Friday, November 16, 2012

One of My Favorite Cards: 1954 Topps #153 Albert "Rube" Walker

As promised, some Dodger "blue"!

I love this card.   It's a 1954 Topps card, so I would love it anyways - but this one definitely has my attention.   It's in pretty good shape, so I feel lucky to have it in my collection as a great representation of baseball in its golden age.   The coloring is terrific and the old-school look of Rube's collapsed hat should be in the dictionary to explain what exactly a "ball cap" is!

Classic. Period.

The details on the front side of this card provide you everything you need to know - team, team logo, position, autograph, close-up and "position action shot".   Rube was a catcher for the Dodgers, so this card provides the extra bonus of getting to see some of that classic catcher's gear.   Love it.

The back of this card is just as good.   It divulges the full spectacle of Albert Bluford Walker Junior's name.   Would never have guessed he was from North Carolina with a name like that, eh?   Rube batted left but fielded as a right hander.  Rube never played ball in college and was drafted by the Cubbies out of high school in 1948.   The write-up gives a great tidbit on a couple of records that Mr. Walker lay claim to as a young player with Brooklyn who was finally getting a shot in '52.   Campanella was obviously the main guy behind the plate for the Dodgers at this time, so I can only imagine the frustration that Rube felt as he battled to make the starting line-up.   Or, perhaps he was enjoying every minute of it!?   Topps squeezes even more information into the comprehensive review of Walker's minor league batting numbers.   That's good stuff and something we don't see too much of anymore.

Call me Al......unless it's the FRONT of this card...

Topps provides the previous year's statistics along with the cumulative career numbers, as was the standard.   It looked like Rube was a pretty good fielder with a .978 fielding percentage.   You combine that with a .250 average and I think you have the makings of a solid back-up catcher.  Plus, his name was Rube and that's just awesome in itself.

Ah, the cartoon strip, "Inside Baseball".   Love these things, and this particular 3-panel strip is a great example.   It relates a portion of Rube's contribution to the epic Dodger-Giants playoff series of 1951.   Most of us know about that (the "Shot Heard 'Round the World") Series and its incredible/terrifying finish but what I personally did not know was that MVP Campanella did not play in Games 2 or 3.   If I am reading the comic correctly, the "...a Dodger was hurt..." refers to Campy, right?   First of all, I am a bit shocked that Topps didn't provide the star player's name here......perhaps it was a simple factor of not being able to fit "Campanella" - but I don't think so!   There's a lot of space still available in Panel #1.   My second complaint is that I can only find mention of Campanella's injury in one remote space in the internet universe......somebody refers to Roy "injuring his thigh" at some point.   But I can't find a write-up of Game 2 that describes some type of in-game injury or event and the resulting substitution.   In fact, doesn't portray Campanella as being on the starting lineup.   Therefore, I'm assuming that the Dodger backstop suffered something during Game 1 and just couldn't make the start in Games 2 or 3. 

Can anybody confirm this?   For you Dodgers fans - do you think this had any impact on the Series' outcome.......well, more than that whole telescope, thing?

Anyways - Rube Walker got his chances in Games 2 and 3 and, as it says on the back of this card, made good use of his time.   He pounded 3 hits and 2 homers to assist the Dodgers on their way to a 10-0 victory that necessitated that epic Game 3.

Or did he?

The back of this 1954 Topps card credits two home runs to Walker but the box scores at do not agree - they report only 1 home run, in the 9th inning, for 'ol Rube.   Huh.   I wonder what happened there?   Does anybody know?   Perhaps some kind of in-the-park deal from earlier in the game?   You can read over the numbers from that Game 2 here.   That would be interesting - again, if anybody can provide some insight, I'd be grateful.   Otherwise, it may just be a baseball card curiosity! 

Rube much closer to achieving "full Medlen" than Tom.

Walker went on to do some managing for the Dodgers and Yankees farm systems before becoming a pitching coach for the Senators, Mets and Braves.   A testament to the role a good catcher can play in successful pitching, he was a pitching coach for the Mets from '68 through '81, including the Amazin' Mets of '69 and oversaw development of two pitchers that made their way through the Metropolitans organization: Nolan Ryan and Tom Seaver.   'Nuff said, Rube!

Guess what just got added to my "Want" list?

Mr. Walker finished out his days in the Game as a scout for the Cardinals and passed away in '92.

So there you go - some great stories to go along with this Rube Walker card from 1954.   I hope you enjoyed them as much as I did researching (even though I feel a bit incomplete for the effort).   Mr. Walker sure is a great part of the Dodgers' franchise history and another classic component of our great Game, too.

Thanks for reading!

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