A Pitching Evolution, Of Sorts

I’ve always loved getting mail. When I was seven-years old (that would’ve been in the summer of 1970, for those keeping score at home), I sent letters to baseball teams asking for a slew of autographs from each. I didn’t get any autographs back, but I did get an assortment of pictures, decals, schedules, etc. Two years later I honed my letter writing skills, pinpointing individual players. Mail started pouring in, and some disasters were averted. My mother almost threw out a letter for me that had this on the envelope:

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She thought it was from a circus. Inside was a Hank Aaron autographed picture. (And why would she want to throw out any letter that was addressed to me anyway? It’s a question I still ponder.)

 

So I still get jazzed when the mail comes, and, lately, there are a lot of good card mail days. Most deliveries are fairly routine – a few cards of the same year – but sometimes there’s a combination of cards that is exquisite in its randomness.

 

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Nothing connects these three other than they are pitchers and they’re all part of sets I’m working on.

 

Ivy Andrews

Finishing the 1933 Tattoo Orbit set is a pipe dream (for now). I’ve never spent as much money on a card as I’ll need to for Jimmy Foxx and Dizzy Dean, but I’ll worry about that towards the end. Right now I have 24 of the 60.

 

Andrews is a short print, books high, but I got this for less than 20% of the VG price (if you’re a frequent reader you know I use the 2009 Standard Catalog). Who was Ivy Andrews and why did he deserve any print run, short or other?

 

When this card came out, Andrews had already been traded from the Yankees to the Red Sox along with Hank Johnson and $50,000 for Danny MacFayden. Andrews performed well for the BoSox from his mid-season arrival in 1932. He was fine in 1933, nothing special, and was traded with Smead Jolley and cash to the Browns in December 1933. Beleaguered by arm problems for much of his eight year career, Andrews is a member of the Hall of Fame – the Alabama Sports Hall of Fame.

 

Andrews was hardly needed in a 60 card set, but, as I’ve written about regarding the 1936 Goudey Wide Pens, the selection of players in these sets is odd. The Andrews transaction register is a Who’s Who of long forgotten players that pepper 1930’s sets – MacFayden, Jolley, Lyn Lary, Orel Hildebrand and so on.

 

Of course, Ivy’s nickname was “Poison.”

 

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Jim Brady

 

I don’t spend a lot of time on card backs, to the chagrin of SABR Baseball Cards Committee HQ, but I have been reading the backs of 1956s. The three cartoons grab me.

 

The back of Brady card got me interested because there’s no statistical information. That was for the best. A Notre Dame alum, he caught the eye of Tigers’ farm director John McHale, another ex-Fightin’ Irishman. Brady was a bonus baby, netting $37,500 from Detroit and, as the rules required, had to spend two years on the big league roster, whether he was ready to pitch or not. He wasn’t. He did pitch for the Tigers in 1956 – 6 1/3 IP, 28.42 ERA.

 

Brady’s success came off the field. He garnered three degrees from Notre Dame, was chair of the economics department at Old Dominion, a member of the eco faculty at ND and Jacksonville U. president from 1989-1996. Solid career, just not in baseball.

 

Tug McGraw

 

I don’t have anything to say about Tugger that hasn’t already been said and isn’t already known. There are few players that always bring a smile, and Tug is one of those. As a still-Mets fan in 1973, “Ya Gotta Believe” is permanently stamped in my heart, and McGraw getting dumped in exchange for Mac Friggin’ Scarce is second only to the Seaver trade in abominably anti-fan front office work for a team that specializes in that trade.

 

And now Tug has a place in my card history – the final one for my 1969 set. It’s a high number (evidenced by the same season info on the card back) and was a bit pricier than I hoped, but for McGraw, it’s worth it. I wouldn’t have felt the same about Bill Voss.

 

 

I think of myself as a well-above average baseball scholar. I’m not top of the heap by any means but I’m pretty high up. At the core of the hobby is finding out about players who I’ve never heard of and lives I knew nothing about. At least that’s a big part of the appeal for me (and probably you too.)

Author: Jeff Katz

Jeff Katz is the former Mayor of Cooperstown, the “Birthplace of Baseball” and home to the National Baseball Hall of Fame and Museum. His latest book, Split Season:1981 - Fernandomania, the Bronx Zoo, and the Strike that Saved Baseball, (Thomas Dunne Books, 2015), received national attention, with coverage appearing in The New York Times, Chicago Tribune, Sporting News and NPR’s Only a Game, among others. Katz appeared on ESPN’s Olbermann and The Sporting Life with Jeremy Schaap and MLB Network’s MLB Now, with Brian Kenny. Split Season: 1981 was a finalist for the 2016 Casey Award for Best Baseball Book of the Year.

14 thoughts on “A Pitching Evolution, Of Sorts”

  1. Re: writing to teams for autographs, a friend told me back in the ’90s how as a teen he would put a player’s baseball card into a stamped, self-addressed envelope and send it to the player’s c/o his team. He almost always got an autographed card back. (Was it the clubhouse guy who signed — who knows?). When Tony Gwynn was about the play in the ’98 World Series, I had a chance to write a fawning editorial for the paper I worked for. I suggested that my teenage son use the SASE technique and add a copy of the editorial w/ a Gwynn card. Sure enough, he got it back with Tony’s autograph, and he knows it’s real because he’s had it authenticated (ok, so I’m sure some of you frown on such things.)

    Liked by 2 people

  2. I checked Baseball Reference and found three other Ivys along with Ivey Wingo. Of course we could add #1 draft pick Mike Ivie to the mix. Pop Ivy coached the football Cardinals in the ’60s. I bring this up because it proves your point that cards can serve as a trigger for finding out more. The odd name “Ivy” made me think of other players who share the name. Too bad he didn’t play for Dartmouth.

    I’m pretty sure Jim Brady is Mike Brady’s brother, a”black sheep” that Carol would never allow around the kids.

    I wrote to teams in all sports. I have boxes of letters with stickers and schedules. I inherited my brother’s letters as well. A retirement project is to somehow organize the letters, perhaps in pocket pages.

    Liked by 1 person

  3. I wrote to a lot of players too. Generally I got autographed photos, but occasionally a letter. This makes me wish I’d kept *my* letter, since sometimes the player got pretty specific. For example, I have a letter from Dave Cowens that says, essentially, “Look, we’re working hard out there even though sometimes the results don’t go our way.” What did I say?

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Wow, you were a cheeky kid to criticize Dave Cowens. Did it have something to do with his sharing the Rookie-of-the-Year with Geoff Petrie?

      Liked by 2 people

    2. I loved Cowens so I am sure I was not critical. Maybe it was a sensitive time.

      Don Nelson sent me a signed flyer to the Don Nelson/Satch Sanders basketball camp. John Havlicek sent me a signed photo, and then a few months later sent me another (different) signed photo, both personalized. I assume my letter was so great that he kept it around and then forgot whether he’d answered it. In fact, I bet he still has it.

      Liked by 1 person

      1. My note from Fran Tarkenton has been burned in to my memory for nearly 50 years. (He was still on the Giants, and sent an autographed photo and a separate note). “Please excuse the delay in my reply to your note. I like to handle my mail promptly, but with the volume I receive it sometimes ‘piles up.’ Anyhow, my sincere thanks for your interest. Fran.” There has never been a moment, even during the rowdiest of college parties, when I could not have recited that note.

        Liked by 1 person

      2. As a kid I attended Cowens Basketball camp in the Summer. Did it for 3/4 years. He was there everyday over seeing things, Not just a name on the pamphlet. Would sit around at night and tell stories.

        Liked by 1 person

  4. I just grabbed the Ivy Andrews card mysel. Had a small crease and soft corners, but the price was right considering it’s a short print. I will probably just complete the Redsox with this set. Although not on the Redsox at the time I do have the Foxx for my Foxx PC.

    Liked by 1 person

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