Sunday, April 7, 2013

Random Topps Card of the Day: 1956 Topps #149 Dixie Howell

It's Retro Sunday!!! Thanks to the Topps Card Randomizer, introducing the Random Topps Card of the Day for Sunday, April 7, 2013:

  • Official Card Set Name and Card Number: 1956 Topps #149.
  • Player Name, position, team: Dixie Howell, pitcher, Chicago White Sox.
  • Major League Debut: September 14, 1940.
  • Last Line of Statistics: 1955 stats (White Sox): 35 Games, 74 Innings, 8-3, .725 Pct., 70 Hits, 27 Runs, 24 E.R., 25 S.O., 25 Walks, 2.92 E.R. Avg.
  • Any special information about player: Contract purchased by the Indians before the 1938 season. Contract purchased by the White Sox from the Giants 5/22/1952. Bats: left. Throws: right.
  • Number of regular Topps Cards (includes regular and traded cards only): 4. This is his second Topps card.
  • Blurb on the back: n/a.
  • Commentary: The Topps Card Randomizer seemed to like the 1956 Topps set when I last used it because it chose three cards from that set for the five-week period that I schedule these posts. Last week, the TCR chose a card from the 1956 set featuring a Cub (Hank Sauer). This time, it picked a card of a player from the other side of the city. Before I begin, I have to ask this (long-winded) question (bear with me please). I had read in the past that on many occasions that if a player had a last name, he was automatically "nicknamed" a specific moniker. Every Durham was called "Bull," every Rhodes "Dusty," every Deaf player "Dummy," (okay, I know that Deaf players don't share a last name...but still almost every Deaf player until the 1940's was called this now out-of-date name). How is it that players who shared the last name Howell were nicknamed "Dixie?" During the time of Millard Fillmore Howell (named Dixie), there was another Howell (catcher Homer Elliot Howell) who was also called "Dixie." Today's subject is the pitching Howell. Howell had a long career in professional baseball, but you wouldn't know it based on his major league numbers. He began his pro career in the D-Level Mountain State League Logan Indians in 1937. The following year, the Cleveland Indians purchased his contract. It would be three years later that he would make his debut with the Tribe, a three-game, five-inning cup of coffee in the last weeks of the season. It would not be until 1949, almost nine seasons, until Howell would make his next big league appearance, this time with the Reds. In between that time, when he wasn't toiling away with the Syracuse Chiefs for five seasons, Howell enlisted with the US Army and served valiantly in France and Belgium during World War II. He was even captured by German Troops and liberated by the Allied forces six months later. When he was honorably discharged from duty, he returned to the Reds organization. In 1949, Howell appeared in five games for the Reds, going 0-1 with a 8.10 ERA and 7 strikeouts in 13.1 innings of work. His contract was purchased by the New York Giants in 1950, but Dixie never played in New York. With enough pitching on the big league franchise, Howell was playing the veteran pitcher for the AAA Minneapolis Millers. It was when his contract was purchased by the White Sox that Howell was able to join a big league roster for good. After three seasons with the Memphis Chickasaws, the White Sox called up Howell and for three seasons did not have to worry about travelling to the minor leagues. In 1956, Howell pitched in 34 games, went 5-6 in his decisions, had an ERA of 4.62, and struck out 28 in 64.1 innings of work. In fact, in his four seasons with the Pale Hose, Dixie earned a record of 19-14, a cumulative ERA of 3.55, struck out 90 and had a WHIP of 1.462. Dixie returned to the minors for the 1958 and 1959 seasons. Tragically, on March 18, 1960, Dixie Howell suffered a heart attack during running drills during the Indianapolis Indians' spring training camp and died. He was only 40 years old. On a happier note, it has been said that every player has his one "game" or that many players hold some kind of "record," no matter how obscure it can be. Dixie Howell holds two unique records: he holds the record for longest period of time between his major league debut and his first career victory (16 years...he debuted on on 09/14/1940 and earned his first win on 06/25/1955); and in 1955, he set the regular season record for most hits (5) in a season without collecting a single (3 home runs, a double, and a triple). It doesn't get any more obscure than that. The cartoons on the back of the card summarize Dixie's career rather well. The first indicates that "after almost 20 years in the minors, Dixie made the Majors last year (I'll teach 'em respect for elders says the quote bubble on the pitcher). The second says that in 1943, he had a short trial with Cincinnati as an outfielder ("What am I doing here?"). The last caption reads that Dixie "has a good slider, sinker, change-up, and control.
  • Beckett value: $6.00-$12.00.
  • 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: 1977 Topps #617. 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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