Card of the Moment #58
January 15th, 2011 by slangon

Todays Card of the Moment comes to us courtesy of Sportlots. I got this sucker a while back while trolling through the virtual quarter bin, as is my wont. I had actually gotten 6 or 7 cards from the same set, in similar condition, all for the low bargin price of 75¢.

1954 Topps #46 Ken Raffensberger

I think I like the ’54 design. It’s basically a vertical version of the ’55 design, or I guess I should say, the ’55 is a horizontal version of the ’54. i could swear that I read somewhere that the stark similarity of the design in these 2 years, as well as the relatively short checklist (250 cards in 1954 and only 210 in 1955), had a lot to do with the fact that at the time, Topps was tying up the loose ends of buying out Bowman and establishing themselves as a monopoly in the sports card world. Either way, I think I like the design. It’s also very similar in many ways to the 1956 design, which in my opinion was the pinnacle of these three years. It almost seems to me that Topps came up with the ’54 design, didn’t quite like it, and just kept tweaking it for the next 2 years until they came up with the ’56 cards.

Ken Raffensberger, aside from having a very fun last name to say, spent 15 years playing in the Major Leagies, 1954 being his last. He won 119 games and lost 154, posting a 3.60 ERA and striking out 806. He was an All-Star in 1944, despite posting a 13-20 record that year (Those 20 losses led the league that year, by the way). To be fair, he was pitching on a Phillies team that lost 92 games and came in last. Even so, at the time of the All-Star Break, he was 8-10 with a 3.03 ERA. I guess during wartime baseball, a record like that is good enough to get you into the All-Star game. Regardless of his less than ALl-Star numbers, he was actually the winning pitcher in that years Mid-Summer Classic, thanks to 2 scoreless, one hit innings pitched.

Outside of being the winning pitcher in a Major League All-Star game, Raffensberger was otherwise known as a very “unlucky” pitcher. In 15 years, he only played for a winning club once, during his 1939 rookie campaign when the Cardinals went 92-61 and finished 2nd in the N.L. Of course, Ken only pitched 1 inning that season for St. Louis, so he couldn’t really claim much of that success. Every other team he played on had losing records and only twice did he himself have a winning record, in 1949 and 1952, both with Cincinnati. This all despite him usually having a better than league average ERA and walking very few batters. He actually stands at #65 all time for walks per 9 inning with 1.8781. In case you’re checking, thats better than guys named Three Finger Brown, Dennis Eckersley, Walter Johnson, Dizzy Dean, Don Drysdale, Gaylord Perry, Bert Blyleven, Rube Waddell, Warren Spahn, Catfish Hunter, Fergie Jenkins, Jim Palmer, Whitey Ford and Bob Gibson. Ken never threw a no hitter, but he did throw 4 one hitters, including one against the Brooklyn Dodgers in 1949, where it only took 83 pitches to get 27 outs. Gil Hodges broke up the no hitter in the 8th.

Aside from those achievements, Ken was also the N.L. Saves leader in 1946, with a mind boggling 6 saves. He also twice led the National League in shutouts, in 1949 (5) and 1952 (6). In 1964, none other than Hall of Fame slugger Stan Musial had this to say about Ken:

“Raffy had nothing except slow stuff, and a forkball, but, with changing speeds and control, he made those pitches seem so fat when they weren’t… I stubbornly tried to slug with him and didn’t have much success.”

Sadly, Ken Raffensberger passed away in 2002 at the age of 85.

By the way, from the scan above, you can clearly see that this card is not quite a PSA 9.5. As a matter of fact it happens to be a little beat up, as are many vintage cards that I happen to own. I don’t think you can quite appreciate the scope of what exactly is wrong with this card from the scan however, so I took this photograph:

As you can see from this quasi-side view, not only does the card have those scuffs, but the scuffs are raised, almost like acne. It almost looks like the card got wet and was run over with a car. Ever since I got back into the hobby, and particularly since I started collecting beat up vintage, I’ve always loved finding these sorts of cards that are damaged, but damaged in very strange ways. Spending time looking at this Ken Raffensberger card for as long I did to write this post has inspired me to do something that I’ve been thinking about for a while, which is open my own museum dedicated to those cards.

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