Tuesday, May 21, 2024

#225 Don Kessinger - Chicago Cubs

Donald Eulon Kessinger
Chicago Cubs

Bats:  Both  Throws:  Right  Height:  6'1"  Weight:  170
Born:  July 17, 1942, Forrest City, AR
Signed:  Signed by the Chicago Cubs as an amateur free agent, June 19, 1964
Major League Teams:  Chicago Cubs 1964-1975; St. Louis Cardinals 1976-1977; Chicago White Sox 1977-1979
As a Manager:  Chicago White Sox 1979

In the late 1960s and early 1970s, the light-hitting Don Kessinger was widely regarded as one of the best shortstops in baseball.  He was a six-time All-Star between 1968 and 1974 and won Gold Gloves in back-to-back years in 1969 and 1970.  Kessinger assumed regular shortstop duties for the Cubs in mid-1965 from Roberto Pena (#184), and was a mainstay in the Cubs' line-up for 10 1/2 seasons through 1975.  His best season offensively came in 1969 when he batted .273 with four home runs and 53 RBIs, with the Cubs waning late in the season to the Amazin' Mets.  For years, Kessinger formed a solid double play combination with second baseman Glenn Beckert (#171).

With rookie Dave Rosello ready to take over at shortstop, the Cubs dealt Kessinger to the Cardinals in October 1975.  He'd play four more seasons in the majors with the Cardinals and White Sox, and the White Sox named him their player-manager prior to the 1979 season.  He'd resign the position on August 2nd with the White Sox slumping at 46-60.  Kessinger later coached at the University of Mississippi between 1991 and 1996, his college alma mater, and was one of the many members of the inaugural class in the Cubs Hall of Fame in 2021.  In 2,078 major league games, Kessinger batted .252, collecting 1,931 hits.  He's currently ranked 23rd all-time for games played at shortstop with 1,955 and he's 15th all-time for assists by a shortstop with 6,212.

Building the Set / 
Card #288
November 18, 2023 from The TWP Card Show - Sicklerville, NJ (Sal's Sports Cards & Memorabilia)
I wrote about this show back in December at The Phillies Room.  My wife Jenna found an announcement on Faceback for a baseball card show to be held at St. Charles Borromeo Hall in Sicklerville, New Jersey on November 18th.  That Saturday, I gathered my lists and we made the short drive to what the organizers called the "First Ever Sports Card Show" in Washington Township, which I find hard to believe given the number of baseball card stores in the area back in the 1980s and 1990s.  Potential mislabeling aside, it was a decent-sized show with mostly modern stuff and slabbed Pokemon cards. 

I found the one dealer selling vintage cards, and cleaned him out of every 1969 Topps card I needed for our set, along with a few 1959 Topps cards for our next set build.  This Kessinger card was one of seven cards added to our 1969 Topps set.  Credit to Jenna for finding the show, and if it happens again, I'll gladly make the 10 minute drive over there.

The Card / Cubs Team Set / Accuracy Index +5
The photos for Kessinger's 1968 Topps card, this card, and his All-Star card (#422) appearing later in the set, were likely all taken at the same time.  His uniform #11 appears in the middle of the C on his helmet.  The back of the card rightfully highlights Kessinger's stellar defense and also mentions his double play partner, Beckert.

Accuracy Index:  Kessinger's card rates a solid +5 as collectors hadn't quite seen this photo before.
Inserts:  He's also included in the 35 card Topps Deckle Edge insert set.

1969 Season
As mentioned above, this was a career year for Kessinger.  He started all but six of the Cubs' games at shortstop, yielding late in the season to Paul Popovich (#47) as it seemed Kessinger, along with most of the Cubs' regulars, were running out of gas.  He led the team in runs scored with 109 and doubles with 38, but the Cubs would finish eight games behind the Mets in the new East Division.

Kessinger was again the starting shortstop for the National League All-Stars, going 0 for 3 at the plate.

1966 Topps #24
1968 Topps #159
1972 Topps #145
1975 Topps #315
1979 Topps #467

Other Notable Baseball Cards

First Mainstream Card:  1966 Topps #24
Topps Flagship Set Appearances (14):  1966-1979
Most Recent Mainstream Card:  2018 Topps Archives Fan Favorites Autographs #FFA-DK
Total Non-Parallel Baseball Cards:  96 in the Beckett online database as of 5/5/24.

Baseball Reference / SABR / Wikipedia

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