1952 Topps Steve Gromek

At some point in the past there was a person who wanted a picture of pitcher Steve Gromek on their wall. An obliging stack of baseball cards produced a suitable target from the 1952 Topps edition and a pair of thumbtacks were employed to attach the cardboard to the wall. That’s the story my particular ’52 Gromek card is telling me with two symmetrical holes along the upper corners. The card is part of the more challenging Fifth Series (cards #251-310). While not as hard to find as the ultra-difficult high numbers the Fifth Series is noticeably harder to come by than earlier releases.

Gromek is frequently described as either a reliever or spot starter. Essentially known for having only one reliable pitch, Cleveland manager Lou Boudreau famously threatened to fine him 10% of his annual salary if he ever saw him try to sneak a curve ball past a batter.

It’s not that Gromek was a bad pitcher, he was actually fairly average. He just spent most of his time on a team that carried an embarrassingly loaded pitching staff that made “big league average” look unimpressive. Stuck behind Bob Feller, Early Wynn, Bob Lemon, and Mike Garcia Gromek didn’t get the consistent starts needed to build a fan base. Still, even in this part time role he managed to record 231 decisions, a not inconsequential tally considering the role he was assigned.

A career .197 hitter, Gromek tried to add an additional hit of a different sort to his lifetime total of 124 through an unconventional method in 1954. Drilled in the back by opposing Philadelphia Athletics pitcher Marion Fricano, he charged the mound with his bat in tow. The fracas was part of an escalating tit for tat exchange that had seen Gromek throw at Fricano earlier in the game. Gromek, it should be noted, was responding to the career-ending beaning of teammate Cass Michaels when he took his shot at Fricano.