Thursday, April 17, 2014

Topps Counterparts: '65 Topps/'14 Heritage #44

With a curve-ball that manager Bobby Bragan once called the, "best in the National League," and enough talent that Willie McCovey once named him among the most feared and respected pitchers he faced, Wade Blasingame entered the 1965 season carrying the expectations of replacing the great Warren Spahn.

Blasingame was a product of the pitching rich Fresno area and had a number of teams interested in his services following his ballyhood high school and Legion ball career. He eventually signed with Milwaukee in 1961 for a $125,000 bonus- making him the third Braves bonus-baby to sign for over $100,000 in less than two years. Two years later, and at age 19, Wade made his major league debut on September 17th at home against the San Francisco Giants. Registering four strikeouts, the youngster also showed his inexperience by yielding six hits and three earned runs over two innings. 

Wade's first extended stay in the majors occured during the 1964 season, when he went 9-5 with 3 complete games, a 4.24 ERA and a 1.406 WHIP for the big league club. A strong performance towards the end of the season (he went 6-1 with a no decision during the month of September) convinced management that he was primed to take over for the future Hall of Famer Spahn, whom the team sold to the Mets following the '64 season.

The former 'bonus-baby' entered the '65 season on the big league roster (the first time he broke camp with the team) and entered May with a 6.97 ERA and an 0-2 record in three starts. Things began to change for Wade with the turn of the calendar and he went 5-2 with a save during May. He also had what would be the two best outings of his career: a 2-1, 14-inning (!!) complete game win against Houston on May 5 (striking out 12) and then a one-hit victory over the Mets on May 20, in which he lost a no-hitter with two outs in the seventh.

1965 Season:
3.77 ERA
38 Games (36 Starts)
224.2 IP
116 Walks
117 Strikeouts
1.407 WHIP

As a side note, you might have noticed on his minor league stats that Wade pitched for the Braves Class C team in Boise during the 1961 season. Since I was born and raised (and lived my entire life) in the area, I might try to start a new collection of players who played for the Boise Braves during the years of 1955-1963.

There's no Braves counterpart for this card; instead, Topps included:
2014 Heritage #44 Aaron Hill

The Brave Topps should have used as a counterpart for Blasingame:
Alex Wood- a young lefty with plenty of promise. Hopefully, injuries and control issues won't plague the former UGA pitcher.

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