Card of the Moment #61
February 10th, 2011 by slangon

1966 Topps #2 Ted Abernathy

I don’t think I’ve ever had any desire to collect the 1966 Topps set. To me, it’s got to be one of the most boring sets of the 60’s. It certainly doesn’t have the distinct wood paneling of the ’62 set or the burlap background of the ’69 set. It lacks the pleasing color pops of the ’63 set or the nice use of type of the ’64 set. It doesn’t even have the charming simplicity of the ’67 set. Hell, even the ’61 set, which is one that I don’t really personally dig, has that weird Piet Mondrian thing going on that makes it at least slightly interesting to gaze upon. That’s not to say I would turn down a chance to snag a ’66. Vintage is vintage after all. As a matter of fact, for all my blustering about how boring it is, I’ve somehow managed to amass quite a little stash of these 1966 cards. I wonder if every collector has a set like that, that just seems to find them even when they’re not looking.

In the particular instance of this Ted Abernathy card, I’m willing to overlook some of the boringness of the 1966 design, however. Normally, I’m not a huge fan of these typical 1960’s, super tight crop ins that you generally find on cards of guys who have switched teams and Topps was too lazy or cheap to airbrush them. In Ted’s case, I’m actually a little fascinated by the photo. First off, that’s one well used face. This guy could just about pass for Don Mossi’s more handsome brother. He’s defiantly got Don’s ears, and although he might not have his lazy eye and lack of chin, he makes up for it with that snaggle tooth and pronounced right turn in his nose. Also, although he was only 33 at the time that this card came out, those crows feet look like they belong to a 70 year old hobo.

The other thing that kind of fascinates me about this photograph is that thing hovering over Ted’s right shoulder. I’m sure it’s just some boring piece of a stadium thats in silhouette and out of focus, but it looks like some craggy mountain range or something. There’s a part of The Hound of the Baskervilles where Sir Arthur Conan Doyle is describing a particularly wild and stormy night on the moors surrounding Baskerville manor. Something about that lurking black blob reminds me of that. Weird.

He is actually the second Ted Abernathy to play in the Majors. This Ted, also known as Theodore Wade Abernathy played in the Majors from 1955 to 1972, spending time with the Senators, Indians, Cubs, Braves, Reds, Cardinals and Royals. There was also a fellow with the fanciful name of Talmadge Lafayette Abernathy who played for the Philadelphia Athletics from 1942-1944. I think this Ted had a bit more success than Ted No. 1.

The first 3 seasons that he pitched, all with Washington, Ted split his time between the rotation and the bullpen. 34 out of his 71 appearances were starts. His record for those years was a rather shabby 8-22. According to his Wikipedia page, he “changed his pitching motion after shoulder surgery left his career in doubt, switching from a three-quarter delivery and becoming an effective sidearmer who developed a submarine pitch.” It doesn’t specify when that surgery took place, but he did miss the 1961 and 1962 seasons, so perhaps that was when he went under the knife. It also happens to be that it was starting in the 1963 season that he became a full time reliever and really excelled in that role, so it would kind of make sense that it was some time between 1960 and 1963 that he became a submariner.

Between 1963 and 1972, Ted racked up 148 saves, which ranks him 69th on the All-Time list. Keep in mind that he was saving games during a period when 20 saves was good enough to make you the League Leader. As a matter of fact, Ted led the league in that category twice, in 1965 and again in 1967. He was also named The Sporting News Reliever of the Year both of those seasons.

Ted passed away in Gastonia, North Carolina in 2004 at the age of 71.

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