Monday, February 18, 2013

1959 TOPPS BASEBALL THRILLS AL KALINE


THIS CARD QUICKENS THE PULSE.


ABOUT SAYS IT ALL.


THE FRONT PAGE

  • Al Kaline is one of the most underrated Hall of Famers. He flies under the radar, I think, because he didn't lead the league in many categories during any season.
  • He was tops in hits with 200 in 1955 and, of course, average. In '59, he led the league in slugging (.530) and OPS (.940). In '61, he led the league in doubles (41). That's it, which makes his career stats page look a little less than bold.
  • Even though he never won an MVP, he finished in the top 10 nine times, twice as runner-up. Yankee catchers beat him out each time: Yogi Berra ('55) and Elston Howard ('63).
  • He was a first-ballot Hall of Famer, getting 88 percent support, the ultimate sign of respect for a class act.

THE BACK PAGE

PHOTO PLAY

  • I find many of these Baseball Thrills subset cards to be anything but thrilling.
  • Actually, I find many look like they were drawn by a second-grader in Coloring Between the Lines 101. However, the Kaline is positively Rockwellian. Still, this is a boring card, but only at first glance. To me, there's more than meets the eye.
  • First, love that old-school umpire chest protector. And there was a time when catchers received the ball with both hands, pounding their gloves in anticipation of the pitch. Remember that? Probably not. Anyway, Johnny Bench mastered the one-handed catching technique in order to protect the exposed meat hook. Genius.

EXTRA, EXTRA

  • During that magical '55 season, Mr. Tiger became the 13th player in history to homer twice in the same inning and the youngest to hit three in one game. Top that, Bryce Harper. Of course, he just might this season.
  • In the '68 World Series with the Tigers facing elimination against the Cardinals in Game 5 and behind 3-2 in the seventh inning, Kaline drove in two with a bases-loaded single. Detroit would go on to win that game and the next two for the title.
  • Got his 3,000th hit in September of this final season in '74, singling off the Orioles' Dave McNally. He became the 12th player to reach that milestone.
  • His No. 6 was the first to to be retired by this storied organization.
  • Blessed with a rifle for a right arm, Kaline won 10 Gold Gloves, a fact that always surprises because I always associate him with offense.
  • Brooks Robinson, a fellow Hall of Famer who knows a thing or two about defense, had this to say: "There have been a lot of great defensive players. The fellow who could do everything is Al Kaline. He was just the epitome of what a great outfielder is all about -- great speed, catches the ball and throws the ball well.''
  • Kaline cards have a special place in my collection.
  • Have you noticed that his first and last names together spell "alkaline''? You're welcome.
  • Finally, Kaline understands how much a tiny bit of consideration to fans mean: "Fans? All you have to do is smile at 'em and say 'Hi' and shake their hands. They're satisfied.'' Nowadays, include signing a few hundred autographs before games.

A COMPLETE GENTLEMAN WHEN I MET HIM AT A SHOW IN THE '90s. 

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