Friday, November 14, 2014

Milwaukee Braves from the 50s, 60s, 70s, 90s, and 10s

Card shows can be hit or miss. Sometimes, the show contains rich veins of oddballs, lesser-known sets, and good condition commons from 50 years ago at a reasonable price. Other times, it feels like everyone decided to bring their  1988 Fleer and 1989 Topps to the show. Each of those has its positives and negatives, of course (if all I could find were those '88 Fleer and '89 Topps, I'd pick up the cards I still need from both of those sets and leave after spending $2...that can be a positive, I suppose). 

My most recent card show visit was more like the first than the second, and, to be fair, that is usually the case. At the first table at which I stopped on getting to the show, the prices were a bit higher than I might otherwise pay -- a lot of 25 cent cards, which doesn't break the bank but add up pretty quickly as well as some vintage cards that ran higher and even into the hundreds of dollars.  

I stayed away from that high-end stuff. I will have to go there eventually, when I'm further down the road on my Braves collections and am looking for that Hank Aaron 1954 Topps to complete a team set. Hopefully, at that point, I can still find a good deal.

Anyway, the first group of cards that I sat down to flip through was a set called The 1960s that TCMA put out in two series -- one in 1978 and one in 1981. All of the cards here -- and the ones I put up in my trade bait -- were from Series I in 1978.
Joe Torre
Let's start with a 36-year-old card of a Hall of Famer in gem mint condition that cost a quarter. Joe Torre is pictured in his Milwaukee Braves hat but was listed on the back of the card as an Atlanta Brave. That makes little sense -- Torre played in parts of 6 seasons in Milwaukee (yes, it was only 2 games in 1960 as a 19-year-old catcher) and was an all-star three times for the Brewtown Braves before the team was purchased and squirreled away to the city where I reside. 

But, Torre played just three seasons with Atlanta before the Braves sent him to the Cardinals for fellow Hall of Famer Orlando Cepeda.  Bad trade.  Cepeda was 4 years older than Torre and played just 401 games in 4 season for the Braves, while Torre -- at the age of 28 -- was just getting to his best years (including his MVP year in 1971).

Anyway, I count him as a Milwaukee Brave for my purposes in this set.
Ty Cline
Ty Cline played three seasons as a CF, 1B, and PH with Milwaukee before the move in 1965 brought him back to his Southern roots -- he attended Clemson University before signing with the Indians in 1960.

Ken Johnson
Ken Johnson as a Milwaukee Brave is as nonsensical as Joe Torre being an Atlanta Brave. Johnson, who was an original Houston Colt .45, pitched 172-2/3 innings in the 1965 season in Milwaukee. He remained with Atlanta for 3-1/2 more seasons. He's more "Atlanta" than "Milwaukee" despite being included with Milwaukee for this set.
Mack Jones
Mack Jones played parts of 4 seasons in Milwaukee and two full seasons in Atlanta. He's pictured as an Atlanta Brave, but the back of the card lists him with Milwaukee. This TCMA set is a weird one.

Gary Kolb
Gary Kolb was an outfielder and catcher. He played a total of 60 games with the Milwaukee Braves, 103 games with the Pirates, 90 games with the Cardinals, and 40 games with the Mets. I guess TCMA just had a photo of him as a Brave.

Frank Lary
This one is even weirder. Frank "Mule" Lary spent 11 seasons with the Tigers before bouncing around the leagues after leaving Detroit in 1964. He pitched a grand total of 12-1/3 innings for the Milwaukee Braves in 5 appearances in 1964. 

Jesse Gonder
Gonder was another short-time Brave, this time as a backup catcher. He spent 31 games (57 plate appearances) with the Braves in 1965, hitting .151/.211/.245. 
Ed Bailey
And finally, here's another one-year Brave: Ed Bailey. At least Bailey spent all of 1964 with the Braves -- 95 games, 309 plate appearances, hitting near the league average in OPS. He spent the majority of his career in Cincinnati.

As you can see, that was a weird find to me. So many one-year wonders -- many of whom probably don't have many or any other cards as Braves. Thankfully, this same seller also had some "true" vintage.

For instance, how about these two 1957 Topps cards, mine for $1 each?

Gene Conley is one of the few people in history (only?) who can say that he won a World Series title and an NBA title. Conley was on the World Series winning Braves team in 1957, and then, in his spare time, he won three NBA Titles in 1959, 1960, and 1961 with the Boston Celtics. This amazing 6'8" athlete is 84 years old and still is with us.

Frank Torre, unfortunately, is no longer alive. Frank being a Brave almost certainly led the team to sign his younger brother Joe and probably led Joe to signing.

This was the most expensive card of the day at $6. It's from 1958 and shows the World Series winning Milwaukee Braves. Part of me thinks that I could have done a little better on the price, but that was down already from $10, so at least I did get that much knocked off.

These two cards are both from 1960 Topps. Other than the 14-year-old girl style of coloring every other letter, I could have been convinced easily that the Chuck Dressen card came from 1965 Topps with that pennant and logo and all. 

As for Charlie Lau, anyone who could be credited by George Brett as being the man who taught him to hit is a good addition to anyone's collection.

Speaking of 1965 Topps, these three cards together cost me $2. Klimchock played a total of 318 games in the major leagues spread over 12 seasons. He spent all or a part of 4 seasons in Milwaukee and made a total of 76 appearances. 

I've mentioned Fischer before, I believe.  I think he may still be alive in the mountains in North Georgia in Hiawassee.

Oliver was a Midwestern boy whom the Cardinals signed first before trading him to the Braves with Bob Sadowski in return for one of my player collection guys, Lew Burdette, in 1963. He had the ignominious distinction of being traded to the Philadelphia Phillies by the Atlanta Braves so that the Braves could get baseball immortal Bob Uecker.

Three more modern cards also made their way into my Milwaukee Braves collection. There's the 2012 Hank Aaron Allen & Ginter card along with a 2001 reprint of the 1965 Topps Aaron and a 1999 reprint of the 1957 Topps Aaron, showing him with the reversed negative.

So, not that you asked, but I do have reasons why I do not include Aaron as a player collection. First off, his cards are more expensive, for the most part, than anything of Spahn or Mathews. 

Granted, the 1952 Topps Mathews -- which was both his rookie card and was the last card of the 1952 set (making it susceptible to damage from rubber-banding in a fashion that has inflated the prices for the #1 card, Wisconsin native Andy Pafko) -- is pretty damn expensive (check this one out: PSA "Authentic" as altered [I think trimmed] is listed on Amazon by Dean's Cards for the low, low price of $1,380!). So I'll have enough super-expensive cards to chase for my team set without adding the need to get TWO of every Aaron.

The other reason is more personal and simpler: Hank Aaron in my mind is an Atlanta Brave. Yes, he spent more years in MIlwaukee as a Brave than in Atlanta, but Hank is an Atlanta guy. He lives here. He has a BMW dealership here. He's been a part of the Atlanta front office for many, many years. He's active in the community here in Atlanta. Both Mathews and Spahn are guys who are "Milwaukee" Braves, and Burdette and Adcock similarly are guys I associate with those Milwaukee teams of the late 1950s. But when I think of Hank, I think of the homer off Al Downing. I think of Turner Field being located on Hank Aaron Drive. I think of Atlanta. I guess that's a bias of living in the Atlanta area for over 19 years now, but that's the way it is.

I did get one more card for my Braves team set. It's my buddy, the bad-hitting Bob Buhl, and it's a wood-grain TV set of him:

I have always liked the 1955 Bowman for the "Color TV" design. Maybe I just have a thing for wood-grained paneling, since that was all the rage in the 1970s as a cheap way to cover up a crappy drywall job. I mean, I am partial to both the 1963 and 1987 Topps sets too. Hmm.

Anyway, this Buhl card -- which looks like he is wearing lipstick, rouge, but that he forgot to manscape his unibrow -- set me back $2. I couldn't just leave it on the table at that price.

I'm starting to find that I like the vintage cards and photos of those players from the 1960s since it gives me a reason to find out who these guys were. I hope you've enjoyed this walk through as well.


  1. Great finds! I love anything from TCMA. That Buhl is a beauty as well. I think '55 Bowman would be in my all-time Top 5 card designs if I had to make such a list.

  2. All very nice cards, especially the Gene Conley!