Monday, September 6, 2010

Hope Springs Eternal - Part Two

A friend of mine and I got into a conversation recently about old baseball cards and some of the ones mentioned (Lou Piniella and Bill Davis' multiple Topps Rookie Star cards) were covered in a post I wrote a while ago. He mentioned two other players that had multiple Topps rookie star cards that I found interesting. Details on each of them are listed below.

The first player is Wally Wolf. Wally was a right-handed pitcher for USC in college and was one of the very first players for the Houston Colt .45's organization when, as a 19 year old, he signed with them in June 1961 (one year prior to the .45's inaugural season). In 1962, he had an amazing season (16-3 W-L, 2.87 ERA, 172 K's in 160 innings) for Durham in Class B (the same as Single A today). This prompted Houston to move Wally all the way up to AAA at the end of 1962. He wasn't ready for the league as he ended up getting bombed (0-6 W-L, 9.93 ERA in 9 games). Regardless, Topps ended up including Wally Wolf on a 1963 Topps Rookie Stars card with Ron Herbel, John Miller and Ron Taylor.

1963 Topps # 208 Wally Wolf and Friends

In 1963, Wally had a strong season in Double-AA San Antonio for Houston (7-3 W-L, 3.13 ERA, 82 K's in 92 IP) but it appears to be abbreviated since he only made twelve starts. That would be Wally's last season with Houston as he was packaged along with Jim Dickson in a trade to the Cincinnati Reds for veteran infielder Eddie Kasko in January 1964.

Wally would spend the next three years in the Reds organization trying to regain the form he showed in 1962 and 1963 in the minors for Houston. Eventually, Cincinnati gave up and let the California Angels select him in the minor league draft in November 1966.

With a new team in a new organization, Wally righted the ship in 1967 while in AA El Paso (11-7 W-L, 3.55 ERA, 134 K's in 142 IP) and appeared destined for the Majors. Unfortunately, things didn't work out as planned and the Angels converted Wally to a reliever during the 1968 season as a result of a mediocre year split between AA and AAA.

1969 ended up being a great year for the now 27 year old pitcher as a solid season in AA El Paso (9-4 W-L, 3.38 ERA, 88 K's in 96 IP) resulted in a September call up with the Angels. On September 27th, 1969, Wally was called on to get the last out in bottom of the 7th inning against the Oakland Athletics and allowed an RBI single to Joe Rudi. He then proceeded to get Dave Duncan to fly out to Jim Fregosi. The results had little outcome on the game as future Hall of Fame Catfish Hunter was in the process of throwing a three-hit shutout.

Three days later, Wally would have his second and last appearance of 1969 against the Kansas City Royals. In that game, he ended up pitching the last two innings of a game started by Tom Murphy with the Angels. Trailing 5-2, he ended up giving up a three-run home run to Ed Kirkpatrick.

1970 Topps # 74 Wally Wolf and Friend

Topps' took notice of Wally's 1969 season by including him on a 1970 Topps rookie stars card with Greg Washburn. This resulted in what's probably the longest period of time (seven years) a player had been on two of Topps'rookie stars card. To make things even more ironic, Topps used the same photo on the 1970 card that was on the 1963 card.

His 1970 season with the Angels lasted all of four games. After that, he never reached the majors again and he soon retired. Wally's final career numbers were: 0-0 W-L, 7.04 ERA, 7 K's in 7 2/3 IP.  Topps never produced another card of Wally outside of those two Rookie Stars cards.

The second player my friend and I discussed was George Korince. George was a right-handed pitcher out of Ottawa, Canada with the nickname Moose that the Detroit Tigers signed as an amateur free agent in 1965. George quickly moved up the Tigers minor league ladder with two strong seasons in 1965 in Single-A and 1966 in Double-AA (9-8 W-L, 3.76 ERA, 183 K's in 182 IP).

He eventually caught the attention of the folks over at Topps (at least his name did) as they included him on a Tigers Rookie Stars card in their 1967 Topps set along with John Matchick (who went by his middle name Tommy).

1967 Topps # 72 George Korince and Friend (Error)

Unfortunately for George, Topps mistakenly put a photo Ike Brown on his card which is odd because George was Caucasian and Ike is African-American. What's even more interesting is that Ike didn't have his first Topps card until 1970 so this card pre-dated his rookie card by three years!

For whatever reason, this mistake (unlike the Dick Ellsworth/Ken Hubbs fiasco from the year prior) must have embarrased the folks at Topps because they chose to correct the card by issuing another George Korince Rookie Stars in the same 1967 Topps set. This time they included him with Pat Dobson and noted that this is a correct photo of George on the back of the card!

1967 Topps #526 George Korince (front - corrected) 

1967 Topps #526 George Korince (back - corrected)
Note: Topps wants you to know this is actually George in this photo.

In retrospect, I believe this is the only time an error has been acknowledged by a manufactuer and corrected with a different card. Because 1960's cards were produced in multiple series, Topps must have felt that issuing a low numbered correction in a high numbered set would have been confusing to kids.

I'd note that fifteen years later, Donruss would repeat the mistake of confusing persons of different race only this time they put a photo of a Caucasian player (Gary Lucas) on an African-American's card (Juan Eichelberger). When the error was corrected, it was done the more traditional way of updating the photo in later printings.

1982 Donruss # 422 Juan Eichelberger (error that pictures Gary Lucas)

1982 Donruss # 422 Juan Eichelberger (corrected)

Going back to George Korince, he would pitch in nine games for the Tigers in 1967 highlighted by his first and only career win on May 13th against the Boston Red Sox. Topps was impressed enough to include him on another Rookie Stars card in 1968. This time with Fred Lasher

1968 Topps # 447 George Korine and Friend

A successful major league career would never happen for George. He would never appear in another major league game after 1967 and was out of professional baseball by 1970. George's final career numbers were: 1-0 W-L, 4.24 ERA, 13 K's in 17 IP and 11 Games. Ironicaly, the only cards Topps produced of George were these three Rookie Stars cards.


Matthew Glidden said...

Just posted a feature for your site on my #5 type blog and it points back to both Hope Springs Eternal posts.

Type Site: 1207 Consecutive Games

I like the multi-player research and had no idea Topps fixed their own card blunder the same year.
Keep up the good work!

steelehere said...

Thanks for the post and the redirect to the site.

The computer I use for my posting (and is connected to my scanner) is getting repaired right now. It should be it back in a week or so. I'll be back to posting them.