Friday, August 17, 2012

The Quest for '60: 1960 Topps #567 Sherm Lollar, All Star

This will hopefully be the first of many ""Quest for '60" posts that I'm able to share with you here at Ryan's Pitch.  

1960 Topps baseball cards were the first vintage baseball cards that I ever saw and, very carefully, held in my hands.   At some point during my childhood, my grandparents presented my father with two binders of sports cards - mostly baseball and a little bit of football.   They were actually his old collection, salvaged from the meticulously and safely kept shoebox that had been gathering dust in my grandparents' homes since his childhood.  He was thrilled but probably not as ecstatic as his eldest son......yours truly.

Those binders still blow my mind!

My old man was a Yankees fan so I get it honest.   And fortunately for his collection, this means that there are several Mantles which graced the very first page of binder #1.   An All-Star card, the 1960 base Mantle card.....three 1964 Mantles.....epic stuff.   But the majority of the two binders is definitely 1960 Topps baseball cards.   As a child, all I was concerned with were the Mantles and a couple of rookie cards (complete with a HUGE trophy on one of them!!!) for some dudes named McCovey and Yastrzemski.   I quickly donated some of my top loaders and breathed a sigh of relief as these relics were gently lowered into safety.....even though they had survived in really good condition, for decades, within a plain old box.   But I was a child collector of the Junk Wax era, so we were definitely at DEFCON 5 until they were properly 'stored'.   Whew!   My job was done and it is within those protective cases that those key cards still rest.   They are Dad's cards and maybe one day (hopefully a long time from now) they will be passed down.

But how many cards did he have?   Did he have a complete set?   Was he close?

I didn't ask those questions twenty years ago and even if I had - would it have inspired me to take action?   Based on my allowance at the time....most certainly not.   But that was then.   Fast forward to me as a grown up child.   This past Christmas, I took the time to truly flip through ALL of the pages and look, for the first time, with my mature collecting eyes as to what Dad really had in those two binders.   Gibson....Musial......Kaline.....many of the GREAT ones were there!   Berra, Ford, Aaron....the awesomeness continued!   I jotted down the numbers and collated as best I could.    Page after page, I was like a monk salvaging ancient messages scribbled on scrolls of papyrus.   Or something like that.   You can find my results under the "Sets Needs" tab to the right - Dad is actually VERY close to completing the 1960 Topps set!   Let me know if you can help, I am always up for a trade.

So, after all of that - I am now on my Quest for '60 and have set a goal to complete my Dad's partial 1960 Topps set.  

Crazy?   Probably.   Yes, there are some mighty expensive cards left to be tracked down but at the same time, there are dozens and dozens of very reasonable "common" base cards that can be checked off the list, too.   I fully recognize that this quest will take years and, potentially, decades.   I would like to finish the set in a reasonable time frame so that my old man and I can enjoy its completion together.   Here's hoping, for so many powerful reasons......

Enough background though - let's get to Mr. Lollar.

I found this Sherm Lollar All Star card for a great price AND it's in great condition AND I didn't know anything about Sherm Lollar.....but now I do and I am grateful for the learning experience.   Here's a look at the front of this card, #567 from the set:

What do you think of these 1960 All Star card designs?

Shake off the iPhone "fish eye" effect and you can see what I mean - this wonderful old piece of cardboard is in GREAT condition.   The corners are sharp and the colors are still vivid even 52 years later.   Great edges and not even a hint of creasing.   Good stuff - if only they could all be like this!   Being number 567 from the set makes it a "High Series" card and therefore, more rare.   So I'm really happy to cross it off the list.

But who is Shem Lollar?

You know those great ball players that seem to exist in the shadow of a better-known or only slightly better player from the same position?   Sherm is one of those players.   As it turn out, he was one of the finest catcher in the American League during the 1950's!   Check these accolades out:
  • 7 time All-Star
  • 2 time World Series Champion (once as a player)
  • 3 time Gold Glove Award Winner
Impressive!   Of course, being a catcher in the AL in the '50's.....Sherm was often in the shadow of MR. Yogi Berra.   Heck, Sherm even played for the Yankees in '47 and '48 - just as Yogi was beginning to establish his era.   The two of them were competing for the starting role as the '47 season approached.   Both were considered to be great hitters and defensive liabilities....although they would both shake the defensive label.   The Bronx Bombers' catching sage at the time, Bill Dickey, advised team management that Berra's left-handed bat would be better suited for Yankee Stadium's short left porch and wouldn't you know - Berra got the slot and Lollar was eventually traded to the Browns. 

Sherm Lollar's career would take off, though and he would go on to play for the Browns and White Sox until 1963, spending the majority of that span in Chicago where he won all of his gold gloves and earned six of his All-Star selections.   He was always regarded as a powerful hitter, even within the gigantic dimensions of Comiskey Park and is often cited as one of those players who garners serious consideration for posthumous entry into the Hall of Fame.   I hope he gets his chance, one day.   Here is the back of Sherm's All Star card:

Love the cartoon!  "In a two hits in an inning twice"

When he retired in 1963, Lollar's career fielding percentage of .992 was the HIGHEST for a catcher in major league history.   At the time of his retirement, he was also 5th on the all-time list for catching base runners throughout his career - nailing 46% of them!   Way to go, Sherm!

I'm really glad to add another piece of the puzzle to my Quest for '60 and probably even more ecstatic that my quest has introduced me to Sherm Lollar - who I now know to be one of the greatest catchers during baseball's golden age.

Thanks for reading and have a great weekend!


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