Saturday, February 12, 2011

'51 Bowmans, Part II

As I wrote Part I and for a while afterward, I gave some thought to some things. One was the fact that I'm still pretty inconsistent in what I decide to provide links for, and which rabbit holes I decide to go down when I'm writing about cards. It's not necessarily a bad thing, I don't think. I could hyperlink everything I can find a reference on, and research the hell out of everything I write about, but I'm not sure how much joy I'd find in doing all of that. A lot of the time, these posts are an exercise in automatic writing or something close to it, where I sort of start out with a card or a pile of them and see where they take me, giving y'all the same information that jumps out at me as I'm doing it. I hope that works for you, as that's what I have the most fun doing, even though I occasionally have to go back and correct or add things, and sometimes, you folks need to intervene on behalf of the facts. The other thing that really jumped off the page at me is that, despite a keen interest in baseball history in general and obscure players out there in particular, I've had these Bowman cards for somewhere close to a quarter century, yet I've never really put a seriously concerted effort into finding out who the people on the cards were until now. Better late than never, I suppose, and hopefully, you're enjoying being along on the ride with me, but that struck me as a bit odd. Anyway, onto some more cards.

We'll start with a Whiz Kid today, and the only one in the pile. There's really not a ton of info out there on Bob Miller at first glance, but he had a 10 year career in the bigs and finished second in the 1950 NL Rookie Of The Year voting to a fella named Sam Jethroe who I've also never familiarized myself with. Sam had a pretty storied career in the Negro Leagues, was the oldest Rookie Of The Year in history (32, though the Braves thought he was 28), was a Brave before Hank Aaron was and almost made it to the majors as a Brooklyn Dodger. (Braves fans in the audience, if you're not still mad at me for calling Chipper "The Accursed One", what can you tell me about Sam "The Jet" Jethroe?) 

Back to Bob, though. From what I gathered from reading the card back, and what the numbers suggest, his career had the same kind of meteoric rise/fall as Karl Spooner's did, beginning his career 8-0 before an arm injury, though his arm fared well enough after the big injury for him to stick around for another 8-9 years. Shades of a lot of other pitchers we discuss here regularly, too, like Mark Fidrych, Stephen Strasburg and the like. Well, here's hoping Strasburg fares better than The Bird, King Karl and our pal Bob here did (though again, Bob had a longer career than the others; think .4 Tim Leary and you're getting close).

Now, onto the Phils' World Series opponents in 1950, the Yanks. Tom Ferrick was, from the looks of things, a pretty steady pre-closer era reliever in the majors for 9 seasons between '41 and '52. He, like a lot of his contemporaries, lost 3 years of career to World War II, and he also got to the bigs kinda late (but not as late as Sam Jethroe) at 26. In addition to the Yankees, he played in the New York Giants system, as well as for the Philadelphia Athletics, St. Louis Browns, Washington Senators (wow, 4 teams that moved!) and the Cleveland Indians. 

His claim to fame as a big league player seems to be a vulture win in Game 3 of the 1950 World Series, where, despite a double, a walk, and an intentional walk, he held the Phils scoreless in the top of the 9th thanks to a play at the plate where defensive replacement Joe Collins, just in for Johnny Mize, gunned down Granny Hamner (who'd committed an error that tied the game in the previous half-inning) with a throw to Yogi. That's a lot of drama for one inning!

After retiring, Tom was a pitching coach with the Reds, Phillies, Tigers and A's between '54-'65, and scouted for the A's and Royals after that. I don't get to read a lot of Philadelphia newspapers, but apparently, his son's kind of a big deal down that way.

Fred Sanford, apparently no relation to this guy, was a pitcher who worked as a starter and a reliever for the Browns (There they are again! He's one of 35 living Browns, by the way, along with Les Moss from our last post), Yanks and Senators for 7 seasons (he missed two seasons for WWII; when I notice that a player served, I do like to make mention of it, though I might not always catch it). He has no postseason stats, so he apparently didn't play in the '50 Series like Tom Ferrick did or the '49 Series against the Brooklyn Dodgers, both of which the Yanks won. I wonder if he got rings for either or both? '49 was probably his best year, going 7-3 with a 3.87 ERA out of the pen for the Yankees. He put in more innings in his previous 2 seasons as a starter with the Browns, but those were not exactly pretty years, as was the case with most years people played on the St. Louis Browns.

Let's do some Philadelphia Athletics, while we're talking about '50 and Philly. This reminds me that I really need to finish reading Fall Of The 1977 Phillies, as it goes into an incredible amount of detail on the history of Philadelphia's two baseball teams. Back to our show, though. Barney McCosky: wow, what a hitter! Barney played for the Tigers, Indians and Reds along with the A's, over an 11 year career that, unfortunately, was put on hold for his age 26-28 years because of World War II. Had he played those years, he'd probably be way less anonymous than he is nowadays. He led the league in hits and triples in 1940, the year his Tigers took him to his only Series appearance, which they lost to the Reds. He put up decent numbers in the postseason, though, batting .304, walking 7 times and scoring 5 runs. He was traded from the Tigers to the A's straight up for Hall Of Famer George Kell in 1946 after slumping early (Give the guy a break! He was just fighting Nazis a few months ago! Man, no good deed goes unpunished...), and enjoyed 3 really nice seasons in Philly before a serious back injury sidelined him for all of 1949 and made everything go south. It's a shame, too, because this was a career .312 hitter even after his post-injury self beat the heck out of his average in parts of 4 seasons from 50-53, and a guy who got MVP votes 6 times. After retiring, a little league was named after Barney in his hometown of Detroit, and he was inducted into the National Polish-American Hall of Fame.

Pete "Pecky" Suder was a utility infielder (though 2nd was his specialty) for both the Philadelphia and Kansas City Athletics between '41-'55 (with 2 years off in '44-'45 for the war). He's still the A's all-time leader in Grounding Into Double Plays with 158, but he apparently turned his share of them as well. He knocked in the last 2 Athletics runs in Connie Mack Stadium, and was the Opening Day second baseman for the KC A's in '55. After retiring, he managed for 2 years in the minors and scouted for the Senators before becoming a prison guard and, eventually, the warden of the Beaver County Jail. (Folks, remind me to remember how awesome BR Bullpen is!)

Last A of the day, and it's a pretty cool one! Eddie Joost was Pete Suder's double play partner for most of their respective careers, he's a 2 time All-Star, he's the oldest living member of any World Series champion (the 1940 Reds, which means he deprived Barney McCosky, who was his teammate around the time these cards were produced, of a championship) and despite a low career batting average, this guy could walk like nobody's business. He had 100 walks in a season 6 years in a row, from '47-'52. He walked 149 times in 1949, good for 12th all-time on the single season list! His career batting average was .239, and his career on-base percentage was .361. Had Billy Beane been running the A's in the '40s and '50s instead of Connie Mack and his quick series of successors (which included Joost himself, as player-manager in '54), I think he would've built a shrine to Eddie Joost.

More '51s soon! This is fun.


  1. Great series Scott, those are beautiful cards and I enjoy the write ups...I always like reading about the A's, and especially discovering career Athletics like Pete Sudor who I previously knew nothing about.

  2. Thanks for the kind words, Nathan. Glad to be bringing people along for the ride with me. As I said above, writing about these cards now, it's really hard for me to believe that I've never really looked into the careers and lives of these players who've been in my card boxes for close to a quarter century, but it's awesome to be doing it now.

  3. There are so many good players from the '50s completely forgotten by time. Alwyas makes me wonder how many people will remember Chone Figgins or A.J. Burnett in 40 years.


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