Thursday, June 12, 2014

My Yankees Collection - 1964 Topps #259 Harry Bright

Slowly but surely I have amassed a healthy sampling of 1964 Yankees.   Undoubtedly, I am chasing down the complete team set - if not the entire thing.   I am well on my way with at least 15 cards in the bag.   How's that for some collecting optimism?

Here we have Mr. Harry Bright.   If I'm being honest, I had never heard of Mr. Bright until I picked up this card for a couple of bucks.   It was a vintage baseball card and it was a Yankees vintage card at that - so this was a no-brainer for me, regardless of whose card ti actually was.

First off, the card is really beautiful.   The colors are vibrant with great clarity and focus, no creases and some solid centering.   The corners are even fairly sharp if but for some typical slight rounding from its half a century of existence.   I haven't even been around for half a century yet and I know I have some rounding issues....

There's Yankee Stadium in the background!   Always a plus.   It looks like a fabulous sunny day in the Bronx even if Harry doesn't look so sure.   A batting cage is also present in the picture, with some unknown Bomber waiting patiently to take some rips before the big game.   I am sure it is the Mick.

But who is Mr. Harry Bright? 

The first clue we receive is the "inf-of" designation bestowed upon utility players in the days of yore.   To the back we go!

Ah, here we are.   Topps agrees with my appraisal of Harry's ability to be utilized by the Yanks and admits that he has, in fact, played all NINE positions throughout his career.


Indeed!   Bright started with a MUCH anticipated cup of coffee for the Pirates back in '58.   This was after twelve long years in the minors for four different organizations.   Harry clearly had a dream, and it was realized on July 25, 1958.   Along with more than thirty thousand fans at Forbes Field, Mr. Bright watched his team pound the visiting Giants for ten runs through eight innings of play.   Willie Mays swiped second base after a walk in the top of the first inning, and really only threatened to score once more in the seventh inning- when Orlando Cepeda stroked a single into right field, resulting in a throw to the plate that nailed Mays who was trying to score from second.

Yup. These two guys...but NOT on that day (card not in my collection)!

So, the game was in hand as San Francisco came up for their last chance in the final frame.   The  Bucs' third baseman, Frank Thomas, had enjoyed a busy afternoon going 2 for 5, including one of Pittsburgh's three triples that day.   I suppose he needed a breather and the rest was history - Manager Danny Murtaugh made the move and Harry ran out to play third base!

"Get in there, kid!"
The Giants went quietly in the ninth with one last-gasp single by Mays before Baby Bull struck out to end the game.   What a thrill that must have been for Harry!   He would go on to appear in 14 more games for the Pirates that season and even belted his first home run, a 2-run shot against the Reds, on August 9th.

Bright would appear sporadically in '59 and '60 before being sent to the Senators, with whom he had his most successful years.   In particular, Harry batted .273 with 17 HRS and 67 RBI in '62.   During the off-season, Bright was sent packing once again.   This time, he found himself in a Reds uniform for only one at-bat (a strikeout, unfortunately) before being sold to the.....Yankees!

He played the rest of the season with the Yankees and probably enjoyed being a part of the post-season runs of '61, '62 and '63 that we all know so well.   He would eventually get his shot at fame in the '63 Series against the Dodgers, when he was called upon in by Ralph Houk to pinch hit for the pitcher, Steve Hamilton.

Against Sandy Koufax, who needed ONE more strikeout to set a new, single-game World Series record.

In the bottom of the 9th, with two Game 1 of the World Series.

Joe Pepitone was on first and the Yanks were hoping to close the 5-2 gap.......reportedly, the hometown fans, aware of the historic ledge upon which Koufax stood, began cheering for the hurler to......strike out Harry.   Tough crowd, but Bright obliged them - going down swinging and becoming Sandy's 15th K on the day.


Harry Bright would actually get another shot in Game 2, entering the game as a pinch hitter in the 5th inning for pitcher, Al Downing.   The Yanks were down 3-0 at that point and I suppose Houk was hoping to both get some offense going and bring in a fresh arm for the 6th frame.   Unfortunately, Harry made it a 1-2-3 inning for Johnny Podres, who shutout the Yanks through one out in the 9th inning, by watching a called third strike zoom past him.   The Dodgers would go on to win the '63 Series by besting the Yanks in four straight games and Bob Gibson would break Koufax's mark

Like Bright's career, I finally found a subtle flaw that had eluded my initial appraisal of this terrific card.   There is a 'jammed' edge along the front's left side that you can clearly see above.   However, Harry and I probably share a common ability to enjoy the greatness of reality.   Though his brush with greatness was swift and cruel, he had realized his dream and would go on to close out his career as a professional, playing his final 27 games as a Cub in 1965.  

Similarly, this simple baseball card, a card of a player who was previously unknown to this fan, can now be carefully placed in my Yankees Collection.   It is not perfect but it is clearly special and comes complete with a great story.   Praised to be a valuable utility man and labeled as an "inf-of", in the end, Harry Bright was a part of history - the man who was Koufax's 15th strikeout.

And now, I'm proud to say that he is a part of my collection!

Thanks for reading and keep collecting.

1 comment:

  1. Great post. I knew next to nothing about Bright. Now I do!