It's been a great couple of weeks for my quest to complete the 1960 Topps set. I had some very generous additions from reader Mr. Haverkamp (thank you, sir) and I was also able to pick up this card of Mr. James - a Yankee (applause!) and man of two first names.
This card is in really great shape! The colors are nice and bright, the surface is clean and the corners are sharp for a '60. More and more, I fall in love with this set every time I have the chance to enjoy a new addition. I know. It's weird.
Mr. James' time in the majors was fairly short He initially came up for a cup of coffee on September 6, 1958, after spending four years in the farm system. On that day, he came on in relief of Art Ditmar, who had served up seven runs in six innings to the Washington Senators. Taking the reigns with gusto, Mr. James held the senators scoreless over the final three frames.
Johnny would miss out on breaking camp with the club in the spring of '59 but he fought his way onto the roster in Florida a year later and had some success with the Yanks in 1960. During that season he appeared 28 times in relief, going 5-1 with two saves and striking out 29.
In 1961, Johnny was sent to California in the trade that brought Bob Cerv to the Bronx. His career would end when that season wrapped up for the Halo's, but he did participate in the historic home run season of his former teammate, Roger Maris. On June 11th, in the bottom of the 7th inning, Maris (who had already taken Eli Grba deep in the 3rd for HR #19) crushed a solo shot off of James into the right field bleachers for his 20th long ball of that historic season.
Johnny James ended his career with a 5-3 record and 73 strikeouts.
Here's the back of card #499:
I always love the backs of these vintage cards and this one is no exception. Of note to me is the use of the term "reliefers" as opposed to "relievers". This is the first time I've noticed that but I'll assume it was common practice back then? I'll surely keep my eyes open for that nomenclature going forward....also, you'll notice the Topps write-up refers to the Yankees as the "New Yorkers". Again, I'm certain my eyes have glazed past this reference before, but this is the first time I've noticed. Very cool.
I also find it interesting that Topps was able to successfully project that Johnny would make the club in 1960 after spending the 1959 campaign back in the minors. This card is #499 - would it have been produced early on in the season? Could they have had a head's up if this card was released in a later series? Inquiring nerds want to know.....
The cartoon highlights Mr. James' participation in a no-hitter against the Phillies during spring training ......which is also noted in Johnny's wikipedia write-up.......in which wikipedia notes this co-op no-no as being a prime reason for Mr. James breaking camp with the parent club.
HEY! So, it looks like Topps did indeed have a pretty good idea that Johnny "stands a fine chance" to be on the roster at some point that season! Those rascals at Topps, I tell you what!
Ah! Just a common from an old baseball card set - but look where it's taken us! A post that includes two guys named Grba and Cerv, along with some impromptu cardboard appreciation research for your enjoyment today. I love this hobby.
Thanks for reading!