouton of the Yankees manage to make as much noise as the four Beatles. And they sound almost as good, too.

Wednesday, September 12, 2012

Phillies' pioneer John Kennedy now has a card

It's not surprising that a guy whose entire major league career comprised five games in 1957 never had a Topps baseball card.

What is surprising is that so many collectors clamor for such a memento.

The cup-of-coffee major leaguer is John Kennedy, the first black man to play for the Philadelphia Phillies, the last National League team to integrate its roster.

More than 10 years after Jackie Robinson had broken the modern major league color barrier, and four years after the cross-town rival Philadelphia A's had integrated, the Phillies decided the time had come when Kennedy tore up the ball in spring training.

With the aging (30) and sore-armed Granny Hamner being moved from short to second, the Phillies wanted to bring some youth to the infield. Ironically, in choosing to promote Kennedy, they actually got a shortstop who was the same age as Hamner.

Like many ballplayers in that era, especially veterans of the Negro Leagues, Kennedy lied about his age, convincing the Phils he was in his early 20s. Many believe that on the eve of the '57 season, the team discovered his true age and traded five players and $75,000 to the Brooklyn Dodgers for shortstop Chico Fernandez, age 25.

The digest version of Kennedy's pro ball career is that he appears to have started out with the hometown Jacksonville Eagles of the Negro Southern League.

In 1950 and 1951, Kennedy played "up North" in the independent Mandak (Manitoba-Dakota) League. He was with Hall of Famer Willie Wells' Winnipeg Buffaloes in 1950-51, hitting .324 in the latter season. He also played briefly in Organized Baseball in 1951 with Albany of the Eastern League.

In 1952 he played with the Mandak Champion Minot Mallards, impressing a New York Giants scout enough to be signed as a free agent prior to the 1953 season.

With St. Cloud, the Giants' Class C team in the Northern League, Kennedy hit .262 in 1953 and was released prior to the 1954 season.

Kennedy played in the Negro American League in 1954-56, mostly at shortstop and third base. He was with the Birmingham Black Barons (where he was a teammate of Charley Pride) in 1954-55. In 1956 he was with the Kansas City Monarchs and led the team with a .356 average, second-best in the NAL.

Following the 1956 season, he joined the NAL All-Stars, barnstorming throughout the South and West as opposition to the Willie Mays All-Stars team of black major leaguers.

Again, somebody in major league ranks saw something they liked, and the Phillies purchased Kennedy's contract from the Monarchs for 1957.

Kennedy's big league career lasted only five games. He debuted on April 22 when the Phillies played the Brooklyn Dodgers in one of the Bums' "home games" at Roosevelt Stadium in Jersey City. 

In the top of the eighth inning, Kennedy pinch-ran for Solly Hemus, who had doubled. He was left stranded on second, then replaced by reliever Turk Farrell. The Dodgers won the game 5-1.

On April 24 at Connie Mack Stadium against the Pirates, Kennedy again came in as a pinch-runner for Harry Anderson in the bottom of the sixth, with the Phillies down 0-2. He went from first to third on a Solly Hemus single, then scored his only major league run when Ed Bouchee hit a bases-loaded triple.

Kennedy got his first big league at-bat later in the inning, grounding out to end the Phillies' seven-run rally. He was then lifted for relief pitcher Don Cardwell. Philadelphia won the game 8-5.

Facing his third opponent in three games, Kennedy came in at shortstop in the top of the ninth inning after Chico Fernandez had been lifted for a pinch-hitter. Kennedy did not bat in the 3-6 loss to the Reds.

On May 1, after Philadelphia had rallied to tie the Reds 6-6 in the bottom of the 13th, Kennedy came in at shortstop after Hemus had pinch-hit for Fernandez.

In the top of the 15th, Kennedy was charged with an error on a Frank Robinson ground ball, but then started an inning-ending double play. Those were his only two fielding chances in the majors. Coming to bat in the 15th, Kennedy struck out against Warren Hacker. The Reds scored twice in the 16th to win 8-6.

Kennedy made his final major league appearance on May 3, with the Phillies hosting the Cubs. Kennedy once again pinch-ran for Hemus, who had walked in the bottom of the seventh. The Phils took an 8-6 lead as Cubs pitchers walked in a pair of runs and Kennedy advanced as far as third base. 

In the top of the eighth, Kennedy was replaced at shortstop by Roy Samalley. The Phillies won 9-6.

When the Carolina League season started, the Phillies sent Kennedy -- who was said to be suffering from a shoulder injury -- to their Class B affiliate at High Point-Thomasville. He hit .270 for the Hi Toms, with 19 home runs and 26 doubles.

Kennedy played three more seasons for Phillies farm clubs. He was with Tulsa (AA) in 1958, batting .225. At Class B Des Moines in 1959 he hit .228 for the III League champion Demons. In 1960, at Class A Asheville, he hit .246.

In 1961, Kennedy ended his professional career with a single game for the Jacksonville Jets in his home town. The team was the Sally League affiliate of the expansion Houston Colt .45s.

While his pro career was over, Kennedy continued to play baseball in Jacksonville, playing in an over-30 league in the late 1990s at the age of 70.

While I've given you a summary of John Kennedy's baseball career, for a fuller look at the life of the man, I recommend a Sept. 16, 2008, article by Mike McCall on The Florida Times-Union website: ; and an interview by Mark Kram less than a year before Kennedy's death on The Inquirer Daily News site:

I think if you read that, you'll understand why I'm happy to add a John Kennedy card to my collection of custom creations.

Monday, September 10, 2012

Ballplayers get the best-looking babes, Part 2

Continuing with my periodical presentation of vintage photos amassed over 30+ years in the sportscard publishing world is this selection of photos of baseball players with their wives, fiancees or girlfriends. 

I presented a trio of similar photos almost exactly a year ago, in my blog of 9/9/11.

Pictures of players and their babes were common in decades past. It's not something you see much today.

Might as well present these chronologically . . . 

First is Philadelphia A's pitcher Bob Hasty, with his wife, in an undated photo. 

The rampant elephant patch on the uniform was worn by the Athletics 1921-23. 

Hasty pitched for Philadelphia from 1919-24, with a big-league record of 29-53 and an ERA of 4.65.

You'll recognize the guy in the next photo, of course. But the future Mrs. Joe DiMaggio in the picture is actress-wife #1, not Marilyn Monroe.

She's Dorothy Arnold, a stock actress with Universal Studio. The two met in 1937 on the set of Manhattan Merry-Go-Round, a movie in which Joe Di had a small speaking role, but in which Dorothy had no lines.

The couple was married on Nov. 18, 1939, about a month after this wirephoto was run in the Ft. Worth Star-Telegram

A clipping from what appears to have been some sort of sports' personality column read, "Joe DiMaggio has been seen doing a lot of Fifth Avenue shopping during the last 10 days. He has been buying wedding presents for Mrs. Joe-to-be, who is a young and pretty movie actress named Dorothy Arnold. Already he has collected a mink coat as one of her gifts."

Arnold bore DiMaggio his only child, Joe, Jr. The couple divorced in 1944, while DiMaggio was in the Army in Hawaii.

Evidently fur coats were favored by ballplayers' wives, if the photo here is any indication.

Perennial All-Star left fielder Joe Medwick is pictured in this Acme news service photo at Ebbet's Field on Oct. 4, 1941, before Game 3 of the World Series with the Yankees. 
He had wed the former Isabelle Heutel in 1937. 

Ducky went 1-for-4 in the game, with a strikeout. The Dodgers lost the Series to New York 4-1.