My First TTM Success of the New Year
January 12th, 2011 by slangon
Right on the footsteps of my 1st official card acquisition of the new year comes my 1st TTM success of the new year. I don’t mean that this is the first one I received back in the new year, either. I sent this out on January 3 and a week later it was back in my hands, duly signed.
This is actually also a new custom set of sorts. I sort of 2 different types of custom sets. One type is when I actually sit down and plan out a set and draw up a checklist and know in advance that this particular set is going to have X amount of cards in it and when I’m done, the set is finished. The SlangKo Heroes of the Diamond set is an example of that type of custom set. Every year, I also have a more fluid set that basically revolves around guys that I decide that I want to send a TTM request to and doesn’t really have a set checklist. These types of sets usually shape up more like I decide I want to send a card to so and so, and make a card of so and so. In 2009, that type of set was basically based off the Heroes of the Diamond set. In 2010, I made the SlangKo Award Winners set to fill that role. This is the 2011 version of that type of custom set.
I didn’t really have a name for the set when I first designed it, but since I’ve made 5 of them already I’ve started calling it The Everyday Joe set, since it turned out that all 5 guys I’ve sent them to so far have been Everyday Joe type of players and I’ve sort of grown to like the idea of a set like that. Sorry, Superstars. Looks like you get no cards this year.
Anyway, here’s the dang card already.
2011 SlangKo Everyday Joes #1 Eddie “Bazooka” Basinski
I’m actually pretty glad that war time replacement player Eddie Basinski ended up being the first card in this set. After doing research on him, he so perfectly fits the bill of an Everyday Joe that I find it very awesome that he’s card #1 and the first person to send back the card signed.
Ed did not look like a stereotypical athlete by any means. He had a slight build and sported coke bottle glasses (his eyesight was 20-800, which explains why he was available to play ball during WWII). Branch Rickey referred to him as “the escaped divinity student”.
Eddie grew up in a large working class Polish family in Buffalo, New York. His father was a former Navy man who ran his household that way. Apparently, he had no room in his life for games like baseball, which Eddie loved. He had to sneak off to play and risked a beating if his father found out about it. One of the neighborhood kids that he played with during these clandestine excursions was a young southpaw by the name of Warren Spahn. Eddie and the others developed a very particular routine when it came to practicing baseball, which would become really important to him since he didn’t have much natural ability or athleticism to rely on.
“We rotated our practices so that each player got 30 swings of batting practice, each played the outfield and the infield, and each of us pitched batting practice. We were able to make the complete rotation three times before it got dark.”
After high school, Ed went to the University of Buffalo where he earned a degree in mechanical engineering in 1943. He immediately began working at the Curtiss-Wright Company in Buffalo, which was the primary producer of several U.S. warplanes including the P-40 Warhawk, the P-47 Thunderbolt and the C-46 cargo plane. His job at the plant was to observe the line workers performing their tasks. He would time them with a stop watch, note the particular motions involved in performing said tasks, and eventually make suggestions on how they could perform those tasks more efficiently.
He eventually would use those same efficiency observations to improve his baseball skills. He applied them to his swing mechanics. He figured out how to make a better pivot at second base when turning a double play. While he was working for Curtiss-Wright, he joined several local semipro baseball teams where he put those theories to the test. Pretty soon, he was leading all 3 leagues he was in in homers and RBI, while batting .475, .575 and .609 respectively. The whole time, his defense was sparkling thanks to the mechanical observations that he made.
Eventually, a Dodger scout caught wind of the 20 year old phenom and Eddie was eventually signed on to play for Brooklyn. He figured he would be going to Montreal to play for the Dodgers AAA team there, but Branch Rickey sent him to St. Louis, where the Dodgers were playing the Cardinals.
Every now and again, when I send out these TTM requests, the player will write a brief note back to me, which is something that I almost love more than actually getting the signed card. Mr. Basinski wrote me back a short note on the original letter that I sent him.
That’ll get bigger if you click on it, but if you’re not inclined, it says:
“Sean, Thanks for the extra card. When I debuted 5/20/44, “Believe It or Not” Ripley stated, it has never been done before or after, a ten million to one odds achievement. Eddie Basinski.”
I had no idea what the hell he was talking about. At first, I thought that “debuted” said “debated” and that he was writing a weird poem, since “debated” rhymes with “stated”. I kind of chalked it up to him being a crazy old coot or something. After I got the card back, however, I came across exerpts from a book called Hardball on the Home Front: Major League Replacement Players of World War II on Google Books. Aside from providing a ton of additional information on Mr. Basinski that I didn’t find on Baseball Reference or Wikipedia (which enabled me to write the majority of this post), it also cleared up the Ripley’s Believe It or Not reference.
Apparently, as Ripley’s made notice of, although several players have made it the Majors without having played Minor League ball, Eddie graduated from high school and college without having played baseball at either level and went straight from a AA rated semipro team to the Major Leagues. As Eddie pointed out in his note, they called it a 10,000,000 to 1 shot. I guess it’s the equivalent of going straight from a beer league team to a Major League team.
Thanks again to Mr. Basinski for signing my card, as well as providing me with a lot of really interesting research.