Card of the Moment #32
June 16th, 2010 by slangon

1958 Topps #425 Sam Esposito

Another of the many incredible vintage cards that I got in that big Project ’62 trade a while back, this one being a nice ’58 Topps Sammy Esposito.

One of the things I really enjoy about getting vintage cards, and especially vintage cards of, shall we say, lesser known players, is researching the lives and careers of the player in question. It’s always a lot of fun for me to start looking into a seemingly boring, scrubby type of guy, but then find out fascinating details about their playing days and lives after baseball.

I’m a little surprised to say that that was an extremely difficult job with Sammy Esposito here. I searched through the usual channels. Baseball-Reference. Wikipedia. Baseball-Almanac. Nothing very interesting showed up.

He was a pretty run of the mill utility infielder, backing up future Hall of Fame teammates Nellie Fox and Luis Aparicio. He spent 10 years in the Majors, playing all but 18 of his 560 games for his home town White Sox. The other 18 were played with the Kansas City Athletics, where he finished out his career. Out of those 560 games, he only started 195. He finished his career with a .207 average, 8 home runs and 73 RBI. All in all, a pretty standard utility/back-up type player. After calling it a career, he coached baseball for 20 years at North Carolina State.

When I did just a general Google search for Sammy Esposito, however, things got a little more interesting. I came across his entry on BaseballLibrary.com. It said:

A career utility man from Chicago’s South Side, Esposito was beloved by White Sox fans. On September 7, 1960, he started in place of Nellie Fox, ending Fox’s consecutive-game streak at 798 – a ML record for second basemen. When Esposito booted a cinch double play ball, an enraged fan, who had bet heavily on the game, charged onto the field and began punching the 5’9″ infielder.

I was actually able to track down an account of the game from the September 8, 1960 issue of the New York Times. It said:

…But in the top of the eighth, the 40-year-old Wynn, struggling in blistering heat to gain his 283d major league victory, wilted when attacked from both sides. With one down, Roger Maris, who came out of his slump tonight with two hits, singled. After Mickey Mantle had walked, Bill Skowron grounded to Sam Esposito.
It should have been a double play to end the inning, but Sam, who was substituting foe ailing Nellie Fox at second base, fumbled, filling the bases. Two crushing pinch hits followed.
Yogi Berra delivered the first, a single, scoring two. John Blanchard followed with the second, a double to left center. It also scored two. That last blow was made off Gerry Staley, who also gave the Yanks’ final tally in the ninth when Tony Kubek slammed his twelfth homer of the year into the lower-right stand.
Luis Arroyo, who had replaced Ford in the seventh, was the winning pitcher.
Just before the stormy eighth came to a close, an irate fan charged on the field and rushed Esposito. There was a sharp exchange of blows before the park police closed in on the offender and hustled him off.

I also, found an account of the incident from the Ocala StarBanner:

CHICAGO (AP) – Sammy Esposito’s error will go down as one of the costly ones of the 1960 baseball season for the Chicago White Sox.
It probably cost the White Sox a baseball victory Wednesday night. It also resulted in a fan running onto the field and getting into a fight with Esposito, the Sox utility infielder.
Esposito’s boot of a potential double play ball, which would have ended the eighth inning, opened the door to a four-run rally and a 6-4 New York Yankee triumph over the Sox.
While the Yankees were still at bat, a fan ran up to Esposito at second base and seconds later fists were flying. The fan, Willie Harris, 41, was rushed off the field. Later, while being subdued, he hit a policeman knocking out two of the officer’s teeth. He was taken to a police station and then to a hospital. no charge was filed against him.
Esposito, who was filling in for second baseman Nellie Fox, sidelined by a virus, sat grimly in front of his locker after the game. He was fighting back tears.
“Who cares about the fan,” said Esposito. “We lost the game and it was my fault.”
Later Espositi tried to recall what happened after he had booted Moose Skowron’s ground ball.
“He (the fan) came up to me and said something about having bet money on the game,” said Esposito. “Then he made a move and I swung.I missed him. Then ushers and players came running to the field. I don’t remember anything else.”
Esposito wanted to be left alone and the reporters obliged. He was thinking of the ball game he felt he had lost and maybe even a chance at the pennant.

Pretty interesting stuff for a run-of-the-mill utility infielder.

One Response to “Card of the Moment #32”

  1. Nice story. Don’t you love old newspapers?

Leave a Reply