The 1960 Tacoma Giants boasted three future Hall of Famers, a former World Series hero and a member of a famous baseball family who had a career average of .307 in the major leagues.
The squad was a Triple-A minor league affiliate of the San Francisco Giants, and to welcome Pacific Coast League baseball back to the City of Destiny, 3-inch by 5-inch cards were sold at Cheney Stadium, courtesy of the National Bank of Washington.
The 21 cards were not numbered and uncut sheets were sold at the ballpark. The card fronts featured a color photo of the player, while the back was blank, except for the bank’s logo.
The cards were only distributed in the Tacoma area, making them a tough set to find and complete.
The set is notable for containing the first baseball card of Juan Marichal, who even in 1960 was nicknamed the “Dominican Dandy.” Another future Hall of Famer on the squad, Willie McCovey, played only 17 games for Tacoma and did not have a card issued. The same could be said for 21-year-old Gaylord Perry, who was promoted from Double-A Rio Grande Valley of the Texas League and saw action in one game with Tacoma late in the season. Perry would allow one hit (a home run) in his one inning of work.
Bringing the PCL back to Tacoma was welcome publicity for the city, which had been infamously known for “Galloping Gertie,” the Tacoma Narrows Bridge that collapsed during a windstorm that whistled through Puget Sound on Nov. 7, 1940. The last time a PCL team played in Tacoma was 1905, when the Tigers went 106-107 (they played long seasons in the PCL back then, due to the agreeable weather on the West Coast) and finished in third place. The team had won the title the previous season, going 130-94.
But in 1905, the Tigers “went on a California road trip” to Sacramento and didn’t come back until 1960, according to the Kitsap Sun.
Cheney Stadium was a gleaming 7,800-seat ballpark that opened April 16, 1960 after rains delayed the opener for two days, and the Giants split a doubleheader with the Portland Beavers. The stadium was named for Tacoma lumber businessman and sports philanthropist Ben Cheney, who owned 11% of the San Francisco Giants and became wealthy when he figured out that by producing lumber in 8-foot lengths, he could sell the wood more easily.
Once and Future Giants
The team was managed by John “Red” Davis, who spent 17 seasons in the minors and saw action in 21 games as an infielder for the New York Giants in 1941. Davis would manage 27 seasons at the minor league level, carving out a 1,927-1845 record. He also would have a card in the 1960 National Bank of Washington set.
The 1960 Tacoma Giants had players who were either coming from or going to the majors. All 18 men who pitched for the team that year either had or would have a career in the big leagues. Similarly, only three of the 29 players who appeared on the roster that season did not reach the majors.
The most valuable card of the 1960 National Bank of Washington is unquestionably Marichal, who went 11-5 with a 3.11 ERA and 12 complete games. Only 17 cards have been sent to PSA for grading, and two of them were Marichal cards — a PSA 4 and a PSA 2.
In fact, the highest-graded card is a PSA 6 of Bobby Prescott.
Marichal would be called up to San Francisco in July 1960, and he threw a one-hitter in his first major-league start, keeping the Philadelphia Phillies hitless until Clay Dalrymple singled with two outs in the eighth inning. The high-kicking right-hander needed “only” 115 pitches to secure his 2-0, complete game victory. Take that, 2019 pitch counters.
By the way, Marichal once threw 227 pitches in winning a 1-0, 16-inning duel against Warren Spahn (who threw 201 pitches) on July 2, 1963.
Marichal is arguably the greatest pitcher never to win a Cy Young Award, even though he won 20 or more games six times during the 1960s. His greatest years were overshadowed by someone else. He won 25 games in 1963 but Sandy Koufax won the award. He also lost out to Koufax in 1965 and 1966, when he won 22 and 25 games, respectively. In 1968 he won a career-high 26 games but lost the Cy Young to Bob Gibson, who won 22 games but had a 1.12 ERA. Marichal won 21 games and led the National League with a 2.10 ERA in 1969 but lost out to Tom Seaver.
In addition to Marichal, the team had James “Dusty” Rhodes, who was the hero in Game 1 of the 1954 World Series with a three-run, walk-off homer that traveled a mere 257 feet down the right-field line at the Polo Grounds. Compare that to the 460-foot drive to center field by Vic Wertz that was caught by Willie Mays a few innings earlier.
Two players would bat over .300 for Tacoma in 1960: Danny O’Connell, who led the team with a .312 average; and Matty Alou, who hit. 306. O’Connell was at the tail end of his career and had spent the 1958 season in San Francisco with the parent club. O’Connell was 31 in 1960 and would make it back to the majors with the expansion Washington Senators in 1961 and 1962.
Alou, meanwhile, was a 21-year-old outfielder with plenty of promise. He would join the Giants in late 1960 and spend 15 seasons in the majors and then three more in the Japan Pacific League.
Other players who would have good major league careers included staff ace Eddie Fisher (17-12, 3.31 ERA), who spent 15 years in the majors; Tom Haller, a three-time All-Star catcher who played 12 seasons in the major leagues; and infielder Jose Pagan, who batted .295 in 128 games in 1960 and would play 15 years in the majors.
The set is a tough one to get, but it is a wonderful cross-section of up-and-coming players and major leaguers who had seen better days.