The front of the checklist card has the signatures of three Hall of Famers. I wonder if that’s a record for this set? I’ll check and get back on the next checklist post. The lack of a third outfielder is the only glaring weakness here.
While doing research on Paul Derringer I came upon as many articles indicating his propensity to fight as to play baseball so I guess he was a pretty pugnacious guy and had a fitting surname. Paul was born and raised in Springfield, Kentucky, where he starred in the big three sports and was a catcher and occasional pitcher. After attending local Georgetown College (not the DC school), he played industrial ball and in ’26 was doing so for a team in Coalwood, West Virginia, when he was signed by Danville, a Three-I B team. He went 25-19 with excellent control for Danville in ’27-’28 and was signed by the Cards for whom he went a combined 40-23 the next two seasons and was promoted to St. Louis to start the next season. His rookie year he went 18-8 to help take St. Louis to the Series, which they won though he went 0-2. In ’32 he fell to 11-14 and he began the next year 0-2 when his belligerent nature helped him wear out his welcome and he was traded to Cincinnati in the deal that got the Cards Leo Durocher. He went 7-25 the rest of the way though his 3.23 ERA was better than league average and his control was quite good. His 27 losses led the NL. In ’34 he lost 21 but in ’35 he won 22 and was named an All-Star. After winning 19 the next year and ten the year after – both with high ERA’s – he settled in for a nice three year run from ’38 to ’40 when he went 66-33 with an ERA just south of 3.00, three All-Star seasons, and two trips to the Series. He was again an All-Star each of the next two seasons though his combined record fell to 22-25. Prior to the ’43 season he was sold to the Cubs for whom he went 21-27 the next two years. In ’45 he revived to go 16-11 with a 3.45 ERA and returned to the Series. After he did poorly against Detroit he was released and hooked up with the Red Sox Triple A franchise in ’46 where he went 9-11. That was his final season and he finished with a record of 223-212 with a 3.46 ERA, 251 complete games, 32 shutouts, and 29 saves. He put up only 761 walks in 3,645 innings. In the post-season he was 2-4 with a 3.42 ERA in 53 innings. He was admitted to the Reds’ hall of fame in ’58 and the State of Kentucky’s a few years later. After baseball he became a salesman for a plastics company and then a trouble-shooter for Triple A. He passed away in ’87 at age 81.
Elmer Riddle is another guy from the south, he from Georgia. His brother Johnny, who also played in the majors, got him a tryout with his minor league team in Indianapolis. Elmer, who’d worked as a machinist and played both company hoops and baseball, was assigned to D ball and in ’36 went 14-16 with a high ERA and some wildness. He then went 13-6 in B ball in ’37 and the next couple seasons put up middling records through Double A. By then he was back in Indianapolis which was a Reds affiliate and in ’39 he made his debut in a game up top. The next year he threw pretty well in a few games from the Cincinnati pen, putting up a 1.87 ERA with two saves despite a high walk total. He also threw a shutout inning in the Series. In ’41 he began the season in the pen again but got a couple starts when the senior guys either got hurt or tired and by mid-season was 11-0 with much-reduced walk totals. He finished the year 19-4 with a 2.24 ERA and led both leagues in winning percentage and ERA. After a downtick in ’42 he went 21-11 in ’43 to lead MLB in wins and put up a 2.63 ERA. He then missed most of the next two seasons to both injury and stateside WW II work and voluntarily retired after posting an ERA over 8.00 in ’45. He came back late in ’47 to report similar numbers and after that season was sold to Pittsburgh. For them, though his shoulder was shot, he went 12-10 with a 3.49 ERA in his last good season and after a poor ’49 he was done up top. From that year through ’51 he pitched back in Indianapolis, which was now a Pirates affiliate. He finished with a record of 65-52 with a 3.40 ERA, 57 complete games, 13 shutouts, and eight saves and in the minors was 56-52. He had that one inning in the ’40 post-season and hit .204. After playing he did some scout work for Kansas City and then returned to Georgia where he worked for the United Oil Company until he retired. He passed away at age 69 in 1984.
Johnny Vander Meer was signed out of his Jersey high school by the Dodgers in ’33. His first few years he had .500 records, high ERA’s, and control issues moving between C and A ball. In ’36 he was traded to the Reds and went 19-6 with a 2.65 ERA in B ball and the next year moved to Double A where he had a very good ERA despite a crappy record. He made his debut for Cincinnati that year and did OK work as a swing guy although his walks remained high. In ’38 he improved to 15-10 while in the rotation, had a 3.12 ERA, and famously threw two straight no-hitters. But ’39 was a big downtick – though he did some nice work in the All-Star game – and he began the next year in the minors. There he pitched well and came up in time to post some good outings and get a little Series work. He then had a good three-year run, going a combined 49-41 with a 2.75 ERA while leading the NL in strikeouts each season (and walks in ’43). He then missed the next two years for stateside WW II duty, returning in ’46 to go 19-26 the next two seasons. He had his last good year in ’48 when he went 17-14 with a 3.41 ERA and again led the NL in walks. After a weak ’49 he was sold to the Cubs where he had an OK season in the pen. He was then sold to Cleveland where he tossed a couple games before being released in ’51. He finished up top going 119-121 with a 3.44 ERA, 131 complete games, and 29 shutouts. He threw an inning of scoreless post-season ball and made four All-Star teams. He continued to pitch in the minors – mostly in the Reds system – from ’51 to ’55 and beginning in ’53 he managed at that level as well. He did that for ten years, finishing with a record of 761-719 in ’62. He then returned to NJ where he worked for a brewery before retiring to Tampa where he passed away in 1997 at age 82.
Jim Maloney was a decade-earlier version of Don Gullett: a big guy who could throw heat but was prone to injury. He grew up in Fresno where he played the big three sports and was primarily a shortstop. He hit well over .300 his three varsity seasons in that role and got a lot of interest from MLB teams. But when bonuses offered weren’t high enough, Jim and his dad took a Cincinnati scout’s advice and went to Fresno City College to refine his pitching skills. After a year there, the Reds signed him for a six-figure bonus in ’59. Ironically his first manager in B ball that summer was Johnny Vander Meer who taught Jim a simple curve in what was otherwise a forgettable first year. In ’60 his pitching coach at Double A was Jim Turner who helped Jim refine his pitches and they were rewarded with a 14-5 season with a 2.80 ERA. Those numbers were achieved in half a season and he got moved up later that year. His first couple years were tough ones: between injuries and being a swing guy his numbers weren’t so hot. But in ’62 he went 9-7 with a 3.51 ERA. Then he took off in ’63, going 23-7 with a 2.77 ERA and all those strikeouts in only 250 innings. The next three years he won 15, 20, and 16, all with ERA’s well under 3.00, and all with over 200 strikeouts. His numbers weren’t as glamorous the next three seasons, but they were awfully good (a combined 43-26) and his record from ’63 to ’69 was a very Gullett-like 117-60. Then early in the ’70 season he ruptured his Achilles tendon and that pretty much ended his career. He was traded to California before the ’71 season but released after going 0-3 in a few games. He hooked up with the Giants in ’72 and had a nice short run for them in Triple A but couldn’t pitch without pain and retired. He finished with a record of 134-84 with a 3.19 ERA, 74 complete games, 30 shutouts, and over 1,600 strikeouts in 1,850 innings. Like Vander Meer, he threw a couple no-hiiters but Jim’s were spread a few years apart. After he played he stuck close to Fresno where he worked at his dad’s auto dealership before taking off a year to manage in the minors in ’82 (he went 50-90 for a Giants club). Shortly thereafter he went into rehab for alcohol dependency from which he emerged in ’85 divorced and homeless but with a new mission. He went back to school to get a degree as a therapist and recently retired from his last career as a drug and alcohol counselor.
Tornado Jake Weimer was born in Ottumwa, Iowa, where he played ball and worked as a cigar maker after high school. A good-looking guy, he was a bit of a ladies man and made as many headlines back then for his affairs as he did for his baseball. He is a bit of a mystery as well. According to baseball-reference he began his pro career in 1895 when he was 21 and won 24 in a year split between B and unranked ball. Then he sort of moseyed around playing irregularly until 1900 when he won 20 back in B ball. He seemed to have followed that year up with a couple decent minor seasons but there is no supporting data until 1903 when he shows up on the Cubs as a 20-game-winning rookie. That’s where it gets weird since a bunch of sites list him as the only 19-year old to win that many, putting him ten years younger than his listed age. He followed that up by winning 20 the next year, for sure becoming the first pitcher to do that. In ’05 he won 18 and after that season was sent to Cincinnati for Jimmy Sebring and Harry Steinfeldt in a trade that completed the Chicago infield and took them to the Series a bunch of times. Too bad for Jake, though he did win 20 games in his first Reds season. The reason listed for the trade was that Chicago manager Frank Chance thought Jake was getting old, which gives credence to his 1873 birthdate. Baseball-reference also gives him credit for only six shutouts that year. In ’07 his record fell to 11-14, though he set a record by hitting 23 batters. In ’08 he fell to 8-7 and he was then traded to the Giants for whom he got in one game in ’09 and was then done. Jake finished with a record of 97-69 and an ERA of 2.23 which is in the top 15 lifetime. There is another fat blank in his personal history until he shows up again in Chicago in the early Twenties as baseball coach for Loyola Academy, a local prep school. He was still working there when he passed away in 1928 at age 54 (or 44).
Fred Toney was from rural Tennessee and was discovered pitching local semi-pro ball when he was 18. He was signed by a D level team in 1908 and the next two seasons won over 20 games each at that level. After the ’10 season he was signed by the Cubs and the next few years pitched sparingly in Chicago, and more so in the minors, which he preferred since those stops were closer to home. He spent all of ’14 in Double A, where he went 21-15 and was then taken in the Rule 5 draft by Brooklyn. When he whined about reporting – again, too far from home – he was placed on waivers and nabbed by Cincinnati. He then put in three very good seasons for the Reds, going a combined 55-39 with an excellent – even for then – 2.07 ERA. In ’17 he went 24-16. Late that last year he got in big trouble for two things: avoiding the WW I draft; and shacking up with his minor-aged girlfriend which violated the Mann Act (he was 29). That helped contribute to a late and poor start to the ’18 season and during it he was sold to the Giants where he turned his season around. He then won 13, 21, and 18 the next three seasons though his ERA escalated about a run every year – from 1.84 to 3.61 – and after an under-used ’22 he was traded to Boston and then the Cards. For St. Louis he went 11-12 in ’23 and was then done, finishing with a record of 139-102 with a 2.69 ERA, 158 complete games, and 28 shutouts. He started two games in the ’21 Series against the Yankees but got bombed, lasting less than a total of three innings, though his team won the title. He retreated back home for a year before attempting a comeback with a local A team in ’25 and finished 93-62 in the minors. He then operated a local food stand for many years until WW II when he did stateside security work. After that war ended he became a court officer which he did until his death at age 64 in 1953.
I’ll always remember Hod Eller from a paper I did in high school on the Black Sox and from the movie “Matewan” when one of the principal characters said Hod was his favorite player. He came out of Muncie, Indiana, and was playing pro ball immediately after high school, winning 15 in D ball in 1913. He then moved to B ball in the Three I League, in ’15 ramping up to 19 wins with a 2.39 ERA. That got him a tryout with the White Sox which didn’t go well and he returned home, returning to his Three I team later that season. He was then taken by Cincinnati in the Rule 5 draft and had a nice rookie year in ’17, going 10-5 with a 2.36 ERA and a save, finishing an AL-leading 21 games. In ’18 he won 16 as a swing guy and in ’19 he had his best year, going 19-9 with a 2.39 ERA. He then had an excellent Series, going 2-0 with a 2.00 ERA in his two starts and striking out six straight at one point. In ’20 he went 13-12 and then things went south pretty fast. Hod’s reputed money pitch was his shine ball and after Judge Landis outlawed the pitch - ironically around the same time he banished the Black Sox – he effectively killed Hod’s career. He went 2-2 with a 4.98 ERA in ’21. It was his final season in the majors at age 26 and his career numbers were 60-40 with a 2.62 ERA. 52 complete games, nine shutouts, and five saves. In ’22 he returned to the minors where he pitched for and managed a D team the next two years around a partial season in Double A that didn’t go too well. He returned to Indianapolis in the off season, worked for the town, and then attempted a comeback with the local Double A team that wasn’t too bad but wasn’t going to get him back upstairs. Later in ’24 he became a cop in the city which he did until he retired in ’46. He remained in the city where, after a bout with cancer, he passed away in ’61 at age 67.
Walter “Dutch” Ruether (or Reuther) was a relatively sophisticated guy and after attending St Ignatius High School in San Francisco, moved on to the local college of the same name. While there he threw a pretty good exhibition game against the White Sox in 1913 and that got him a tryout with the Pirates who sent him to Double A to finish the summer. In ’14 he went 11-9 for a B level team and after a couple mediocre seasons at various levels went 17-9 in a ’16 season split between B and Double A. The Cubs then took him in the Rule 5 draft and the next year he made his debut in Chicago. Though he did well in limited appearances, Dutch was placed on waivers and picked up by Cincinnati. He got into a few games for the Reds the rest of the year and then missed all but a couple games in ’18 when he enlisted. He returned in ’19 to go 19-6 for the Series champs with his team-record ERA. After winning 16 in ’20 he was traded to Brooklyn for Rube Marquard. After an off year in ’21 he went 21-12 for the then-Robins in ’22 and then won 23 combined the next two seasons. He was then sold to Washington and in ’25 he went 18-7 and returned to the Series. In ’26 he got off to a 12-6 start but with a high ERA and was traded to the Yankees for whom he got his last Series action that year. After going 13-6 with a good ERA for Murderers’ Row in ’27 – but getting zero Series work – he was done. He finished up top with a record of 137-95 with a 3.50 ERA, 155 complete games, and 18 shutouts. In Series work he was 1-1 with a 2.95 ERA in three starts. He was a very good hitter, batting .258 lifetime with seven homers and 111 RBI’s and his only appearance in the ’25 Series was as a pinch-hitter. In the post-season he hit .364 with four RBI’s in seven games. In ’28 he returned to California where he continued to play in the Pacific Coast league and went 29-7 his first year. He continued pitching there through ’35 and also managed from ’34 to ’36. He then had a long career as a scout, primarily for the Cubs and Giants, until he passed away in 1970 at age 76.
Even though I split these posts, this was a pretty long one. Now we get to see how Topps did representing this set. Given Cincinnati’s run during this period of post-season appearances, it should be pretty good. Bobby Tolan, who started most of the team’s games in right, had moved on to San Diego and has a card there. Richie Scheinblum got some at bats also, but he’d moved to California during the season and has an Angels card. That leaves Ed Crosby as the most significant player in terms of playing time, and he only had 51 at bats as a back-up shortstop. That’s awfully good. On the pitching side, Jim McGlothlin had moved to the White Sox during the ’73 season and has a card there. That leaves Ed Sprague, who went 1-3 with a 5.12 ERA and a save, and Dave Tomlin, 1-2 with a 4.88 ERA and a save also, as the only guys with decisions without cards. That’s pretty good as only seven decisions are missing from the set. Sprague had been traded to the Cards during the season, ironically for Crosby. Tomlin was part of the same trade as Tolan so there is a bit of completeness to the saga of the missing cards. I don’t believe either of those guys is in the team photo.
The Cincinnati contribution to the baseball centennial festivities in ’76 is one of the odder choices I’ve seen. It was hinted at above: Johnny Vander Meer’s second consecutive no-hitter in 1938. Pretty odd, given the team’s recent successes – especially its ’75 Series title – and the fairly recent opening of Riverfront. This post has been so long I’m not going to do a deep drill on the game. In the next start he actually got into the fourth inning without giving up a hit. Here is a good descriptive link regarding the game.
Lastly, it’s hook-up time:
1. Joe Morgan was on the ’73 Reds;
2. Morgan and Jim Ray ’65 to ’66 and ’68 to ’71 Astros.