Sunday, November 17, 2013

Random Topps Card of the Day: 1956 Topps #88 Johnny Kucks

It's Retro Sunday!!! Thanks to the Topps Card Randomizer, introducing the Random Topps Card of the Day for Sunday, November 17, 2013:

  • Official Card Set Name and Card Number: 1956 Topps #88.
  • Player Name, position, team: Johnny Kucks, pitcher, New York Yankees.
  • Major League Debut: April 17, 1955.
  • Last Line of Statistics: 1955 stats (Yankees): 29 Games, 127 Innings, 8-7, .533 Pct., 122 Hits, 54 Runs, 48 E.R., 48 S.O., 44 Walks, 3.40 E.R.Avg.
  • Any special information about player: Signed with the Yankees as a Free Agent before the 1952 season. Bats: right. Throws: right.
  • Number of regular Topps Cards (includes regular and traded cards only): 7. This is his first Topps card.
  • Blurb on the back: "After his Army discharge, Johnny went to the Yanks' spring training camp. His great pitching in exhibition games won him a job with N.Y. Johnny, with only 1 year of minor league ball is now a real major leaguer.
  • Commentary: To market the cards for their target audiences (that would be kids), Topps took the unique step of replacing most of the boring text usually found on the backs of cards (if they even had them at all) with cartoons. And they were a hit. So much so that Topps continued the practice on and off over the decades. And although they are not as prevalent as they were in the 50's and 60's, there is still a bit of nostalgia that comes with these cartoons. They have come so close to iconic and recognizable that one can look at just a cartoon sketch and know that it came from or was to have been used on a baseball card. If only they replaced some of the long boring texts on some of the cards today with cartoons. I'm sure it would be more interesting to read card backs. The cartoon captions on the back of John Charles Kucks Jr.'s (last name pronounced as "Cooks.") card would have been just text in today's cardboard. But back then, the cartoons were the thing and were a perfect way to tell kids what he was doing before making it to the majors. Kucks career was a bit delayed due to his stint in Army. His best season would come in 1956, when he appeared in 34 games, 31 starts, achieved a record of 18-9, an ERA of 3.85, 67 strikeouts, and a WHIP of 1.315. Did I mention that he also completed 12 games, 3 as shutouts, and earned a trip to the All-Star Game? Some could argue though that the following year was better statistically for Kucks, even with the losing record of 8-10 as he had better numbers across the board (3.56 ERA, 78 K's, 1.271 WHIP are all career bests). But during the 1956 World Series against Brooklyn, Kucks appeared in three games, started Game 7, and earned the shutout victory as the Yanks trounced the Dodgers 9-0. After that fantastic 1956 season, Kucks spent time between the starting rotation and bullpen, but he could not maintain the numbers that made him an All-Star, and after appearing in nine games for the Bombers in 1959 became part of the infamous NYY-KCA pipeline, going to the Athletics with two others in exchange for Ralph Terry and Hector Lopez. His major league career ended after the 1961 season, with Kucks finishing with a career 54-56 record, a cumulative 4.10 ERA, 338 strikeouts, two World Series rings, and as the answer to the trivia question, "Who was the last pitcher Jackie Robinson faced in the Majors?". He became a stockbroker after his playing days ended. Johnny Kucks passed away on October 31, 2013 due to cancer at a hospice in New Jersey. He was 80 years old.
  • Lo-Hi Beckett value: $7.00-$15.00.
  • How many cards of this player do I own?: 0.

In case you're actually wondering, I don't own this card, but was able to get a crystal clean copy of the image from the from the Baseball Card Cyber Museum. So thank you Joe McAnally and the folks at the BCCM.

Well, it's back to normal on Monday. Tomorrow's card will be: 1995 Topps #125. Post will arrive at 1:00 PM CST. Come on back then to see what the Topps Card Randomizer gets us to look at then.


JayBee Anama

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