Wednesday, November 11, 2009

A Cardboard Tribute to the Other Guy on the Card...

First off, I wanted to wish everyone a happy Veterans Day. Today is a special day for me, there a lot of people that fill my thoughts today and everyday. I had a special post planned, but haven’t been home and therefore can’t access the pics I need. Fortunately I have a plan B up my sleeve, read along and bear with me.
Since I added the “Legends of the Troll”, the list of players that I collect, to the sidebar of this blog a few months ago, the Blog-O-Sphere has hooked me up with some amazing cards of the guys on the list. For whatever reason, two of these guys aren’t on the card company’s radar and I have 15 cards combined of Pat Neshek and Jason Bartlett, but that will soon change and each of those 15 cards has come courtesy of the blog-o-sphere. In fact, since I put the list up in August, I would guess that I have received over 150 cards in trade, from Jeff Niemann to Larry Doby to Danny Tartabull the B-O-S has well take care of my PC needs. There are only two people (or categories) that I have yet to receive in the mail. My collection of players wearing sombreros remains frozen at one and so does my Fritz Ackley collection. There is no telling how many sombrero related cards there are out there, but I think that Fritz Ackley only has two. I have one of them, but the other eludes me. The card I have is his rookie card, showing him as a promising young hurler for the Chicago White Sox. As was often the case with Topps, Fritz has to share his rookie card with someone else, some infielder named Don Buford. His other Topps issue comes in the following year’s set, 1965. Following the ’64 season, in November, Ackley’s contract was purchased by the St. Louis Cardinals. Things were looking up for him as the Cardinals were coming off of a World Series winning campaign in ’64 and they had traded Roger Craig in the off-season which freed up a job for a spot starter/long reliever. In ’64 the Cardinals rotation was among the best in baseball, their 1-2-3 punch of Bob Gibson, Ray Sadecki and Curt Simmons was unmatched. Topps, however, was optimistic that things would finally go Ackleys way. They decided to include him in their 1965 set, but once again made him share a card. There were two big problems though. Ackley never pitched a game in a Cards uniform so there were no photos of him on his team for the card. Topps decided to use a picture of him in his White Sox jersey and just black out his cap while leaving his Chicago pinstripes and sleeve numbers visible. The other issue was, even though he had appeared on a two-player rookie card the year prior, he was forced to share his card again in ’65, this time with a snot-nosed, 20 year old lefthander from Miami named Steve Carlton. Carlton, like Buford before him will forever have to be known as that “other guy” on Fritz Ackley’s cards. As it turns out, the Cards didn’t repeat as World Champs. Ray Sadecki, who won 20 games in ’64, fell to 6-15 in ’65. Curt Simmons went from 18-9 to 9-15. Bob Gibson did even better in ’65, but it wasn’t enough, Red Schoendist’s boys were a mess. Not only did they not repeat, but they finished in 7th place. Perhaps if they had called Fritz Ackley up to the big club, they just might have repeated. He spent the entire season with the Jacksonville Suns of the International League where he went 8-11 in 41 games. Ackley never did end up playing an inning for the Cards; he never made it back to the Major leagues. He still left a legacy though. He left behind a string of percentages that would make any Hall of Famer jealous. First off as right handed pitcher, his win/loss percentage was a perfect 1.000. Unbeaten. In the field he was perfect as well; he owns a career 1.000 fielding mark. At the plate he wasn’t perfect, but damn good. He threw right handed, but batted lefty and he owns a .333 career batting average with a .500 slugging percentage. Not too shabby at all. I doubt Steve Carlton or Don Buford could come close to those numbers.
Now that we know all about the big league player Fritz Ackley was and the perfect percentages he left in the record books, this is where he came from…
He was born Florian Frederick Ackley on April 10, 1937 in Hayward, Wisconsin and graduated from Hayward High School in 1954. The stand out amateur athlete immediately signed a pro contract with the Chicago White Sox and was assigned to the Dubuque Packers of the Mississippi Ohio Valley League, a Class D team. He remained with Dubuque the following year and at the age of 18 posted a 16-4 mark for the Packers. He struggled to climb the organizations ladder and finally made it to AAA at the age of 26 and had a break out year for the Indianapolis Indians of the International League. He was 18-5 with a 2.76 ERA and was named the International League Pitcher of the Year. He also earned himself a call-up to the White Sox in Chicago after the IL season was through. On September 27, 1963 he started against the Washington Senators and outmatched them for 7 strong innings giving up just 2 hits, 1 run and striking out 7 batters. Hoyt Wilhelm finished the game and the Sox won 7-1. It was his 19th win that year and his first (and only) in the Major Leagues. In 2 starts for the Sox that year he owned a 2.08 ERA in 13 innings of work. He began the 1964 season with the Sox but only pitched 6 innings for them and was sent back down to Indianapolis. He was traded to the Jacksonville Suns midway through the season and after the season his contract was purchased by the Cardinals. St. Louis never called Ackley up, even after a strong year in ’66 where he was 12-10 for the Tulsa Oilers of the PCL. He would retire at age 30 after the 1967 season where he was a combined 3-12 with the Cards and Pirates organizations. Over 13 minor league seasons Ackley was 95-94. He passed away in May 2002 in Duluth, Minnesota at 65 years old. I never saw Ackley play, I never met him and I never got his autograph, but from my visits to the card shop in the early 80’s I coveted his second year Topps card. I held it; I drooled over it and in my mid-twenties I even owned it. Ten years later it has been a while since I have even seen one in person. I feel bad for the man that he never had his own card; I wish I had the Photoshop savvy to create one. I do hope to someday finish my Fritz Ackley super collection. Oh, and if you are wondering, the “other guys” on his card-Don Buford and Steve Carlton, they did okay. I love this hobby!!! Troll out.

1 comment:

  1. Fritz can take comfort in the fact that he has an expensive 1965 card!