One of my favorite sets from the nostalgic-heavy company is their Star of the 50's compilation, which was released in 1982. I picked one of Gene Baker up from a web auction a few years ago and I was pulled in by the excellent full-color and full-frame photography that the set provided. It almost made these people, who seem like distant figures from the past, more human and real to me.
However, I hadn't come across any since then. That is, until yesterday. In a box stuffed with re-prints at one of my local shops (more on those re-prints in a later post), I found within a smaller box a near-complete set in pristine condition. Score! Or rather, TCMA!
Since my Cubs All-Time Roster Collection starts to get relatively thin before 1960, this find proved to be particularly fruitful. Plus, since it wasn't a complete set, I was allowed to cherry pick what I wanted. I got 6 singles for about a buck each, a pretty good deal.
So, without further ado, let me introduce you to the newest additions to my Cubs All-Time Roster Collection:
Let's start out with the Evil Empire.
On the left, we have Mark Freeman and including him in a set titled "Stars of the 50's" is a stretch on multiple levels. First, he only pitched in 4 games pre-1960 (all of them in 1959. Second, he was never mistaken as a star player. The Cubs gave him his only significant time in the majors in 1960, where he went 3-3 with 5.63 ERA in 30 games, mostly out of the bullpen.
Art Schult wasn't much of a star either, but at least he spent most of his career in the 50's. "Dutch" was a journeyman outfielder and first baseman who first came up in 1953. By the time he got to the Cubs in 1959, he had developed into a decent pinch-hitter and bench player. In his two years in Chicago, he batted .256/.306/.351 over 54 games with just 2 homers. Needless to say, he was spent.
Bonus points on this card for using a excellent shot of a leaping grab (posed though it may be).
Now for the team that has developed into the new Evil Empire, dem bums.
The lefty-swinging Carmen Mauro is featured on the left. A local boy (Cicero, IL), Carmen was signed by the Cubs at 17 in 1944. He made his big league debut in 1948 about as late as you possibly can in the regular season, October 1st. As a spare outfielder for the next few years, he slashed .219/.285/.297 with 2 long balls, earning his way out of Chicago in '51.
However, he was a much better musician than he was a baseball player. As an accomplished pianist, organist and accordionist, he was honored with the establishment of a Carmen Mauro Music Scholarship in 1990. Eat your heart out Carmen Fanzone!
To your right, you'll see Jim Hughes. Another local boy, Jim was your prototypical reliever and closer. There were good years and bad years and he towed the rubber for multiple teams, including the Cubs for part of 1956.
However, the most notable thing about his career only tangentially involves Jim. His older brother William P. Hughes, Jr., was stabbed to death during game five of the 1953 World Series, a game in which Jim was pitching. William was watching the game on television at his home in Chicago and in a state of drunkenness got in a fight with his wife, who fatally stabbed him with a kitchen knife.
This cardboard rectangle features a phenomenal horizontal shot of Hersh Freeman fielding his position. A reliever for much of the decade with the Red Sox and the Reds, he thrived when used excessively.
When Cincinnati claimed him off waivers Freeman told his new manager that Boston had not given him the pitching workload he needed to be effective. "Brother," he responded, "you've come to the right place." Over the next three seasons, Hersh pitched in no less than 83 innings.
The workload eventually took it's toll. The Reds traded him to the Cubs in '58 for Turk Lown, but his arm was toast. After just 9 games, with an ERA very near 9 itself, he called it a career.
Finally, we have Bob Porterfield. He garnered MVP votes in '52 & '53 and earned an All-Star nod in '54 as a member of Washington's rotation, but his career was pretty mediocre after that. Bouncing around the NL, he eventually found his way to the Cubs in '59.
Sandwiched between stints with the Pirates, Bob got into 4 games and posted an 11.37 ERA in 6.1 innings and the Cubs pulled the plug.
However, bonus points to this card for featuring a long ago defunct franchise. I've had a soft spot in my heart for cards that feature the Senators since I pulled a Walter Johnson as a young lad and was entirely confused as to what I was holding.
The Walter Johnson card that perplexed young Tony
Thus concludes my finds in the box of TCMA's "Stars of the 50's." It was a surprising and fulfilling find that brought some warmth to the unseasonably freezing evening; so goes life in Chicago. Thank you TCMA, for this and all your interesting and varied nostalgic/retrospective sets, they really help fill the holes in my collection.
Alas, that box within a box wasn't the only stash of goodies that I came across; but, I'm saving that post for another day.