Sunday, January 30, 2011

1955 Topps Phillies

1955 Topps #62, #79, #130
When I decided to start this series of posts, I knew there would be sets in the '50s and '60s for which I had very few cards to display.  Such is the case with the 1955 Topps set.  To date, I own only three of the ten Phillies featured in the set.  After reprinting its 1952, 1953 and 1954 sets, Topps halted the practice and there's no reprint set available for the 1955 cards.  I wonder if they'd ever consider resurrecting this idea?  How many modern day collectors would love to own reprints of complete Topps' sets from the '50s?

The Set
1955 Bowman #17
Number of cards in the set:  The small set is numbered to 210, and four cards were never issued.
My very brief thoughts on the set:  It's horizontal.  I've never been a huge fan of completely horizontal baseball card sets, which is ironic given that the 1956 Topps set is the best baseball card set of all time.
Notable competition:  Bowman released its final baseball card set in 1955, until Topps resurrected the brand in 1989.  The '55 Bowman set is better known as the "TV set," featuring the classic wood-grain TV design.  If I had been a kid in 1955, I probably would have spent my lawn cutting money on packs of Bowman, and not packs of Topps.  After all, in 1955 televisions were crazy cool and the 1955 Topps set might have looked square in comparison.  My other thought upon first seeing the '55 Topps set would have been, "Oh look, it's the 1954 set again, but this time it's sideways."  And did kids buying packs of '55 Bowman back in the day get bummed when they pulled an umpire card?  My suspicions were confirmed by this fine blog entry over at Dean's Cards, which notes the umpire cards are hard to find today as they were the first cards to be discarded back in 1955.

1955 Phillies
Record and finish:  New manager Mayo Smith led the team to 77-77, 4th place finish.
Key players:  Richie Ashburn hit .338, beating out Willie Mays and Stan Musial for the National League batting title.  Del Ennis had another big year, hitting .296 with 29 home runs and 120 RBIs.  Catcher Stan Lopata made the All-Star team while hitting .271 with 22 home runs.  Robin Roberts was named The Sporting News' top pitcher for the third time, thanks to his 23-14 record.  Rookie closer Jack Meyer led the league in saves with 16.
Key events:  Smoky Burgess was dealt to the Reds in a six-player trade in April that brought back catcher Andy Seminick.  The team's hope of contending quickly evaporated in May following a 13-game losing streak.  
1955 Topps #62, #79, #130 (Backs)

1955 Phillies in 1955 Topps
Cards needed for a complete team set:  There are only ten Phillies cards in the 1955 Topps set, bringing the cumulative five-year total to 60 Phillies cards in the 1951 through 1955 Topps sets.
Who’s in:  This set represents quite possibly an all-time low for Phillies representation.  Here's what we've got, starting with the team's manager and then going in order of game appearances in 1955 -

  • Manager Mayo Smith (#130)
  • Reliever Bob Miller (#157) - 40 games, 8-4 with a 2.41 ERA
  • Third starter Herm Wehmeier (#29) - Started 29 games, 10-12 with a 4.41 ERA
  • Reliever Thornton Kipper (#62) - 24 games, 0-1 with a 4.99 ERA
  • Infielder Ted Kazanski (#46) - 9 games, 1 for 12 with a home run
  • Reliever Jim Owens (#202) - 3 games, 0-2 with a 8.31 ERA
  • Pinch-hitter Danny Schell (#79) - 2 games, 0 for 2
  • Pitcher Tom Qualters (#33) - 0 games, pitched with a Phillies' farm team in 1955
  • Second baseman Lou Ortiz (#114) - 0 games.  I'm stumped here.  Ortiz played for three different minor league teams in 1955, none of which were affiliated with the Phillies.
  • Pitcher Tom Casagrande (#167) - 0 games.  Casagrande appeared in 5 games with the Phillies' AAA team in Syracuse in 1955.
All of the above except for Smith, Miller and Casagrande also appeared in the 1955 Topps Doubleheaders set as well.

Who’s out:  Everybody else.  Inexplicably, the 1955 Topps set contains no Phillies regular position players.  If you wanted baseball cards of any of the regulars or starting pitchers other than Wehmeier, Bowman was the way to go.
Phillies on other teams:  There aren't even any Phillies on other teams in the set.
What’s he doing here:  That question could be asked for seven of the ten Phillies players featured in the set, but the inclusion of Ortiz and Casagrande are complete mysteries to me.
Cards that never were candidates:  Ashburn, Ennis, Roberts, Lopata and Meyer.
Favorite Phillies card:  Do I have to pick one?  I'm going to go with the card of Lou Ortiz, just for the intrigue of it.  In a quick Google search, I found this "where are they now" article on Ortiz.

2004 Topps Heritage #1, #19, #76
Other Stuff
Recycled:  Unlike its predecessors from the early part of the '50s, Topps has left the 1955 Topps design pretty much alone.  It used the design for its 2004 Topps Heritage set, and then the design slunk back into the Topps vault.
Blogs/Websites:  Bob Lemke (yes, that Bob Lemke) created a wonderful custom 1955 Topps card-that-never-was for Richie Ashburn.  This is the kind of stuff I need to figure out how to do with Pixelmator!
Did You Know?:  17-year-old Fred Van Dusen made his Major League debut with the Phillies on September 11, 1955, in the second game of a double header against the Braves.  In the top of the ninth, with the Phillies down 9-1, Van Dusen came to the plate as a pinch-hitter for Phillies pitcher Lynn Lovenguth.  Braves' pitcher Humberto Robinson plunked Van Dusen, and the rookie took his base.  Van Dusen never made it back into a Major League game, bouncing around the minors until calling it quits in 1961 at the age of 23.


Matt Runyon said...

I wonder how Bowman got the good players from the Phillies. This isn't much of a player selection.

There is a town in Arizona called Casa Grande.

Kevin said...

Bowman was a Philadelphia based company, that may have something to do with the player selection

I am not a big fan of this or the '56 set...I think the closest that Topps may have come to reusing these designs is with the Topps Big sets in the late 1980s

deal said...

The 2004 Topps Heritage Thome has a SP variant too.

Jim said...

I think it was definitely the Bowman "home team advantage" that drew players away from Topps and over to Bowman. How upset would we Phillies baseball card collectors be if the 2010 Topps team set consisted of Chad Durbin, Wilson Valdez, Danys Baez, Ross Gload and three players who weren't even around this past year? It's a wonder kids in the tri-state area even bought packs of Topps in the summer of '55.

I'll have to dig out and scan some examples of the Topps Big sets. I believe that was a three-year experiment that stuck around two years too many.

Kevin said...

I actually had a handful of those Topps Big cards and since like most cards from that era, they are pretty worthless and I hated I let my 6 year old have them...he of course did what 6 year olds do...scribble all over them. Which is why I am holding off giving him any of the rest of my collection for a while.

capewood said...

I've only managed to acquire the Thorton Kipper and the Herman Wehmeier cards from this set.

Stubby said...

OK. I'm 6 years too late to this. But I can solve at least one of your mysteries (by now, you may have done so yourself). At the time, the opening day roster was expanded like the September roster. It's generally accepted that opening day rosters at the time were 28, not 25 (at one time, the April rosters were 40, just like September; I'm not sure when or if the change to 28 was made). Since Bowman got all the key Phillies (the two companies were in a war of "exclusive" contracts at the time. Topps was winning the war but lost a lot of battles, one being Philly), Topps hoped to at least beat Bowman to the new kids in town. Both Casagrande (a $40,000 bonus baby) and Ortiz were on the opening day roster as part of the 28. Neither made it past the May cut-down day. Casagrande was farmed out a week into the season. Casagrande suffered an arm injury in the minors soon thereafter that, ultimately, ended his career. He was a two-way player (pitcher and OF/1B) and blamed his injury on that, fwiw. Ortiz rode the Phillies pine into mid-May. The Phils had signed him in January (the Cards had released him). As the season opened the papers said that Ortiz was "a slick fielder at second" (some expected he'd get the starting nod). On May 12, the Phils optioned Ortiz to Seattle (an Independent, but one that had plenty of players under contract to assorted teams). How he ended up in Richmond and then Minneapolis, I have no idea.

Jim said...

Stubby - This is fantastic and thank you very much for sharing! I'm always happy to learn new things about the team's history.