Sep 19, 2010

Card Spotlight: 1959 Topps Ace Hurlers Robin Roberts/Billy Pierce

Note: I haven't been posting in a while mostly because I'm unable to finish posts. Ever have a case of attention wandering that just wouldn't quit? Anyway, I'm not going away and it looks like the Phillies aren't either. I'm psyched for the possibility of the 4th straight year of postseason baseball.

I was able to pick this blurry beauty up for $1.00+shipping on the old internet marketplace. I can't tell if this is a posed portrait (possibly painted?) or the superimposing of two photographs where the baseball is held in the correct, auspicious position. What also makes the card image interesting is that it's as if they're standing in front of a supernova sun from a gumdrop sky.

By the time 1959 rolled around, neither were the carry-the-team-on-the-shoulders aces they had been in previous years of the 1950s. But they surely still carried themselves like one because they were afforded much respect from teammates and opponents and by an extension, the Topps card company.

Roberts's 1958 was a nice bounceback yearafter two straight losing seasons (presumably due to arm troubles after all the innings he pitched 1950-1956). He got back on the winning side of the ledger (17-14) and lowered his ERA from 4.45(1956) to 4.07 (1957) to 3.24 (1958). His peripheral stats stayed virtually the same though (except for HR/9 was lower). Roberts almost was able to reach back into the eraly-1950's re-emerge in carry and countenance his ace hurler image and skill.

For Pierce, 1958 was his last dominant year at the age of 31. He was 17-11 with a league-leading 19 complete games, and 2.68 ERA. This wrapped up a brilliant stretch of pitching over the 1950s over which he had 5 all-star seasons, 2 20 win seasons, finished in the top ten in WHIP 6 times and the top ten in Ks 9 years in a row (1950-1958). He was a well-established ace hurler as well for the perennial runner-up White Sox (until 1959).

An ace hurler is an ambiguous term of baseball lore. There are aces, there are stoppers, there are #1, among other terms. What distinguishes one from the other.

Here are other ace hurlers of the 1950s (either by stats or reputation)

Early Wynn
Bob Feller

Warren Spahn

Bob Lemon
Allie Reynolds
Mel Parnell
Don Newcombe
Whitey Ford

Even then, it was difficult to maintain a high level for a high number of years. Roberts and Pierce defied that convention for the most part and were deserving choices as ace hurlers.

1 comment:

capewood said...

Nice post. I have that card as well. It's the only card of Roberts I have from when he was actually playing. I wish I could remember when and where I got it. The picture looks more like a painting to me than a photograph.