You just know that a guy born in a gold mining camp is going to have a good nickname. George “Catfish” Metkovich lived up to that expectation, though he had to wait until 1940 to earn the new moniker. That was the year in which he tried to wrestle a hook from a three-foot catfish, only to be stabbed through the foot by one of the fish’s spines. The odd injury forced him to miss several games and produced double takes from those asking why he wasn’t playing. It sure beats the origin story of Oakland’s Catfish Hunter, a pitcher who was assigned his random nickname in a marketing stunt.
Metkovich’s baseball career proved to be fairly average. He wasn’t often sought out as a starter, but rather bounced around to a few teams to fill in for injured stars or players in military service. He held his own better than a lot of new players appearing in the ’52 Topps set.
Still, his employment opportunities were not just limited to baseball. He was involved in multiple pursuits, inspecting aircraft and running a restaurant catering to LAX. He built up a minor acting career alongside teammate Johnny Berardino. Metkovich appeared in a half dozen feature films, including the Fred Astaire/Red Skelton musical Three Little Words.
My Catfish Card
This is always an interesting card to study the condition of. The first and last cards of many older sets typically accumulate large amounts of damage as young collectors would rubber band stacks of cards or otherwise leave the chronologically numbered cards exposed to the elements. Topps issued the ’52 set in multiple editions with Metkovich bringing up the rear guard of the next to last series. The final series is difficult to locate today with very few printed and even less ever making into the hands of people buying cards that year. That means most collections would have ended with card #310 as the final piece, enduring whatever damage was dished out to exposed cards.
My card was purchased as part of a lot that had been formerly taped to a scrapbook. Damage from tape removal is evident on the lower corners, but the most striking bit of wear is the uneven discoloring on the front. Apparently the card was exposed to varying levels of temperature and light or very briefly splashed with a strong liquid (no damage on the back). You can make out several straight edges where another card on top caught the brunt of whatever landed on it.