Monday, February 14, 2011

If cupid were a ballplayer: Vito Valentinetti

Just in time for Valentine's Day, I give you Vito Valentinetti. And let's be honest: if I popped into your office today and said, "Hey, did you know there was a ballplayer named Vito Valentinetti?" you would have thrown a stress ball at me. The name is impossibly cool, the stuff of legends and late-night drinking trivia. In fact, before I found this card this morning, I would have bet $5 there was no such guy. And yet, here's the evidence:
Valentinetti had a 5-year career, bouncing around between Chicago, Cleveland, Detroit, and Washington in addition to yo-yoing between the Majors and Minors. I hope he at least had a nice set of luggage to get through all of that traveling around. He was a starter and a reliever who retired with an almost break even W-L (13-14) and a 4.73 ERA. 

This is also a pretty solid card from the '59. If it were made today Topps would most likely photoshop him into the middle of the diamond with fireworks going off overhead, but less is more here: posed follow through, empty stands behind the subject, understated card design. Like many of the cards from this set, it's really zen-like in its simplicity.
One of the things I really enjoy about the '50s and '60s card backs is the time capsule-like quality they have, making oblique references not only to Vito's service in Korea (no one in the '50s would have had trouble making the connection), but to minor league towns and leagues that haven't existed for years. Is the "A.A. /American Association" still around in any form? There's the current Indy League that bears the name, but does it have a real connection to the old league other than its tag? I also like the line about the Senators' "much-worked" bullpen. Guess Topps didn't pull any punches in those days. 

If you're interested here's a link to more info about Mr. Valentinetti written by a relative of his.

Well, have a good one everybody and goodnight Pumpsie Green, wherever you are!

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