Friday, September 24, 2010

1974 TCMA Baseball Nicknames #5, "Silent Cal" Benge

This plain-faced oddball set gathers together 28 vintage players that share one thing, an interesting moniker. Babe Ruth is here, ditto Spud Chandler and Hot Potato Hamlin. Silent Cal Benge didn't make a lasting impact on the game--12 seasons, 96 ERA+, no playoff appearances--but certainly fits this theme.

Card front

Direct-to-collector card maker TCMA used these basic designs in the 70s to save money, since they didn't start with much. Keith Olbermann, who wrote and edited for them around that time, posted memories of those Halcyon days to his Baseball Nerd blog.

Card back

For all his silence, a modern parallel between unheralded Benge and ace Felix Hernandez stood out to me. Let's compare Cal's 1931 season in Philadelphia to King Felix's 2010.

  • Team winning %: Philly .429, Seattle .382
  • Personal winning %: Cal .438, Felix .500
  • ERA+: Cal 133, Felix 169
  • Pitching WAR: Cal 5.2 (2nd in NL), 5.5 (1st in AL)

Philly teammate Chuck Klein finished 2nd in the 1931 NL MVP race. With no Cy Young award available in 1931, shaking hands would be the closest Benge got to any recognition. (Felix retains an outside shot at this year's AL award, given his in-game dominance and modern view of stats.)

Value: Lesser-known players like Benge cost a few dollars. HOFers Ruth, Bob Feller, and Dizzy Dean run a few times that.

Fakes / reprints: Haven't seen any in the market and it's unlikely anyone would try faking such a low-demand set.

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