December 15, 2007

Give Me Your Creases, Your Misspellings, Your Dinged Corners...

It's 'Best Of' season. So to get into the spirit, I thought I'd post a little something about my favorite purchases of 2007. A few caveats before I begin. I'm not counting cards I got in the wildly popular Great Goudey Trade-away, nor I am taking into account the cards I packed into storage after moving back in September. So really, my own Best Of should be called Best Purchases September through December, 2007.

Best Card of a Wizened Old Timer/Manager:
1951 Bowman Bucky Harris

On the wall of my parents' kitchen is a panoramic photograph from the 1924 World Series, with both lineups (Washington Senators and New York Giants) assembled along the third base line. Walter Johnson is in his pitcher's warmup sweater, Bill Terry looks to be maybe all of twenty-four, there's an oompah band in the right corner getting ready to strike up, and there are a few faces blurred out from moving while the camera moved. The reason I'm mentioning this is because about halfway up the photo, in the center of the packed stands, President Coolidge is flanked by John McGraw and the young Senators player/manager Bucky Harris. Flash ahead 27 years and here's Harris back helming the Senators. Another fun thing about Bucky Harris: though the guy had nine career regular-season home runs over 12 seasons, he managed two dingers in the '24 World Series.

Worst Spelling Error Left Uncorrected:
2006-07 Upper Deck Derk Fisher [sic]
I bought a pack of these cards at Target thinking they were from this year. Getting this card of Fisher more than made up for my disappointment (I was trying to determine who to draft for my fantasy basketball team, currently mired in last). Not a bad design, not memorable... I'm still trying to figure out what the defender's tattoo is; it's either one of the ThunderCats or is of Justin Bateman in Teen Wolf Too.

Best Miscut: 1953 Topps Clem Labine
I love miscut cards, the older the better. I love how it accentuates the fact that it's all about cardboard––and machines that cut cardboard––image be damned. Another fun thing: it's self-reflexive. One of the ads on the outfield wall behind Labine is for Topps Gum.

Best Use of a Nickname:
1963 Topps Choo Choo Coleman

It's almost as if the Topps copywriters bet each other they could write a whole card and never once mention a player's real name.

On an unrelated note, someone should write an essay on the effectiveness of the careers of Choo Choo Coleman and Pumpsie Green on race relations within their respective cities (New York and Boston). I know very little about Coleman, but how can a grown man command respect while being referred to as 'Choo Choo'?

As for Green, I have always considered him to be the unfortunate symbol of the deep-seated racism and segregationist beliefs of the Boston Red Sox of the 1950s, from Yawkey to Higgins. It would be interesting to read about what civil leaders and thinkers from the time thought about the teams and these two men.


Dan said...

There was a series of books released back in the 90s called The Baseball Hall of Shame, and one of them featured a section on Choo Choo Coleman.

Among his more outstanding talents:
- He was known for displaying signs and then forgetting what he had put down, so the coaches painted his fingers different colors.
- He didn't learn anyone's name, but just called them all 'Bub.'

Worth a read if you can find a copy.

Anonymous said...

On an interview he was asked "How did you get the name Choo Choo?" Answer: I don't know.