Thursday, May 8, 2008

1953 Topps Project - Post #14

#42 - Gus Zernial - Philadelphia Athletics

Gus Zernial is not as well known as a lot of 50's ballplayers, but he was actually a great slugging outfielder who played about 10 years in the majors (1949 - 1959). His good looks and huge physique (6'3", 220 lbs!) earned him the nickname of "Ozark Ike" (taken from a popular comic strip at the time).

According to Wikipedia, Gus had the fourth highest home run total in Major League Baseball in the 1950's (behind Mickey Mantle, Yogi Berra and Larry Doby). That's a pretty impressive stat in my book. Here we see Gus at the tail end of what was probably his best 3 year stretch in baseball. In 1951 he led the league in home runs (33), RBI (129), extra base hits (68) and outfield assists (17). In 1953 he clubbed a personal best 42 home runs and topped the 100 RBI mark for the 3rd straight year.

During his career, Gus broke his collar bone on two different occassions while diving for balls in the outfield. The funny thing is that the second time he did so was during an 18-0 loss to the Boston Red Sox. Breaking a bone diving for a ball in a game you lost by 18 runs shows the grit and determination that Gus played with. With power hitting numbers like he put up in the 50's, you have to wonder if he would've been a hall of fame caliber player had he made it to the majors at a younger age...

You can check out Gus' official website here.

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