Tuesday, December 15, 2009
Discovering Buddy Hassett
I’ve been calling my Card of the Day posts “vintage”, but none of the cards that I’ve shown (dating from 1956-1974) can make that claim like this card can. It came to me in a trade with Adam from the Thoughts and Sox blog and joins my Ray Berres card from the same year as my oldest baseball card. I do have a Jack Dempsey Allen and Ginter card that I am pretty sure is a lot older, but the back is so bad that I can’t tell. Anyway, this card comes from the 1939 Playball! set and features left-handed first baseman John Aloysius “Buddy” Hassett, who played for 3 different teams from 1936-1942. If you have never heard of Buddy Hassett before, don’t feel bad, you aren’t alone. I can’t say his name ever popped up in any reading I have ever done, but after a little research, I realized that Hassett had a pretty interesting career. He broke in with the Brooklyn Dodgers in 1936 at the age of 24. The Dodgers at the time were not a very good team and they only had a few names that I even recognized. The aforementioned Ray Berres was their catcher, Frenchy Bordaragay was an outfielder and Van Mungo was their Ace on the mound. Not exactly a top rate team, but their rookie first baseman, Buddy Hassett was their bright spot. He led the team in every offensive category and he set career highs that he wouldn’t ever match that year. His rookie batting average was .310; he had 3 homers and 82 RBI. He also hit 11 triples, scored 79 times and had 197 hits while playing in every game. After 3 years in Brooklyn he was traded to the Boston Bees, the team he is featured with on this card. He had a solid first season with Boston and topped 300 for the 3rd time in his career batting .308 and driving in 60 runs off just 2 homers. Hassett wasn’t a power hitting first baseman by any means, he only had 12 total in 7 seasons, but he was an excellent contact hitter who seldom struck out. In fact he never whiffed more than 19 times in a single season. Over 7 years he only struck out 116 times while walking 209 times and posting a career .292 batting average. After the 1941 season Hassett was traded to the New York Yankees in exchange for Tommy Holmes. Since the legendary Lou Gehrig had retired in 1939 the Yankees had tried a different starting first baseman each year. Babe Dahlgren got a chance, so did Johnny Sturm, but in 1942 it was Buddy Hassett’s spot to fill. He was the opposite of Gehrig who hit for power, drove in runs and drew walks. Hassett did none of these things, but the Yankees still went to the World Series as they usually did. The only difference was in 1942, with Hassett at first, the Yankees did something they hadn’t done since 1926-they lost in the World Series. Hassett, who split time at first with Jerry Priddy, was 3-9 in the Series and his hit in game 2 would be his final as a big league player. He was drafted into the military after the ’42 season and was 34 years old when he returned. He played one full season for the Newark Bears of the International League and was released from the Yankees organization. He spent 2 seasons as a minor league player/manager, then switched to just managing. The Playball! card is in pretty bad shape, it’s badly off-center, has a rip on the front, but is a completely awesome addition to my collection. I truly love seeing old cards and digging into the stories of those guys featured on them. While searching around I found this photo of Tuck Stainback, Buddy Hassett, Kiki Cuyler, and Babe Ruth clowning around with the Brooklyn Dodgers in 1938. Thanks so much for the card Adam! Anybody else have any Hassett stories? I love this hobby! Troll out.