Sunday, January 31, 2016

Countdown to 2016 Topps #3: The Other Duke

With all due respect to the late Duke Snider, I believe any player bearing that nickname should be positioned behind the plate. Because, you know, catchers are tough. You have to be to squat for 9-innings during the 120-130 games that you play over the course of a season, taking foul balls off your face mask, chest protector and wrists, or taking a bat to the head or the arms on a hitter's backswing. There are also the collisions at the plate. And do you think it would be easy wearing all that gear on a field when the temperatures soar well above 100 degrees? Unfortunately, neither Duke Sims' 1972 nor his 1973 Topps cards (where he looked tough) were numbered '3' Instead, we're stuck with one from 1967...

To be honest with you, I was not familiar with Duke Sims prior to Friday morning. I discovered this gem while eating breakfast and searching for candidates for card #3 in this countdown.

The name on the card may have caught my attention, but it was the 'Home' line and cartoon on the back of the card that cemented my decision. Being an Idaho native how could I not feature a guy who graduated from high school (Pocatello High School, class of '59) four hours from me and went to college 5 hours away? 

"Okay," you're saying, "so the guy is from Idaho [but born in Utah]- tell us something interesting." 

Well, Duke has the distinction of hitting the final home run at old (original) Yankee Stadium. The blast, coming in the seventh inning against his former team, the Detroit Tigers, was his first and only dinger for the Yankees, and afforded him the opportunity to be invited to many Old-Timers games. 

Thirty-five years after hitting that home run, Duke watched history unfold from his Las Vegas home as Jose Molina hit the final home run at the renovated Yankee Stadium. The event gave Sims a business idea: autograph signing appearances and baseball seminars of two catchers who will forever be linked together in Yankee trivia.

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