Pirate Paul Smith As ‘Casey At The Bat’

Posted June 1st, 2011 by Tom Owens and filed in 1955 Brooklyn Dodgers, Paul Smith, Pittsburgh Pirates, www.retrosheet.org
Should have asked…
Does Smith know he and his
card are comic fodder  in
‘The Great American Baseball
Card Flipping, Trading and Bubble
Gum Book’?

Call me a mind reader.

Just as a formality, I asked Paul Smith which of his seven homers was a favorite. I knew, however. Sure enough, Smith agreed, saying:

Favorite home run – against Brooklyn , ninth inning, pinch-hit HR to tie the game with two outs and two strikes.”

Cheers to http://www.retrosheet.org/ for the details!

Smith played ball in Havana, before there was any Fidel Castro. What was it like?

“I had played winter ball in Cuba 1952-53 and had a great season. The fans were great when I played for the AAA team.”

I read that Smith had suffered concussions as a player. A hitch in the armed forces may have complicated his career, too.

Smith didn’t make excuses, noting:

“Concussions – hard hat (helmet) made it minor! Headaches for a couple of days.

Military – a year in Iceland.”

Before thanking me for the questions, Smith summed up:

“Life in baseball is great. See a lot of the country. It’s a challenge when you’re only 5-foot-8.”

Thursday: A Cubs teammate remembers Ken Hubbs

 

Charlie Thompson, Brooklyn Dodger Mystery

A Topps puzzler…

You know that guy, uh, what’s his name?

Don’t expect any help from a certain 1950s catcher by the full name of Charles Lemoine Thompson. The always-impressive Baseball Almanac website shows his autographed 1954 Topps card, signed “Charlie,” as indicated on the card. They file the catcher under “Tim Thompson,” his nickname.

On his 1957 card, Topps spells his first name “Charley.”

Thompson’s last card, in the 1958 Topps set, says he’s “Tim Thompson.”

I blame Topps for scattering the catcher throughout history. I asked if the card company mixed up his name.

“No.”

That’s all Mr. Thompson had to say.

Imagine all the 1950s kids lining up their differently-named cards. Compounding the confusion, starting in 1957, Topps shows the catcher wearing glasses. Shades of Clint Courtney! I asked if this was difficult or dangerous back then.

“Far-sighted.”

Hmmm…

The website Baseball Reference notes Thompson’s success as a scout for decades after his career ended. I asked if he had a couple of signings or discoveries he was proudest of.

“Brian Jordan, Tom Herr.”

Oh. About his proper, or even preferred first name?

I’ll never know. Mr. Thompson never bothered to sign the letter!

Coming Thursday: Two succinct signers.

Eddie Baskinski, Brooklyn Dodger & Portland Beaver, Earned TWO Nicknames (One From Leo ‘The Lip’ Durocher That’s G-Rated!)

Posted January 25th, 2011 by Tom Owens and filed in 1955 Brooklyn Dodgers, Eddie Basinski, Leo Durocher, Pittsburgh Pirates, Portland Beavers
“Eddie Three-Names”?

In 2007, I began puzzling over player nicknames. They aren’t on a guy’s birth certificate. Someone has to create them.

Furthermore, who uses nicknames? Just imagine…

“Hi, honey. I’m home.”

“Mister October, please take the garbage out NOW! Not in October!!!”

I was delighted to learn about Eddie Basinski, whose 1940s stops included the Brooklyn Dodgers and Pittsburgh Pirates. He owned two monikers, “Bazooka” and “Fiddler.” In 2007, with ornate penmanship, his reply shared the history of both names.

“Leo Durocher, my Dodgers mgr., gave me the nickname ‘Bazooka.’ Because of my accurate, strong throwing arm, with the quickest release he ever saw; he compared all that with the U.S. Army weapon ‘the Bazooka.’ It was my first nickname.


‘Fiddler’ came about as I studied classical violin for 16 years, gave concerts, appeared on radio, TV and gave a rendition between doubleheaders while with Portland, in my baseball uniform at home plate before one of the largest at the ballpark.


The press used both nicknames constantly. Opponents used these names, but not favorably. when I failed to get a hit, fans from opposing teams would yell, ‘Why don’t you use your violin?'”

Basinski played 11 seasons with Portland. He was a Pacific Coast League fixture. Check out this Oregonian remembrance of the Beavers, including the nifty photo of a uniform-clad “Fiddler” entertaining teammates.

Tomorrow: Detroit Tigers catcher Lance Parrish explains the origin of his nickname.