A Career Capping eBay Haul
June 22nd, 2010 by slangon

O.K. I admit it. Ever since I got that awesome haul of vintage cards from Chris over at Project ’62, I’ve been leaning on those Card of the Moment posts rather than writing about cards that I’ve obtained from other channels recently. That’s about to change right now.

One of the challenges that I’ve found with trying to collect all the Mets team sets from all the Topps base sets is that once you’ve tracked down all the low numbered commons, which is kind of where I stand now in that quest, you’re left with the more expensive high numbered and star player cards. Fortunately, with a little patience, I’ve been finding that getting those high numbered and star player cards doesn’t have to be as painful as you’d think.

Over the course of the last few weeks, I’ve been lucky enough to score for some pretty big name players who, while they built their legacies with other teams, capped off their careers with the fledgling Mets. That seemed to be a tactic of the Mets front office in those very early years. I guess in an effort to put asses in the seats, they would hire on older players and managers and coaches who were established legends, especially in the New York market. Additionally, I guess that had a lot to do with why the Mets teams of those early days were so bad. Although many of those players they brought in were in fact legends and many of them went on to be inducted into the Hall of Fame, they were very much fading away by the time they donned the blue and orange.

1965 Topps #187 Casey Stengel

First up, we have Casey Stengel’s last card from his 39 years in baseball (14 as a player, 25 as a manager). I think this might be my favorite card of him. I feel like that photograph just sums up exactly what he must’ve felt like after managing the Amazin’ Mets for 3+ seasons. He didn’t even make it all the way through 1965, having announced his retirement 96 games into the season after breaking his hip in a fall at Shea. His managerial record with the Mets was a horrendous 175-404 and they never finished better than last place.

1965 Topps #205 Warren Spahn

I remember it took me forever to realize that Warren Spahn ever played for the Mets. I actually remember seeing this card when I was younger and thinking it was a fake. Of course it’s not, and Warren Spahn really did play for the Mets in the last year of his career, posting a very un-Spahn like 4-12 record. I noticed a kind of strange thing when looking at his stats. Normally when you have a legendary pitcher like Spahn, you’d think that their numbers would decline bit by bit as they get older. Spahns ’65 season record was 7-16 (split between the Mets and the Giants) and in 1964 he was no better, posting a 6-13 record with the Braves. In 1963, however, he went 23-7 with a 2.60 ERA, 22 complete games and made the All-Star team. I couldn’t find any reference to any injuries suffered around that time to explain that insane drop-off. I guess age just sneaks up on you. Ironically enough, Spahn played in 4 games for the Boston Braves, who were at the time managed by Casey Stengel to begin his career. At the time of Casey’s retirement, Spahn commented “I’m probably the only guy who worked for Stengel before and after he was a genius.”

1962 Topps #85 Gil Hodges

1963 Topps #245 Gil Hodges

Here we have something of a two-for-one special, with not only Gil Hodges last card as a player, but his last two cards as a player. Of course everybody knows that Gil made his impact as a player with Dodgers, both in Brooklyn and Los Angeles. During his time with the Mets however, he hit an anemic .248, with 9 home runs and 20 RBI’s. He did hit the first home run in the history of the franchise in their very first game, a solo shot off of Larry Jackson of the Cardinals in the top of the 4th. Very early in the 1963 season, the Mets traded Hodges to the Washington Senators for another personal favorite, Jimmy Piersall. Gil immediately announced his retirement as a player and signed on to manage the Senators. Four years later, Washington traded him back to the Mets in exchange for Bill Denehy (a.k.a The Other Guy on Tom Seavers Rookie Card) and $100,000. I never knew teams would trade for managers, but I guess back in the day, they did.

So there we have it. Four cards representing the ends of three careers.

One Response to “A Career Capping eBay Haul”

  1. You were wondering what happened to Warren Spahn in 1963 that may have precipitated his steep decline. Eddie Mathews wrote in his autobiography that Spahn was never the same after his complete game 16-inning duel with Juan Marichal. If that’s the case, the impact wasn’t immediate as Spahn was in the midst of a 13 game stretch where he completed an amazing 12 games and threw 122.1 innings. That’s a lot of pitches for a 42-year-old arm and Spahn was just a shell of himself the next year.

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