#CardCorner: 1958 Topps Wally Post
Something is a little off upon first review of Wally Post’s 1958 Topps card.
Yes, the maroon Philadelphia Phillies cap matches up with the team logo found in the bottom right-hand corner of the card. But the rest of the Phillies’ uniform doesn’t look quite right – and with good reason. The Phillies did not wear sleeveless uniforms during the late 1950s. Another team, the Cincinnati Reds, did wear such uniforms at the time.
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In actuality, Post is wearing a Reds uniform on this card. That makes sense; he played the entire 1957 season with the Reds. Without an updated photograph for Post with his new team, Topps airbrushed a Phillies logo onto the cap and darkened the red of the Cincinnati sleeves to more closely match the Phillies’ maroon. And just like that, Topps created the illusion of a fully up-to-date card of a young slugger with his newest club.
All in all, this was pretty nifty artwork for Topps. The card also takes on a surreal look because of the black background. With most of its 1958 set, Topps applied a bright background color to each card – everything from blue to yellow to orange to green. For some reason, Topps chose the black backdrop for Post, giving us the impression that the photo had either been taken in the middle night or at the mouth of a very large and dark cave. Whatever the reason, Topps had produced one of its more intriguing and unusual entries for 1958.
In retrospect, it could be said that the manner in which Post made the major leagues was most unusual, too. Few players have taken his path.
He returned to the Phillies in 1960, hitting well over the first quarter of the season. But when the June 15 trading deadline arrived, Post found himself leaving Philadelphia. The Phillies traded him, sending him back to the Reds, in exchange for a package of two younger outfielders, Tony Gonzalez and Lee Walls.
Post welcomed the trade from the Phillies, a non-contending team at the time. In rejoining the Reds, Post became the everyday left fielder and hit well over the balance of the season. In 77 games with Cincinnati, he batted .281 with 17 home runs and approached an OPS of .900.
The year of 1960 also brought Post some notoriety of a different kind. He appeared on the show, Home Run Derby, hosted by Mark Scott. In one of his appearances, Post squared off against Hank Aaron. Post won the one-on-one faceoff with Aaron, ending the Hall of Famer’s long run on the show.
Post remained productive in 1961, despite a series of injuries that limited him to 99 games. He made headlines during a game in St. Louis on April 14. Playing at the old Busch Stadium, Post hit a home run that caromed off the scoreboard located behind the left field bleachers. The ball struck am ornamental eagle located atop the scoreboard; Reds pitcher Jay Hook, a graduate of an engineering school, calculated that if the ball had not struck the eagle, it would have traveled 569 feet. Cardinals broadcaster Harry Caray described it as the longest home run he had ever seen.
For the season, Post hit 20 home runs and slugged .585, with those numbers becoming major factors in the Reds winning the National League pennant. Taking advantage of his first appearance in a World Series, Post played in all five games and batted .333 with a home run. Despite his hitting heroics, the Reds lost the Series to a powerhouse group of New York Yankees.
Post continued to hit well for the Reds in 1962, even though he appeared in only 109 games. Among the Reds, his .839 OPS ranked second only to Frank Robinson. That summer would turn out to be Post’s last hurrah. With the Reds boasting a talented and athletic outfield of Robinson, Vada Pinson and Tommy Harper, the aging Post became the odd man out in 1963. The Reds traded him early in the season; he finished out the year with the Minnesota Twins and then sipped a cup of coffee with the Cleveland Indians before being given his release.
He attempted a comeback with the minor league Syracuse Chiefs, but a lack of power and a sub-.200 batting average indicate that it was time to leave the game. At age 34, Post called it a career.
Rather than remain in baseball in a coaching or front office capacity, Post went to work for a canning company owned by his father-in-law. It was not a glamorous job, but it was perfect for a modest, hard-working man like Post. He also maintained a slight connection to baseball by regularly attending winter baseball banquets in Cincinnati, where he usually spent time with former teammates like Gus Bell and Joe Nuxhall, among his closest friends on the Reds.
Sadly, Post was diagnosed with cancer in 1981, resulting in a series of hospital stays. The following January, he passed away at the home of one of his sons. Post was only 52. After his death, friends created the Wally Post Golf Open, a charity tournament that continues to be played in Mercer County, Ohio.
Perhaps Post’s early death explains why he has become a relatively forgotten Reds star from the 1950s and 60s, in the days that long preceded the franchise’s Big Red Machine. But he was an important part of some very good, power-packed lineups in Cincinnati.
At a time when the Reds were respectable but not yet great, Wally Post was one of several bright spots – a good, humble teammate who was popular with the fervent fan base that filled Crosley Field.
Bruce Markusen is the manager of digital and outreach learning at the National Baseball Hall of Fame
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