At a recent card show, I added another 1947 Signal Oil card-Sig Jakucki-to my Seattle Rainiers collection. The Pacific Coast League cards were produced as a premium available at Signal gas stations in the late ‘40s. Signal Oil was a California based company that had stations in seven western states, until merging with another company in the ‘50s and ceasing operation. This installment will feature the ‘47s exclusively.
PCL historian, collector and memorabilia dealer Mark Macrae kindly consented to an email interview filled in major gaps in my knowledge. However, he emphasized that most of the information has been put together by collectors over the years, since no records are known to exist from the Signal company.
Although there were eight PCL teams in the late ‘40s, Signal only produced cards for five clubs-Hollywood, LA, Oakland, Sacramento and Seattle. Per Mr. Macrae, the supposition is that Signal could not come to contract terms with San Diego, San Francisco and Portland.
The 3-1/2” x 5-1/2” black and white cards were printed on thin stock with the front having illustrated headshots of the players, along with cartoons depicting highlights or hobbies. Many of the cards feature cartoons highlighting a players’ musical ability. Note that some of the cards feature names in script instead of the more common block letters. Interestingly, the illustrator was former Major League pitcher Al Demaree, whose signature appears on the front.
The card backs have a detailed narrative along with an advertisement highlighted the radio announcer and station call letters. For example, the “voice” of Hollywood was Fred Haney and Leo Lassen was the Seattle “spieler.”
The 89 cards were offered at stations free of charge, with a new card distributed each week during the baseball season. Since the Bay Area and Los Angeles had more stations, due to their large population base, Stars, Angels and Oaks cards are more common today than the Rainiers or Solons. It is not known if the LA area stations gave away both Angels and Stars cards. As with any vintage cards, prices vary depending on condition. All the cards I’ve seen have “yellowed” with time.
Some familiar players with MLB experience in the set include: Casey Stengal, Vince DiMaggio, Gus “Dutch” Zernial, Jim Delsing, Jimmy Dykes, Jo Jo White, “Cotton” Pippen and “Kewpie” Dick Barrett.
If I can keep my “signals” straight, I will exam the truly groundbreaking ’48 Signal cards in part two. But now I’m off to fill up with “high test” and hopefully pick up a “Dizz” Duzabou from my friendly Signal dealer.
Macrae, Mark. Signal Oil Baseball Cards. 9, Jan.2018. Email Interview
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