Tookie Gilbert Made the Checklist But Not the Team

Someone obliterated the stats on the back of my 1952 Tookie Gilbert card. That’s not too much of a loss, considering he had only a partial 1950 season under his belt in which he batted just .220. At least the card’s color scheme meshes well with the NY Giants colors. Despite the early stage of his career, it is not his rookie card. Tookie appeared as Harold Gilbert in the 1950 Bowman set after making his MLB debut and landing a near-record $50,000 signing bonus from the Giants.

The card’s reverse talks up his prospects for rejoining the parent club and had good reason to do so. Gilbert was simply a fantastic player for minor league and PCL teams. The Giants decided to break Spring Training without him (Topps’ Series 1 checklist had already been printed at this point) and instead optioned him to the Pacific Coast League Oakland Oaks. Gilbert played for Giants legend Mel Ott in Oakland and led the league in home runs.

However, Gilbert did not improve upon his 1950 showing when he returned to the Giants in 1953. Rather than spend additional time beating up minor league pitching, Gilbert announced he would seek employment outside of baseball. A career in paint and real estate followed, though he did spend the summer of 1959 playing with the New Orleans Pelicans and hit nearly two dozen home runs. He was popular in his native New Orleans and even won a local elected position before dying of a heart attack at the absurdly young age of 38.