Saturday, January 14, 2012

Big trains, bulldogs, and gerbils

As many of you might know already, most of my collection is grouped by teams.

One of the more special binders I have is devoted to "dead" teams: the Browns, Colt .45s, Pilots, and Senators. (The Expos have a separate binder.)

I've looked through this binder many times before, but not until today did I realize the cast of characters that onceplayed on these now-defunct teams.

The '06 SP Legendary Cuts Eddie Gaedel you see at the top of the post is easily one of my favorite cards. The stat line on the back of this card has to be the dullest, yet best, ever made: .000 AVG, one game, no at-bats. The best thing about it is that Upper Deck used a different picture than the famous shot of Gaedel at the plate.

Leroy "Satchel" Paige. One of the greatest showmen in baseball history. It's a shame that he never got to play in the majors in his prime.

To this day, no one is exactly sure when he was born.

Satchel Paige might be the only player in history to wear his name on the front of his jersey, judging by that card.

George Sisler has a career batting average of .340, yet he only won two batting titles in his career (thanks to Ty Cobb), in 1920 (hitting .407) and '22 (hitting .420).

To me, Topps National Chicle was the most overlooked set of 2010. I never bought a pack of it but I managed to get all the base cards I needed through trades and purchases.

The legend short-prints from the set are interesting (I'm still looking for a few). Topps put newer-style uniforms on retro players. The George Sisler one presents a dilemma for a collector whose collection is grouped by team. Which binder, Cardinals or Browns? (I put him in the Browns binder.)

I've only got a handful of Houston Colt .45s cards. After all, they were only around for two years.

They did have some future stars on their roster in 1964 with guys like Jim Wynn (rookie card shown above), Rusty Staub (second-year card), and Joe Morgan.

When you think about it, the fact that a professional sports franchise was only around for one year is mind-boggling. The amount of work it takes to build a franchise is no small task. You've got to have a stadium, a roster, a fan base, everything.

The infamous Seattle Pilots franchise only lasted for one year in 1969. (They moved to Milwaukee and became the Brewers in 1970.) Jim "Bulldog" Bouton immortalized that year with his famous book, Ball Four. He'd be traded to Houston from Seattle late in the year, but most of the book recounts his days as a Pilot.

Ray Oyler was such a bad hitter that the Seattle fans actually started a fan club honoring his futility. While he was a great fielder, he was an atrocious hitter. In six years as a big leaguer, he only hit over .200 once (a .207 average in 1967). In 1968, the year before he became a Pilot, he hit .135 in 111 games with the Tigers.

He managed to better that mark in 1969 by hitting .165 in 106 games with Seattle. He'd finish with a .175 career average.

The franchise known as the Washington Senators had two different stints in the American League.

The first lasted from 1901 to 1960. (They'd move to Minnesota and become the Twins in '61.) "The Big Train" Walter Johnson was easily the most famous player during that time.

The card on the left is a 2011 Topps reprint of what is considered Johnson's rookie card from the 1909 T204 set.

I've mentioned how much I love those Ted Williams "Locklear Collection" cards before.

A different Senators franchise would be established in 1961, this time as an expansion team. They'd only last a decade before becoming the Texas Rangers in 1971.

Is it just me, or do "Moose" Skowron and Don Zimmer kind of look the same?

Skowron would only last half a season in Washington before being dealt to the White Sox.

Frank Howard is probably the best player of the second Senators franchise. Aside from Walter Johnson, Killebrew probably had the best career of any original Senator.

That shot of Howard should tell you just how much force was involved a Frank Howard swing during the '60s. He towered over other players of his era.

Ultimate Collection is way out of my price range, but the base cards from the 2005 edition sure do look nice. Easily one of my favorite recent Killebrew cards.

The 2005 Fleer National Pastime set devoted an entire insert set to the two Senators franchises. All the cards are numbered out of 202, so they're tough to find.

They're among the most striking insert sets I've ever seen.

I found the Frank Howard one in a fifty-cent bin at a card show a year or so ago, a rare shot of him without his famous glasses.

The Ed Delahanty card might be the best card I picked up during 2011. I saw a copy on another blog and I just had to have it. Luckily, I found one on Checkoutmycards. I overpaid a little, but it was worth it. You don't see a lot of cards of turn-of-the-century stars like Delahanty.

Expansion teams sure do put quite the cast of players together!


moremonkeys138 said...

Harmon was actually part of the original Senators franchise. His rookie year being 1954, he moved to Minnesota when they relocated in '61. Now the debate being which Senator is more famous, Johnson or Killebrew?

Nick said...

Ah, that's right, my mistake.

The better of the two is undoubtedly Walter Johnson, not to take anything away from Killebrew. But in today's day in age, I think Killebrew is the more famous player. Plus, there's a lot that we probably don't know about Walter Johnson today. I'd love to go back in time and actually time his fastball to see how fast it actually was.

Hackenbush said...

I'd go with The Big Train too.

moremonkeys138 said...

Johnson is definitely one of my favorite players to collect and learn more about (along with the other four of the HoF class of '36). It would be something to go back and see him baffle hitters with his arsenal. Of course he did spend his career in the dead-ball era but I think he would still fare pretty well today. Love the Gaedel card by the way, I just did a post on him a little while back.

Mark Aubrey said...

Woo, woo. Chugga, chugga. The Big Train takes the cake.

I, too, love the "Locklear Collection" cards.

Nick said...

I just wish I had a card of the one-armed Pete Gray to show for this post. I'm pretty sure there's one of those TCMA cards that features Gray, but I'm not sure.

A card of his would instantly be one of my favorites.

moremonkeys138 said...

Apparently there is a set called One Time Winners:

Pete along with Gaedel and others who lasted short in the Majors are featured. Pete also has a card in the 2011 Obak set as well.

Nick said...

That'll teach me not to ignore the Obak sets anymore. Much appreciated! Going off to purchase that Obak Pete Gray card now.

AdamE said...

What is the Bouton card? I don't recognize the design?

Nick said...

I'm not sure on a year, but they're from the Galasso Glossy Greats set. Apparently there's a whole set featuring Pilots cards, but the only one I have is the Bouton.

I found a post on another blog that sheds some more light on those Glossy Greats cards, I always wondered where they came from.