The ’52 Topps Coin-Flip Guy Finished What Kershaw Could Not

There are a few things to unpack from that title. Boston Braves starting pitcher Vern Bickford is generally known for a coin flip. He was a member of the pitching rotation of a Braves affiliated minor league team when its owner acquired a stake in the Pittsburgh Pirates. This presented an obvious conflict of interest and both Major League teams argued over which club would receive the best prospects. A coin flip was used to determine who would get the top ranked player, which just happened to be the young Bickford.

He was an effective pitcher for several years, logging more than 300 innings in 1950 and nearly winning 20 games. A hand injury ended his 1951 season and was followed by a quick succession of arm ailments. Bickford logged only 62 more big league innings after his 1952 card was printed and was gone. He died from stomach cancer only a few additional years later.

Clayton Kershaw was famously lifted from a perfect game in April of this year due to his reaching a pitch count. Vern Bickford no-hit Kershaw’s team in 1950, doing so on less than 100 pitches in a performance that would make any modern coach proud. A propensity to throw sinking pitches that induce ground balls helped him chew through batting orders and likely helped him top the 300 inning mark that year.