Trivia question: There’s no trivia question on the manager cards
A few things about Chuck Dressen:
* Dressen is the second-oldest person depicted on a 1964 Topps card. Dressen was born September 20, 1898, making him 65 during the 1964 season. Only Mets manager Casey Stengel (who was born in 1890) was older among those who have a 1964 card.
* He’s mostly known as being the manager for the Brooklyn Dodgers during the “Boys of Summer” days of the early 1950s. He managed the Dodgers during the infamous 1951 season, when the Giants came from 12-1/2 games behind in August to edge the Dodgers in a tiebreaker on the “Shot Heard ‘Round the World.” He won consecutive pennants with the Dodgers in 1952 and ’53, but lost the World Series to the Yankees both years. He was managing the dismal Washington Senators when the Dodgers finally won the championship in 1955.
* Dressen wasn’t much of a player, but he did play in seven seasons with the Reds, mostly as a third baseman. He didn’t debut until 1925, when he was 26 years old. He immediately became a manager in the minor leagues after his playing career ended, but ended up signing to play off the bench for the Giants late in the 1933 season. Dressen took on a coach-like role and won a title with New York despite not playing in the World Series.
* He played quarterback in the NFL for three seasons, one with the Decatur Staleys and two for the Racine Legion.
* Dressen was hired to manage the Tigers in the middle of the 1963 season. He suffered a heart attack in spring of 1965 and missed the first 42 games of the season. He then had another heart attack early in the 1966 season, and never fully recovered, dying in August 1966 at the age of 67.
After five years of buying, selling and trading cards, I have finally completed the full 1964 Topps set. Now comes the task of upgrading some of the cards I have that are in less than VG condition. Overall, I think the set averages VG-EX, with quite a few better and quite a few worse.
I’ve enjoyed spending some of my spare time over the last few years constructing the posts here, but they take me quite a while to write, so I think I’m going to take some cues from some blogs I’ve seen for other sets and focus on writing some shorter posts with a few bullet points for each card so I can get through them a bit quicker. Otherwise I’ll be doing this blog until about 2060.
One of the things I love about this project is that I wasn’t born until 1977, so many of the players in this set are guys I don’t know a whole lot about. Everyone knows about the stars of this era, but it’s really cool to go back and learn about the players who filled out MLB rosters in 1964.
It should be noted that there are two high-profile absences from the 1964 set. Both Maury Wills and Chris Short did not have cards in this set. In fact, neither guy was pictured on a Topps card until 1967 despite being well into their major league careers. I’m not sure why Short, a decent pitcher in his time, isn’t represented. There’s long been a rumor that Wills declined to sign with Topps early in his career because he was unhappy about being passed over for a card in what turned out to be his rookie season. But that wasn’t exactly true. When Topps was signing players in 1959, Wills was in camp with the Detroit Tigers and not considered to be an MLB-quality player, so Topps didn’t bother signing him to a deal. When Wills ended up being sent back to the Dodgers and making the team, he instead signed an exclusive contract with Fleer (which ended up not working out that well, since Fleer only put him on a card in 1963). He and Topps both deny there was any bad blood, and say Fleer simply got to him first.
Since these team cards feature the roster photo from the previous year’s team, this Cardinals card is the last Topps card to feature Stan Musial as an active player. He’s in the front row, fifth person in from the right. Musial retired after the 1963 season, so he’s otherwise not featured in the ’64 set. Red Schoendienst is also in this photo, third from left. He also retired in 1963.
The team cards from this set are hard to find well-centered and often are cut crooked. My version of this card is actually in pretty good shape, at least an EX and probably EX-MT.
These cards recap the team leaders from 1963 on the top part of the back of the card, then shows the W-L record of each pitcher against each team in the league.
While this card shows 1963 numbers, I’m using the team card posts to talk about each team’s 1964 season.
The Cardinals, as you may know, won the World Series in 1964 in a dramatic seven-game series against the New York Yankees. With the Cards trailing the series 2-1, NL MVP Ken Boyer hit a grand slam in Game 4 to give St. Louis a 4-3 win and turn momentum back in their favor.
Game 5 was another classic, with the Cards blowing a 2-0 lead in the bottom of the ninth at Yankee Stadium, as Tom Tresh hit a game-tying two-run homer with two out after Mickey Mantle had reached on a Dick Groat error. The Cards somehow shook it off, and 22-year-old catcher Tim McCarver (decades before annoying World Series viewers on Fox) hit a three-run homer in the top of the 10th to win the game. Yankee Stadium wouldn’t host another postseason game until 1976.
The series went back to St. Louis, but the Yanks didn’t go quietly. Roger Maris and Mantle hit homers to put New York ahead, then Joe Pepitone launched a grand slam that broke the game wide open an the Yankees won 8-3.
Game 7 was somewhat anticlimactic, but the Yankees managed to make things interesting after falling behind 6-0. Bob Gibson was working on two days rest, and started to tire in the later innings. Mantle hit a three-run bomb to pull the Yankees within 6-3, but a Boyer homer put the Cards back up by four. With Gibson running on fumes, Clete Boyer and Phil Linz went deep in the ninth to make it 7-5, but Gibson got a popout from Bobby Richardson to end the series. It was the first World Series win for the Cardinals since 1946.
It’s amazing, really, that the Cardinals even ended up in the World Series. They had won 93 games in 1963, finishing six games behind the Dodgers, who swept the Yankees in the World Series. Expecting another good finish in ’64, the Cardinals instead found their season going south during a rough stretch in June. The Cards were in eighth place on June 17, and were still under .500 (47-48) on July 24.
This is the second card made for Jerry Buchek, and it seems as if the “baseball experts” were thinking he was really ready for the big leagues in 1964 after a fairly dismal audition as a 19-year-old in 1961.
The trivia question asks who holds the career record for doubles. The answer is the same now as it was in 1964: Tris Speaker, with 792. Pete Rose would eventually move into second place on this list, finishing his career at 746. Rose had 25 career doubles heading into the ’64 season.
Buchek must have been a bit of a hot prospect, as he was already in AAA as an 18-year-old. A solid 1961 season with the Portland Beavers earned him a call-up to the Cardinals late in the season. But it didn’t go particularly well, as he batted .133 with no homers and no walks in 93 plate appearances. He hit under .200 the next season splitting his time between AA and AAA. A solid 1963 season with AAA Atlanta earned him a brief promotion, and signaled that 1964 would be his chance to make it as a major leaguer.
That didn’t really happen, as Buchek got just 33 plate appearances in 35 games with the Cards, though he did appear in four of seven World Series games and earned a ring.
He became a bit more of a regular player in 1965 and ’66 with the Cardinals, splitting his time between second base and shortstop. Buchek had a tough time getting playing time with Julian Javier at second and Dick Groat playing short. With Groat gone in 1966, Buchek had a chance to earn the shortstop job, but he eventually lost the gig to Dal Maxvill. Buchek appeared in 100 games in 1966, but hit just .236/.288/.342 with four homers in 313 PA. He does have the distinction of hitting the first home run at Busch Stadium II.
There’s some competition in the 1964 set, but Clyde Stalcup (Bud) Bloomfield is certainly among the least-accomplished major leaguers to be depicted in the set (this is all relative, of course, as anyone who even played one game in the majors was accomplished in his own way). Joe Nossek managed to stick around for a few years, which is one of the only good things you can say about his playing career.
This combo rookie card is among the coveted high numbers, which are rarer than cards from the previous series. All cards above 523 are part of the high set, and because of their relative expense most of the cards I don’t have yet are from this group. I have this one, though, and I couldn’t possibly be more excited. I mean, it’s a miscut and everything (sigh).
Bud Bloomfield appeared in eight MLB games. The first came in September 1963 with the Cardinals, when he came in as a defensive replacement for Ken Boyer and didn’t get a plate appearance. In the offseason, he was picked up by the Twins and he played seven games for Minnesota in 1964.
His only big-league hit came in the only full game he played. He went 1-for-4 with a run scored in a 9-1 win over the Angels on May 7, 1964. He started the next game but only played four innings. He made it into four more games after that, and the last two were as a pinch runner. His last appearance was June 22.
Bloomfield had played seven seasons in the minors before making his debut with the Cards at age 27. After three years in AA, the Twins sent him to AAA Atlanta for most of the ’64 season but he wasn’t good there, hitting just .217 with a .514 OPS and no homers in 236 plate apperances. Bloomfield hung it up after the season. He died in 2011 at the age of 75.
Joe Nossek wasn’t much of a big-leaguer either, but he did manage to hold down a part-time role for four full seasons. Like Bloomfield, Nossek only appeared in seven games in 1964 (they both played on May 7). Unlike Bloomfield, Nossek was back in 1965 and appeared in 87 games. His stats were dismal: .218/.250/.306 with 2 HR and 16 RBIs in 183 PA. His 1965 Topps card was also a combo rookie card, and was also a high number (and those are even tougher to find these days than the 1964 highs).
The Twins won the AL pennant that season, and Nossek was chosen to start in center field in the World Series over Jimmie Hall in five of the seven games. Hall was an All-Star that season and finished 13th in the MVP voting (there has to be some more to that story, right?). Nossek went 4-for-20 in the series, which the Twins lost to the Dodgers.
Nossek was sold to the A’s in 1966, and he put up lackluster numbers in two seasons in Kansas City. He was out of the big leagues in 1968, and had 12 total plate appearances with Oakland and St. Louis in 1969 and 1970. He ended his career with a .228 batting average and three home runs.
Nossek is mostly known for his work as a coach in the big leagues, as he worked for several teams between 1973 and 2003. He spent more than a decade with the White Sox, and filled in as interim manager a couple times. He’s currently 72 years old.
There’s very little that’s notable about this card of Bob Tillman other than the catcher’s mitt that appears to be freakishly large. Tillman was a catcher who played nine seasons in MLB mostly because he was a catcher. His similar batters list includes legends of the game like Kelly Stinnett and Damon Berryhill.
To be fair, Tillman actually had a very good 1964 season. He set career highs in pretty much every category, catching 131 games for the 72-90 Red Sox. He had 17 homers, 61 RBIs and a .796 OPS (116 OPS+). It was the only season in which he collected more than 100 hits (he had 118).
Otherwise, Tillman was a part-time player who never really did much offensively. His greatest claim to fame is catching no-hitters thrown by Earl Wilson (1962) and Dave Morehead (1965).
He hit for some power in the minors (including 24 HR in AAA in 1960), and followed that up with a rookie season with the Red Sox in which he hit 14 HR in only 273 PA. It’s clear the Red Sox expected him to be a slugger, because he hit fourth in his first two career starts. Tillman homered in his first official at-bat (he walked twice before that).
But he wasn’t very good in ’63, and after the strong ’64 campaign he tanked in ’65 and ’66.
Midway through the 1967 season, the Red Sox let Tillman go to the Yankees. After playing sparingly in New York, the Yanks traded him to the Atlanta Braves for a young third baseman named Bobby Cox.
In three seasons as a part-timer with the Braves, Tillman hit a not-terrible 28 homers in 711 PA, but he posted a terrible .211 average, .281 OBP and 14 doubles.
The Braves traded him to the Brewers in December 1970, and the Brewers released him February 1971, two months before the season started. For some reason, Topps made a 1971 card for him showing him as a Brave. I guess they didn’t get the memo.
Tillman died of a heart attack in 2000 at the age of 63.
This is a card I’ve had for more than 20 years. I got it in a binder full of old cards I bought at a card show. The binder also included a 1954 Mathews, which I’ve since sold. The slightly frayed left edge, I believe, is a result of how the card was originally cut. Otherwise, the card’s in pretty good shape. As always, his name appears as “Ed” on his card. As far as I can tell, each of his Topps cards from 1952 through 1968 showed him as Ed Mathews, although a couple of his All-Star cards show his name as Eddie Mathews. When he managed the Braves in 1973 and ’74, his name was listed on his cards as Eddie Mathews. Mathews was the Braves manager when his longtime teammate, Hank Aaron, hit his 715th homer.
At the beginning of the 1964 season, Mathews was the active leader in career homers at 422 (Stan Musial retired with 475 after the 1963 season). That also ranked him seventh all-time at that moment. He would hit 90 more home runs over the last five years of his career, before retiring as a Detroit Tiger in 1968. His 500th long ball came as a member of the Houston Astros in 1967.
Mathews was just the seventh player to hit 500 homers, and he was in the top 10 in career homers from 1961 through 1985, when he was finally bumped off by Reggie Jackson. Though he led all active players at the opening of the 1964 season, he would eventually be passed on the career list by five players who were active in 1964: Aaron, Willie Mays, Frank Robinson, Harmon Killebrew and Mickey Mantle. Ernie Banks finished tied with Mathews at 512.
Mathews was also the only player to play for the Braves in three different cities. The team still played in Boston when he was a 20-year-old rookie in 1952, and he was still with the team when it moved from Milwaukee to Atlanta in 1966.
Astonishingly, it took FIVE years of eligibility before Mathews was voted into the Hall of Fame, despite the fact that he’s clearly one of the best hitters of all-time, especially among third basemen. I suppose what turned voters off at the time is the fact that he ended up with a .271 career average, a number that was dragged down in his last five years. He also, of course, played with Aaron, and never was the most notable player on his own team. But for a solid dozen seasons, Mathews was an absolute beast at the plate.