Monday, May 4, 2009

1956 Topps Orioles

This is the start of another vintage team set that I'll hopefully complete one day. There's something about the designs of the '50's that really appeal to me. I think it's the simple, clean lines and bright, cheery colors. Maybe it also has something to do with how one views the 1950's in the context of history. On the surface, the 50's as a whole appear perhaps a little dull. Conformity and predictability were encouraged, if not enforced, television was still in black & white and was also quite wholesome and "safe". Despite all this, there were cultural changes bubbling up from below the surface, and baseball's history mirrors the changes that were occurring socially as America headed towards the crazy 60's.

It's no mystery that baseball was predominately a "white man's" game for a long time. Jackie Robinson changed all that in the late 40's, and the 1950's saw the further integration of baseball, which nicely coincided with the impending Civil Rights Movement, and the eventual integration of a nation.

The Giants and Dodgers both left New York, headed for the west coast, and the Browns left St. Louis for Baltimore, thus becoming my beloved Orioles. Prior to the 50's, no team had changed cities in 50 years, yet by the end of the decade 1/3 of all the teams in baseball would have a new home. This nicely mirrors Americas new-found love of travel, which had been made much easier by technological advances like the jumbo jet, and Eisenhower's new highway system.

You could say that in the 50's, baseball and the country showed signs of what they would one day become. Home runs and strikeouts increased, teams began playing night games under the lights, and stolen bases were on the rise.

1956 was the Orioles 3rd season of existence, and they were pretty pitiful, compiling a 69-85 record, good enough for 6th place. I only know all this because I looked it up. In 1956 my parents were 2 and 3 years old respectively, and I was a thought in no ones mind.

I only have 5 of these cards, and they are pretty beat up. Every one of them has rounded corners and creases. Most of them have been written on with pencil, and a few have been gone at with an eraser as well. Regardless, and just like I said with my '59 O's cards, I think it's really cool to own cards that are over 50 years old, and from an era I know very little about.

First up is Willie Miranda. He is one of 2 players included in this group that I had heard of before getting these cards. Reason being, is that he played shortstop, and that's a pretty popular position in these here parts.

Next up is the other player I'd heard of prior to acquiring these cards, outfielder Chuck Diering. According to his Baseball Almanac page, he was known for his great speed, and fielding prowess.

Pitcher Don "Midget" Ferrarese is the next card featured. I believe this might be his rookie card as well. Career ERA of 4.00 and a record of 19-36 over 8 seasons in the bigs. As you can probably guess based on his nickname, Don was a man of small stature.

Next we have another pitcher, Ray Moore. He had a pretty good season in '56, so you think he'd be smiling a little bigger. He went 12-7 with a 4.06 ERA, while also hitting 2 homers.

To close out the '56 O's in my collection we have Harry "The Cat" Brecheen, who was the pitching coach for the '56 O's, but was a star left-handed pitcher for the Cardinals in the 1940's. Brecheeen was the first lefty to ever win 3 games in one World Series in 1946 and has a career Series ERA of 0.83, which is impressive to say the least. "The Cat" spent his whole playing career in St. Louis, playing for the Browns in 1953. He moved with the team to Baltimore, and took over pitching coach duties in 1954. He clearly doesn't look like a man who is happy to be in Baltimore.

Special thanks to Night Owl, for this post, which inspired me to track down my own 1956 Topps cards. After seeing his post, I designed several Big Lebowski cards based on the design that he helped me appreciate.


  1. I have a couple beat-up '56 O's that would fit in well with the ones you displayed (none of them written on though).

    I'll include one of them with the cards I'm sending.