Friday, March 22, 2024

1956 Topps baseball #171 "Jim Wilson, if that is your real name"

I researched game situations for several 1956 Topps cards in my 17-March post, including #171 Jim Wilson. This post revisits and revises my initial take and then updated it again on 2-May. This might be the most ink spilled about his card since Jim's retirement in 1958.

Baltimore purchased Jim from Milwaukee a few days into the 1955 regular season and he proved their most dependable pitcher, even if going 12-18 meant leading the AL in losses.

I guessed this #171 action photo shows Richie Ashburn running to first, with someone other than Jim catching that high throw. Pittsburgh's Paul Smith, perhaps?

Another writer encourged me to look at the Giants instead, given Topps penchant for photos in New York stadiums, so #25 Whitey Lockman could be a better choice for that fielder. Compare "Jim Wilson" to Whitey's own card of Dodgers #3 Billy Cox trying to beat out a throw to first.

1956 Topps #205, Whitey Lockman

Our runner's sleeve stripe means Brooklyn wore road jerseys, placing us at Giants home turf, the Polo Grounds.

Pittsburgh fielders wore safety helmets in that era, as on #116 Ed O'Brien (left). I think the first baseman reaching behind Ashburn for an errant throw lacks that headgear, so Whitey Lockman seems our guy instead of Paul Smith.

Fielding helmet on Pirates 2B

No helmet on Giants 1B

Lockman and the Giants hosted Philly many times in the 1950s, so picking out a single play will be tough until we locate this card's original photo. Their long undershirts imply a chilly spring evening, making the second game of a doubleheader on April 25, 1954, our possible match.

Topps #171's action shot might indeed be Giants 3B Hank Thompson tossing wide of first on Richie Ashburn's grounder from 1954. Our peripheral evidence supports that location and play result.

One other game, a 6-5 Giants win on May 30, 1955, shows Ashburn legging out a leadoff single to third that became Philly's first run.

Either scoring decision could fit this leaping throw to first, so correcting its players proves more satisfying than nailing an exact moment in time.

Did Topps make twice the error?

My earlier post showed how an artist added anachronistic red details for Pudding' Head Jones. Philly's used sleeve and neck stripes on pre-1950 uniforms, which also featured blue hat and stockings. Topps painted those details in red for his 1956 card.

Consider the action shot for #171 "Jim Wilson" one more time.

Since Topps card editors worked from black and white photos, that could be Brooklyn's #1 Pee Wee Reese (blue sleeves) instead of Philly's #1 Richie Ashburn (red sleeves). Dodgers uniforms would look similar on contemporary pictures, unless dated or described well. They already struck out on player identification, so retain a critical eye.

MAY 2024 UPDATE: Did Topps make thrice the error?

Mea culpa! I missed this lookalike card (#91 Gail Harris) during my initial research into #171 Wilson, which uses our same image apart from its runner wearing a blue cap.

Gail did play first several times for New York during his 1955 rookie season. Our problem comes down to that uniform number, #25 Lockman vs. #15 Harris. Blue cap or not, #91 also got our first baseman wrong.

Confusion conclusion

1956 cards #91 and #171 feature a Hall of Fame cameo either way, with Ashburn or Reese dashing past Giants first baseman Whitey Lockman.

Thanks to several resources for research help.


night owl said...

So an Orioles pitcher card featuring a play at first base between the Phillies-Giants/Dodgers-Giants.

Just chaos in the Topps art department. Good thing everyone collecting then were kids!

Hopper said...

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