Wednesday, July 23, 2014

Thinking About Former Dodger Dan Bankhead - a 1952 Frostade Baseball Card on Auction

I came across the above card of former Dodger Dan Bankhead and immediately felt compelled to write about him because his career has pertinence today. 

He originally came up to the Dodgers in 1947, just a few months after Jackie, as a pitcher out of the bullpen.  Thus, he became the first African-American pitcher in the Major Leagues.  The above card is a 1952 Parkhurst Frostade card (an Canadian issue) of Bankhead and it is currently available at Greg Bussineau Auctions.  As you can see, he is wearing a Montreal Royals uniform.

Dan Bankhead is a Dodger often forgotten by fans.  He was born into a Baseball family that saw all five sons play in the Negro Leagues.  The oldest brother, Sam, was probably the best of the bunch.  He was named to nine East-West All-Star Teams, played on twenty-five championship teams and became the first African-American coach in the Minor Leagues.  Noted teammates of his included Satchel Paige and Josh Gibson.

Middle brother Dan had a strong career in the Negro Leagues, as well.  He played for elite clubs like the Birmingham Black Barons, Chicago American Giants and the Memphis Red Sox, and pitched in three East-West All-Star games.  It is said that he threw a 95-mph fastball, a big curve and a screwball, and was one the best hitting pitchers in the game.  He was also known to be a bit wild on the mound, so control was his kryptonite.

Late in the 1947 season the Dodgers came calling.  They were short on pitching, as a result of trading a pitcher who refused to play with Jackie Robinson - Kirbe Higbe, and scouted the Negro Leagues for a replacement.  So, in late August they came to Memphis and witnessed Dan strike out 11 batters for a victory.  At that point, they decided they had their man and immediately purchased his rights.

The Dodgers sent him straight to Brooklyn, bypassing the minor leagues, and had him pitch his first Major League game on August 26, 1947.  The "can't miss" prospect got shellacked.  He came into the game in relief of Hal Gregg, who himself had been hit hard, and proceeded to give up 8 runs on 10 hits in 3.1 innings of play.  The only good thing about his appearance was that he hit a 2-run home run against Pirates pitcher Fritz Ostermueller in his very first Major League at-bat.

Bankhead pitched better in his remaining three appearances that season, and even appeared in the subsequent World Series that Fall as a pinch runner.  The following two years, though, he was sent to pitch in the Minors; in both Nashua and St. Paul.  In 1950, he found himself back in Brooklyn after a hugely successful year in St. Paul (going 20-6, a 2.35 ERA and league-leading 243 strikeouts).  Unfortunately, he struggled with the team.  He continued to bounce around the Dodgers system a few more years until shoulder problems finally did him in.  Then, he retooled and became an outfielder in the Mexican League.  He would retire from the game in 1966 at the age of 46.

As with any hot prospect who doesn't make good, it's hard to know what exactly made him so ineffective in the Major Leagues.  Maybe the breaks didn't go his way, the pressure was too great or an injury (a shoulder in Bankhead's case) was the real culprit.  Or maybe, it's as simple as it wasn't meant to be.  Whatever the case, Dan Bankhead is a reminder that not every top prospect (make no mistake that Dan was considered a "can't miss".) is destined for stardom.  Sometimes, no oftentimes, it is just the case of our eyes being larger than our stomach.  The case of Dan Bankhead reminds me that we shouldn't be so headstrong about our current prospects.

For a great biography on Dan Bankhead check out Rory Costello's piece at the SABR biography project.  Also, Dr. Layton Revel and Luis Munoz wrote an exhaustive 40+ page paper for the Center for Negro League Baseball Research on the career of his brother, Sam Bankhead, that is worth a read, as well.  Check that out here.

Below are his career statistics, via Baseball Reference:

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Weekend Autograph Opportunities: Kole Calhoun and Mike Brito

Here are this weekends autograph opportunities and events throughout the Southland. As always, be sure to check the Blue Heaven Calendar for other events (a link can always be found on the tab at the top of this page, just left of center), and always confirm with the establishment. Everything is subject to change.  Please email me with any tips about upcoming events in Southern California.  As the rest of the week progresses I'll update this post with other events (if there are any) as I become aware of them.  Also, I don't always list every event below, so be sure to check my Calendar.  I always try to favor free signing events over paying events.  Click on any pic to embiggen.


Angels outfielder Kole Calhoun will be signing autographs at the Cox Solutions Store in Lake Forest on Saturday, July 26th from 12:00 PM to 1:00 PM.  Make sure you arrive early. There will be lots of fans lining up to get an autograph. AM830 will be there with great giveaways. Note: It's one autograph per person. No personal photographs with the player. Other restrictions apply.  Go here for information.
Cox Solutions Store
23704 El Toro Rd
Lake Forest, CA

The Radisson Hotel is hosting the Sunday Sports Fest in Uptown Whittier from 4:00 PM to 9:00 PM. The Dodger scout Mike Brito, famous with Dodger fans for signing Bobby Castillo and Fernando Valenzuela, will be signing autographs there from 5:00 PM to 7:00 PM.  Go here for information.  I do not know what autograph pricing is at this time. 
Radisson Hotel
7320 Greenleaf Avenue
Whittier, CA 90602 
(562) 945-8511 
Hat Tip: Roberto at Vin Scully is My Homeboy 

Pic of Mike Brito and Fernando Valenzuela above via Jon SooHoo/LA Dodgers 2014.


Howie Kendrick will be singing autographs at the Anaheim WSS store on Saturday, July 26th.  The festivities start at 9:00 AM.  I'm not exactly sure when the signing starts but the WSS website appears to indicate it's from 9:00 AM to 1:00 PM; which can't be right.  That's just too long.  Go here for more information.
WSS #73 
122-124 Euclid Avenue 
Anaheim, CA 92802 
(310) 715-9300

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Blog Kiosk: 7/23/2014 - Dodger Links - Dodger Loss Hurt Last Night and Dee Collecting Awards

The Dodgers lost a wild one last night against the Pirates, 12 to 7.  There were hit batters, a thrown out pitcher, wild arguments, a bunch of home runs, some timely errors and relievers imploded all around.  For awhile it looked like the Dodgers could pull out a victory, but that was not to be.  If you ask me, the number one thing the Dodgers should to do is improve their bullpen.  This was a winnable game, and they were just not good enough to get the job done.  I think it's about time to have some faith in the kids (i.e. Paco, Dominguez, Garcia, etc.).  Pic above is of Justin Turner getting nailed in the arm, via Jon SooHoo/LA Dodgers 2014.

BTW, Josh Beckett was hard on himself when discussing the Dodgers loss, via Ken Gurnick at
"This loss pretty much falls on me," Beckett said. "I put our guys in a bad situation, having to eat innings up that way. I feel I can do a better job making small adjustments and didn't do it today. That's not competing."
Also, Adrian Gonzalez's home run last night was the 250th of his career.  Congrats, Agon!  Now, below are your daily Dodger Links:
  • Here is an early peak at the Zack Greinke bobblehead the Dodgers are giving away to fans on Wednesday, August 20th on the right.
  • Via Jon Weisman at Dodger Insider, "Dee Gordon wins Heart and Hustle Award."
“Dee absolutely deserves this award,” said MLBPAA director of communications Nikki Warner. “He embodies all that the award represents, and his passion for the game is unmatched.”
"It's really tough to take 40 rounds of players every year and put them in your system, because you don't have enough places for them to play," White said. "Then what happens is you start releasing players with only a year, a year and a half in the minor leagues, and that's not a good process either."
  • I look at this as a good omen.  Via a Dodger press release, the Dodgers RBI Jr. Division team, boys ages 13-15, earned a spot in the RBI World Series this past weekend. The RBI World Series will take place on August 6-17 at Globe Life Park in Arlington, Texas.  
Winning pitcher Nolan Martinez threw a complete game four-hitter allowing just one earned run. Catcher Brendan Casillas went 3 for 3 with a single, double and triple. Shortstop John Jackson and center fielder Micah Wallette had two hits apiece for Dodgers RBI. Second baseman Jorge Corrales made momentum changing key defensive plays. Three players on the Dodgers RBI Jr. Division All Star Team are defending RBI World Series champs, CJ Fernandezees, Max Sterner and Micah Wallette along with manager Erikk Aldridge.
  • Pedro Guerrero... yes, that guy... made an interesting trade proposal on twitter.  So, what do you think?

  • Via Shawn Anderson at the Hall of Very Good, they are adding three new members: Luis Tiant, Tony Oliva and The San Diego Chicken. 
  • In memorabilia auction news, Keith Olbermann tells all about the plea bargain Bill Mastro has accepted for mail fraud related to his Baseball auction business.  He's the guy who trimmed the T206 Honus Wagner card into a super-mint specimen.  I've purchased several items through Mastro/Legendary Auctions over the years, so I do have a special interest in this case.  Fortunately, I don't believe I've been harmed by shill bidding; although I'm certain I benefited from it (i.e. I had bid too much for an item and immediately had bidders remorse.  A subsequent shill bid, I think, the day of the auction closing saved me from that embarrassing mistake.). 

Video Link:

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