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Hot Stone League

Larry Stone gives his take on a wide array of baseball issues and weighs in about the Mariners, too.

October 30, 2009 at 10:34 PM

A nostalgic tribute to Mike Brumley (the elder) and other baseball card delights

So I read the press release this afternoon announcing Mike Brumley as the Mariners’ new third-base coach, and it triggered a tickle in the back of my brain.

Certainly, I remembered Mike Brumley as a journeyman major-leaguer from the 1980s and 1990s, but this feeling went deeper. Something about that name. Then I read more of the press release, and this passage rang a loud bell: His father, Mike, played parts of three seasons with the Washington Senators (1964-66).

Then it hit me: Mike Brumley — the first MIke Brumley — was the baseball card I got in every package as a (very) little kid in the initial stages of collecting fanaticism. Anyone who has dabbled in baseball cards knows what I’m talking about: There was always one card, usually of an obscure player, that seemed to show up in every pack. For me, it was the 1965 and 1966 Mike Brumley Washington Senators card.

Sure enough, I got home tonight, dragged out my baseball cards (yes, I kept every single card from my youth; you know the common story about guys (and gals) who came back from college and found out, to their horror, that Mom had thrown out their baseball cards? I didn’t take any chances. I took mine to college with me; and I’ve lovingly and carefully guided them through every move since. In 1991, when the Oakland fire came close enough to our house that we had to evacuate, my boxes of baseball cards were part of the essentials we jam-packed into our car) and found my cache of Mike Brumleys, the elder.

And while perusing my Senators collection (I have them all divided by teams; the vast majority of my cards are from the 1960s and ’70s, and virtually all of them are “honest” — that is to say, I bought them myself as a kid, in five or 10-card packs, not from collectors. I say “almost” because I’ve picked up cards here and there as an adult, usually at yard sales. But I’m proudest of the Willie Mayses, Hank Aarons and Sandy Koufaxes that I got the old-fashioned way), I came across a few gems that I thought I’d share with you. Humor me here. Through the magic of scanning, here they are:

mike brumley2.jpg

Yes, that’s the father of the Mariners’ new third-base coach in his 1965 card, which might be my favorite Topps design. It’s one of five I found. Here’s his 1966 card — one of five more I still had:

brumley1.jpg

Not many guys smiled for their baseball cards back in the day. The search for Brumley led me to this classic:

tom cheney.jpg

That’s Tom Cheney, famous for striking out 21 — the most ever in one game by a major-league pitcher — in a 16-inning effort against Baltimore in 1962. Alas, Cheney never came close to matching that level of accomplishment, finishing his career with a 19-29 mark. One clue to his demise: In 466 innings, Cheney had 345 strikeouts — and 245 walks. As far as I can tell (or remember), that card was cut out of a Post cereal box. Note the ragged borders. I wasn’t good with scissors.

The next one to catch my eye was this:

don zimmer.jpg

Yeah, good old Don Zimmer, whose classic baseball mug was already in formation at that late stage of his playing career.

Next up:

frank howard.jpg

Big Frank Howard, aka Hondo, aka Capital Punishment. Gotta love those gigantic specs. I got to deal a little with Frank Howard during his coaching career, and found him to be a delightful fellow.

I’ll bet every person of a certain age remembers this one:

paul casanova.jpg

Paul Casanova. The name never failed to make me giggle. In fact, I’m giggling now.

Here’s another giggle inducer:

Shetrone.jpg

I could only imagine what his nickname was. Using modern nomenclature, I suppose he would have been B-Shet. I’d love to see Sports Center take a whack at that one. Shetrone (tee hee) never had much of a career, which might have been a blessing.

I like this one because of the Seahawks connection:

ken hamlin.jpg

I can say with some confidence: No relation.

I just got done reading a Joe Posnanski blog that listed the 10 worst hitters in history with over 6,000 plate appearances, and lo and behold, I run across this guy:

ed brinkman.jpg

Yes, Ed finished dead last — or dead first, as the case may be — with the lowest average in history among qualifiers. Here’s what JoPo wrote about him:

Yes, Ed Brinkman. He hit .224/.280/.300 over a long All-Star career (well he was an All-Star in 1973). He won a Gold Glove, twice got MVP votes, and he was a high school teammate of Pete Rose. It is also mentioned on his Wikipedia page that he holds the record for most seasons with more than 400 at-bats, a batting average lower than .230 and fewer than 15 home runs. That seems kind of like rubbing it in, no? He also holds the records for most seasons with 450 plate appearances and an OPS+ of 70 or lower. I’m sure he holds a lot of records like that. He had a good glove, though.

This one has some sentimental value:

Kirkland.jpg

That’s Willie Kirkland, and I always dug the toothpick. He had U.L. Washington beat by 20 years.

I never actually believed that this next guy was really a player. I have a hunch he was the team accountant, and they let have a baseball card as a favor:

Koplitz.jpg

Sure, Baseball Reference shows a Howie Koplitz, but I still think it’s all part of an elaborate ruse.

I always loved rookie cards, but…

65 rookies.jpg

…sometimes you ended up with Pete Rose or Rod Carew, and sometimes you ended up with Don Loun and Joe McCabe.

Finally, there’s nothing more amusing, in retrospect, than 1970s/early 1980s hair. He’s no Oscar Gamble, but Jim Kern is a pretty good representative (note that the Senators had become the Rangers by then):

jim kern.jpg

I hope you enjoyed reading this half as much as I did putting it together. It killed a Friday night, but that was a fun journey that Mike Brumley took me on.

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