Wednesday, June 3, 2009

1934-36 Diamond Stars #5, Tommy Bridges

This stylish card of Detroit righty Tommy Bridges overlays a realistic, posed follow-through on top of an Art Deco outfield and horizon. It shows off the set's typical orgy of intense color (more pictures here), with vibrant red and green fighting for your visual attention. The sailor's warning sky even swallows up Tom's name!

Bridges' long, slender fingers enabled him to throw a highly effective curve. Toss in a decent fastball, adequate control, and you get plenty of strikeouts. (See also, Pedro Martinez.) Tommy broke the Tigers team record for Ks in 1941, which stood until Hal Newhouser came along.

Coupled with Goudey's 1933 and 1934 efforts, the Diamond Stars form an impressive triumvirate of classic baseball sets. The respective designs exemplify an artistic era, contain an array of legendary names, and represent an achievable, if expensive, collecting goal. (Today's might be hardest of the three, given its high number rarity.)

Many Diamond Star cards include playing tips instead of biographical info. Number 5 discusses gripping the ball, perfect for Bridges' talents. The back scan's not very big, so here's the actual text.

"Pitching Tips - How to Grip the Ball. Most major league pitchers grip the ball with the fingers across the seams, to obtain a firm purchase. Tom Bridges of the Detroit Tigers, one of the most effective pitchers in the game, holds the ball thus. Yet a few well-known moundsmen hold the ball with the fingers between the seams. This is a matter of choice. But always be sure to hold the ball the same way, both for your curve and fast ball. Do not curl your thumb back when about to throw your curve, a familiar habit among schoolboy pitchers. Smart batters notice such habits. Hold the ball with medium firmness, keeping the fingers and wrist flexible."

Wonder if a 21st century version would include curve ball advice for "schoolboy" pitchers? The subject's controversial these days, as we seek to protect kids from throwing out shoulders and elbows. I love that the tip writer said "Tom Bridges...holds the ball thus"--old school!

I was lucky to receive this card gratis from a collecting friend. The top edge's prominent pin hole technically drops the condition to low-grade. No matter, it's just as treasured by me. Diamond Star "commons" run about $10 on eBay, but players like Bridges, a key part of the first Tigers championship in 1935, could cost more if a team collector's on the hunt.

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