October 31, 2011
Pee Wee Reese's 1953 Bowman baseball card: who is the guy sliding into second base?
By FRANK BARNING
One of my favorite baseball cards is the 1953 Bowman Color Pee Wee Reese. The card is from my favorite set and I was a Brooklyn Dodgers fan, with our shortstop Reese being among the players I most admired.
The Barnings bought and sold cards in the New York Metropolitan area from 1973 until moving from Long Island to San Diego in 1982. Aside from card show and mail-order inventory, Vivian and I kept the best example of each card for our collection.
Conservatively, we owned 50 of this card along the way and they could always be sold, no matter what the condition. The Dodgers left Brooklyn after the 1957 season, so the card was a memory of a glorious time for fans of the team. And the future Hall of Famer was the captain of our team, a boy of summer.
Take a good look at the image of his 1953 Bowman shown above. Like most copies of this card, it is a tad out of focus. But that is not what I am getting at. At a show in New York I asked Reese where it was taken. "Probably in spring training in Vero Beach."
But the big question was who was sliding into second base? No one had ever before asked him for that information. Looking at the card he reported that it was Frenchy Bordagaray, who was a coach in the Dodgers organization.
I knew little of Bordagaray, who died at age 90 in 2000, except that he was a character. His obituary in The New York Times verified his being different:
"Bordagaray debuted in the major leagues with the Chicago White Sox in 1934 and joined the Dodgers the following season. When he arrived at spring training in Daytona Beach, Fla., in 1936, he stunned the baseball world by wearing a mustache and goatee. The mustache was grown the previous winter for a bit part in the Hollywood movie The Prisoner of Shark Island, an account of the jailing of Dr. Samuel Mudd for complicity in the assassination of Lincoln."
According to a website, Los Angeles Dodgers Online. Com, "Bordagaray sported a mustache--common among 19th century ballplayers and also in later decades of the 20th century, but almost unheard of during his era."
We met Pee Wee at a few card shows, but best of all, the Barnings sat next to him at the first two games of the 1984 World Series, played in San Diego. The Wave was very popular then and Pee Wee stood up and raised his arms the first time it passed by our seats. "My first wave and last wave," he commented. The Dodgers' beloved captain died in 1999 at age 81.