Friday, December 28, 2018

The Story of Bobby Shantz

Today's a bit of a special post; today is the 6th anniversary of my dad's death.  Dad died on his and Mom's wedding anniversary, and today would have been their 50th, if he had lived.  This post is about Bobby Shantz, but we'll get there by starting with some background on my dad.

Dad was born in 1945 in Wilmington, Delaware, which is quite close to Philadelphia.  His father died in 1951 when he was five years old, almost six.  He went to live in Philadelphia at a boarding school for "orphans," which in practice at the time meant fatherless boys.  His mother had a home near Wilmington and he only saw her occasionally, until she died when he was 13, making him a true orphan.  Her home passed on to one of Dad's aunts.  That aunt lived there for about thirty years, until she got sick and moved in with her daughter circa 1990.  When that happened, Dad was invited over to go through some of the things in the basement.  He brought home some stuff, I think including an old model train set, but mainly a few boxes of his father's books.  He bought some bookshelves and put his father's books in the living room.  They stayed there, largely untouched I think, for a couple of decades, I would say.

Now that Dad is gone, Mom is staying in the house but has in mind that she might sell eventually.  She wants to be ready if she does sell, and has been getting rid of some old things.  She gave most of Dad's father's books away, but saved one for me: The Story of Bobby Shantz.  But it couldn't have been his father's book since his father died in 1951 and the book was published in 1953.  I think this must have actually been Dad's book when he was little, and even though he lived at the orphanage/boarding school, maybe his mother gave it to him when he was home sometime.  Anyway, so much is lost to history.  But for sure Bobby Shantz was a Philadelphia star, Dad was a little kid in and near Philadelphia back then, and this book came out of his mother's house and eventually made its way to me many years later.
Front cover.
Back cover.
Night Owl had a great post on Bobby Shantz earlier this month.  He featured the 1956 Topps card, which I've since gone and picked up in my COMC account.  This book, the Story of Bobby Shantz, was published just a bit earlier, in 1953, coming off Shantz's big 1952 year for the A's.  In 1952 Shantz was the AL MVP (there was no Cy Young award yet) and the AL wins leader with a record of 24-7, with a 2.48 ERA and 152 strikeouts.  The back cover summarizes the chapters, my favorite of which is Chapter 12, about the FBI investigating when he was threatened not to pitch against Boston.
Title page, and stats table.
Some pictures including being weighed.
Opposite the title page there's a table of Bobby Shantz's stats.  Of course everyone's always interested in his size; in Chapter 1, he says that's a big reason to write the book, to tell his story of how the little guy can be successful.  The stats table lists him as 5 feet, 6 and 1/4 inches, and 139 pounds, 12 ounces.  Night Owl went through the weights listed on his Topps cards, and found that they were either 138 pounds or 150+.  So the book comes in on the side of the sub-140 weights.  There are many pictures in the book, and I've shown one page here.  The picture in the upper left is of him weighing in on Bobby Shantz night at the ballpark -- everyone was always interested in his weight, it seems.  Then the top right is of him meeting with FBI agents after receiving those threats about pitching against Boston.  In the bottom picture, a trainer checks him out after being hit by a pitch.
1975 Topps Mini 1952 MVPs, Bobby Shantz and Hank Sauer.
Then, since this is a baseball card blog, I will feature some baseball cards.  I picked up this 1975 Topps Mini of the 1952 MVPs for two reasons: to have Bobby Shantz in my main binder, and to have another 1975 Topps mini in my main binder.  I don't remember ever knowing about the 1975 minis when I was collecting in the 80s and 90s, but now that I know about them, I wanted a couple.  I didn't really realize before, but I think the card serves a third purpose in that binder: I think it's the only representation of the Philadelphia Athletics there.  That won't be true for long -- last night I picked up 4 old Philadelphia Athletics cards on COMC, and when they arrive I'll make room for them.
Hygrade All-Time Greats Bobby Shantz.
Pacific Legends Bobby Shantz.
Then I have these other two nostalgia cards of Shantz, the Hygrade All-Time Greats, and the Pacific Legends.  The Pacific card features him with the Yankees, with whom he won the 1958 World Series.  Shantz also pitched in three games in the wild 1960 World Series against the Pirates, who famously pulled it out in the end.

Finally, I'll mention connections to another player I've featured recently, Curt Simmons.  I've shown the 1955 Bowman and the 1956 Topps cards of Simmons recently.  Simmons was one of the 1950 Phillies Whiz Kids.  Shantz and Simmons were both important pitchers of the 1950s, both in Philadelphia and further afield, both won World Series with other teams, both were multiple-time All-Stars, and both are on the Philadelphia Baseball Wall of Fame.  Both are also from the Philadelphia region originally.  And both are also still alive.  They did an interview together a few years ago and it's available on YouTube.  I'll close out this post with that YouTube video; thanks for reading.

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