Today’s Card of the Day subject is finally making his first appearance in this series after three years and two months of almost daily articles. Dick Cole played infield for the Pittsburgh Pirates in 1951, then again from 1953 through 1956. He spent five seasons calling Forbes Field his home, during which time he hit .253 over 426 games, with 101 runs, 61 extra-base hits and 104 RBIs. He had seasons in which he saw more playing time than anywhere else at second base (1951), shortstop (1953-54) and third base (1955-56). He played for two other teams during his career, getting into 15 games with the St Louis Cardinals prior to joining the Pirates, then 15 games with the Milwaukee Braves after his time with the Pirates.
Cole had four cards made between the two big card companies during his career. He appeared in the 1954 and 1957 Topps sets, as well as the 1954-55 Bowman sets. Since this was his first appearance in this series, I picked his card for this article the same exact way your great-great grandfather made important decisions. I scanned the old articles on this site and looked at which one hasn’t appeared here in the longest time. That led me to the 1954 Bowman set. Dick Cole is card #27 in the set.
Here’s the front of the card:
There’s Richard Roy Cole, looking a lot like Steve Blass back in his early announcing days, right? He certainly looks older to me, but this is a 27-year-old Cole with the 1953 Pirates. Maybe they used a 1951 photo, as there’s no difference in the uniforms for those two seasons. That’s besides the fact that these cards are colorized photos, so a color difference wouldn’t have shown up if there was one. The Pirates only switched to black & gold a few years (1948) before he joined the team. We have shown examples of artwork on cards from this era that didn’t get that memo. In fact, do a search of 1954 Bowman Pirates cards and you will see the old colors pop up.
This card reminds me a lot of the Jose Pagan card we just featured. Both men had stoic looks, gazing off into the distance, contemplating whether they should have bunted, or possibly thinking they could throw a football over those mountains (might be an obscure reference, but I get it). Both pictures have nice stadium shots in the background as well.
That yellow box for his name goes well with the Pirates theme, but it’s merely coincidence. Other Pirates players have pink, orange, blue or green for those boxes. A quick check of some Pirates cards also found yellow for outfielder Hal Rice and pitcher Vern Law. I also found a Rice card where the box looked orange, but that might just be a dark scan.
Here’s the back of the card:
As you can see, these backs definitely give off an old feel, with the gray stock background and the bat/baseball utilized up top. The addition of fielding stats is another reason why it gives off those old vibes. The use of the word “bespectacled” has to get some extra points.
The trivia question answer is wrong BUT it is possible that it was thought to be correct at the time. Some old facts weren’t found out until many years later. Just look at Ty Cobb’s hit total being wrong during Pete Rose’s hit chase. That famous video you’ve probably seen 50 times if you’re a real fan, didn’t break any record other than his own. People thought Nolan Ryan held the single-season strikeout record or Rickey Henderson the single-season stolen base record until better research proved it wrong. Heck, every year I correct people who still claim the wrong date for Honus Wagner’s 3,000th hit, but at one time all of those things were considered to be correct. To answer your question, Hall of Fame pitcher Mickey Welch is considered to be the first pinch-hitter ever, three years prior to that answer given above.
If you’re interested in this card, it is plentiful on Ebay. It’s a semi-popular set, so it usually trades well, which is good for buyers. A PSA 8 of this card is listed for $77. An authenticated autographed card is $40. He signed a lot of cards before he passed away in 2018, so his autograph isn’t that rare. There are ten other autographs up for less than the encapsulated one. You have some decent options for this card in mid-grade (ungraded) for $4-$5 delivered.