Friday, June 27, 2014

1959 TOPPS HARVEY KUENN

1959 WAS QUITE THE YEAR FOR KUENN.


''HARV'' MASTERED HIT 'EM WHERE THEY AIN'T.


THE FRONT PAGE

  • For an eight-time All-Star who averaged only eight home runs a season, Harvey Kuenn's legacy is somewhat surprising. Kuenn, promoted from hitting coach at midseason in 1982, managed Harvey's Wallbangers, the wild and woolly outfit from Milwaukee who led the majors in home runs while winning the AL pennant. Long before that, he was a .303 lifetime hitter who never hit more than 12 homers but led the AL in hits four times, including his rookie year in '53 with 209. He also was part of one of the biggest trades in baseball history. 

THE BACK PAGE

  • He was moved from shortstop to center field in '58 and had his best season to date. He'd top that the next year.

PHOTO PLAY

  • Standard-issue gum-card dugout mugshot with an ever-so-neat facsimile autograph. But don't call this card boring. The red template and tiny gold Tiger logo make it roar.

EXTRA, EXTRA

  • Kuenn was named AL Rookie of the Year in '53, establishing a major-league record for rookies with 167 singles. Ichiro Suzuki broke that in '01 with 192.
  • Followed up that debut with two nearly identical seasons in '54 and '55 and began teaming with another young Tiger, Al Kaline, to form a dynamic duo.
  • After batting over .300 in each of his first four full seasons, Kuenn hit only .277 in '57.
  • Bounced back the next season to hit .319 and led the majors in doubles with 39.
  • Won his first and only batting title the year this card came out, hitting .353 and also leading the AL in hits (198) and doubles (42).
  • Before the '60 season, he was traded to the Indians for '59 AL home run champ Rocky Colavito, who hit 42, the only time a reigning batting champ was dealt for a reigning home run leader. Indians fans cursed this deal but in Detroit, most liked it, seeing that the Tigers were in dire need of power.
  • Kuenn spent only the '60 season in Cleveland, making his last All-Star team while batting .308 with 145 hits, nine home runs and 54 RBI; he was traded to the Giants for Johnny Antonelli and Willie Kirkland
  • Remained in the NL for the rest of his career and retired in '66 after 15 seasons and 2,092 hits. He also never struck out more than 38 times in any of those seasons
  • Joined his homestate Milwaukee Brewers in '72 as coach and was interim manager for the final two games of the '75 season after Del Crandall was fired.
  • Health problems began plaguing Kuenn beginning the next season. He underwent open-heart surgery in '76 to alleviate circulation problems, and Crohn's disease put him in the hospital for four months of the '77 season.
  • Circulation problems eventually took part of Kuenn's right leg in '80. It was amputated below the knee.
  • Coming off their first playoff appearance in '81, the Brewers expected to contend again in '82, but after beginning 23-24 and in fifth place in the AL East, seven games back, Manager Buck Rodgers was fired. Kuenn took over. Milwaukee won 20 of its next 27 games, hitting .294, 47 homers and averaging 6 1/2 runs a game. Harvey's Wallbangers were born.
  • The Brewers held off the late-charging Orioles on the last day of the season to secure the division flag, beat the Angels for the pennant but lost to the Cardinals in seven games in the World Series. The Brewers went on to hit 216 homers, 30 more than the nearest team, and finished 72-43.
  • Kuenn's managerial career would last only one full season. He was fired after going 87-75 in '83.

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