#368 White Sox Rookies (Fritz Ackley/Don Buford)
Due to expense, I’m not a high-grade collector, so this is one of the very best cards I have in terms of its condition. I think it could grade out at a 7. That’s about as good as it gets for me.
Don Buford is clearly the more accomplished player on this combo rookie card, but Fritz Ackley is one of those names that will always be a footnote in card collecting history (and here, it appears as if he’s been photographed in his back yard). Ackley pitched in exactly five games in his MLB career for a grand total of 19 1/3 innings, so he’s not really going to be remembered for anything he did on the field. However, Ackley had the honor of being featured two years in a row on a combo rookie card. The first is the one you see here. The second, in 1965, is card #477, which he shares with Steve Carlton. Carlton and Ackley combined for 330 career wins. Ackley had one of those.
Ackley never got a baseball card to himself. He was purchased by the Cardinals after the 1964 season, so the card he shares with Carlton features him as a Cardinal — but he’s wearing a White Sox uniform in the picture. They just airbrushed out the logo on his hat. Ackley never pitched in a game with the Cards. He did, however, pitch in the minor leagues from 1954 until 1967. As a 26-year-old in 1963, he went 18-5 with a 2.76 in his first year in AAA and was named Pitcher of the Year in the International League. That earned him a look in the bigs, but he didn’t stick and ended up back in AAA until quitting at age 30.
Ackley died in 2002 at the age of 65.
Buford was a player who would’ve both excited and horrified Billy Beane. When he went to the Baltimore Orioles in 1968 and played in three World Series in the last five years of his career, he was an OBP machine, posting a .385 over those five seasons. That number was dragged down by his dreadful final season in 1972, in which he hit .206/.326/.267 in 485 PA.
But before that, Buford was a dream for a guy like Earl Weaver, who could plug Buford in as a leadoff hitter and watch him get on base for the sluggers hitting behind him. In the three consecutive seasons the Orioles won the AL pennant (1969-71), Buford’s OBP was .397, .406 and .413. He scored 99 runs each season, averaged 16 homers and walked 115 more times than he struck out.
But then there was the base stealing. Actually, for most of his career Buford was pretty good at stealing bases, but overall he was caught about a third of the time. In 1969 — an otherwise solid season — he went just 19-for-37 on steals.
Buford was 27 by the time he got a full-time job with the White Sox in 1964. His best season in Chicago was in 1965, when he hit .283/.358/.389 with 10 homers and 93 runs scored. But he never really had a great season with the Sox. After the 1967 season, he was packaged in a deal that brought Luis Aparicio back to Chicago from Baltimore. It turned out to be a pretty good deal for the Orioles.
After a bad year in 1972, Buford went to play in Japan for four seasons. After that, he got into coaching and served on Frank Robinson’s staff with the Giants, Orioles and Nats. He also managed a few seasons in the minors. His son, Damon, played nine years in the Majors.
Don Buford is currently 74 years old.