Friday, May 7, 2021

On the Road : Sports Card Shopping in Buffalo and Pittsburgh

 


I first met Dean not long after my wife and I split up.

            …is the opening line Jack Kerouac’s On the Road, one of my favorite novels of all-time. Almost thirty years since I first read it, and I still think about that novel a lot. Especially when I’m traveling. In a car. In a boat. On a plane. On a train. Across the country or to the grocery, it doesn’t matter; Kerouac’s Sal Paradise and Dean Moriarty are always somewhere with me, listening to jazz and having mad, wild conversations as the landscape of America changes before them. It’s a nice feeling to have characters that you keep so close like that. And I’ve always wanted to write that line. Thank you for indulging me.

Point of fact I like to travel. You wouldn’t know it to travel with me, but I do. The sad thing is that for as much as I enjoy traveling, it can bring out the worst in my anxiety. Money fears. Hotel room fears. Fear of not being an expert on any city or town the minute I step foot on its worn concrete. North becomes South. East becomes West. Tantrums when I’m being perceived as a tourist by locals, even though being a tourist is exactly what I am. I have travel anxiety but I do it all the same.

And from 2004 to 2019 I’d like to think that my wife and I have gone and put some miles in America and around the world. Coast to Coast trip by car. London. Paris. Madrid. Rome. Vienna. Berlin. Dublin. Amsterdam. Belgium. Vague talk of one day standing on the continent of Antarctica. In 2019, we traveled to Japan and then later in the year to San Francisco. It was the first time in my life that I could say I looked out onto the horizon of the Pacific Ocean from both sides of the world. I felt calm. I felt content. I felt like anything was possible.


Then 2020 happened. Covid-19 happened. Travel stopped. Life stopped. I sat on my ass on a couch for over a year, reading, binge watching TV shows, and getting fat on booze and copious amounts of Doritos. I collected baseball cards that I didn’t even want to collect, as a soundtrack of sirens wailed down my busy Brooklyn Street. Yes, I realize that it couldn’t been much worse. I was alive. My loved ones were safe. There was still a void to be filled.

            But by mid-April of 2021, my wife and I joined to ranks of family who had been able to get to the Covid-19 vaccine (a brief aside…GET THE FUCKING VACCINE), and have their sheltered world open up, if only in small ways. That is to say we were able to travel again. Not to Japan. Not to San Francisco. Not to gaze longingly at the Pacific Ocean horizon like some pampered wanker, comparing what hole-in-the-wall had the best ramen (Answer: it's a small place off the main drag in Osaka). But to go home. Still…I can’t WAIT to be a pampered wanker again.

That’s right, my wife and I were at least able to see family. Buffalo and Pittsburgh respectively. Maybe visiting family for the first time during a plague isn’t necessarily traveling. Maybe Buffalo and Pittsburgh aren’t Tokyo or San Francisco. The ubiquitous Trump signs still hanging proud in rural New York and Pennsylvania told us as much. But they sure as fuck felt like it when I was renting a car, and plotting out where I wanted to go.

            And where I wanted to go was baseball card shopping. In between the reunions with family, and the joy of reconnecting; the sad reflection at the loss of time and the people we’ve lost; the shared meals; the ancient arguments and grudges bubbling up again. I wanted to stretch my sea legs and visit some baseball card shops in the Buffalo and Pittsburgh area. At least the ones that I could get to in such a compact stretch of time. Sure, it wasn’t Kerouac’s Sal and Dean driving through the swampy Mexican night, their car rattling, the jazz blowing, another half of the hemisphere within their reach. But it was something. My something.

            2021 is going to be baby steps.

Buffalo:

            The first place I visited was Dave and Adam’s Card World. 


    I visited there on a Saturday. Left my wife and mother-in-law behind to cruise Maple Street and Sheridan Avenue, my New Edition Fam playlist blasting out of the rental car, people at red lights staring at the aging jackass with his ballcap backwards belting out My Prerogative at the top of his lungs on otherwise quiet, Buffalo streets. 


        I’d been to Dave and Adam’s before, in September 2019 (my last actual visit to Buffalo before the plague). I was impressed with the store then. With Dave and Adam’s wide array of memorabilia and retail clothing for each Buffalo sports team. Their large back section dedicated to sports cards and comic books. Dave and Adam’s is a dork’s dream. On that trip in 2019, I bought a hobby box of both Topps Series 1 and Series 2. It was my first time buying a hobby box of anything since I got back into the hobby a few months beforehand

            Flash forwards a year and half later and my current trip experience was…a little bit different. 2021 is decidedly NOT 2019. For one, I wasn’t the wide-eyed returning collector that I was in 2019. And current prices being what they are on new wax, rushing to the counter to purchase hobby boxes without serious spiritual and financial consulting with myself was not… in the cards, for lack of a better expression. It’s not that Dave and Adam’s was a rip-off. Their hobby box prices are just as outrageously aligned with everyone else out there. That is to say they were high enough to make you sweat. High enough to take the fun out of a purchase.

Dave and Adam’s had individual packs available for the various releases. For some reason (and I can think of a few) the store wasn’t exactly outright in what they were selling individual packs for. Not knowing the price of something without having to ask is prohibitive to me (and a lot of others…so take note retailers). Also, I’d made a pact with myself not to open much wax this year. I’m going Topps Flagship and flagship only in 2021. Singles of players that I want for everything else. Even if I wanted to splurge, there wasn’t much to buy hobby wise during my trip to Dave and Adam’s. I’d had my fill of Topps Series 1, wasn’t touching Heritage, and 2021 Bowman was a good week away from being released at a price that I still can’t choke down when I see it.

If I wasn’t buying cards what in the hell was I in Dave and Adam’s for?

Supplies.


Or rather a lack of supplies, which seems to be endemic in The Hobby currently. Let’s talk about a lack of supplies. When I visited Dave and Adam’s in 2019, the place was a Mecca for me for card supplies. Boxes in any size. Top loaders, binder sheets, penny sleeves, oh my! They had everything. 2021, as expected, was a different story. 2021 Dave and Adam’s had some penny sleeves, mostly under their own Dave and Adam’s brand. They had some magnetic one touches. Bu there were no standard top loaders or even 9-pocket sheets to be had. The supply section was mostly relegated to off-popular supplies, like ticket holders or full-page, single use sheets. I did buy my first individual card stand for a buck, which the kind cashier at D & A didn’t even charge me for when he wrung up my other supplies.

I think the Kiner card looks good displayed as such.


Of course, while in the wild and wooly suburbs of Buffalo, I also had to do the requisite visit to Target to take the standard empty card shelves photo.

I even stood in the aisle for a good minute, hands on hips, looking flummoxed and cursing card flippers.

            Time being short and of the essence in Buffalo, I only managed a visit to one other sports card place: 716 Sports Cards & Collectibles, in the Orchard Park suburb, just south of the city of Buffalo.



    I’d been wanting to/excited about going to 716 for some time. I’d first heard about and seen the shop in a video on Jabs YouTube channel. In the video, Jabs shows himself going through boxes of $1 and .50 cent cards, pulling out things like 1977 George Brett cards and Carl Yastrzemski cards. Older cards are more in my wheelhouse than the newer ones. 716 Cards seemed right up my alley. I couldn’t wait to see what treasures I’d get my grubby hands on.

            716 Sports Cards & Collectibles itself is a small store set in a two-building strip mall that houses the shop and an adjoining pizza joint, that was proving popular enough to almost pique my interest; the place smelled good enough to question my loyalty to NYC pizza. The interior of 716 had a few display cases that held more expensive cards. There were some baseball cards but Football and Hockey seemed to rule the shelves. The store had a display case in the back for current hobby box items.

716 Sports Cards & Collectibles had some actual supplies. Top loaders that I couldn’t find at Dave and Adam’s. And they weren’t trying to gouge a fella for a package of them either. So, I definitely had to snag some. The store had some framed memorabilia on its walls. They even had some jerseys in display cases propped against shelving on the floor. Sabres and Bills stuff, mostly. To be honest, 716 had the look of just recently being opened, even though I heard to owner tell another customer that 716 had been in operation for over two years.

            The real draw for me were those boxes of cards that I saw on Jabs’ video. There had to be two or three dozen, three-row boxes full of cards stacked on top of each other. The prices in the boxes ranged from 10-cents to two-dollars. I gravitated to them, hoping to pull myself a ton of vintage stuff. I was having delusions of 1977 Topps George Brett cards and $1 Willie Stargell cards. My experience was a touch different from Jabs. Most of the cards I sifted through were on the newer end of the collecting spectrum. I’d say mostly from 2018 on up. For some reason there were a ton of Anthony Alford rookies in those boxes still selling for a buck. I ended up grabbing some cards of current players I’m into.


            And I did manage to find some “older” stuff mixed in with the picutred new in the .25cent bins


    Also…when you find a Doc Gooden rookie, no matter the condition, you give it a good home.


PITTSBURGH:

            Full disclosure, By the time my wife and I arrived in Pittsburgh, I had no real plans to go card shopping. Steel City Collectibles, the only shop near my parent’s home, was still closed for the pandemic for some reason, and is currently only doing business online. Plus, there’s a Dave and Adam’s vibe (albeit a smaller store) in Steel City. And I wasn’t in the mood for over-priced new stuff. My somewhat futile search at 716 Sports Cards & Collectibles had left me hungering for vintage cards and the junk wax era stuff of my youth. All of the other card shops recommended to me, in the Pittsburgh area, were in suburbs a good thirty to forty miles away. And if you’ve ever visited family (especially mine) getting away to go somewhere thirty to forty miles away is a challenge during normal times. Another time perhaps.

            Plus, I had to make it a point to visit this shrine


…indulge one of my other passions.


And aside from a bunch of sad-bastard Sinatra albums, I found this R&B masterpiece.


See how we've come almost full circle?

But sometimes if you don’t go looking for the cards, the cards come looking for you. That is to say that I accidently did some card shopping while in Pittsburgh. While I went antiquing. Yes…antiquing. Something I never thought I’d do. And antiquing is word I never thought that I’d say or write. Jack Kerouac never went antiquing. Bukowski never went looking for an oak table and matching chairs. Shakespeare never was on the hunt for a lamp that accentuated a room. Why in the fuck would I then? I’m going to leave the word hanging there for a second.

Antiquing.

Going to an antique shop wasn’t actually as bad as I made it sound. I quite enjoyed it. To hell with Bukowski! My wife and I went with my mom to a two-level place they call The Hub, in the North Versailles section of the Pittsburgh suburbs. 


The place was pretty much a mixture of antiques and cast-off flea market items. That is to say you could buy a solid oak table with chairs, and add PITT or Penn State pint glasses to the purchase, along with an Andy Van Slyke pin from 1988. A pin I actually found and purchased.

My horror-writing wife (intentional plug right HERE) got these creepy ass dolls for inspiration.


And they do stuff like this when we're not home...


I suspected there’d be baseball cards/sports cards in general somewhere in The Hub. A few display cases had individual cards for Pirates players in the 1950s and some early 1970s Steelers cards. But nothing that screamed purchases, and certainly not anything in bulk. Until I went down to the second-level of the store. That’s when I found this waiting for me.




And what was this? As you can see it’s a collection of pre-wrapped cards, both of the sports and non-sports variety. The Hub catered to a lot of Pittsburgh teams, especially the Pirates. It doesn’t get more in my wheelhouse than Pittsburgh Pirates team sets. I was able to find myself a number of team sets from the 1980s in the Topps, Fleer and Donruss brands. I also found myself a nice 150-card “starter” set for 1976 Topps, a set that I absolutely adore. So that’s a new project for me to start delving into. I even went outside of my baseball comfort zone and grabbed me a 450-card lot of 1984 Topps football. Sure, it was sans the Marino, Elway and Dickerson rookies (and most of the Steelers), but it’s a pretty complete set that I can’t wait to finish.

My Hub purchases:

No trip home would be complete without a card visit with my brother…in his new apartment of all things. My brother and I like to send each other cards from time to time. Because it’s been so hard finding product on the shelves, I brought him all of the 2021 series doubles etc that I had on hand…and thanks to the MLB Flagship Store being in NYC I had a lot. He was kind enough to hook me up with this.


Yeah, it’s beat to shit…but a 1960 Clemente is a 1960 Clemente.

Oh…and Shelly Pie is better than Vincent’s. Don’t @ me Pittsburghers.

All in all, it was good to get back out “on the road.” It was good to see family and reconnect. Good to visit places where I lived, that held a history for me; places that I’d been missing during all of those months of inertia sitting in Brooklyn. Christ, it was awesome to go somewhere new and buy cards. I can’t wait to do it again. And though I muse Tokyo and San Francisco…one can fined either a nuanced or violent argument in Buffalo over who has the better wings.

I’m no preacher but getting vaccinated was a good, small thing that I’ve done for myself. It saddens me to think that a small (but sizeable) portion of Americans don’t view vaccination this way, and to read the sad news that we are probably not going to reach a herd immunity. Like those Trump signs I saw in rural New York and Pennsylvania; there’s no excuse for ignorance. Rugged individualism will just keep you sick and could get you killed. Inaction could keep this virus with us for years, in strains that could render vaccines worthless. How about we pull up our bootstraps for others this time around? Huh America?

Also…let’s share the wealth around the world.

And hopefully that’s as political as I’ll have to get on this blog.

Thanks for reading! Happy Collecting!

*Shameless Plug*

I have a new book of poetry out on Kung Fu Treachery Press: Eating a Cheeseburger During the End Times. 


If you dig poetry, the book can be purchased HERE and HERE...or you can reach out to me and we can work something out.

NEXT FRIDAY: Going back to 1984 to maybe talk about 1984 Topps Football cards, but mostly for me to ramble on for paragraphs aboout being a kid in the fall of 1984. I'm bringing all the characters back: Me, Miller, my brother and even poor ol' A.J. See you then! 


Friday, April 23, 2021

Johnny Ray : The Chouteau Kid

 


I don’t think anyone ever called Johnny Ray, The Chouteau Kid.

            I made it up. I wanted to add some pizzaz this week. A little zing. Form a legend around a guy, and, in baseball, a nickname is a sure-fire way to do it. The Chouteau Kid. It could’ve stuck. Johnny Ray was a big deal to his Oklahoma home town (pop. 2,093). He’s listed as notable person from Chouteau on the town’s Wikipedia page. I don’t know if it’s still there, but there used to be a roadside sign outside of town that said, “Chouteau, Ok. Home of Johnny Ray.” I grew up in a suburb of Pittsburgh. I don’t have any roadside sign saying this is where I’m from. And I’ve written books. To be honest, you could ask anyone in my home town, and there’s a 99.9% chance no one would remember my name.

            But this essay isn’t about me and my personal need for recognition. This essay is about Johnny Ray.

            I’ve written a good deal on this blog about Willie Stargell. I’ve dedicated posts to him. Put Willie’s cards on the Junk Wax Jay blog whenever I could. Extolled his virtues. Confirmed his legend. Told everyone up and down the virtual block, how Willie Stargell was my favorite player. My first favorite player (although that could also be catcher Ed Ott). I wasn’t lying about that. Not to sound all Mark Twain…but I got it mostly right.

            While I love Willie Stargell, I have also said here that my awe of him comes more from his past actions on the baseball field (stuff I read about and subsequently saw archival footage of), than anything I witnessed as a fan. To reiterate, the Willie Stargell that I came of age to was a forty-year-old, past-his-prime bench warmer who came up and hit to occasional pinch-hit HR, and acted as the soul, the link to the glory years, to a team that was beginning to fade into oblivion. At least for a number of years in the 1980s. The Willie Stargell I watched retired when I was eight-years-old. A year or so before baseball become must see TV for me.

            Johnny Ray, on the other hand, was the guy that I watched. He was the kid at second base, turning double plays, and getting clutch hits at the plate, doing his best to keep the woebegone Pirates at least in the game. It was Johnny’s batting stance I mimicked. Johnny’s cards that I sought in packs. The player whose wristband number I wanted. Whose t-shirt I wanted to wear. The player who made wish that I wasn’t a lousy left-hander so that I could play second base too.

            Johnny Ray was the first baseball player that I truly fell for because of what he did on the field, and not because of the legend that surrounded him. He was the first player whose cards that I could say I actively collected. 




            And he wasn’t a bad guy to root for.

            Johnny Ray was actually drafted by the Houston Astros in the 12th round in 1979. He made his way to Pittsburgh as part of a trade for Phil Garner, one of the heroes of the 1979 World Series Fam-I-Lee. Ray immediately became the Pirates starting second baseman that year, playing in the remaining 31 games, hitting .245 in 102 At-bats. But better things were to come.

            In Ray’s full rookie season, 1982, he batted .282 with 7 home runs and 63 RBI, playing all 162-games that season. The Sporting News named Johnny Ray their Rookie-of-the-Year. But he came in second on the vote that really counted. The Baseball Writers Association named the Dodgers second baseman, Steve Sax, rookie of the year in 1982. Always the Dodgers. It’s always the Dodgers.

            But it was that kind of play that made Johnny Ray a mainstay at second base through some of the worst years to be a Pirate. During Johnny Ray’s tenure in Pittsburgh, he played on teams that amassed five losing seasons, including a 57-104 season in 1985, a year in which Johnny Ray himself hit. 274. It was easy to see why he’d become some dumb kid’s favorite player. Other than Tony Pena, it was slim pickings in Pittsburgh in the early to mid-1980s.

            All in all Johnny Ray played seven seasons in Pittsburgh. Ray managed a .286 batting average with the Pirates, with 1009 hits, 37 home runs and 391 RBI. Oddly enough he never made the All-Star team during his tenure in Pittsburgh. That distinction almost went annually to Tony Pena. But Johnny Ray did lead the National League in doubles in both 1983 and 1984.


            He won a Silver Slugger award in 1983.

            And he was a fun guy to watch.

            But going into the 1987 season, Johnny Ray’s time in Pittsburgh was coming to a close. After years of losing seasons, the Pirates began to turn things around in 1987, mostly through in influx of rookies and young players with names like Bonds, Bonilla and Van Slyke. Those guys replaced names like Madlock, Parker and Tekulve in the hearts and minds of Pirates fans. And while Johnny Ray played most of the 1987 season (batting a respectable .273 in 123 games), he was destined to get swept up in the new youth movement happening in Pittsburgh. And on August 29, 1987, Johnny Ray was traded from the Pirates to the California Angels.

            He was replaced at second base by this guy:


            Who had a not too shabby a career in Pittsburgh himself.

            Right now, I’m trying to recall my youth. Trying to recall what it was like when a favorite player got traded. In Johnny Ray’s case…it’s actually kind of hard. In 1987, Pirates fans knew that changes were afoot. We were already given the grandest of April Fool’s jokes when Tony Pena was traded to the Cardinals for Andy Van Sklye, Mike LaValliere and pitcher Mike Dunne. By August of ’87, Van Slyke and LaValliere had already secured a place in our collective hearts. Mike Dunne was on his way to winning 13 games, and hopefully becoming a new ace on our staff.  And, to be honest, another player had taken Johnny Ray’s place as my favorite Bucco.


    I wish that I could say that I followed Johnny Ray’s career after he left the Pirates. But, in truth, I really didn’t. I actually liked having “Chico” Lind at second base. He fit right in with that cast of young, goofy, good ballplayers that the Pirates were building into the NL championship teams that we knew and loved in the early 90s. In 1987, a Pirates fan’s attention wasn’t focused on what we’d lost (like we had before and what we’re going through now), but on what we were gaining. And we were gaining a lot. It was an exciting time.

           Still, Johnny Ray managed three plus more seasons in the big leagues with the Angels. And while he wasn’t a Pirate and while I wasn’t seeing any West Coast ball at all, I did still keep and collect his cards. Ray batted .296 over those seasons, with 493 hits, 16 home runs and 203 RBI. Ray was even selected to the 1988 All-Star game, the first and only time in his career. But after the 1990 season, Johnny Ray left Major League baseball to play two seasons in Japan for the Yakult Swallows.

     He has since returned home to Chouteau, Oklahoma, where I hope that sometimes he’s able to look back fondly on his time in Pittsburgh, knowing there are fans still out there writing about him, and collecting his baseball cards.

           


           Thanks for reading. Happy Collecting.

            If you want to learn more about Johnny Ray you can do so HERE

            You can find Johnny Ray's career stats right HERE

            

            NEXT FRIDAY: ....is gonna be an off week. Junk Wax Jay will be back at 12 pm EST on Friday, May 7th.

 


Friday, April 16, 2021

Curt Roberts : In the Country of Baseball Firsts.


We all know the story of Jackie Robinson.


    We’ve learned about Jackie’s story from books. From archival footage. From movies. From baseball cards. Jackie Robinson was the one. The one who broke the color barrier on April 15, 1947 and unshackled baseball from a 63-year period in which no player of color (knowingly at least) held a spot on a major league team. Jackie is a legend. A trailblazer. The high-voice hero who turned his cheek (at least for a while), and did his talking on the diamond. A hall of famer. A true American legend for all races.

We know Jackie Robinson’s story. And if you don’t, may God have mercy on your soul.

            Jackie’s story is one of integration. One, that once initiated, took Major League Baseball another 12-years to complete when infielder Pumpsie Green made his debut for the Boston Red Sox on July 21, 1959.



    But there were other players who broke the color line for teams along the way. In fact, four other black players made their debut in Jack Robinson’s inaugural season. You probably know Larry Doby and Monte Irvin.




But what about Willard Brown, who made his debut for the St. Louis Browns on July 19, 1947?


Or Dan Bankhead, who joined Jackie on the Dodgers on August 26, 1947?

Anyone remember Hank Thompson? Thompson also made his debut for the St. Louis Brown in 1947, but is better known as a New York Giant, part of the first all-black outfield, along with Monte Irvin and the immortal Willie Mays.


Surely, you’ve heard of a a guy named Minnie Minoso?

But did you know he was the first player of color to ever wear a White Sox uniform?

Some kid named Ernie Banks?


Not only is Mr. Cub a legend in Chicago for his 512 home runs and immpecable play at short stop (and first base) for eighteen seasons, but he was the first black man to put on a Cubs uniform.

What about Bob Trice? The first black Philadelphia Athletic.


Or Tom Alston? The first black man to play for the St. Louis Cardinals.

How many of my fellow Pirates fans out there know the name Curt Roberts?


Yeah…I didn’t either. Like I said, we all know the story of Jackie Robinson. But a lot of us, even fans like me, who have, for better or worse, been watch the Pittsburgh Pirates for over forty years; I never bothered to seek out and find out who broke the color barrier for my hometown team. I never knew Curt Roberts story. Maybe it’s white privilege that I didn’t even have to know. Or ignorance. Maybe I wasn’t a curious enough baseball fan when I was a kid. I like to think that I was. I sure looked at box scores a lot back then and could pretty much tell you what any Pirate was batting during any week.

            It’s time to make up for lost time.

     Curtis (Curt) Benjamin Roberts was born in 1929 in Pineland, Texas, but for most of his life he was a California kid, growing up in the fine city of Oakland. In a bit of trivia that I found in numerous sources online, Curt Roberts attended McClymonds High School, the same school attended by Frank Robinson, Vida Pinson, Curt Flood, and basketball legend Bill Russell. Upon graduating high school, Curt began his professional baseball career as an infielder with the Negro League Kansas City Monarchs. Robert’s teammates at the time included Satchel Paige and the forever awesome Buck O’Neil, as well as New York Yankees own color-barrier breaking Elston Howard.


    After the Major Leagues had integrated and black ballplayers were joining Major League teams (or their minor league affiliates), Curt Roberts, in 1951, signed with the Boston Braves and began with their Minor affiliate Denver Bears. In 1952, the Bears became an affiliate of the Pittsburgh Pirates, and for a $10,000 sum, Curt Roberts became a Pirate as well. After two years in the minor leagues, and pressure from Pittsburgh’s Black community to have the Pirates integrate, Curt Roberts was brought up in 1954 to be the starting second baseman. At the time, the Pirates General Manager was Branch Rickey, the very man who integrated Major League Baseball by bringing Jackie Robinson to the Big Leagues in 1947. Mr. Rickey was also responsible for “pirating” away Roberto Clemente from the Dodger’s minor league system…but that’s a tale for another time.


    Roberts made his official debut for the Pirates on April 13, 1954 (mark that date Buccos fans) in a game against the Philadelphia Phillies at Forbes Field. Because of his experiences bringing Jackie Robinson to the major leagues, Branch Rickey met with Curt before the game and explained that to succeed he would need to maintain a “very even temper,” as racism and verbal abuse from spectators was a common occurrence. This was the same thing that Rickey told Robinson back in 1947. And while we like to think that sort of abuse was common and of an era, some twenty-five years after Curt Roberts made his debut for the Pirates, All-Star right fielder, Dave ‘The Cobra” Parker, was met with racial slurs and home town fans throwing “nuts and bolts and bullets and batteries” at him…all for playing his heart out and earning the first million-dollar contract in Pittsburgh Pirates history.

    Of note, Curt Roberts tripled in his first at bat against Robin Roberts.    

    Although he was the first Black player to play for the Pittsburgh Pirates, Curt Roberts playing career was brief. He played just three seasons, 1954-1956. Roberts was the starting second baseman his first season, but found his playing time decrease over the next two years. Roberts was out of Major League Baseball after the 1956 season, but he didn’t retire. Roberts continued to play for several Minor League teams for the remainder of the decade and into the next one. He finally retired from baseball in 1963. During his three-year pro stint Curt Roberts, in 171 total games, had a career .223 batting average, with 128 hits, 1 home run and 40 RBI.


    After his baseball career ended, Curt Roberts worked as a security guard for the University of California, Berkeley. Roberts was married and had six-children. Sadly, this is not a happy story for Curt Roberts. Tragically he died on November 14, 1969, at only age 40. Roberts was the victim of a drunk driving accident, hit by a car while changing a tire on the side of the road.

            But history is still history. Brief career and tragic end, Curt Roberts was still a trailblazer in Major League baseball and for the Pittsburgh Pirates. It should be noted that Curt Roberts helped a young Roberto Clemente in his transition from the Minor Leagues to the Major Leagues, helping Clemente to learn to deal with and handle the racial abuse that he was certain to receive. In 1997, when Major League Baseball held it’s first Jackie Robinson Day, the Pittsburgh Pirates did honor Curt Roberts as a part of their tribute.

            For us Pirates fans, he is the first among many legends:









And the Future:



 Thanks for reading. Happy Collecting.

You can learn more about Curt Roberts HERE, HERE, and HERE

Curt Roberts stats can be found HERE

***A bit of self-promotion*** for you poetry lovers....I have a new book of poems out on Kung Fu Treachery Press. It's called Eating a Cheeseburger During the End Times.  Copies to buy can be found HERE and HERE.  I'd really love the support.

Thank you!

NEXT FRIDAY: Because I'm working on a new novel (think old men, old grudges, wiffle ball and baseball cards), time is limited and off the essence. So, I'm heading back into the PC to take a look at a player I loved growing up, the first player that I ever rooted for because I got to see him play, and not because he was an already declared legend in the City of Pittsburgh. He's the one...the only...secondbaseman Johnny Ray!

....promise I'll be less Pittsburgh-centric in some future posts.