Monday, November 21, 2016

Final Card - Gene Stephens

On my other blogs, I have been tracking the oldest living players with cards in the 1966-70 sets who I have not blogged yet. For now, the oldest over there is age 78. 

I just realized yesterday that I have the 1965 cards for about a dozen players (whose final card is in the 1965 set) who are still with us and in their early 80s. So, I have added a list gadget to this blog, similar to what I have on the other blogs. 

Gene Stephens is the oldest, at age 83. My intent has not been to maintain a mortality checklist, but rather to prioritize and recognize these players with blog posts while they are still with us. 

Gene Stephens (#498) was an outfielder who saw most of his playing time with the Red Sox in the 2nd half of the 1950s. He was signed by Boston in 1951, and after clubbing 22 homers at Class D High Point-Thomasville, NC that season, he was promoted to the Red Sox at the start of 1952. [Hmm… I remember having a "77 Sunset Strip" comic book in the early 1960s, and the story occurred in High Point, NC. All I remember about it was something to do with a trident.] 

After playing 9 games, he was sent back down to the minors, spending the year with A and AAA teams until getting a September call-up.

Gene split the ’53 season between the BoSox and AAA Louisville, and had 3 hits in one inning for Boston that year, the first time that was done in this century. No matter, he was back with Louisville again for all of 1954.

Stephens made the Sox for good in 1955, and was the team’s 4th outfielder (behind Ted Williams, Jackie Jensen, and Jim Piersall) for the next 4 seasons. In 1959 Gene split the left field starts with Williams, who only played 75 games that season.

In June 1960, Stephens was traded to the Orioles for outfielder Willie Tasby. Gene started 47 games over the rest of the season, and was the team’s #3 outfielder, but far behind the top 2 in terms of playing time.

The following June it was on to Kansas City, by this time a part-time player. After 65 games in ’61 and only 5 games in ’62, he was dealt to the White Sox.

Stephens spent most of 1963 in the minors, appearing in only 6 games for Chicago. In his final big-league season (1964) he played only half the games. He retired after 2 more seasons in the minors (’65, ’67) and 1 in Japan (’66).

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