Staying with my plan to feature only those players whose final card is in the 1965 set, today we have Yankees’ shortstop Tony Kubek (#65).
Kubek was signed by the Yankees in 1954, and made his major-league debut in April 1957. He was a regular for each of his 9 seasons (1957-65) with the Yanks, although he missed much of the 1962 season while in military service. Normally the starting shortstop, he played all over the diamond in ’57 and ’59.
With veteran Gil McDougald holding down the shortstop job in 1957, Kubek started several dozen games at SS, 3B, and LF, and hit .297 in 475 plate appearances as a rookie. That was good enough to land the AL Rookie of the Year award, snaring 23 of the 24 1st place votes. He was also 8-for-28 (.286) with 2 homers and 4 RBI in the 1957 Fall Classic, although they lost to the Braves.
In 1958 McDougald moved to 2nd base, opening up shortstop for Kubek. His playing time soared to 597 plate appearances, and although his batting average dropped to .265, he made his first of 3 All-Star games. The Yankees returned to the World Series and won the re-match with the Braves. Kubek however, only hit .048 in the post-season.
Tony started almost half the team’s games at shortstop in 1959, while also making a few dozen starts at each outfield position, and at 3rd base. He made his 2nd All-Star team, but the Yankees did not make the post-season (for only the 2nd time in that decade).
Kubek played almost exclusively at shortstop for the remainder of his career. In 1960 he reached double-digits in home runs (14) and in ’61 made his 3rd
and final All-Star team. He also played in the World Series 4 more times (1960-63).
In 1962 Tony played only 45 games, as he spent most of the year in the military. It was the only year he hit over .300 (.314).
A few years ago I was watching a replay of the 1964 World Series between the Yankees and the Cardinals. I was surprised to see that Kubek did not play in any of the games (must have been injured). Kubek had been the leadoff batter all season, and I thought it was odd that Kubek’s replacement (the light-hitting Phil Linz) was kept in the leadoff spot for the World Series.
Tony retired after the 1965 season, due to a back injury. He became a TV broadcaster with NBC for 24 years, often paired with Curt Gowdy or Bob Costas. He also broadcast the Toronto Blue Jays games from 1977-89.
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