Friday, November 13, 2020

1956 Topps switch-hitters and predictable inconsistency

This week, a wolf in sheep's Orioles clothing arrived at my front door.

A friend of mine sent 1956 Topps #103 Willie Miranda to help chip away at my variations wantlist. I added 1956's white and grey backs this year to inject some life into my postwar collection and Miranda's white back fits the bill. Let's check it out.

Always fun to examine stats and cartoons, right? "Upsy daisy!" There's one you don't hear in baseball. And then...

Huh, "L. & R." looks odd. Shouldn't that say "both" or "switch" or something? Let's check 1956's best-known switch-hitter.

The Mick shows a "both" like we expect. This is discomfiting. Did Topps let something simple like switch-hitting consistency fall between the cracks? There's one way to find out. Let's run through them in order.

#51 Oravetz agrees with Willie Miranda, left and right.

#165 matches Mantle. Now we have multiples of each.

Robin Roberts, our first "both" switch-hitting pitcher! (And as for variations, Roberts marks 1956's "end" of #1-180 white/grey backs.)

Dave Philley gives me a growing sense of "both" consistency. Perhaps "L. & R." ended with Oravetz and Miranda.

Another "both" switch-hitting pitcher! There's a book waiting to be written about these multitalented gentlemen.

1956's second-best-known "both" switch-hitter, Flash Gilliam.

Our third both-hitting pitcher, Steve Gromek, would've been 100 this year. I have to ask about that middle cartoon. Is 18-16 a brilliant record? His stat sheet shows a solid year, but 1955 Gromek also led the AL in homers allowed, the majors in balks, and struck out just 102. I'm glad we're focused on how he hits.

One to go!

Whaaaaa--Topps throws me their best curve with an "L. & R." switch-hitting pitcher to cap the set. After hitting a nice groove, 1956 Topps fell back into its Oravetz-Miranda ways right at the end. What a Wiesler.

For a set I thought we knew inside and out, finding this nugget makes our hobby's best designers seem more human. Seeing amazing card...

...after amazing card...

...and yet with Easter eggs for us to enjoy decades later. (My standards for "amazing" are, "Is a player leaping? Are there outfield billboard ads?")

In search of an explanation, let's check how Topps treated these guys in 1955.
  • #51 Oravetz: No 1955 Topps
  • #103 Miranda: "L. & R." on 1955 #154
  • #135 Mantle: No 1955 Topps
  • #165 Schoendienst: No 1955 Topps
  • #180 Roberts: No 1955 Topps
  • #222 Philley: No 1955 Topps
  • #227 Meyer: No 1955 Topps
  • #280 Gilliam: "R & L" on 1955 #5
  • #310 Gromek: No 1955 Topps
  • #327 Wiesler: No 1955 Topps
Thanks to their Bowman licensing battle, just two of these players appeared in each Topps set. While Willie Miranda looks the same, Gilliam found yet another way to switch-hit. So much for predictable inconsistency!

Thanks for following this unusual path with me. I will be sure to think about it the next several times I flip a card over to read the cartoons.


Fuji said...

Definitely weird... but always fun to learn something new about one of my all-time favorite baseball sets.

Matthew Glidden said...

In general, Bowman went with "switch" and Topps (later) settled on "both." Funny to see this more random stuff until they settled down.