Sunday, May 7, 2023

1961 Fleer Autograph Project - Part 36

I keep saying I need to get more active here and I never do. I just received my 65th signed 1961 Fleer card and I am working with a friend on a deal to add three more to that total.  At a minimum, I need to be posting faster than I am acquiring them. Surely, I can manage that? The answer is yes because I expect this project will grind to a virtual halt as I am getting down to the very rare or very expensive cards yet to go. Okay, next up in the signed 1961 Fleer project is Hall of Famer Lou Boudreau.

Boudreau was certainly one of the better players in the 1940s.  But what made him special is that for 8 of those years he was also the manager of the Cleveland Indians.  He became a player manager in 1942 at the tender age of 24 and continued through the 1950 season, when he was released by the Indians and signed as a free agent by the Boston Red Sox. He is listed as a player-manager for the Bosox in 1952, but only appeared in 4 mid season games as a pinch hitter, so it is something of a questionable designation,

That said, I was curious how he stacked up against other player-managers.  Through the course of MLB history (note: Negro League baseball wasn't accounted for in the list, although there were undoubtedly numerous examples) there have been 222 player managers. Most, (170)   were in the deadball era, with another 32 in the time between the world wars.  There were only 20 player managers in the post war era and most of them only appeared as such in a single season.  Only Phil Cavarretta and Pete Rose acted as player managers for more than two seasons in the post-war era. So, it is probably fair to say that Lou was the last of a dying breed

His roles as a star player and team manager peaked in 1948 when he was the runaway winner of the AL MVP and led his Indians team to the 1948 World Series where they prevailed in 6 games over the Boston Braves.

Other fun facts about Lou Boudreau:

  • He isn't so much credited with inventing the infield shift as he was of bringing it to more popular attention.  He did this on July 14, 1946 against Ted Williams during the second game of a doubleheader.  Williams laughed when Cleveland deployed the shift, but then promptly grounded out to none other than Lou Boudreau.
  • Despite not ever being confused as a speed demon (one of his nicknames was "Old Shufflefoot," he was an excellent fielding shortstop.
  • In 1990, the Cleveland Indians established The Lou Boudreau Award, which is given every year to the organization's Minor League Player of the Year.
  • Boudreau is only one of three Illinois Fighting Illini athletes to have their number retired; the other two athletes being Illinois Fighting Illini football players Red Grange and Dick Butkus.
  • He was Denny McClain's father-in-law.

What I am listening to:  El Dorado by Molly Tuttle & Golden Highway

Tuesday, March 14, 2023

1961 Fleer Autograph Project - Part 35

 I really need to get my rear in gear here. Previously, I had mentioned that I had a bit of a curve thrown at me by life late last year. That situation is now coming to close.  As a celebration, I have bought another signed 1961 Fleer card to my collection. That one will be, once I receive it, the 63rd such card. So, I really need to get this party going. Hopefully, I can actually make regular entries in this series as there is a long way between 35 and 63.

Fred "Firpo" Marberry is often considered the first relief specialist.  To be sure, there were relief pitchers before Marberry's time, but it was never really a specialty.  Indeed in the 1910's, the decade before Firpo started his professional career, over 62% of the games ended in complete games.  Over the space of his major league career that level decreased but was still substantially around half of all games.

I would have researched this further, but I really didn't want to pay for more detailed access to Baseball Reference, so I tried another approach.  Using the free part of B-R, I looked at the progressive career leaders for games finished and looked to see which of the various leaders had more than half of their career appearances in relief.  Only one name stuck out: Doc Crandall.  Over a 10 year career, Crandall made 302 appearances, 168 of which were in relief.  In contrast, Marberry made 365 relief appearances in the 551 games he appeared in.

Here are some random facts about Marberry (mostly stolen) from his SABR biography:

  1. A big man, Marberry stormed around, throwing and kicking dirt, glaring angrily at the batter. He and catcher Muddy Ruel would put on an act during warm ups intended to psych out opposing batteers.He was Al Hrabosky a couple decades before Al Hrabosky was even born.
  2. Marberry acquired the nickname Firpo because of his size and facial resemblance to Argentine boxer Luis Firpo. 
  3. At the time, games at Griffith Stadium typically started at 4:00. In the faster-paced games of the time, this meant that “Marberry Time,” as it was soon called, would arrive at about 5:30 or 6:00, with the shadows rolling across the diamond. For a fastball pitcher like Marberry, this was an ideal environment.
  4. He had a short stint as an American League umpire in 1935, but found the job too lonely.
  5. Even after his major league career was over at the age of 37 in 1936, he continued pitching in the minors, mostly the Texas League, for 5 more seasons.
  6. He owned a 600-acre farm near Marberry ‘s boyhood home in Mexia and, at various times, he operated a wholesale gas distributorship and ran a recreation center in Waco.

What I am listening to: Honeysuckle Blue by Jason Isbell & The 400 Unit