Tag Archives: Baseball Cards

George Steinbrenner May Be Dead, But His Yankee “Hair Policy” Remains In Effect

George Steinbrenner’s “No Long Hair Or Beard Rule” Is Still Followed

Thurman Munson’s 1976 Topps baseball card shows something you won’t see on any Yankee today, a defiant beard.

At Yankee Stadium’s home opening game on April 11, 1973, the new owner and managing general partner, George M. Steinbrenner III was on hand to see his team. As he watched his players line up along the foul lines and remove their caps for the national anthem,  Steinbrenner pulled out an envelope from his suit pocket. He began writing down a series of numbers on the back of the envelope.

After the game the envelope was given to manager Ralph Houk.

“What is this?” Houk wanted to know.

Sparky Lyle 1974 Topps Baseball card showing his “long” hair

Players who need a haircut was the reply.

Still not knowing any of his players names, Steinbrenner had listed the players numbers who had hair that was not to his liking.

Among the stars on the list were Bobby Murcer,  Fritz Peterson, Thurman Munson, Sparky Lyle and Roy White.

Houk posted the list in the locker room and reluctantly informed his hippie players to go to a barber.

Steinbrenner had been perturbed about the long hair since first seeing the Yankees in spring training. Now it was time to do something about it.

This incident marked the beginning of George Steinbrenner’s 37 year odyssey of interference and unpredictability as owner of the Yankees.

To Steinbrenner, short hair and being clean shaven represented order and discipline. No one mentioned to Steinbrenner that baseball was not the military.

Mike Burke, part owner and president of the Yankees, had very long hair himself. Burke was not very concerned about Steinbrenner’s meddling and downplayed the hair cutting incident.

NEW YORK – JANUARY 3, 1973 Yankees President Michael Burke & George Steinbrenner at press conference at Yankee Stadium where the announcement is made that an ownership group led by Steinbrenner are the new owners of the Yankees. (Photo by: Olen Collection/Diamond Images/Getty Images)

Burke, who had been Yankee president since 1966, was instrumental in putting the deal together for Steinbrener and his 13 limited partners, to buy the Yankees from CBS. Burke was led to believe he would be considered a co-partner on an equal level with Steinbrenner.

When Steinbrenner spoke to the press on January 3, 1973 , he said he would be an absentee owner and Burke would run the team. “We’re not going to pretend we’re something we aren’t. I’ll stick to building ships.”

Burke should have more concerned about Steinbrenner’s controlling behavior and desire to be solely in charge.  Soon after the haircut incident, Steinbrenner started firing off memos left and right asserting his control of the team. Less than 3 weeks after opening day, Burke resigned. The truth was Burke had been forced out as president of the Yankees and later gave up his ownership stake.

Yankee Third baseman Graig Nettles asked with a straight face, “Was his hair too long?” Continue reading

6 Uncorrected Baseball Card Errors. Can You Spot Them?

Topps Made A Mistake

When you produce thousands of baseball cards over many decades you’re going to make some mistakes. Eagle-eyed baseball card collectors usually catch the errors. They would then write in to Topps baseball card company and sometimes the cards would get corrected.  Some mistakes were pretty obvious and could have been caught and corrected.

None of these were.

For a couple of these cards, if you are an old time baseball fan, you might recognize what the mistake is. For the others it takes a sharp eye. See if you can spot the mistake on each of these cards.

First our lead photo of the 1957 Topps Hank Aaron card. The mistake is not that his proper name is Henry, not Hank. Look closely.

Second, the 1969 Topps Larry Haney card. The Seattle Pilots lasted only one season before moving to Milwaukee and becoming the Brewers. Haney’s error is difficult to discern.

Third up is the 1959 Topps card of 1957 World Series pitching star, Lew Burdette. Lew looks pretty serious doesn’t he?

Fourth is the man who is probably better known for the surgery named after him rather than his pitching career. Tommy John won 288 games. This is his 1969 Topps card.

Claude Raymond’s 1966 Topps card poses him looking up at something. Should he really be looking up?

Before Billy Martin’s multiple managing stints with the Yankees, he was the manager of the Detroit Tigers and before that the Minnesota Twins. This is his 1972 Topps card.

So what are the errors that Topps didn’t catch and never bothered to correct?

The first card of Hank Aaron is probably the easiest error to spot. The print is reversed. Look at Aaron’s uniform number 44. Most people know the great slugger batted right handed, not left.

Next, you probably wouldn’t pay much attention to Larry Haney’s card. It shows the catcher posed ready to catch a ball.  Ardent students of the game know that almost no left handed catchers have ever played major league baseball. No, Haney is not the exception, once again, Topps reversed the negative. It is the same photo Topps used of Haney for his 1968 card except they got that one right.

With Lew Burdette’s card, one mistake is right in print and it is not a big deal. It is “Lew,” not “Lou.” But that is not the big error. Lew Burdette had a sense of humor. He asked his teammate and future Hall-of-Fame pitcher Warren Spahn if he could borrow his glove. That would be fine except that Spahn was a lefty and Burdette was a righty. Many children wrote to Topps in 1959 informing them of the “mistake.” Continue reading

How Don Hoak Scared The Hell Out Of Me When I Was A Kid

Don Hoak Becomes The Bogeyman

Don Hoak was a professional baseball player for 11 seasons. From 1954-1964 Hoak played for the Brooklyn Dodgers, Chicago Cubs, Cincinnati Reds, Pittsburgh Pirates and the Philadelphia Phillies. By all accounts he was a nice man and a decent player who had a career .265 batting average.

In real life Don Hoak probably never intentionally scared a child. Little did he know one day this baseball card would affect one superstitious, naive, ignorant kid.

One day when I was about 7-years-old I acquired some old baseball cards from the 1960s from my grandfather. I showed them to an older boy and when he came to Don Hoak  he said, “you know, he’s dead,” as he handed the card back to me.

Well I stared at the card and I got the willies. An actual shudder ran down my spine.

“Dead? What do you mean, dead?” I said.

My simpleton mind knew what dead meant, but I did not have much real life experience with death.

All I knew was that I was holding a dead man in my hand. How could he be dead? This card is only a few years old and he couldn’t have been an old man?

“How’d he die?” I needed to know.

“I don’t know but he died a few years ago (1969)” my companion said. Then he added, “He may have been murdered.”

Wellllll  now I was transfixed for about a full minute. This simple 1964 Topps baseball card of a smiling ballplayer took on new meaning. Continue reading

Orioles Practice Sliding – March 1960

Baltimore Orioles – Hansen, Adair and Breeding, Spring Training 1960

Orioles in spring training March 1960 (l-r) Ron Hansen, Jerry Adair, Marv Breeding

Orioles in spring training March 1960 (l-r) Ron Hansen, Jerry Adair, Marv Breeding

Three Baltimore Orioles show off their sliding skills at spring training in 1960, Ron Hansen, Jerry Adair and Marv Breeding.

Hansen didn’t need to practice his sliding – he stole only nine bases in a 15 year career, but led the Orioles in home runs in 1960 with 22 and won the Rookie of the Year Award. When he was playing for the Washington Senators, Hansen turned an unassisted triple play on July 29, 1968 against the Cleveland Indians. It was the first unassisted triple play in the major leagues in 41 years.

I love those vintage flannel uniforms the Orioles are wearing. Marv Breeding Continue reading

An Incredible Baseball Card Error – Aurelio Rodriguez & The Bat Boy

How The Bat Boy Ended Up On Aurelio Rodriguez’s 1969 Topps Baseball Card

Aurelio Rodriguez 1969 Topps Error cardAurelio Rodriguez was a slick fielding, rocket-armed, gold glove winning third baseman who enjoyed a 17 year major league career and batted .237 with 124 career home runs in just over 2,000 games with seven teams.

Though he is wearing a uniform, and the baseball card states that this is Aurelio Rodriguez, the California Angels third baseman, it is not.

In actuality the card shows Angels bat boy, Leonard Garcia, on what was supposed to be Rodriguez’s card #653, for 1969. The error was not divulged until 1973.

So how does a bat boy get on a baseball card?

There are two popular rumors/theories of how this happened. The first, was that the Topps photographer Continue reading

A Rose By Any Other Name

The Aaron’s, Clemente’s and Mays’ Of A Lesser Ilk

Roberto, Willie and Hank

In major league baseball history there was only one Ruth, Gehrig, Koufax, Medwick, Seaver and Carew. You know who is being referred to when you hear the name Mantle.

Yet there have been several Robinson’s, Johnson’s, Ryan’s and Smith’s of varying playing ability. Some were great, some were good, and others were let’s just say, not so great. If you say, “Robinson was a fantastic player,” you usually have to clarify which- Jackie, Frank or Brooks.

What if you were a professional ballplayer and your last name happens to be Jeter, but your first name is not Derek?

Sharing a baseball great’s last name can sometimes be a drag because comparisons may be drawn to your famous counterpart. You can be sure that with the exception of your family and close friends, most references by the baseball loving public to your last name, go to the superstar.

So as a professional ballplayer if you share that famous last name but you never achieved super-stardom, at least you can always say you had your name on a baseball card.

So which baseball card would you rather have?

Hank Aaron or….

Tommie Aaron?

Derek Jeter or…

Johnny Jeter? Continue reading

Yes, He Really Plays Baseball

Dave Ricketts, St. Louis Cardinals, Topps Baseball Cards 1968 & 1969

It is an unfair characterization to say Dave Ricketts could have easily been mistaken for a high school biology teacher rather than a major league catcher. Players who wore eyeglasses in the 1960’s were still very much a rare breed. When I was a kid, every time I looked at these two baseball cards, I thought that Dave Ricketts never really got to play, but just posed for the card.

Ricketts did play sporadically, appearing in 130 total games for the St. Louis Cardinals from 1963-1969 and the Pittsburgh Pirates in 1970 and ended up with a .249 career batting average and one home run.

After his playing career ended, Ricketts became a fixture in the Cardinals organization mostly as the bullpen coach and minor league manager. Ricketts by all accounts was an excellent coach and had a large influence upon other players.  Derrick Goold of The St. Louis Post-Dispatch wrote about Ricketts after he passed away:

“I’m here because of him,” Yadier Molina said. “He made me into a catcher. I wasn’t a catcher when I got here. I learned a lot from him. He was like my dad, there for me since I was 17. He meant so much to me.”

“I’ve never seen a coach who has worked harder for whatever team he’s involved with than Dave Ricketts. Ever,” former Pittsburgh Pirates pitcher Steve Blass said. “Totally dedicated. … He had a zest for life that was part of his personal life, and, thank goodness, we are better because it spilled over into his professional life.”

“Sometimes the word ‘great’ gets overused, and it’s a shame,” manager Tony La Russa said. “There have been some truly great Cardinals who have come through the organization, but I don’t know anyone greater or more beloved than Dave Ricketts.”

Dave Ricketts died in St. Louis at the age of 73 on July 13, 2008 of renal cancer.

The Best Baseball Card Error – Ever!

Something Even Babe Ruth Couldn’t Do

I stopped collecting baseball cards in 1981 after it became speculative and was more about card values rather than flipping, trading and completing sets.

This was one of my favorite baseball cards simply because of the obviousness of the mistake and the fact that it was never corrected.

The Dave Bennett – Rick Wise rookie card from the 1964 Topps set is nothing extraordinary on the front. But on the back of Dave Bennett’s very short biography is this astounding piece of information:

“Dave is the younger brother of the Phils’ ace, Dennis Bennett. The 19-year-old righthanded curveballer is just 18 years old!”

Now that is some feat!