Friday, March 22, 2013

One Of My Favorite Cards: 1953 Topps #138 George Kell

The 2013 MLB season is almost here!

Let's take a quick break from the modern day excitement and enjoy some 60 year-old cardboard, shall we?

I can't recall exactly how I acquired this old '53 Topps card, but I'm sure glad I did.   Yes, it's technically a Red Sox card......but hey, it's a '53 Topps card of a Hall of Fame slugger George Kell!

The Player

Mr. Kell played professional ball from 1940 to 1957 with the A's, Tigers, Red Sox, White Sox and Orioles.   He was one of the most successful players to emerge during the player shortage of World War II.   Though not known for slugging home runs (78 for his career total), the third baseman was a tough out and captured the batting title in 1949 - displacing Ted Williams from the top slot during the final week of play by a margin of .0002!   His "2 for 3" performance on the season's final day prevented Williams from earning his third Triple Crown.

He finished his career as a 10-time All Star with a .306 average, 2,054 hits and 870 RBI.   he is probably best remembered for his time in Detroit, where he played for six years from 1946 to 1952.   Replaced by some up-and-comer named Brooks Robinson, George decided to hang up his spikes and became a broadcaster for the Orioles in 1957.   He began his broadcasting career in Baltimore but soon returned to Motown and joined up with the likes of Al Kaline to call Tigers games almost continuously from 1959 to 1996.   He was elected into the Hall of Fame by the Veteran's Committee in 1983.

Two of my favorite stories about Kell showcase both his grittiness and humility.

Keeping in mind the 'delicacy' of our modern day heroes, George missed some games during the 1948 season when he broke his wrist on a Vic Raschi pitch.   A few weeks later - YES, a few weeks later - misfortune found Kell again when a line drive off of the bat of Joe DiMaggio busted his jaw.   Kell recalled the DiMaggio smash play later on, "...I got up, made the play at third and then passed out."

And all of that was without deer antler spray, I suppose....Can you imagine that timeline these days?   By the way, George Kell won that batting title the next season, remember?   The other memorable moment of humility came during his Hall of Fame acceptance speech in '83:

    "I have always said that George Kell has taken more from this great game of baseball than he can ever give back. And now I know, I am deeper in debt than ever before."

   Awesome, awesome stuff.

The Card

It's a 1953 Topps card.   Classic design - a baseball card.   The painted portrait here doesn't give us any action but you can get a good sense of the country man from Arkansas who probably made a few folks smile in Boston back then.   It was a sunny day for this portrait, with the traditional puffy clouds drifting by in the skies beyond as Kell gazes forward.....we also get a sneak peek at the corner of the stadium's roof down the first base line.   A crumpled up Sox cap.......good stuff.   My favorite part of this vintage card is probably the old school Red Sox logo featured in the lower left corner:


The card is pretty well centered with some touched edges and corners....okay, some rounding of the corners.   I don't really care too much.   The coloring is great too and the original gloss/surface of the card is fantastic.   No major creases that take away from the overall appearance either - I'm a happy camper.

Here's the back:


My labeling of this year's card backs as efficient is not a slam!   I love everything we get here.   The biographical information up top (Clyde!) and quick synopsis of his career easily gives us a sense that Kell had already established himself as one of the game's highly regarded players by this time in his career.   The ode to his fielding abilities is a nice touch.   I love having the facsimile autograph but it makes it a tiny bit frustrating to read the write-up.......yeah, I'm nit-picking.   I just don't want to be 100% fan boy, you know?

The streamlined 'past year & career' stat columns is easy to review and a cartoon/trivia opportunity is ALWAYS welcome in my collection!   This one is no slouch, either, as the card quizzes the collectors of 1953 on who "participated in the greatest number of consecutive games?"

Of course, the answer to this question became outdated on September 6, 1995 when Cal Ripken Jr. played in his 2,131st consecutive game.   But this is George's post - so I'll keep it at that.   The back of the card is in great shape for me, too.   Some hairline crease action in the top right but no paper loss and some more great color on that wonderful, wonderful old card stock.

Have a great weekend and thanks for reading! 

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