Saturday, December 5, 2009

Orioles Blue in 1961

Well, I finally got to a computer and I realized that I didn’t schedule a single post for today. I have some 1968 and 1969 Topps cards ready to post, but I will save those for their scheduled time tomorrow. I will be enjoying life at a baby shower before work tomorrow anyway… For the sake of a quick post, I am going to make the card of the day a 1961 Topps Earl Robinson, card #343. I would be lying if I said that I really had any idea who Earl was beyond what I know from his card, but fortunately there is plenty info to go on…When I was going through my stack of 1961 Topps, studying them and adjusting to the design, knowing this will be the guideline for 2010 Heritage, this card stuck out to me. It lists Mr. Robinson as a member of the Baltimore Orioles (accurately), but shows him in Dodgers grey and blue flannel. It turns out that this photo was taken in spring training at Vero Beach in 1959, right before Robinson was reassigned to the St. Paul Saints (AAA) of the American Association. When the Orioles purchased Robinson’s contract after the 1960 season, Topps wanted to include him in their set and this was the only photo they had. At least they took the time to paint over the LA on his batting helmet.
To start at the beginning with Earl, he went to Berkeley High School in California where he played football, baseball and basketball-he earned a scholarship to play for the Cal Golden Bears and he was the captain of both the baseball and basketball teams in 1957. He was an All American in both sports and the Bears won the National Championship that year. According to the back of the card Earl had contract offers from 16 different pro-ball clubs. It also says that Gil Hodges was the one who convinced Earl to sign on with LA. He did sign with the Dodgers and the following season he had a cup of coffee with the big league club, starting 5 games at third base, a position that he had never played before. He managed 3 hits for Los Angeles, but didn’t see the big leagues again until he made the Orioles out of spring training in 1961. To say the Orioles were stocked full of outfielders at that time was an understatement. Their regular starting three was Dick Williams, Jackie Brandt and Whitey Herzog and on the bench fighting for playing time were Robinson, Jim Busby, Dave Philley and a teenager named John Powell. Earl Robinson managed to start 53 games that year at all 3 outfield spots. He had a career high 222 at-bats and batted .266 with 8 homers and 30 RBI for the 3rd place Orioles. This was enough to earn him a card in the next year’s Topps set, (1962 Topps, card #272) in an Orioles uniform. It wasn’t enough to earn him a full-time spot on the team. According to the back of the card: "The Baltimore management feels Earl will fit in nicely with their youthful team." He did, they just had too many other youthful and talented outfielders in the organization. Robinson spent the next 3 seasons splitting time between the Rochester Redwings (AAA) and the Orioles. 1964 would be Robinson’s final season in the big leagues with the Orioles; he played in 37 games, hit .273 with 3 homers and 10 RBI. He spent the 1965 season with the Salt Lake City Bees of the Pacific Coast League (Chicago Cubs affiliate) and retired from baseball after that. He had returned to the University of California in 1963 as their assistant basketball coach and remained there for 3 seasons. He also returned to Berkeley University to earn his doctorate degree in education. Robinson worked as a teacher and a basketball coach several different colleges in California after his baseball playing days. This 1961 card would be Robinson’s rookie; the ’62 is his only other Topps card. Mr. Robinson is retired from sports and living in Louisianna and was kind enough to answer all of my questions about his rookie card via mail. I love this hobby! Troll out.


  1. Ah more Orioles! I like that 1961 card a lot.

    I nearly bought an index card Earl Robinson signed because I felt I was supposed to. But I didn't know who he was either.

    The name Earl Robinson is confusing. It conjures up thoughts of Earl Weaver and Brooks and Frank Robinson. Put that together with an Orioles uniform and I always have this undefined "like" of Earl Robinson.

    It's a bit disconcerting.

  2. Troll-do you know if Earl signs TTM too?

  3. Magic-I sent him a letter with questions and he responded to that. I didn't ask him for an autograph, but he replied to my letter pretty quickly!