Saturday, July 15, 2023

A 1955 Bowman 100th Birthday: Marion Fricano

Welcome to the fifth installment of my series featuring players from the 1955 Bowman set that would have turned 100 this year. Players featured thus far:

  • Red Schoendienst - February 2
  • Jim Hughes - March 21
  • Solly Hemus - April 17
  • Bob Kuzava - May 28

Today's featured player is Marion Fricano (card #316), who I'm spotlighting on what would have been his 100th birthday. 

My actual 1955 Bowman card of Marion Fricano:

Date of Birth: 

July 15, 1923

First Year in Organized Baseball: 

1947 with the Johnstown (PA) Johnnies, a Class C affiliate of the Brooklyn Dodgers. 

Link to a Really Old Baseball Guy:

Fricano's manager on the 1951 St. Paul Saints (AAA - Dodgers) was Clay Hopper, who was born in 1902 and whose first year in organized baseball was 1926. 

1952 Mother's Cookies #52 - Clay Hopper (MGR)

Link to a Much Younger Baseball Guy:

In his last year in organized baseball (1961), Fricano played for the Dallas-Fort Worth Rangers (AAA affiliate of the Los Angeles Angels). One of his teammates was Jim Fregosi, who interestingly retired as a player during the 1978 season, and two days later, became the manager of the California Angels.

1978 Topps #323 - Jim Fregosi

1979 Topps #424 - California Angels/Jim Fregosi

Other interesting facts about Marion Fricano:

  • Served in the U.S. Navy during World War II, beginning in 1943 and completing his service after the war, in 1947.
  • Spent five full years in the minor leagues before his major league debut, and six full years in the minors after his final major league appearance in 1955.
  • Died May 18, 1976.

Sunday, May 28, 2023

A 1955 Bowman 100th Birthday: Bob Kuzava

Welcome to the fourth installment of my series featuring players from the 1955 Bowman set that would have turned 100 this year. Players featured thus far:

  • Red Schoendienst - February 2
  • Jim Hughes - March 21
  • Solly Hemus - April 17

Today's featured player is Bob Kuzava (card #215), who I'm spotlighting on what would have been his 100th birthday. 

My actual 1955 Bowman card of Bob Kuzava:

Date of Birth: 

May 28, 1923

First Year in Organized Baseball:

1941 with the Mansfield (OH) Braves, a Class D team for the Cleveland Indians organization. 

Link to a Really Old Baseball Guy:

Bob Kuzava was managed by Jack Knight while playing for the Charleston (WV) Senators (Class C affiliate of the Cleveland Indians). Knight began his playing career in 1917 and was born in 1895.

Link to a Much Younger Guy:

Kuzava played with Joe Hoerner on the 1960 Charleston (SC) White Sox (A affiliate of the Chicago White Sox). Kuzava also served as last of three managers of the team that year. Joe Hoerner retired after the 1977 season. 

1977 Topps Joe Hoerner

Interesting Facts: 

  • Served in the Army during World War II. Rose to the rank of Sergeant, and later became known by the nickname of Sarge in the baseball world.
  • Earned saves for the Yankees in the final game of both the 1951 and 1952 World Series.
  • Died May 15, 2017, at the age of 93.

Monday, May 15, 2023

Old Guys in Minor League Baseball

Recently, I shared my mini-collection of players who appeared in a MLB game at age 50 or older, a list of just six players. I don't know of a comprehensive list of minor league players who played in their 50s, so the list I'm providing here is undoubtedly incomplete. Please let me know if you know of any missing players who played in affiliated or independent minor league baseball in their 50s. I'd greatly appreciate your assistance!

Ted "Double Duty" Radcliffe

Last Appearance: 1999 (age 96) 

Double Duty earned his nickname after pitching one game of a doubleheader and catching another. The Schaumburg Flyers brought Radcliffe in for a token appearance in 1999, allowing him to throw a single pitch in a game. According to his biography, Radcliffe also played for the Winnipeg Giants during his age 50 season in 1952.

Bill Lee

Last Appearance: 2012 (age 65)

Lee has played a lot of baseball since his MLB days. The last appearance in organized baseball I could find was Lee's appearance in 2014 pitching a game for the Sonoma Stompers of the independent Pacific Association. 

Julio Franco

Last Appearance: 2014 (age 55)

Franco had a long major league career that ended at age 49. He later played in seven games for the Fort Worth Cats of the independent United League in 2014.

Joe McGinnity

Last Appearance: 1925 (age 54)

"Iron Man" McGinnity last pitched for the Springfield Senators of the Class B Illinois-Indiana-Iowa League in 1925.

Rafael Palmeiro

Last Appearance: 2018 (age 53)

Palmeiro last played for the Cleburne Railroaders of the independent Northern League in 2018. He joined his son Patrick on the roster and appeared in 31 games, batting .301. His team came to Fargo to play that season, but I believe he was on the bench for the game I attended that year when the Redhawks played against Cleburne.

Jose Canseco

Last Appearance: 2018 (age 53)

Canseco made several token minor league appearances after age 50. The final time, he played in a three-game series for the Normal Cornbelters of the independent Frontier League in 2018, going hitless in three at-bats, striking out each time. 

Arlie Latham

Last Appearance: 1911 (age 51)

At age 49, Latham appeared in a few games for the New York Giants in 1909, a year in which he served as the team's third base coach. After the 1911 season, he appeared in an exhibition series for the Giants played in Cuba, so that's why I'm including him here. 

James "Truck" Hannah

Last Appearance: 1940 (age 51)

Hannah's last appearance was with the Memphis Chickasaws of the Class A1 Southern Association. He was born in North Dakota, which is the reason I have this 1931 Zeenut card. I also have an autograph collection of native North Dakotans who have played in the major leagues, and Hannah is included in that collection:

Roger Clemens

Last Appearance: 2012 (age 50)

Clemens pitched in two games for the Sugar Land Skeeters of the independent Atlantic League in 2012.

Hod Lisenbee

Last Appearance: 1949 (age 50)

Lisenbee pitched in 13 games for the Class D Clarksville Colts of the Kentucky-Illinois-Tennessee League in 1949. 

Grover Hartley

Last Appearance: 1939 (age 50)

Hartley caught one game for the Class D Findlay Oilers of the Ohio State League in 1939.

I'm still on the lookout for cards for these two players:

  • Norman "Kid" Elberfeld - made a pinch-hit appearance at age 61 with the Fulton Eagles of the Class D Kentucky-Illinois-Tennessee (Kitty) League in 1936.
  • Ollie Pickering - last appeared at age 52 with the Paducah Indians of the Class D Kentucky-Illinois-Tennessee (Kitty) League in 1922.

I primarily used for this research, so if you know of any of these players playing later than what I reported here, please let me know! Also, if you know of any other 50+ year olds that have played in the minors, feel free to drop a comment below. 

Saturday, May 6, 2023

Quinquagenarians in Major League Baseball

A quinquagenarian is a long word to describe someone who is in their 50s. In MLB history, only six players have made an appearance in a regular season game at age 50 or older. I started a mini-collection of such players a while back and thought today I would share the major leaguers who made it past 50. All of these players, not surprisingly, only appeared in a handful of games or less after they turned 50. 

Satchel Paige

Last MLB appearance: 1965 (age 59)

Paige played four seasons at the AAA level during his 50s, three with the Miami Marlins (Phillies affiliate) and one with the Portland Beavers (Cardinals affiliate). Of all the players appearing in MLB during their 50s, Paige clearly had the best resume. 

Charley O'Leary

Last MLB appearance: 1934 (age 58)

O'Leary made just one appearance with the 1934 St. Louis Browns, as a pinch hitter. He made the most of it, recording a single and scoring a run. 

Nick Altrock

Last MLB appearance: 1933 (age 57)

Altrock made three single game appearances during his 50s with the Washington Senators, in 1929, 1931, and 1933.

Minnie Minoso

Last MLB appearance: 1980 (age 56)

From Minoso's SABR biography: In 1976 (White Sox owner Bill Veeck) hired Miñoso as a coach, then talked him into playing a game as a DH at age 50. Miñoso went hitless against the California Angels in four at-bats. One day later, he singled as a pinch-hitter. He remained with the team as a coach through 1978, and reappeared in a White Sox uniform in 1980, making two official plate appearances to join Nick Altrock as baseball’s only five-decade players.

Jim O'Rourke

Last MLB appearance: 1904 (age 54) 

From O'Rourke's SABR Biography: With the New York Giants on the verge of their first pennant since 1889, manager John McGraw summoned O’Rourke, the last active member of that old championship team, to catch the title clincher. And the old warrior did not disappoint, handling Joe McGinnity over all nine innings of a 7-5 victory over Cincinnati. He even went 1-for-4 at the plate.

Jack Quinn

Last MLB appearance: 1933 (age 50)

Quinn appeared in 14 games for the Reds in 1933. He was released just two weeks after his 50th birthday. This card is a reprint, but I've been interested in acquiring a Goudey card, so the original copy of this one might be a candidate for that pursuit. 

Honorable mention goes to two players, both favorites of mine, who were productive through their age 49 season, but didn't stay in the league until age 50: Hoyt Wilhelm and Jamie Moyer. Wilhelm threw his final pitch just a couple weeks shy of his 50th birthday. Part of me wants to add these two guys to this collection. I'll have to think about it. 

Stay tuned for my list of players who made a minor league appearance at age 50 or older.

Saturday, April 29, 2023

More Lesser Knowns

I'm not sure if anyone other than me finds the "Lesser Known" collection interesting, but in the off chance someone does, here are some recent additions. 

Starting with the son of a Hall of Famer and the brother of a Hall of Famer.

Lou Boudreau's son played five minor league seasons, reaching as high as AA.

Albert "Butts" Wagner was the brother of Honus Wagner. Albert played one season in MLB. 
Here's a much better picture of the older brother: 

Ralph Garr Sr. played 13 major league seasons. His son, Ralph Jr. played just four seasons in the minors, topping out at Single A.

I don't follow the NBA much these days, but I do know the name Donovan Mitchell. He's been an All-Star the past four seasons, beginning his career in Utah and now playing for the Cavaliers. The minor leaguer with the same name reached AAA with the New Orleans Zephyrs in 1998.

The name Larry Allen reminds me of the dominant Cowboys lineman from the 90s Super Bowl winning teams. Here's his minor league baseball name sake, who was in the White Sox organization and reached single-A:

See my full list here: Wax Pack Wonders: The Lesser Knowns. And click here for some additional posts about these players: Wax Pack Wonders: Lesser Known. I'm always on the lookout for more cards to add to the list, so feel free to add suggestions in the comments below.