Sep
03
2021

First Day on the Job: Throws a No-Hitter

How’s this for an MLB rookie? A pitcher with just one inning of experience is called into a game as a reliever in the fourth inning. He proceeds to hold the opposing team hitless for 9 more frames and wins the game well into extra innings. While not technically a no-hitter, I’m the one writing this post and I will let the title stand.

Bobby Shantz is always an interesting player to read about. Long considered undersized, he didn’t surpass five feet in height until well out of high school. By 1952 his baseball cards listed him as being 5’7″ tall and nobody was arguing about his skills as he took home the American League MVP award. He injured his shoulder and wrist soon after the ’52 season and nearly found himself out of the game as a result. A reorientation to relief pitching extended his career and was even highlighted with a winning stint as a starter in place of Whitey Ford for the 1957 Yankees. The Gold Glove award was introduced that year to celebrate the best defensive player at each position. Shantz won the award eight times, taking it home every single year through the end of his career.

Super Happy with Signed Cards

Although Shantz ended his playing career long before I was born, he was one of the 1950s players that I first knew about when I began collecting. He is known as a prolific signer of autographs and reportedly responds to fan mail in just a week’s time. He’s closing in on 100 years old and still kicking. That’s awesome.

I chased down autographed versions of both cards needed for my work-in-progress sets. [AUTHOR’S NOTE: At the time of writing I was working on a 1954 set as well. This effort has been discontinued to allow better cards to enter the collection.] The 1952 is in terrible condition and was added largely based on cost. The 1954 presents itself much better and even includes a hand-inscribed reference to his eight Gold Glove awards. Technically both pieces of cardboard are in poor condition, though these pictures show just how much leeway there is within the catch-all grade.

Shantz’s personal stats on the back of the card are a bit odd. In 1952 he is listed as being 5’7″ and weighing 153 pounds. Just two years later Topps reported him as being an inch smaller and 15 pounds lighter. He missed a good portion of the 1953 season and may have undergone a bit of weight loss during his time away. Then again, player height/weight data is notoriously unreliable on sports cards.