Card 21/22 Dixie Walker and Ducky Joe Medwick

Dixie Walker was so popular he became known as “The People’s Cherce” at Ebbets Field. His father, Ewart (the original “Dixie Walker”), was a pitcher for the Washington Senators (1909–12); an uncle, Ernie, was an outfielder for the St. Louis Browns (1913–15); and his younger brother, Harry “the Hat”, also an outfielder, played for four National League teams between 1940 and 1955 and managed the St. Louis Cardinals (1955), Pittsburgh Pirates (1965–67) and Houston Astros (1968–72). All four Walkers batted left-handed and threw right-handed. Dixie Walker was a teammate of both Babe Ruth and Jackie Robinson. He was a five-time all-star and won the batting title in 1944.

A ten time all-star and Hall of Famer Joe Medwick was granted an audience with Pope Pius XII during a 1944 tour with the USO. Upon being asked by the Pope what his vocation was, Medwick replied, “Your Holiness, I’m Joe Medwick. I, too, used to be a Cardinal.”

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Card 23/24 Harold Reese and Kirby Higbe

Thanks to Duncan Harvey for helping me with this card. Harold “Pee Wee” Reese was a ten time All Star and baseball hall of famer who formed a keystone combo with Jackie Robinson. He was 5’10” which was not small at all for the time…his nickname came from the fact that he was a marbles champion as a kid.

Kirby Higbe was both a hard thrower and a hard liver. He saw action in Germany as a rifleman and was also deployed in the Pacific theatre.  A two-time all star, he led the league in wins in 1942 with 22.

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Card 25/26 Harry Danning and Cliff Melton

Harry Danning was nicknamed “The Horse” and spent his entire career with the New York Giants.  One of the game’s top defensive catchers, he was a four-time All Star. After baseball, Danning served in the military and later coached in the minor leagues.

Cliff Melton had two different nicknames: Mickey Mouse, and Mountain Music.  Like Danning, he played his entire career for the Giants. He was a member of the 1942 National League All Star team.

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Card 27/28 Harry Gumpert and Burgess Whitehead

I got a really nice eBay haul in the mail today, incluing this pair of New York Giants. Harry “Gunboat” Gumbert was a big righthander (6’2″) who had a pretty solid career, ending up with 143 wins during his 15 year stint.  He also had a pretty impressive 48 saves to go with a 3.68 ERA.  One of the best fielding pitchers of his time, he set a National League record for assists in a game by a pitcher with 10. He had two great uncles (Billy and Ad) who pitched in the big leagues before the turn of the century.

Burgess Whitehead was the last surviving member of the 1934 Gas House Gang at the time of his death in 1993.  He was a slick fielding secondbaseman whose career was punctuated by bizarre incidents including a nervous breakdown, suspensions, and a reported assault of a woman. He landed on the All-Star team two times and is a member of the North Carolina Sports Hall of Fame.

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Card 29/30 Joe Ortego and Joe Moore

Joe Orengo was a serviceable infielder who played all four infield positions during his seven-year career. 1940 was his only season as a regular, batting .287 and slugging seven home runs.

Jo Jo Moore was one of the better slash-hitting lead off hitters of his time. He batted over .300 five times and never struck out more that 37 times in a season. He was a five-time all star and appeared in three Fall Classics. He enjoyed a productive 12-year career.

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Card 31/32 Mel Ott and Babe Young

Hall of Famer Mel Ott was only 5’9″ but packed a lot of whollop…leading the league in homers six times and being the first National Leaguer to surpass 500 home runs. His swing would remind you a lot of Sammy Sosa’s and it worked rather well for him, ending with a .304 lifetime batting average.

Babe Young was a decent first baseman fighting out of Astoria, New York.  He played pretty regularly during an 8-year career, with his best season being 1941 when he hit 25 homers and finished 21st in the MVP voting.

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Card #33/34 Lee Handley and Arky Vaughan

Lee Handley was a fielding dandy and a solid hitter over 10 seasons. In 1939, he tied for the league lead in stolen bases despite a serious beaning that kept him on the shelf for more than 50 games.  His brother Gene also played in the big leagues.

Hall of famer Arky Vaughan was perhaps the least known of the truly great players and (very arguably) the greatest shortstop of all time, according to one method used by baseball guru Bill James. A nine time all-star, he had an interesting career that included a feud with Leo Durocher.  After retiring in 1949, Vaughan bought a ranch in California to fish, hunt and tend cattle. On August 30, 1952, Vaughan was fishing in nearby Lost Lake, with his friend Bill Wimer. According to a witness, Wimer stood up in the boat, causing it to capsize, and both men drowned, and their bodies were recovered the next day. Vaughan was only 40.

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Card 35/36 Bob Klinger and Stanley Brown

A pair of hurlers who achieved infamy share this pasteboard.

Bob Klinger was a decent pitcher, notching a lifetime record of 66-61 with a more than respectable 3.68 ERA with the Pirates and Red Sox. His brush with destiny came when he was a relief pitcher on Boston’s American League pennant-winning team in 1946. Klinger took the loss in Game 7 of the 1946 World Series. He was on the mound when Enos Slaughter made the famous “Mad Dash” from first base to score the go-ahead run in the 8th inning on a hit by Harry Walker.

Stanley Brown was better known as Mace, which is a darn cool nickname I simply must bestow on someone.  One of the first full-time relief pitchers, he attended the University of Iowa on a track scholarship as a javelin thrower. He is  known for giving up the Homer in the Gloamin’, the home run that cost the Pirates their lead in the 1938 National League pennant race.

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Card 37/38 Terry Moore and Gus Mancuso

41dp_037-038Terry Moore joined the Cardinal in 1935, a year after the famed Gas House Gang won the World Series. He would play with many of the most elite of the Redbirds including Dizzy Dean, Stan Musial, Johnny Mize, and Frankie Frisch…but Moore was the captain of those teams. A four-time All Star and two-time member of World Championship teams, he  was a truly exceptional gloveman in centerfield. He spent his entire career with the Cardinals.

Gus Mancuso‘s career started not as a backstop, but as a banker. While working as a teller and playing on the bank’s baseball team, he caught the attention of a Texas League executive and was signed to play for the Houston Buffaloes. A great handler of pitchers and leader in the clubhouse, he enjoyed a 17-year big league career. A two-time All Star, he is a member of the Texas Sports Hall of Fame and the National Italian Sports Hall of Fame.

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Card 39/40 Johnny Mize and Enos Slaughter

This card shows two of the forgotten stars of our glorious national pastime.  Johnny “The Big Cat” Mize never enters the conversation when you are talking about the best first basemen of all time, but a reasonable argument could be made that he is the best NL first sacker ever.  Had he not missed three years to the war, he may have topped 500 home runs. He was always on winning teams. And he normally was one of the top home run hitters in the league while seldom striking out more than 50 times in a season. He had a great on-base percentage and was cursed by having his career parallel that of DiMaggio and Williams. He hit 50 home runs in a season at a time when almost no one did. Although he was justifiably enshrined in the Hall of Fame, he had to wait for inclusion by the Veteran’s Committee.  Interestingly, In 1941, Mize was involved in a lawsuit against Gum Products for the production of this very card. Mize sued because he argued that the company did not have his consent to use his image in the card set.

Enos “Country” Slaughter was an intense, ever hustling player who was also enshrined in the Hall of Fame.  While he lacked Mize’s power, the players had several similarities. Both played roles in some strong St. Louis teams but were traded to the Yankees juggernaut of the 50s later in their careers to provide good bats and leadership. Slaughter was a 10-time All-Star and played in five World Series. Both Mize and Slaughter were fan friendly and happy to oblige with an autograph any time they were approached.

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