Friday, April 4, 2014

Fifties Friday

Grease up your hair, break out the Elvis records and grab a malt because we're going back to the 1950's here at Wrigley Roster Jenga!

Yesterday, after I had finished digging through the TCMA and SSPC piles at my LCS, I also noticed a box of cards labeled "1950's" Cubs.  This is a decade that is relatively thin in my Cubs All-Time Roster Collection, so I was easily roped in.

The prices were a touch high for my taste, but the cards were in immaculate condition and most were those coveted "high numbers," so I really hesitate to pull the trigger on anything.

But, I've been good; I deserve a present from myself every now and then, right?  So I compromised and only bought three of my desired targets.  Three is a good baseball number; three strikes, three outs, three outfielders... it felt right.

All three of my purchases happened to be from the 1957 Topps set.  This was no coincidence as this release is one of my favorite vintage sets.

Without further ado, let us now examine the three new Cubs players that I have obtained:

Poholsky was a can't miss prospect in the Cardinals organization with an impressive pedigree.  Today, that would ensure that said prospect will lead the team to the playoffs year in and year out and eventually end up in the HOF.  But, Poholsky doesn't play today, now does he?

In the bush leagues, he posted 16–3 and 18–6 seasons in the for the Cards' affiliates and compiled an overall minor league record of 80–54 (.597).  I'd buy that stock.

But, after his initial call ups in '50 and '51 he posted mediocre numbers.  Then, Uncle Sam came a-callin' and Tom served with the Army during the Korean War for the next two years.

He came back with a bang in '54, posting a 3.06 ERA in 25 starts, but it soon unraveled from there.  His stats regressed back to mediocre and after a few seasons in the Cardinals rotation, he was traded to the Cubs for one last go-around in '57.

The Cubs do what they always did at that time and tried to draw blood from a stone.  He went 1-7 with an ERA near 5, which earned him a ticket out of town by trade with San Francisco and he never saw the majors again.

For all his gaudy win totals in the minors, Tom Poholsky never had a winning season in the bigs.

Here we have one of my favorite names in baseball history.  Vito Valentinetti sounds like it should be the name of some big Hollywood star or some hopeless romantic artist deep practicing in Florence.  

Plus, who doesn't love a little alliteration?  Say that five times fast.

Vito was a well-traveled relief specialist throughout the 1950's and he spent some time on both sides of Chicago.  He originally came up with the White Sox in '54 for a brief cup of coffee.  The Cubs then drafted him out of the minors for the '56 season, where he rewarded them with a 6-4 record and a 3.78 ERA in 95.1 innings.

Nine games into the '57 season, he caught the attention of the Dodgers and he was traded for Don Elston.  He never played for Brooklyn though, as Cleveland purchased him soon thereafter.  Thus, like many relief pitchers, Vito went on a nomadic ride through the Majors, hanging on through the '59 season.

All in all, Vito had a rather insignificant career.  However, our next and final subject seemed to be destined for much greater things.

While another Lennon went on to much greater fame in the 1960's, Bob Lennon seemed destined for super stardom himself, once upon a time. 

"Archie," as he was often called, displayed absolutely prodigious power in the minors, smashing 278 dingers in his 16 year career.  But, it was his 1954 season that truly captivated the baseball world.

Lennon went yard 64 times that season with the AA affiliate of the NY Giants and won the triple crown by batting .345 with 161 RBIs.  Truly one of the best seasons ever seen at any level of professional baseball.

Remember that this was 7 years before Roger Maris surpassed the Babe and 60 homers seemed an unbreakable record.  But, maybe Bob Lennon was just the guy to do it.

These astounding achievements earned him a call-up with the fabled '54 Giants during their pennant drive and Lennon seemed unstoppable.

Unfortunately, Lennon turned into one of the biggest busts in baseball history.

After 3 at-bats without a hit that year, he was sent back down to AAA, where he wouldn't emerge from again until 1956.  Then, he got into 26 games, but batted below the Mendoza line and went homer-less.

The Giants had seen enough by that point and shipped him to Chicago for peanuts.  Lennon played in just 9 games for the North Siders and was gone by mid-may.  However, he did manage one round-tripper before he was demoted, in Ebbetts Field no less, off former teammate Sal McGlie.

The man who once seemed destined to be the Babe's equal, ended up with just one homer in his MLB career.


Fittingly, these three cards provide a pretty good summation of the Cubs teams of the 1950's; a bunch of no-namers, former stars and reclamation projects.

Under the ownership of P.K. Wrigley, the Cubs were nothing more than a revenue stream and the once great dynasty began it's long decline into "Lovable Loser" status.

Although the fifties were an unpleasant era in Cubs history, these vintage cards are still very much beauties in my eyes!  Plus, my Cubs All Time-Roster Collection doesn't separate the good from the bad.

Good thing because there is definitely more bad than good in Cubdom!


  1. Replies
    1. Thanks, I've always had a soft spot for '57 Topps. Plus, who doesn't like a nice stash of vintage?