Card of the Moment #62
February 19th, 2011 by slangon

I’ve got a busy day today. Last week was my sons 2nd birthday, but today is his big party. A pizza party, in fact. But before I run off to get drunk at a 2 year old’s birthday party, here’s a card.

1954 Topps #6 Pete Runnels

Here’s a 1954 Topps card of Pete Runnels, with a nice healthy gash taken out of the side of his head. It was part of a small group of 54’s that I got a while back from Sportlots for $0.75 a pop. My guess is they were $0.75 a pop because they were all similar looking to Pete here. Granted, they all didn’t have gashes in their heads, but they all had something wrong with them, which is alright by me, as long as they’re only $0.75. Actually, outside of that head wound, this card is in pretty good shape, at least by my standards. An interesting thing about 1954 Topps, and feel free to chime in if you fell into this trap too, but when I first got this batch of cards, I thought they were all mis-cuts. Not that I would of loved them any less if they were, but it turns out that the Topps design team that year purposely made it so that there was no border on the top. If it weren’t for that fact that the idea of a cards condition was pretty much non-existent in 1954, I’d say they did it just to screw with the condition conscious collectors.

Another weird thing you may notice about the front of this card is the fact that his name is listed as Pete Runnels, but his signature reads James E. Runnels. Not Peter E. Runnels, or Peter J. Runnels, or Peter J.E. Runnels, or James P. Runnels. Whats up with that, “Pete”? Even stranger is the fact that on his Baseball Reference page, it says that he was “born James Edward Runnells” with 2 L’s. Now I’m all for ballplayers having nicknames. It’s one of things that I love the most about collecting old cards. Back then they didn’t nick name people “M-Mant” or “T-Will” or “K-Fax” or “Bo-Gib“. They gave them proper nick names like “Coot” and “Vinegar Bend” and “Spook” and “The Mad Hungarian“. Actually, I almost hate to admit this, but K-Fax is slightly amusing, but still, it’s no match for “The Left Arm of God”. So it kind of boggles my mind that someone named James Edward Runnels would be nick named “Pete”. Is that like calling a big fat guy “Tiny”? “You’re not named Pete, so I’m going to be ironic and call you Pete.” And I don’t even know where to start with the whole dropping the second L thing.

At least the Topps copy writer acknowledged the weirdness of him being called “Pete” by continually putting “Pete” in quotes. I’m really like the 1954 card backs. They’re really well organized, colorful, and despite the fact that they only have the previous season and career stats, provide a good amount of information. You also have to give it up for not 1, but 2 cartoons on the back. Also, that blood red sky in the second cartoon is awesome. I’m curious to see where this will fall in Night Owl’s epic Card Back Countdown. He’s already up to #14 out of 50 and it hasn’t shown up yet, so keep your fingers crossed.

“Pete’s” Major League career spanned 14 years from 1951-1964. During that time, he played for the original Washington Senators, the Red Sox and the Houston Colt .45’s. He was an excellent hitter with very little power, as you can see from that apocalyptic second cartoon. He had a .291 career average, but only hit 49 dingers in 14 years. He hit over .300 6 times in his career, winning batting titles in 1960 and 1962. Both of those titles came during his 5 year span with Boston, when he never hit lower than .314. He was also named to the All-Star team 3 times during that span, in 1959, 1960 and 1962. The people of Boston must’ve loved him.

“Pete” also hold a couple of rather dubious records, which are often the types of records that I personally love to hear about. First, when he won the A.L. batting title in 1960 with a .320 average, he only had 35 RBI’s, which is a record low for RBI’s by a batting champ. “Pete” was also a notoriously bad base stealer. In 1952 he set the record for most attempted steals with no successes, at 10.

It’s not all bad for “Pete”. He also shares a record which is a good one. On August 30, 1960, in a double-header against the Tigers, Runnels hit 6-for-7 in the first game and 3-for-4 in the second, tying a Major League record for hits in a double-header. I’d say that’s a pretty cool record to hold a piece of.

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