Sunday, January 25, 2009

The ABC's of Baseball Hats

I think I found an error in Topps 1969 #571. They have the name as "Cap Peterson", but I think it really is "Cap-less Peterson". HaHa.

That little bit of humor leads me to the subject of this blog: From the late 1950's to the early 1970's Topps avoided showing the old team logo on the hat of any player who had been traded to a new team. I do not know if this was for legal reasons or just aesthetics. I have discovered three different methods that the company used to keep from showing the old team logo. The first I call the "Cap-less Peterson Method" in honor of the above card. Topps would simply take a picture of a player without a cap. Then if he was traded during the next year, they would have a picture to use that didn't show any cap logo. Almost always these were head shots since they were also trying to hide the old uniform. 1959 was the first year this method was applied to the Indians, with Billy Martin, Randy Jackson and Al Cicotte going bare-headed. In 1960 there were six players hat-less, and five in 1961. These were the final years of GM Frank "Trader" Lane, sometimes called "Traitor" Lane after giving Rocky Colavito to the Tigers. Rocky was traded for Harvey Kuenn, who only spent one year with the Tribe and never got a baseball card as an Indian. Harvey was traded to the SF Giants for Johnny Antonelli and Willie Kirkland, both of whom got the cap-less treatment in 1961. In fact, Willie was hat-less in his old Giants uniform in 1962, also, and became the first Indian to go without a hat two years in a row! (Lee Maye, Willie Smith and Ken Suarez would also go hat-less two years in a row.) Kirkland was joined by five other cap-less teammates in 1962, which was the year that saw the second Topps method for avoiding old logos appear in the Indians cards.

If Topps didn't have a hat-less photo of a traded player, they would simply air brush the hat to get rid of the logo. Harry Chiti was the first Tribesman to get this treatment in 1962. Almost always the hat would be entirely black. The only exception I am aware of is the 1969 Jose Cardenal card, where the old Angels hat still has a red bill, but no logo. The hat darkening treatment was given to many Indians: Rocky on his return to the Wigwam, Jim Landis, Stan Williams, Ken Suarez (after two years of being hat-less!) and Manager Al Dark. In fact, Al Dark was air brushed in both 1968 and '69 and is the only Indian to be so treated. I think it is only appropriate that this second method of logo hiding be called the "Al Dark-ening Method".

The third method that Topps employed for not showing old logos was first used in 1963, I think inadvertently. If a player glanced up in the air (as if he were looking at a bird, for instance) just as his picture was being taken, then the bill of his cap would hide the logo and very simply solve the problem. That is exactly what happened in 1963 to, of all people, the new Tribe manager, Birdie Tebbets! I have to call this the "Birdie-watching Tebbets Method". Bud Daley used it, possibly also inadvertently, in 1965. It was not used again until 1972, the Topps psychedelic year, when five players, including Gaylord Perry, showed their interest in ornithology. It is obvious that Topps was now intentionally using this method as all five players were new to Cleveland. They used it once in 1973 and twice in '75.

Now you know the ABC's of baseball hats according to Al, Birdie and Cap.

Saturday, January 10, 2009

Tribe Hurlers Who Won 20 Games

It is amazing that the Tribe has had back-to-back Cy Young Award winners in C.C. Sabathia and Cliff Lee. Of course CC is no longer an Indian and he wasn't a 20-game winner, so we won't talk about him. Cliff Lee broke a long spell of not having a 20-game winner in Cleveland - 34 years. In fact, since 1957 the Tribe has only had six, 20-game seasons by five players: Lee in 2008, Gaylord Perry in 1972 and '74, Sam McDowell in 1970, Luis Tiant in 1968 and Dick Donovan in 1962. Poor pitching was not always the case for Cleveland. From 1951 to 1956 they had twelve 20-game seasons by five pitchers. Bob Feller in 1951, Mike Garcia in 1951 and '52, Early Wynn in 1951, '52, '54 and '56, Bob Lemon in 1952, '53, '54 and '56 and Herb Score in 1956. From 1917 to 1921 three pitchers had a total of seven 20-game seasons: Jim Bagby in 1917 and '20, Stan Coveleski in 1918, '19, '20 and '21 and Ray Caldwell in 1920. In franchise history Cleveland has had a total of 56 20-game seasons by 25 different pitchers. Will Carl Pavano be the next one?