Outta Sight! Vintage: Pierce, B. '59s

Billy Pierce has fast become one of those old-timers whose cards I snag if the price feels right.

It all started back in the summer of '11. You and I (and even Billy) were so much younger then. We were carefree and innocent. You still had your hair.

I met Billy that fine summer. He was sitting at a table at a big card show in Chicago, an event hobbyists refer to as "The National." I was there, too, standing in line much like an overgrown kid. No, exactly like an overgrown kid.

I was sheepish and embarrassed, much like how a grown man feels when he asks another grown man for an autograph. No, exactly like that.

I handed Billy this faux vintage card. "Nice to meet you," I said.
Ryan's Pitch, back when he was just Reader Ryan, sent me this card a week before I handed it to Mr. Pierce. Thanks Ryan. At the time, I had no other Pierce cards.
Billy said "hello" then looked at the card and groused - albeit politely, if it's indeed possible to politely grouse - that he didn't understand why "folks keep sending me cards to sign I've already signed."

Oh, Billy!

I chuckled, offered my thanks and exited left. (For more about my first day at The National, click here. Or here or here for Day Two and Day Three stories.

Our encounter was brief, so brief in fact that I'll bet Billy might not even remember me. Ha! But it was enough to turn me into a Billy Pierce collector.

I recently picked up two cards from the 1959 set at a local card show. I love this set for the colors (most of them), the uniqueness, the logos and the lowercase names.

I've always called this set the "Rear Window Set."

Here's Pierce as viewed from Jimmy Stewart's binoculars. 
And, below, is Action Pierce, also from 1959. I love the "Baseball Thrills" cards for the great action shots. Near as I can figure, there were 10 in the set. The "Baseball Thrills" circle reminds me of a Batman cartoon. Now that's iconic.
Billy turned 85 on April 2. He's been heavily involved in children's charities. I have a keen interest in adding cards of players known to be swell gents. I'm also quietly a fan of the White Sox because of time spent at the park between 2000-05.

Billy was a seven-time All Star with the White Sox and the ace of the staff for at least a decade. He finished with a career 211-169 record, 3.27 ERA and 1,999 strikeouts. He holds the White Sox franchise mark for strikeouts, with 1,796. His 186 wins, 2,931 innings and 390 starts are team records for a left-hander.

He is considered by many to be one of the biggest Hall of Fame oversights in history. This from Sports Illustrated writer Joe Posnanski: Billy Pierce has a strong Hall of Fame case that has been widely and enthusiastically ignored. He was, I think, the best pitcher in the American League in the 1950s -- and if there had been an American League Cy Young award he probably would have won it at least twice.  
Billy had a slight build - even slighter nowadays - yet he led the American League in complete games three times. He pitched four one-hitters and seven two-hitters, and on June 27, 1958 came within one batter of becoming the first left-hander in 78 years to throw a perfect game.

It was nice to meet you, Billy. You're a Hall of Famer in my book.

1 comment:

  1. Billy Pierce flew under the radar I think during his career (and afterward as well). He's got a third card in the 1959 set, shares it with Robin Roberts.


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