I have no idea how to create pages but I'll figure it out eventually godammit

Tuesday, September 9, 2008

Card of the Week 09/09/08

By an overwhelming margin, Hal Brown has been deemed worthy of Card of the Week Honors. Big Hat Hal got as many votes as all the others combined. And yeah, that amazing hat was the reason I chose Hal for the competition in the first place. So who is Hal?

Skinny Brown was a knuckleballer who pitched 14 years in the bigs. You all know how much I love knuckleballers. Hal, a chunky kid, got his nickname from his loving parents. For a knuckleballer, Hal had remarkable control. He only threw 37 wild pitches in his career. For comparison, Joe Niekro once threw 21 in one year. Unfortunately, a big part of a knuckler's effectiveness is in not knowing quite where the hell that ball is going. Hal was never a great pitcher but he could be an solid bottom of the rotation starter. Hal made his debut with the White Sox before being traded to the Red Sox in a deal for Vern Stephens. Hal had a good year with the Sox in '53 but ended up back in the Pacific Coast League. He had his best years with Baltimore, going 62-48 while pitcheing both in the rotation and out of the pen. After a couple of games with the 1962 Champion New York Yankees ( I wonder if Hal got a ring?) he finished off his career with the expansion Houston Colt .45s. His record doesn't show it due to pitching on some bad clubs - The Colts in particular sabotaged his numbers - but Skinny was really a very effective pitcher. He even led the league in WHIP in 1960! What kind of knuckleball pitcher does that?

None of you care about that though, you want to know what the heck is up with that hat? I can't explain it. Hal doesn't appear to have an overly huge noggin and his other Topps cards don't feature any precariously perched trucker hats. I have a feeling this is the work of an especially inspired artist. Note the masterful use of shadow to conceal the hairline so it appears that Hal's forehead just keeps going... and going... If that hat went any higher he'd be a driving instructor from Remulac. He'd definitely be the greatest knuckleballer from France. The taxicab ears and stern expression only add to the effect. Other than some of Mike Piazza's recent releases, I've never seen anyone working the high hat any better than Hal.

The back is pretty interesting in its own right. That huge baseball with TOPPS and the card number is a huge reason why I love the '53 set. That right there is the undisputed King of all card numbers. In the top left corner where it's easily seen and it's nice and big so you can actually read it. With my family history of nearsightedness and glaucoma, that is definitely appreciated. Heck, in 30 years this might be the only set I'll still be able to sort. I'm also fond of the facsimile autograph obscuring the biography. That's an interesting design choice right there. A card that can be enjoyed by people wearing bifocals. Look at it from far away and you see his signature. Squint real close and you can read about his record at Seattle and Roanoke. This is definitely a set friendly to the vision impaired. The best though are these dugout quizzes. A trivia question and a cartoon... pure bliss. it was so revolutionary at the time, that Jefferson Burdick described the set in his American Card Catalog as the one with the quiz. This card has a nice crazy bull rampaging on the pack. I can imagine Hal with that steely look in his eye taking down that bull in no time flat without the hat falling off at all.

The reason I have this card at all is because I got frustrated trying to find Allen & Ginter and Goudey inserts on the Bay. First of all, I don't really know which ones I want to collect yet. Minis? Leaders? Airplanes? Berk Ross? Sharks? Cabinets? There's too much stuff to collect and not enough money to outbid everyone else. So I found some vintage Goudeys while looking for not so vintage Goudeys, and one thing led to another and now I'm focused back on the Vintage stuff which is where I should have been focused in the first place. This card of Hal has eluded me for a very long time and is one of the few common cards I still needed for the set. I picked it up along with George Kell to knock the number of cards for the set I need to 54. Considering I've all but given up on finding the Jackie, Mickey, Satchel and Mays cards in my price range, that puts me at 50 cards to go. The best part is that now that I have Hal I get to experience...

The Joy of the Completed Page

13 pages down out of 35. Seven of those 35 are from the tough high series so I'm doing pretty good. Thanks Skinny, you finished off a page and became this week's Card of the Week.


Captain Canuck said...

looks like Al Zarilla borrowed Hal's hat for picture day...... or the other way around....

deal said...

congrats on finishing the page. Great summary of Hal Brown. Another interesting card write up.

tastelikedirt said...

Hal Brown!