Joe DeMaestri and Bobby Shantz will always hold a special place in my collection. They were both very kind in their respective responses to my autograph requests, sending additional photographs and answering some of the questions I posed in my letters. I will forever be grateful for their generosity.
My interest in both players stems mostly from their time as Yankees, of course. But just as with most of these characters from the golden age, they each have some amazing stories. Whenever I have the chance to pick up cards for either of these guys, it becomes a very easy decision. I had just such an opportunity when these two '54 Bowman cards came up on a sales list.
DeMaestri found himself on the field for Mazeroski's home run in Game 7 of the 1960 Series. This was an epic moment lamented by Yankees fans but I find myself fascinated with the event itself. Joe only found his way into the game after Tony Kubek was struck in the head by a line drive in the 8th inning. Timing is everything, as they say.
"Froggy" began his career in '51 with the White Sox but had found his way to the Philadelphia in time for this '54 issue. The A's would venture west to Kansas City for the following season, where they would remain until the late 60's. Joe would leave in 1960 for the Yankees, a fateful trade that not only led to his view of Maz's shot from the field but facilitated the delivery of Roger Maris to New York.
1954 Bowman is a simple design and this particular card is playfully off-centered, but the coloring is really fantastic!
Interestingly, the write-up on the back of the card cites a nickname of "Oats" for DeMaestri. He was a little tall for those days at six feet, so perhaps there was some kind of horse comparison? Bowman also cites a 'big player deal' that sent Oats from the Sox to the St. Louis Browns. A quick review of this trade shows:
Browns received: DeMaestri, Gordon Goldsberry, Dick Littlefield, Gus Niarhos, Jim Rivera
White Sox received: Sherm Lollar, Tim Upton, Al Widmar
Boy, if that batch of ballplayers doesn't scream for an internet research session, I don't know what does! I'm pretty sure I've seen a few of those guys in my collection before. In fact, I know I have! Yes, I recall blogging about Sherm after I picked up his '60 All-Star card for my Dad's set. I'll have to dig through some cards to see if I can connect some more cardboard dots - always a fun time!
In the meantime, here is the back of the card. A very logical layout that flows easily and provides a lot of solid information:
Check out that Presidential trivia question, folks! Now for Mr. Shantz...
Bobby Shantz had a fantastic career that spanned fifteen seasons of major league ball with seven clubs. He had his finest season with the A's in '52 when he claimed the AL MVP by going 24-7 with nearly 280 innings pitched. The Athletics finished in 4th place that season, enjoying their final winning season in Philadelphia. Shantz participated in the All-Star game at Shibe Park that year and notched a terrific line in the history books by striking out three NL sluggers in a row in the 5th inning: Whitey Lockman, Jackie Robinson and Stan Musial. His duel with Jackie plays a part in one of the items Mr. Shantz sent back to me in response to my TTM request. Have I shared that with you guys, yet? Definitely one of my favorite pieces.
Bobby was injured during the '53 campaign and endured a slow return to form, hurling only eight innings in 1954. That might account for the peaceful but tired look in Bobby's eyes on this Bowman card. Another simple portrait here and the centering is off top-to-bottom, but the edges/corners are AMAZING and the color is even better. There are no hints of a stadium to be had in this card as there was in DeMaestri's, but I kind of dig the field and wooded background. Looks like a warm spring day to me.
The back of the card describes everyone's hope for Bobby in 1954 and adds a curious "great little fielder" comment at the end. The reference to his stature was well deserved, as Mr. Shantz was only five and a half feet tall - but I view the great fielder portion of the comment with much curiosity and awe because it is quite prophetic. Shantz would go on to win eight CONSECUTIVE gold gloves in his career, an amazing feat! It's just incredible to me that he didn't win his first award until three seasons AFTER this Bowman card was issued.
Nice job, Bowman!
I'm excited to add these two cards to my collection. As I mentioned above, it's always a treat to add cards of players I've been able to interact with personally. I don't have very many 1954 Bowman cards but I might very well be approaching a full page now! Does this constitute an official set-build declaration? Hmmm...
Thanks for reading!