This is one of the oldest Orioles cards that I own, in addition to two cards from 1957 and a handful from 1958 and others from 1959. It depicts righty George Bamberger, who had been out of the major leagues since 1952. That's right; George had waited until he was 27 to get the call from the New York Giants, and was hit hard in seven games in 1951 and 1952 (12.00 ERA, 3 baserunners allowed per inning). His long absence from the bigs is no mystery in such context. He spent the remainder of 1952 through 1955 toiling in the Pacific Coast League for the Oakland Oaks, and the still-developing Orioles obtained him prior to the 1956 season. Despite being picked up by the O's, Bamberger bided his time at the team's PCL affiliate in Vancouver for three seasons. When he led the league in ERA (2.45) and tied for tops in shutouts (5) in 1958, George finally had his contracted purchased by the Birds.
Armed with knowledge of Bamberger's purchase, Topps was able to squeeze him into one of their higher-numbered, later-year releases. The palm tree in the background is a good hint that this shot was taken at Spring Training. I love the zipper on the jersey, as opposed to buttons. George's expression is hard to mine; perhaps it's relief that he's finally back at the age of 35, after six and a half long years in the minor leagues. If so, that relief would be short-lived. By the time this card was produced, Topps had to scramble to add a note to the card back indicating that he'd been sent back to Vancouver in May. The reason? Again, we let the numbers tell the story: three games, eight and one-third innings pitched, seven runs allowed on fifteen hits for a 7.56 ERA. George did manage to notch his only major league save by closing out a 7-5 win over Washington on April 19. But it wasn't enough to keep him around. After he allowed two runs to the Red Sox without recording an out three days later, he was sold back to Vancouver for $12,500. He would never pitch in the major leagues again.
But George Bamberger would leave his imprint on baseball in other ways. He returned to the Orioles in 1968 as Earl Weaver's pitching coach, a position he'd hold for the next decade. His pitchers would win twenty games eighteen times, and would also net four Cy Young Awards (three by Jim Palmer and one by Mike Flanagan). Finally, the Milwaukee Brewers hired George as their manager. He oversaw the beginning of the first boom period for the Brew Crew, as "Bambi's Bombers" hit the ball hard and won over 90 games in each of his first two seasons. As a rookie skipper, he was voted Manager of the Year. He initially retired after the 1980 season for health reasons, and later returned to pilot the Mets and then the Brewers once more, but had little success.
You can say this for Bambi, though: he never gave up.