Friday, November 15, 2019

1956 Topps #71 Frank Sullivan

This a crossover post from my other blog, chronicling each card in the wonderful 1956 Topps set. Today's post features former Phillies closer Frank Sullivan.  Please click on over there for all of the posts to date, including a look at all the Phillies Alumni featured in the set.

Franklin Leal Sullivan
Boston Red Sox

Bats:  Right  Throws:  Right  Height:  6'6"  Weight:  215
Born:  January 23, 1930, Hollywood, CA
Signed:  Signed by the Boston Red Sox as an amateur free agent before 1948 season
Major League Teams:  Boston Red Sox 1953-1960; Philadelphia Phillies 1961-1962; Minnesota Twins 1962-1963
Died:  January 19, 2016, Lihue, HI (age 85)

Frank Sullivan was a two-time All-Star with the Red Sox, and he was at the height of his playing career when this 1956 Topps card was issued.  Sullivan tallied at least 13 wins in five of his eight seasons playing in Boston, with his best season coming in 1955 when he went 18-13 with a 2.91 ERA over 35 starts and a league-leading 260 innings pitched.  In his 11-year big league career, Sullivan went 97-100 and retired following the 1963 season at the age of 33.

After retiring from baseball, Sullivan moved to Hawaii in 1964 with his good friend and former batterymate Sammy White (#168).  Sullivan had never set foot on the islands before making his big move, and he'd go on to eventually become the head golf pro at Kauai Surf Hotel.  He was inducted into the Red Sox Hall of Fame in 2008.

Building the Set
January 8, 2000 in Raleigh, NC - Card #195
Having survived Y2K, this is one of three cards I purchased at the Raleigh Sportscard & Memorabilia Show a week into the new year, along with Alex Grammas (#37) and Dale Long (#37).  My records show I paid $3 for the card.  I would have had to call my Dad to tell him to update his lists, as he was still working in Millville, NJ at the time.

The late 1990s and early 2000s were a very confusing time for me, and those years are all but lost in my memory.  I have little to no recollection as to the apartments or houses in which I was living or the things I was doing on a day to day basis.  Sometimes I feel as if the experiences of those years are something that happened to someone else.

The Card
This is Sullivan's second Topps card, and it uses the same portrait photo as his 1955 Topps rookie card.  It's the third blue-yellow top bar color combination in a row, following Chuck Tanner (#69) and Jim Rivera (#70).  His Baseball Reference height is listed at 6'6", but the back of this Topps card gives him an extra inch and a half.  The back references his service in Korea where he served for two years following the 1950 season, spending 4 1/2 months on the front lines.  He was honorably discharged as a staff sergeant in 1952 having been awarded the Combat Infantryman Badge.

1956 Season
Sullivan was one of the Red Sox' two top starting pitchers in 1956 along with Tom Brewer (#34).  He went 14-7 with a 3.42 ERA over 33 starts and was second only to Brewer in complete games pitched with 12 - Brewer had 15.

1962 Topps #352
On an off-day during the 1956 season, Sullivan, along with his teammates White and Jackie Jensen (#115) were told to take a drive to meet with who they were told was a photographer.  The photographer, who was actually famous painter Norman Rockwell, used the photographs he took that day as the basis of his painting, The Rookie, which appeared on the cover of The Saturday Evening Post in March 1957.  Sullivan, who actually wore #18 at the time, is the player with #8 on his back.  In 2014, the original Rockwell painting sold for $22.5 million.  Sullivan and the model for the arriving rookie player, Sherman Safford, posed with the painting at an exhibition at Fenway Park prior to its sale.

Phillies Career
On December 15, 1960, the Red Sox traded Sullivan to the Phillies for Gene Conley (#17).  Conley had refused to end his basketball career to focus on baseball and the Red Sox were looking to upgrade their pitching staff after Sullivan went 6-16 with a 5.10 ERA in 1960.  Two of the tallest pitchers of the era had just been traded for each other.  Crushed to be leaving the only team he had ever known, his new manager Gene Mauch had to talk him out of retiring.  Sullivan was one of the more reliable pitchers on an awful Phillies pitching staff, but he still went 3-18 with a 4.54 ERA in 68 games with the club.

As the closer for the woeful 1961 Phillies team, Sullivan told his SABR biographer, "I shudder whenever I think of that team."  The 1961 Phillies lost five straight games, won one and then lost another 23 consecutive games from late July through most of August.  That team finished the season with a 47-107 record and was one of the worst teams in franchise history.  Sullivan appeared in 19 games for the Phillies early in the 1962 season before being released on July 14th.  He appears in the 1961 and 1962 Topps sets as a Phillie.

1955 Bowman #15
1955 Topps #106
1959 Topps #323
1963 Topps #389
Other Notable Baseball Cards
First Mainstream Card:  1955 Bowman #15
First Topps Card:  1955 Topps #106
Representative Phillies Card:  1962 Topps #352
Last Topps Card:  1963 Topps #389
Most Recent Mainstream Card:  2012 Topps Heritage Real One Autographs #ROA-FS

32 - Sullivan non-parallel baseball cards in the Beckett online database as of 10/19/19.

Baseball Reference
Beckett Database
The Phillies Room
The Trading Card Database

In some cases, the first and last cards listed above are subjective and chosen by me if multiple cards were released within the same year.  Most recent mainstream card may also be subjective and does not include extremely low serial numbered cards, buybacks or cut autograph cards.


Jim from Downingtown said...


For years in the 1970s I remember Richie Ashburn and By Saam reading copy during commercial breaks to "contact Tom Hudson or Frank Sullivan in the ticket department" for advance ticket sales.

It wasn't until I got Sullivan's 1962 card sometime after 2008 that I realized he was an ex-Phillies player.

Steve F. said...

That's a lot of stuff you unearthed about Sullivan there--very interesting!

As for your fog in the late 90s-early-200s, you didn't miss much by way of the Phillies. Opening Day starters other than Schilling were nothing to write home about:

1996 Sid Fernandez
1997-99 Curt Schilling
2000 Andy Ashby
2001 Omar Daal
2002 Robert Person
2003-04 Kevin Millwood

So all in all, you picked good years to erase from your memory.