Grand Cards: Obak's Revisionist History

Monday, August 30, 2010

Obak's Revisionist History

A few weeks ago, when Tristar's 2010 Obak set was released, I was pleased to see a checklist that included more than one Detroit Tiger. Austin Jackson? Good. Hank Greenberg? Gooood. Denny McLain?

Well, cool! Dayf from Cardboard Junkie pulled this little gem in the box he opened a couple weeks ago. I was immediately excited to see a veteran play that wasn't the of the standard Cobb/Greenberg/Kaline/Kell variety. And an autograph no less! A nice card indeed, hampered only by the blank empty stare of a hat without an Old English D.

As someone who likes to familiarize himself with Minor League Baseball and farm systems, I was also really interested by McLain's affiliation. Harlan, in the Appalachian League. Hmmm. How come I haven't heard of Harlan in the rich history of Detroit Tigers lore? Maybe because...
Year Team League Level Aff.
1962 Harlan APPY D- CHW,NYY
Harlan was never an affiliate of the Tigers. It certainly wasn't in 1962, when an 18 year old Denny McLain pitched all of two games for the Harlan Smokies. Two. And is on a baseball card for the Harlan Smokies.

After taking a moment to pick of the pieces of my head that had asploded and putting them back together, I realized that this was fine. That's what funky, old school, mini-heavy, off-brand minor league centric sets are supposed to do. You want a Denny McLain card? Well we'll give you the most freaking obscure Denny McLain card we can! You know what? I dig it. This here is the fun stuff. And, since this is a minor league set, you can do that. McLain pitched for the Harlan Smokies. This is a Harlan Smokies card. This is...
Oof. This 1/1(!) variation was pulled by JD's Wild Cardz, and I'll just let the irony "speak for themselves."

That's one big, bold "DETROIT" you've got there. It also happens to be a really cool story. He threw a no-hitter in Harlan? In his first professional start? No wonder he was promoted to Clinton (MDW) shortly thereafter. Clinton just so happens to have been a White Sox affiliate, which I guess makes sense, since the 18 year old McLain was property of the White Sox.

And if Obak hadn't tried to get all fancy and hadn't accidentally spit in the face of baseball history, I never would have known all of that.  So there you go.  That 18 year old pitcher, who threw a no-hitter for the Harlan Smokies back in 1962 was released by the Chicago White Sox the next year. And he would go on to be the Detroit Tigers' own...Denny McLain, the last 30-game winner in the Major Leagues.  And now you know the rest of the story.