Saturday, December 1, 2012
'56 of the month: Al Silvera
Another month gone by without a '56 of the Month post. So here is one for December before I get any angry emails.
People don't think of 1956 Topps -- or any Topps set from the '50s -- as having prospect cards. To many, a prospect with his own card was something that was born in the '80s and exploded in the '90s. And now we have entire sets of nothing but prospects.
But this card of Al Silvera is definitely a prospect card.
Silvera played in just 13 games in 1955 as a 19-year-old. That included just seven at-bats as he was used frequently as a pinch-runner or late-inning defensive replacement. Topps must have been thinking about this when they pictured Silvera in the outfield catching ... um ... a fly ball from the stands?
In true prospect card fashion the write-up on the back is in direct contrast to his stats on the back.
The stats are nothing worth mentioning, yet Silvera is being carried off by lovely ladies, courted by every single major league club, and anointed as a big star by his team.
Oh, if only prospectors and ebay existed in the '50s. Beckett might devote an entire issue to this guy.
Silvera would never play another major league game after May of 1956. And he had just one at bat in '56.
This was his only card.
Sound familiar, Bowman?
The only reason Silvera was in the major leagues was he was a bonus baby. The bonus rule at the time stipulated that any player signed for a bonus of more than $4,000 had to be on a major league roster. The Reds offered him $50,000 and a car.
Silvera was pursued so avidly because of the only season he played at USC. He hit five grand slams that year.
After his very brief career (he played just 2 years in minors in '57 and '58), he got a "regular job," coached Little League, and died at age 66 after a long battle with brain cancer.
Silvera is also an entry in The Big Book of Jewish Baseball, An Illustrated Encyclopedia an Anecdotal History.
In fact, Silvera went to Fairfax High School in Los Angeles, which also produced Jewish major leaguers Larry and Norm Sherry, as well as Mike Epstein and Barry Latman.
Fairfax High School also produced another Jewish All-Star.
Mila Kunis graduated from Fairfax in 2001.
Unlike Silvera on the ballfield, I think she lived up to her potential.