42 in ’47: The Baseball Cards of Jackie Robinson’s Dodger Debut

Author’s Note: This article is part of a larger SABR Century Committee effort commemorating the 75th Anniversary of Jackie Robinson’s historic 1947 season. Head here for the full series.

When Jackie Robinson trotted out to first base on April 15, 1947, his steps were no less historic than those of Neil Armstrong just over two decades later. Baseball’s senseless and shameful Color Barrier had at last been breached and with it the customs and traditions of Jim Crow America itself were on notice. This is not to say equality had come to Baseball. Far from it as even the Dodgers merely tiptoed into integration while several other teams waited a decade or more to add their first Black player. As for managers, eleven more men after Armstrong would leave footprints on the Moon before a single Black man would take the reins of a Major League team.

Even today, as Jackie’s legacy is rightfully celebrated, it’s fair to wonder whether a modern Jackie Robinson would even choose Baseball, just as it’s fair to wonder whether any teams would notice him and sign him if he did. Were he living in the Dominican Republic, absolutely, but in his birthplace of Cairo, Georgia, or his childhood hometown of Pasadena, California, who’s to say? While a modern Jackie could win games for a general manager of any color, there are none in front offices today who look like him.

The same could be said for domestic baseball card issues prior to 1947, only one of which featured a Black player. While it would be easy to discount the utter lack of Black faces as merely reflective of the times, such an explanation fails to account for the many Black boxers who made their way onto trading cards, going back to at least 1909. Ultimately, the whiteness of baseball cards was due solely to the whiteness of what was then perceived (and enforced) as Organized Baseball. Jack Johnson, Joe Jeannette, and Joe Gans were professional boxers. The Philadelphia Stars, Newark Eagles and Homestead Grays meanwhile? These were semi-pro.

Thus the 1947 season brought with it not only the integration of Baseball but (several rungs down the ladder of importance) the opportunity to integrate baseball cards as well. All that was missing were the baseball cards themselves!

While today we take it for granted that a new baseball card set (if not dozens of different ones) will come out every year, such was not the case in the 1940s. Following the three-year run of Gum, Inc., and its Play Ball sets from 1939-41, the War and other national priorities left American baseball without a major set to chronicle its players until 1948, when Gum, Inc., baseball cards returned to shelves, this time under the Bowman name.

In the meantime, where baseball cards were produced at all, they most often took the form of smaller regional issues, often connected to food or other household products, cards that today many collectors classify under the umbrella of “oddball.” As such, this review of Jackie Robinson baseball cards from 1947 will feature bread, slacks, and even cigarettes but not a single stick of gum.

1947 BOND BREAD

Bond Bread will feature in this article twice. This first instance is to highlight a 48-card release comprised of four boxers and 44 baseball stars. The selection of baseball stars included Ted Williams, Joe DiMaggio, and Stan Musial but most notably a baseball card of Brooklyn Dodgers rookie Jackie Robinson.

Cards were packaged in loaves of Bond Bread, and at least one theory for their rounded corners is that the cards were less susceptible to damage that way. Importantly for collectors today, the rounded corners help distinguish these cards from near-identical versions that emerged as a standalone product sold as “Sport Star Subjects” in 1949. The square cornered versions are far less collectible, though widespread misidentification, including by a prominent grading company, has created sufficient confusion to elevate prices among uninformed buyers.

While both the Bond Bread and Sport Star Subjects cards have blank backs, a third version of the Robinson card features a back that’s anything but blank.

“1947” ELGEE PRODUCTS

Precise dating for this issue is unknown and may well be after 1947. A mix of baseball and movie star photos, the baseball images match those of the Bond Bread issue but are easily distinguished in at least two ways. One, they are perforated. Two, their backs include other cards from the set or, in some cases, advertising. The Robinson card, for example, features actor James Cagney on the reverse.

As with the Sport Star Subjects, these cards are also frequently misidentified as Bond Bread cards, even by third party grading companies and auction houses. Post 391 in this Net54 Baseball Forum thread shows the front and back of an uncut sheet, including the ELGEE branding. Post 386 in the same thread provides additional background on the company.

1947-50 BOND BREAD JACKIE ROBINSON

In addition to the 48-card set above, Bond Bread also released a second set of 13 cards dedicated entirely to Jackie Robinson. The set is catalogued as a 1947 issue. However, independent research by collectors Mike Knapp, Shaun Fyffe, and Michael Fried, which I’ll attempt to summarize here, has produced a broader timetable for the cards while also providing information on distribution.

The set began 1947 with a single card featuring a signed portrait of Jackie, a brief bio, and a product testimonial. This card was not distributed in packaged loaves but rather was given out by store owners (with free slices of bread!) to promote Bond Bread among African American consumers. (Post 49 in this Net54 Baseball Forum thread includes an article from the New York Amsterdam News detailing the marketing strategy.)

From there, it’s unclear whether any of the set’s remaining twelve cards dates to 1947. The aforementioned collector-researchers speculate subsequent releases of three or six cards at a time taking place sometime between 1947 and 1950, though I lean more toward the cards being issued one at a time. Either way, a clue that helps group the cards is the advertising on the back.

These six cards, assumed to be the earlier of the twelve, exhort consumers to eat the same bread as Jackie. Fielding poses show a first baseman’s mitt, which Jackie would have used primarily in 1947.

Before proceeding to the second group of six, I want to highlight two photos in particular, one of which may be very familiar to non-collectors. Though the background has been removed and Jackie has even changed teams, the card of Jackie waving with his glove draws its image from this iconic photograph.

A second card among the six does some early “photoshopping” of a Montreal photo as well.

Much later in this article we will see yet another occasion where a Montreal photo is doctored for use on a Brooklyn card. For now, we will return to the other six cards in the set. Note here that all fielding poses show a standard infielder’s glove.

The “smoking gun” that places these cards (or at least one of them) after 1947 comes from the image on the last card, believed to source to a photograph taken just after this one. (Note Jackie’s cap has fallen a bit farther on the card and his body has separated more from his trailing arm.) If so, the card could not have been issued any earlier than July 2, 1949, the date the photograph was taken.

With the set no longer confined entirely to 1947, we arrive at several possibilities for its overall release schedule. Barring further information, I’d be inclined to settle on the first group of six cards coming out across the six months of the 1948 baseball season and the second group of six following suit in 1949.

“1948” OLD GOLD CIGARETTES

The situation with Jackie’s Old Gold cards is precisely the opposite as here collectors regard what may be two cards from 1947 as if they came out the following year.

As Anson Whaley notes in his article for Sports Collectors Daily, two clues on the card backs suggest a 1947 release.

  • Robinson is listed as 28 year old, which was only his age through January 30, 1948
  • His 1947 Rookie of the Year Award (announced September 19, 1947) is not listed among his career highlights

Certainly each of these clues could merely point to bios written ahead of time, hence do not point definitively to a 1947 release of the actual cards. Still, absent any information affirming a 1948 release, the clues are at least intriguing.

1947″ PLEETWOOD SLACKS

Continuing the theme of uncertain dates is this rare 5″ x 8″ promotional issue from Pleetwood Slacks. While catalogued as a 1947 issue, I am unable to find any source that provides independent corroboration. Notably, the Standard Catalog of Vintage Baseball Cards indicates that “the [1947] date of issue cited is conjectural.”

When I do find “hits” on Pleetwood Slacks, never mind Jackie, they only come in the Black press of late 1948, specifically October through December. Here is a typical example.

Alabama Citizen, December 18, 1948

Perhaps information is out there somewhere establishing the Pleetwood Slacks card as a 1947 issue. In the meantime I’d just as soon date it to late 1948 where timing it’s would better match the print advertising campaign for the brand.

1947 CHAMP HATS

Collector and Hobby historian Bob Lemke (1941-2017) featured this 8 x 10 “card” as a new find on his blog in 2015.

As detailed on Bob’s blog, both Bob and the previously mentioned Sean Fyffe regarded 1947 as the most likely year for this piece.

1947 DODGERS TEAM PHOTO PACK

Many teams sold photo packs of their players and other personnel, going back to at least the 1930s. The 1947 Brooklyn Dodgers photo pack consisted of 25 photos, 6” x 9” in size, including this one of Jackie Robinson.

The image is a sharper and cleaner version of the ones used on his Bond and faux Bond issues and a reminder that many cards of the era used photos provided by the teams or their photographers. Furthermore, the presence and identical placement of Jackie’s signature on the Bond and pseudo-Bond cards leads me to wonder if those cards didn’t originate from the original photograph but from this photo pack card. Either way, I suspect the photo pack Jackie is the earliest of his various 1947 issues.

1947-66 EXHIBIT SUPPLY COMPANY

One of the most common and (formerly!) affordable early baseball cards of Jackie Robinson is his 1947-66 Exhibit Supply Company (Chicago, IL) postcard-sized issue. However, despite “1947” right there in the naming of the set, there is no evidence that Jackie’s exhibit cards date back that far.

Rather, the “1947-66” label simply means that the overall set of 300+ different cards spanned 20 years. The presence of later stars such as Aaron, Banks, and Kaline suffice to show that “1947” hardly applies to all players.

The Keyman Collectibles site provides a guide for the precise dating of Exhibit cards. Having reviewed more than a dozen so far, I have not yet run across a Robinson any earlier than 1948.

Side note: A 1948 release would have left plenty of time to find pictures of Jackie as a Dodger. However, the photograph used on the Exhibit card, as was the case with two of the Bond Bread cards, dates to 1946, as evidenced by Jackie’s Montreal uniform.

SUMMARY: THE JACKIE ROBINSON CARDS OF 1947

All told I’ve reviewed 22 different Jackie Robinson cards correctly or incorrectly associated with his Barrier Breaking debut season in Brooklyn. From this number, there are only three where I believe the 1947 dating is firmly established:

  • 1947 Bond Bread multi-player set
  • 1947 Bond Bread Jackie Robinson set – portrait with facsimile autograph
  • 1947 Brooklyn Dodgers photo pack

For the reader only reasonably acquainted with the world of collectibles, it might seem a tame question to then ask which of these cards is Jackie Robinson’s rookie card. Could it really be that the answer is none of them!

EPILOGUE: JACKIE’S ROOKIE CARD

Modern collectors focus heavily (if not obsessively!) over the notion of a rookie card, particularly when the player concerned is a Hall of Famer. In a simpler world, a player would have one card for each year of his career, and the first such card would be his rookie card. In the real world, however, the situation is far murkier, complicated by any number of wrinkles, depending on the collector.

For example, any of the following may be treated as a disqualifying when it comes to rookie card status.

  • cards that pre-date a player’s major league status (e.g., a minor league card)
  • cards from minor, regional, unlicensed, or non-US releases
  • cards that aren’t really baseball cards (e.g., a postcard, mini-poster, or bobblehead)
  • cards with uncertain release dates

In the case of Jackie Robinson, all four of these come into play. While I did not feature it in this article due to its 1946 issue date, there is a highly sought after Parade Sportive newspaper insert featuring Jackie Robinson, which checks off each of the first three bullets above.

As for Jackie’s Bond Bread cards, many collectors regard the releases as too minor to warrant rookie card status. Add to that for many of them an uncertain release date as well. Ditto for Elgee Products, Old Gold Cigarettes, Pleetwood Slacks, and Champs Hats, with the latter two having only questionable baseball card status as well.

The Brooklyn photo pack card, which may well be first of Jackie as a Dodger, also challenges the most rigid definitions of “baseball card” while adding the potential disqualifier of a regional release. Finally, the Exhibit card is not quite a real baseball card to many collectors while also carrying uncertainty as to dating.

Also lacking card status to most collectors are the various Jackie Robinson buttons and pins that were popular among fans in the late 1940s. I omitted lengthier treatment in this article but will show six of them here.

Source: Robert Edward Auctions

The result of all this is that many collectors would not consider any of the Jackie Robinson cards profiled so far to be Jackie’s rookie card. Instead, the coveted label is most often applied to Jackie’s card from the set known popularly in the Hobby as 1948 Leaf.

“This is the only true rookie card of baseball’s first African-American representative and hero to all,” according to PSA, the Hobby’s largest grader and authenticator of trading cards.

Though my revenue, Hobby or otherwise, is a far cry from that of PSA, I nonetheless challenge this assertion. For one thing, despite the typical designation of the set as “1948 Leaf” (or sometimes 1948-49 Leaf), there are compelling reasons to believe the Robinson card (if not the entire set) dates to 1949.

  • 1949 copyright date on the back of the card
  • Reference to Jackie’s 1948 statistics as “last season” on the back of the card
  • Standard Catalog entry indicating the set was “produced by Chicago’s Leaf Gum Co. for issue in 1949”
  • Hall of Fame and Beckett cataloguing of card as 1949

Erroneous dating aside, I’ll also note that the Leaf cards, at least of some players, were unlicensed, which can often be a rookie card disqualifier. That said, collectors tend to give the set a free pass on this point.

At any rate, if we regard the Leaf card as a rookie card, we should then confer rookie status on Jackie’s other significant release of the same year, issued as part of the 1949 Bowman set of 240 cards.

Alternatively, we might turn our attention to a card that genuinely does date to 1948, Jackie’s Sport Thrills card from Swell Bubble Gum.

From a rookie card perspective, this card beats Leaf and Bowman by a year, has unambiguous baseball card status as opposed to some of the other 1947-48 contenders, and originates from a more major release than its contemporaries and predecessors. At the same time, not all collectors treat the Sport Thrills set as major enough, and its focus on highlights rather than players equally reduces the appeal.

Ultimately, the question of Jackie’s true rookie card is a complicated one, confounded by the uncertain or erroneous dating of his early cardboard and curiously subjective notions like “major release” and “baseball card.” On one hand the lack of a definitive rookie card opens the door for individual collectors to apply their own criteria and judgment. On the other hand, the same fuzziness creates opportunities, intentional or accidental, to misrepresent and misinform. In the end, perhaps the only truism when it comes to Jackie’s rookie cards is this: If you have to ask, you can’t afford it!

The T206 photo project

Editor’s note: For the #StayHomeWithSABR video presentation of this article, click here!

The SABR Baseball Cards Research Committee is working with tobacco card enthusiast Matt Haynes of Alton, IL, to assemble the most complete
(virtual) collection of T206 source images available.

A graphic designer by trade, Matt’s inspiration in beginning this project was the simple beauty and artistry of the T206 cards themselves. Like many of our readers, Matt was an avid collector in his youth but took a long hiatus from the Hobby when “real life” took over. It was the proximity of a local card shop to a new job that lured Matt back into collecting, first focusing on top-shelf superstars of the 1950s but now exclusively on the 524-card set known as the Monster.

Starting from more than 40 images already cataloged at the T206 Resource photo gallery, adding the finds of several other hobbyists from card forums such as Net54 Baseball and Tobacco Row, and adding images from his own research, Matt was able to assemble 86 card-image pairs for this initial post, already the most available anywhere on the Web. Now we are asking you, our readers, for your help in finding more. (See contact info at end of post.)

Please excuse some wonky formatting as Jason makes updates to the table, including the addition of more unmatched T206 cards to speed up your photo hunts.

CURRENT COUNT: 213/524

240240ImagePlayerTeamSource
1909-11 American Tobacco Company T206 White Border #NNO Ed Abbaticchio FrontAbbaticchio, Ed
(Blue Sleeves)
PIT
undefinedAbbaticchio, Ed
(Brown Sleeves)
PIT
Abbott, FredTOL1903 Carl Horner portrait
1909-11 American Tobacco Company T206 White Border #NNO Bill Abstein FrontAbstein, BillPIT
1909-11 American Tobacco Company T206 White Border #NNO Doc Adkins FrontAdkins, DocBAL
1909-11 American Tobacco Company T206 White Border #NNO Whitey Alperman FrontAlperman, WhiteyBRO
Ames, Red
(Hands At Chest)
NY
(NL)
1909-11 American Tobacco Company T206 White Border #NNO Red Ames FrontAmes, Red
(Hands Above Head)
NY
(NL)
undefinedAmes, Red
(Portrait)
NY
(NL)
1909-11 American Tobacco Company T206 White Border #NNO John Anderson FrontAnderson, JohnPRO
Arellanes, FrankBOS
(AL)
1909-11 American Tobacco Company T206 White Border #NNO Harry Armbruster FrontArmbruster, HermanSTP
Arndt, HarryPRO
Atz, JakeCHI
(AL)
1909-11 American Tobacco Company T206 White Border #NNO Home Run Baker FrontBaker, FrankPHI
(AL)
Ball, Neal
(CLE)
CLE
1909-11 American Tobacco Company T206 White Border #NNO Neal Ball FrontBall, Neal
(NY)
NY
(AL)
1909-11 American Tobacco Company T206 White Border #NNO Jap Barbeau FrontBarbeau, JapSTL
(NL)
Barger, CyROC
Barry, JackPHI
(AL)
Barry, ShadMIL
1909-11 American Tobacco Company T206 White Border #NNO Jack Bastian FrontBastian, JackSAT
Batch, EmilROC
1909-11 American Tobacco Company T206 White Border #NNO Johnny Bates FrontBates, JohnnyBOS
(NL)
1909-11 American Tobacco Company T206 White Border #NNO Harry Bay FrontBay, HarryNAS
Beaumont, GingerBOS
(NL)
1909-11 American Tobacco Company T206 White Border #NNO Fred Beck FrontBeck, FredBOS
(NL)
1909-11 American Tobacco Company T206 White Border #NNO Beals Becker FrontBecker, BealsBOS
(NL)
Beckley, JakeKC
1909-11 American Tobacco Company T206 White Border #NNO George Bell FrontBell, George
(Hands Above Head)
BRO
undefinedBell, George
(Follow Thru)
BRO
undefinedBender, Chief
(No Trees)
PHI
(AL)
Bender, Chief
(With Trees)
PHI
(AL)
Bender, Chief
(Portrait)
PHI
(AL)
1909-11 American Tobacco Company T206 White Border #NNO Bill Bergen FrontBergen, Bill
(Catching)
BRO
1909-11 American Tobacco Company T206 White Border #NNO Bill Bergen FrontBergen, Bill
(Batting)
BRO
1909-11 American Tobacco Company T206 White Border #NNO Heinie Berger FrontBerger, HeinieCLE
1909-11 American Tobacco Company T206 White Border #NNO Bill Bernhard FrontBernhard, BillNAS
Bescher, Bob
(Hands In Air)
CIN
1909-11 American Tobacco Company T206 White Border #NNO Bob Bescher FrontBescher, Bob
(Portrait)
CIN
undefinedBirmingham, JoeCLE
1909-11 American Tobacco Company T206 White Border #NNO Lena Blackburne FrontBlackburne, LenaPRO
1909-11 American Tobacco Company T206 White Border #NNO Jack Bliss FrontBliss, JackSTL
(NL)
Bowerman, FrankBOS
(NL)
Bradley, Bill
(Portrait)
CLE
1909-11 American Tobacco Company T206 White Border #NNO Bill Bradley FrontBradley, Bill
(With Bat)
CLE
1909-11 American Tobacco Company T206 White Border #NNO Dave Brain FrontBrain, DaveBUF
Bransfield, KittyPHI
(NL)
1909-11 American Tobacco Company T206 White Border #NNO Roy Brashear FrontBrashear, RoyKC
1909-11 American Tobacco Company T206 White Border #NNO Ted Breitenstein FrontBreitenstein, TedNOLA
undefinedBresnahan, Roger
(Batting)
STL
(NL)
undefinedBresnahan, Roger
(Portrait)
STL
(NL)
Bridwell, Al
(Portrait – No Cap)
NY
(NL)
Bridwell, Al
(Portrait – With Cap)
NY
(NL)
1909-11 American Tobacco Company T206 White Border #NNO George Browne FrontBrown, George
(CHI)
CHI
(NL)
1909-11 American Tobacco Company T206 White Border #NNO George Browne FrontBrown, George
(WAS)
WAS
Brown, Mordecai
(Chi On Shirt)
CHI
(NL)
Brown, Mordecai
(Cubs On Shirt)
CHI
(NL)
Brown, Mordecai
(Portrait)
CHI
(NL)
1909-11 American Tobacco Company T206 White Border #NNO Al Burch FrontBurch, Al
(Batting)
BRO
1909-11 American Tobacco Company T206 White Border #NNO Al Burch FrontBurch, Al
(Fielding)
BRO
1909-11 American Tobacco Company T206 White Border #NNO Fred Burchell FrontBurchell, FredBUF
1909-11 American Tobacco Company T206 White Border #NNO Jimmy Burke FrontBurke, JimmyIND
1909-11 American Tobacco Company T206 White Border #NNO Bill Burns FrontBurns, BillCHI
(AL)
1909-11 American Tobacco Company T206 White Border #NNO Donie Bush FrontBush, DonieDET
Butler, JohnROC
1909-11 American Tobacco Company T206 White Border #NNO Bobby Byrne FrontByrne, BobbySTL
(NL)
Camnitz, Howie
(Arms Folded)
PIT
undefinedCamnitz, Howie
(Arm At Side)
PIT
Camnitz, Howie
(Hands Above Head)
PIT
Campbell, BillyCIN
Carey, ScoopsMEM
Carr, CharleyIND
Carrigan, BillBOS
(AL)
Casey, DocMON
Cassidy, PeterBAL
undefinedChance, Frank
(Batting)
CHI
(NL)
Chance, Frank
(Portrait – Red)
CHI
(NL)
Chance, Frank
(Portrait – Yellow)
CHI
(NL)
Chappelle, BillROC
Charles, ChappieSTL
(NL)
Chase, Hal
(Holding Trophy)
NY
(AL)
Chase, Hal
(Portrait – Blue)
NY
(AL)
undefinedChase, Hal
(Portrait – Pink)
NY
(AL)
Chase, Hal
(Black Cap)
NY
(AL)
Chase, Hal
(White Cap)
NY
(AL)
Chesbro, Jack NY
(AL)
Cicotte, EdBOS
(AL)
Clancy, BillBUF
Clark, JoshCOL
Clarke, Fred
(Batting)
PIT
Clarke, Fred
(Portrait)
PIT
Clarke, J.J.CLE
Clymer, BillCOL
Cobb, Ty
(Portrait – Green)
DET
Cobb, Ty
(Portrait – Red)
DET
Cobb, Ty
(Bat Off Shoulder)
DET
Cobb, Ty
(Bat On Shoulder)
DET
Coles, Cad AUG
Collins, EddiePHI
(AL)
Collins, JimmyMIN
Congalton, BunkCOL
Conroy, Wid
(Fielding)
WAS
Conroy, Wid
(With Bat)
WAS
Covaleski, HarryPHI
(NL)
undefinedCrandall, Doc
(Portrait No Cap)
NY
(NL)
Crandall, Doc
(Portrait With Cap)
NY
(NL)
Cranston, BillMEM
Cravath, GavvyMIN
Crawford, Sam
(Throwing)
DET
Crawford, Sam
(With Bat)
DET
Cree, BirdieNY
(AL)
Criger, LouSTL
(AL)
Criss, DodeSTL
(AL)
Cross, MonteIND
Dahlen, Bill
(BOS)
BOS
(NL)
Dahlen, Bill
(BRO)
BRO
Davidson, PaulIND
Davis, GeorgeCHI
(AL)
Davis, Harry
(Davis On Front)
PHI
(AL)
Davis, Harry
(H. Davis On Front)
PHI
(AL)
Delehanty, FrankLOU
Delehanty, JimWAS
Demmitt, Ray
(NY)
NY
(AL)
Demmitt, Ray
(STL, AL)
STL
(AL)
Dessau, RubeBAL
Devlin, ArtNY
(NL)
undefinedDeVore, JoshNY
(NL)
Dineen, BillSTL
(AL)
Donlin, Mike
(Fielding)
NY
(NL)
Donlin, Mike
(Seated)
NY
(NL)
Donlin, Mike
(With Bat)
NY
(NL)
Donohue, JiggsCHI
(AL)
Donovan, Wild Bill
(Portrait)
DET
Donovan, Wild Bill
(Throwing)
DET
Dooin, RedPHI
(NL)
Doolan, Mickey
(Batting)
PHI
(NL)
Doolan, Mickey
(Fielding)
PHI
(NL)
Doolin, MickeyPHI
(NL)
Dorner, GusKC
Dougherty, Patsy
(Arm In Air)
CHI
(AL)
Dougherty, Patsy
(Portrait)
CHI
(AL)
Downey, Tom
(Batting)
CIN
Downey, Tom
(Fielding)
CIN
Downs, JerryMIN
Doyle, Joe
(N.Y. Nat’l)
NY
(NL)
Doyle, Joe
(N.Y.)
NY
(AL)
Doyle, Larry
(Portrait)
NY
(NL)
Doyle, Larry
(Throwing)
NY
(NL)
Doyle, Larry
(With Bat)
NY
(NL)
Dubuc, JeanCIN
undefinedDuffy, HughCHI
(AL)
Chicago Daily News, 1910
Dunn, JackBAL
Dunn, JoeBRO
undefinedDurham, BullNY
(NL)
Dygert, JimmyPHI
(AL)
Easterly, TedCLE
Egan, DickCIN
Elberfeld, Kid
(Portrait – NY)
NY
(AL)
Elberfeld, Kid
(Portrait – WAS)
WAS
Elberfeld, Kid
(Fielding)
WAS
Ellam, RoyNAS
Engle, ClydeNY
(AL)
Evans, SteveSTL
(NL)
Evers, Johnny
(Portrait)
CHI
(NL)
Evers, Johnny
(CHI On Shirt – Yellow Sky)
CHI
(NL)
Evers, Johnny
(Cubs On Shirt – Blue Sky)
CHI
(NL)
Ewing, BobCIN
Ferguson, CecilBOS
(NL)
Ferris, HobeSTL
(AL)
Fiene, Lou
(Portrait)
CHI
(AL)
Fiene, Lou
(Throwing)
CHI
(AL)
Flanagan, SteamerBUF
Fletcher, ArtNY
(NL)
Flick, ElmerCLE
Ford, RussNY
(AL)
Foster, EdCHA
Freeman, JerryTOL
Frill, JohnNY
(AL)
Fritz, CharlieNOLA
Fromme, ArtCIN
Gandil, ChickCHI
(AL)
Ganley, BobWAS
Ganzel, JohnROC
Gasper, HarryCIN
Geyer, RubeSTL
(NL)
Gibson, GeorgePIT
Gilbert, BillySTL
(NL)
Goode, WilburCLE
Graham, BillSTL
(AL)
Graham, PeachesBOS
(NL)
Gray, DollyWAS
Greminger, EdMTGM
Griffith, Clark
(Batting)
CIN
Griffith, Clark
(Portrait)
CIN
Grimshaw, MooseTOR
Groom, BobWAS
Guiheen, TomPOR
Hahn, EdCHI
(AL)
Hall, BobBAL
Hallman, BillKC
Hannifan, JackJC
Hart, BillLR
Hart, JimmyMTGM
Hartsel, TopsyPHI
(AL)
Hayden, JackIND
Helm, J. RossCOL
Hemphill, CharlieNY
(AL)
Herzog, Buck
(BOS)
BOS
(NL)
Herzog, Buck
(NY)
NY
(NL)
Hickman, GordonMOB
Hinchman, BillCLE
Hinchman, HarryTOL
Hoblitzell, DickCIN
Hoffman, DannySTL
(AL)
Hoffman, IzzyPRO

Hofman, SollyCHI
(NL)
Hooker, BockLYN
Howard, DelCHI
(NL)
Howard, ErnieSAV
Howell, Harry
(Hand At Waist)
STL
(AL)
Howell, Harry
(Portrait)
STL
(AL)
Huggins, Miller
(Hands At Mouth)
CIN
Huggins, Miller
(Portrait)
CIN
Hulswitt, RudySTL
(NL)
Hummel, JohnBRO
Hunter, GeorgeBRO
Isbell, FrankCHI
(AL)
Jacklitsch, FredPHI
(NL)
Jackson, JimmyBAL
Jennings, Hughie
(One Hand Showing)
DET
Jennings, Hughie
(Two Hands Showing)
DET
Jennings, Hughie
(Portrait)
DET
Johnson, Walter
(Glove At Chest)
WAS
undefinedJohnson, Walter
(Portrait)
WAS
Jones, Fielder
(Hands At Hips)
CHI
(AL)
undefinedJones, Fielder
(Portrait)
CHI
(AL)
undefinedJones, DavyDET
Jones, TomSTL
(AL)
Jordan, DutchATL
Jordan, Tim
(Batting)
BRO
Jordan, Tim
(Portrait)
BRO
Joss, Addie
(Hands At Chest)
CLE
Joss, Addie
(Portrait)
CLE
Karger, EdCIN
Keeler, Willie
(Portrait)
NY
(AL)
Keeler, Willie
(With Bat)
NY
(AL)
Kelley, JoeTOR
Kiernan, J.F.COL
Killian, Ed
(Hands At Chest)
DET
Killian, Ed
(Portrait)
DET
King, FrankDAN
Kisinger, RubeBUF
Kleinow, Red
(BOS – Catching)
BOS
(AL)
Kleinow, Red
(NY – Catching)
NY
(AL)
Kleinow, Red
(NY – With Bat)
NY
(AL)
Kling, JohnnyCHI
(NL)
Knabe, OttoPHI
(NL)
Knight, Jack
(Portrait)
NY
(AL)
Knight, Jack
(With Bat)
NY
(AL)
Konetchy, Ed
(Glove Above Head)
STL
(NL)
Konetchy, Ed
(Glove Near Ground)
STL
(NL)
Krause, Harry
(Pitching)
PHI
(AL)
Krause, Harry
(Portrait)
PHI
(AL)
Kroh, RubeCHI
(NL)
Kruger, OttoCOL
Lafitte, JamesMAC
Lajoie, Nap
(Portrait)
CLE
Lajoie, Nap
(Throwing)
CLE
undefinedLajoie, Nap
(With Bat)
CLE
Lake, Joe
(NY)
NY
(AL)
Lake, Joe
(STL – Ball In Hand)
STL
(AL)
Lake, Joe
(STL – No Ball)
STL
(AL)
LaPorte, FrankNY
(AL)
Latham, ArlieNY
(NL)
Lattimore, BillTOL
Lavender, JimmyPRO
Leach, Tommy
(Bending Over)
PIT
Leach, Tommy
(Portrait)
PIT
Leifield, Lefty
(Batting)
PIT
Leifield, Lefty
(Pitching)
PIT
Lennox, EdBRO
Lentz, HarryLR
Liebhardt, GlennCLE
Lindaman, ViveBOS
(NL)
undefinedLipe, PerryRIC
Livingstone, PaddyPHI
(AL)
undefinedLobert, HansCIN
Lord, HarryBOS
(AL)
Lumley, HarryBRO
undefinedLundgren, Carl
(CHI)
CHI
(NL)
undefinedLundgren, Carl
(KC)
KC
Maddox, NickPIT
Magie, SherryPHI
(NL)
Magee, Sherry
(Portrait)
PHI
(NL)
undefinedMagee, Sherry
(With Bat)
PHI
(NL)
Malarkey, BillBUF
Maloney, BillyROC
Manion, GeorgeCOL
Manning, Rube
(Batting)
NY
(AL)
Manning, Rube
(Pitching)
NY
(AL)
Marquard, Rube
(Hands At Side)
NY
(NL)
Marquard, Rube
(Pitching)
NY
(NL)
undefinedMarquard, Rube
(Portrait)
NY
(NL)
Marshall, DocBRO
Mathewson, Christy
(Dark Cap)
NY
(NL)
undefinedMathewson, Christy
(Portrait)
NY
(NL)
Mathewson, Christy
(White Cap)
NY
(NL)
Mattern, AlBOS
(NL)
McAleese, JohnSTL
(AL)
McBride, GeorgeWAS
McCauley, PatPOR
McCormick, MooseNY
(NL)
McElveen, PryorBRO
undefinedMcGann, DanMIL
McGinley, JimTOR
McGinnity, JoeNWK
McGlynn, StoneyMIL
undefinedMcGraw, John
(Finger In Air)
NY
(NL)
undefinedMcGraw, John
(Glove At Hip)
NY
(NL)
undefinedMcGraw, John
(Portrait – No Cap)
NY
(NL)
undefinedMcGraw, John
(Portrait – With Cap)
NY
(NL)
McIntyre, Harry
(BRO)
BRO
undefinedMcIntyre, Harry
(BRO & CHI)
BRO/CHI
McIntyre, MattyDET
McLean, LarryCIN
McQuillan, George
(Ball In Hand)
PHI
(NL)
McQuillan, George
(With Bat)
PHI
(NL)
undefinedMerkle, Fred
(Portrait)
NY
(NL)
Merkle, Fred
(Throwing)
NY
(NL)
Merritt, GeorgeJC
Meyers, ChiefNY
(NL)
Milan, ClydeWAS
Miller, DotsPIT
Miller, MollyDAL
Milligan, BillJC
Mitchell, FredTOR
Mitchell, MikeCIN
Moeller, DanJC
Molesworth, CarltonBIR
Moran, HerbiePRO
Moran, PatCHI
(NL)
Moriarty, GeorgeDET
Mowrey, MikeCIN
Mullaney, DomJAX
Mullin
(UER Mullen), George
(Portrait)
DET
Mullin, George
(Throwing)
DET
undefinedMullin, George
(With Bat)
DET
Murphy, Danny
(Batting)
PHI
(AL)
Murphy, Danny
(Throwing)
PHI
(AL)
Murray, Red
(Batting)
NY
(NL)
Murray, Red
(Portrait)
NY
(NL)
Myers, Chief
(Batting)
NY
(NL)
Myers, Chief
(Fielding)
NY
(NL)
Nattress, BillyBUF
Needham, TomCHI
(NL)
Nicholls, Simon
(Hands On Knees)
PHI
(AL)
Nichols, Simon
(Batting)
PHI
(AL)
Niles, HarryBOS
(AL)
Oakes, RebelCIN
Oberlin, FrankMIN
O’Brien, PeterSTP
O’Hara, Bill
(NY)
NY
(NL)
O’Hara, Bill
(STL)
STL
(NL)
Oldring, Rube
(Batting)
PHI
(AL)
Oldring, Rube
(Fielding)
PHI
(AL)
undefinedO’Leary, Charley
(Hands On Knees)
DET
O’Leary, Charley
(Portrait)
DET
O’Neil, William J.MIN
Orth, AlLYN
Otey, WilliamNOR
Overall, Orval
(Hand At Face Level)
CHI
(NL)
Overall, Orval
(Hands Waist Level)
CHI
(NL)
Overall, Orval
(Portrait)
CHI
(NL)
Owen, FrankCHI
(AL)
Paige, GeorgeCHA
undefinedParent, FredCHI
(AL)
Paskert, DodeCIN
Pastorius, JimBRO
Pattee, HarryBRO
undefinedPayne, FredCHI
(AL)
Chicago Daily News, 1909
Pelty, Barney
(Horizontal)
STL
(AL)
Pelty, Barney
(Vertical)
STL
(AL)
Perdue, HubNAS
Perring, GeorgeCLE
Persons, ArchMTGM
Pfeffer, FrancisCHI
(NL)
Pfeister, Jake
(Seated)
CHI
(NL)
Pfeister, Jake
(Throwing)
CHI
(NL)
Phelan, JimmyPRO
Phelps, EddieSTL
(NL)
Phillippe, DeaconPIT
Pickering, OllieMIN
Plank, EddiePHI
(AL)
Poland, PhilBAL
Powell, JackSTL
(AL)
Powers, MikePHI
(AL)
Purtell, BillyCHI
(AL)
Puttman, AmbroseLOU
Quillen, LeeMIN
Quinn, JackNY
(AL)
Randall, NewtMIL
Raymond, BugsNY
(NL)
Reagan, EdNOLA
Reulbach, Ed
(Glove Showing)
CHI
(NL)
Reulbach, Ed
(No Glove Showing)
CHI
(NL)
Revelle, DutchRIC
Rhoades, Bob
(Hands At Chest)
CLE
Rhoades, Bob
(Right Arm Extended)
CLE
Rhodes, CharlieSTL
(NL)
Ritchey, ClaudeBOS
(NL)
Ritter, LouKC
Rockenfeld, IkeMTGM
Rossman, ClaudeDET
Rucker, Nap
(Portrait)
BRO
Rucker, Nap
(Throwing)
BRO
Rudolph, DickTOR
Ryan, RayROA
Schaefer, Germany
(DET)
DET
Schaefer, Germany
(WAS)
WAS
Schirm, GeorgeBUF
Schlafly, LarryNWK
Schlei, Admiral
(Batting)
NY
(NL)
Schlei, Admiral
(Catching)
NY
(NL)
Schlei, Admiral
(Portrait)
NY
(NL)
Schmidt, Boss
(Portrait)
DET
Schmidt, Boss
(Throwing)
DET
Schreck, OsseeCOL
undefinedSchulte, Wildfire
(Back View)
CHI
(NL)
Schulte, Wildfire
(Front View)
CHI
(NL)
Scott, JimCHI
(AL)
Seitz, CharlesNOR
Seymour, Cy
(Batting)
NY
(NL)
Seymour, Cy
(Portrait)
NY
(NL)
Seymour, Cy
(Throwing)
NY
(NL)
Shannon, SpikeKC
Sharpe, BudNWK
undefinedShaughnessy, ShagROA
Shaw, AlSTL
(NL)
Shaw, HunkyPRO
Sheckard, Jimmy
(Glove Showing)
CHI
(NL)
Sheckard, Jimmy
(No Glove Showing)
CHI
(NL)
Shipke, BillWAS
Slagle, JimmyBAL
Smith, CarlosSHRV
undefinedSmith, Frank
(F. Smith)
CHI
(AL)
Smith, Frank
(White Cap)
CHI
(AL)
Smith, Frank
(CHI & BOS)
CHI/BOS
Smith, HappyBRO
Smith, HeinieBUF
Smith, SidATL
Snodgrass, Fred
(Batting)
NY
(NL)
Snodgrass, Fred
(Catching)
NY
(NL)
Spade, BobCIN
undefinedSpeaker, TrisBOS
(AL)
Spencer, TubbyBOS
(AL)
Stahl, Jake
(Glove Shows)
BOS
(AL)
undefinedStahl, Jake
(No Glove Shows)
BOS
(AL)
Stanage, OscarDET
Stark, DollySAT
Starr, CharlieBOS
(NL)
Steinfeldt, Harry
(Portrait)
CHI
(NL)
Steinfeldt, Harry
(With Bat)
CHI
(NL)
Stephens, JimSTL
(AL)
Stone, GeorgeSTL
(AL)
Stovall, George
(Batting)
CLE
Stovall, George
(Portrait)
CLE
Strang, SamBAL
Street, Gabby
(Catching)
WAS
Street, Gabby
(Portrait)
WAS
Sullivan, BillyCHI
(AL)
Summers, EdDET
Sweeney, BillBOS
(NL)
Sweeney, JeffNY
(AL)
Tannehill, JesseWAS
Tannehill, Lee
(L. Tannehill On Front)
CHI
(AL)
Tannehill, Lee
(Tannehill On Front)
CHI
(AL)
undefinedTaylor, DummyBUF
undefinedTenney, FredNY
(NL)
Thebo, TonyWAC
Thielman, JakeLOU
Thomas, IraPHI
(AL)
Thornton, WoodieMOB
Tinker, Joe
(Bat Off Shoulder)
CHI
(NL)
Tinker, Joe
(Bat On Shoulder)
CHI
(NL)
Tinker, Joe
(Hands On Knees)
CHI
(NL)
Tinker, Joe
(Portrait)
CHI
(NL)
Titus, JohnPHI
(NL)
Turner, TerryCLE
Unglaub, BobWAS
Violat, JuanJAX
Waddell, Rube
(Portrait)
STL
(AL)
Waddell, Rube
(Throwing)
STL
(AL)
Wagner, Heinie
(Bat On Left Shoulder)
BOS
(AL)
Wagner, Heinie
(Bat On Right Shoulder)
BOS
(AL)
Wagner, HonusPIT
Wallace, BobbySTL
(AL)
Walsh, EdCHI
(AL)
Warhop, JackNY
(AL)
Weimer, JakeNY
(NL)
Westlake, JamesDAN
Wheat, ZackBRO
White, Doc
(Pitching)
CHI
(AL)
undefinedWhite, Doc
(Portrait)
CHI
(AL)
White, FoleyHOU
White, JackBUF
Wilhelm, Kaiser
(Hands At Chest)
BRO
Wilhelm, Kaiser
(With Bat)
BRO
Willett, EdDET
Willetts, Ed
(UER)
DET
Williams, JimmySTL
(AL)
Willis, Vic
(Portrait)
PIT
Willis, Vic
(Batting)
STL
(NL)
Willis, Vic
(Throwing)
STL
(NL)
Wilson, OwenPIT
undefinedWiltse, Hooks
(Pitching)
NY
(NL)
Harwell Collection (1904)
undefinedWiltse, Hooks
(Portrait – No Cap)
NY
(NL)
Wiltse, Hooks
(Portrait – With Cap)
NY
(NL)
Wright, LuckyTOL
Young, Cy
(With Glove)
CLE
Young, Cy
(Bare Hand)
CLE
Young, Cy
(Portrait)
CLE
Young, IrvMIN
Zimmerman, HeinieCHI
(NL)
Checklist based on T206Resource.com and unmatched card images from Trading Card Database

If you have additions to the project, please let us know in the comments. You can also use our Contact form or tag us on Twitter @sabrbbcards. Finally, for related card-photo matching projects see–

The Great Wax Pack Derby: A New Participation Project

wax pack derby

Based on the success of the Conlon Collection Project, we are embarking on a new – and hopefully interesting – project.  We’re calling this The Great Wax Pack Derby!  It’s a group writing collective, like Conlon project.

The idea is to get donations of somewhere between 50 to 100 wax packs of baseball cards that might include Topps, Bowman, Fleer, Upper Deck, etc., ensuring that they are in fact, wax packs

Once we have gathered up a critical mass of wax packs, we will send out a solicitation to SABR Baseball Card Committee members who may be interested in receiving a wax pack.  The idea, again, like the Conlon Project, is that those members who receive a wax pack are then obligated to select one card from that pack to write about.

Once we have gathered large groups of stories, we will post them – at least five stories a week – to the SABR Baseball Card committee blog.  It would be ideal to have this project completed by the end of Spring (in time for the SABR Convention in San Diego)!

So, if you are interested in donating a few wax packs from your collection to this project, we would be very grateful for your contribution.

Again, this is a group writing collective that benefits our SABR Baseball Card Committee.  Send me an email, and let me know if you are willing to donate a few wax packs from your collection.  I’m at salazar8017@yahoo.com

 

Thank you!

Anthony Salazar

SABR 48

Things have been quiet around here of late. Thanks to Jeff Katz for providing content recently while the rest of us (read: me) have been lazy.

I was gone for about two weeks — half of which was spent in Pittsburgh for the SABR conference. Soon after I returned I faced (am still facing, in fact) a couple of house problems (plumbing, if you must know) that have taken up much of my time. It could be worse — I am temporarily out of work, so I have more time to deal with things like this. (There are downsides to being out of work, too, as it happens.)

Our meeting at the SABR conference was another big hit. After our success last year with Keith Olbermann, this year’s guest speaker was Tom Shieber, the senior curator at the National Baseball Hall of Fame. Tom gave a delightful presentation on his newspaper research on the “craze” around what later became known as the T-206 tobacco cards. Very illuminating and fun.

While the best parts of the convention is seeing old friends and meeting new friends (either presenting research, or just hanging out) , it can be frustrating because there is so much stuff going on at the same time. On Friday morning, Chris Dial (co-chair of this committee) and Paul Ember (our very own phungo) gave presentations at the same time. After some struggle, I decided to go see Chris speak on statistical measures of defense. On the way in, Chris told me he wanted to go to Paul’s talk too. Chris was great, and Paul’s talk on Andy Warhol got rave reviews and caused several people to head over to Warhol’s museum that day.

When I return home from these conventions I am always amazed at how much I managed to squeeze in. Four Pirates games — one of which was postponed by a torrential downpour — some great attractions in Pittsburgh (the park and city are both wonderful). And, as usual, some great times with some of my favorite people.

1989-topps-baseball-cardsOn the final night (Saturday), several of us retired to the bar for some socializing. Hero Chris Dial brought a box of unopened 1989 Topps wax packs and handed them out in the bar, including packs to people who were not part of SABR at all. When I looked around I was amazed at the people who seemed totally enthralled by the cards, people who might never have held cards in their life. Bringing people together, that’s what we do.

At midnight came the annual meeting of the Baseball Think Factory chapter of SABR. I kind of horned in on this meeting a few years ago and now I just keep showing up. I might be in the group now! Anyhow, we found a bunch of tables and someone tried to maintain order. Meanwhile, Joe Dimino and I started playing “WAR War” with the stacks of 1989 cards laying around.

If you have never heard of WAR War, don’t feel too bad. I sort of made it up on the spot, but I think, like Monopoly or Scrabble, it has a chance to become a craze.

Two players each have a stack of baseball cards, face down. You then flip them over into the center “1-2-3-War!”, so that eight cards (four each) have been flipped. The winner is the player whose 4th card has the most career WAR, and he or she wins the eight cards. Usually it was obvious (George Brett beats Al Nipper) but sometimes judges with smart phones had to get involved. Keep playing until one guy has all the cards, or there is no more beer. I forget who won. (The game could be improved with something like a challenge system to handle non-obvious Wars.)

Bottom line: baseball cards are everywhere at the convention.

See you next year in … San Diego? Chicago? Somewhere else? Stay tuned.

 

Committee Project

Please pardon this brief interruption.  In addition to all of the fun we have talking about or trading baseball cards, I thought it would also be fun to leave a more permanent mark upon this world, to organize all of the great work we have been doing.

Since we are a SABR Research Committee, I asked Jacob Pomrenke — SABR’s Director of Editorial Content — how we could best have and use permanent web space that is more easily found, organized and updated.  He urged me to use the SABR/Baseball-Reference Encyclopedia, otherwise known as the B-R Bullpen, for this purpose.  It is a wiki, which is perfect for us in my view.

So I wrote up a very simple skeleton.  (There was some baseball card material already there, which we will build on or around.)

Click here.

Besides the front page, I already wrote up several subset pages (All-Star cards, Season Highlights, Historical Highlights, and Group Cards), and several place holders.

I especially encourage any interested committee member to help, but it is a public wiki which anyone can update.  It is also part of a very strong and respected site, and (I have already discovered!) active editors who are on the look out for errors.

My thought is that this would grow organically based on whatever it is people want to see here.  Do you want to add a list of Police Sets?  Let’s add it.  A list of cards with people doing whimsical things (carrying snake, etc.)?  Let’s add it.  Cards of players signing autographs?  Cards that show the wrong player?  We are not going to provide the images — we just create the list.  The images are findable.

The subsets I created are all incomplete, and focus on the Topps era which is my strength.  However, my pages should be updated (if appropriate) to include all eras and all brands.  For the Group Cards page, I stopped at 1969 Topps, but obviously in the 1980s it all came back.  Let’s get it all down.

(All of this is optional of course — if its not your bag, that’s fine.  We’re still going to do all of the things we already do.)

How can you help?  Don’t think of it as “help” — which implies that you are providing assistance to me — think of it as co-efforting?  You can create content yourself (its easy) or you can send material to me (or someone else) and have them create it for you.  You can add to existing material (more Group Cards) or you can add entirely new pages.

All ideas are welcome.  1970s plastic cup collectibles?  We’ll figure out how it fits in.

WAIT, DOESN’T THIS JUST RECREATE WORK OTHER PEOPLE HAVE DONE?

No.  In fact, we will act to organize the rest of the web, and link to the best pages.  For example, we could have a Topps Flagship Sets page, and each entry “1971 Topps” would provide links to the best content related to this set, including articles on our blog. (We are not here to advertise, but to provide content).

If we had a page on “Goudey Card Sets”, it could be a list of each set with a sentence or two of text.  Right below the entry for “1936 Goudey Wide Pens” would be a link to Jeff Katz’s great article that I posted an hour ago.  Synergy!

All advice on organization (especially if accompanied by a willingness to perform the organization) are welcome.  I created pages that all look “the same”.  I can be talked into changing the look, but not the consistency.

I suspect some of you already have your own lists that you have created for your own purposes.  Share them!

So, who’s in?  If you are, please contact me.

— Mark Armour

PS: Sometimes, Topps had to try harder to find season highlights.  And I am grateful.

topps1979-201F

 

The Conlon Collection Project: Part 5 (The Finale)

1991 Conlon packs

The Conlon Project series concludes with Part 5.  These stories have been based on Conlon cards selected by our writers. This week’s final installment includes stories on Conlon figures: Max Bishop by Joe Gruber; Babe Ruth by Anthony Salazar; and Rogers Hornsby by Thomas Saunders.

 

If missed you the incredible story of the origins of the Conlon Collection by Steve Gietschier, be sure to check out: https://sabrbaseballcards.blog/2017/11/27/the-conlon-collection-project-intro/

 

As we sunset this project, I am very grateful for my newfound appreciation for the players of this era, and for the brilliant photographic work of Charles M. Conlon.  Baseball history is fortunate enough to have such a visionary.  I would also like to thank our writers for participating in this special project:

 

Alex Diaz

Anthony Salazar

Chris Dial

Craig Hardee

Doe Gibson

Jennifer Hurtarte

Jim Hoffman

Joe Gruber

Jonathan Daniel

Josh Mathes

Keith Pennington

Mark Armour

Mark Black

Mike Beasley

Nick Vossbink

Rock Hoffman

Scott Chamberlain

Thomas Saunders

Tim Jenkins

Tom Shrimplin

Tony Lehman

 

And thank you for your comments and encouragement!  Enjoy Part 5!

 

<><><><><><><><><><><>

Max Bishop

PLAYER:          Max Bishop

CARD #:           183

AUTHOR:        Joe Gruber

 

I had seen these cards before when they first were issued and may even have a few packs somewhere in my vast collection. They appeal to me because I have always liked learning about the history of baseball. I chose this particular card because I am a Red Sox fan and didn’t want a well-known player to write about.

 

Black and white photos remind me of my grandparents and that era. As I look at Max I feel like I could be looking at someone from the old neighborhood sitting on the corner talking, smoking and passing the time. My memory of men who grew up in that era is they seemed to smile about like Max is “smiling” in this picture. Even though the picture is black and white I can see the detail to the uniform and hat (less so) and would love to have a set just like them. The piping around the collar and down the front is really cool to me. It also reminds me of my first baseball uniform as an 8-year-old in 1974. I can still feel and smell that raggedy old uniform complete with real stirrup socks.

 

The final observation I have is the fact that Max had a nickname “Camera Eye”. It seems to have come from the fact that he had more walks than hits in 5 of 12 seasons he played. There are some contemporary players with good nicknames, but the vintage ones seem better and back then, that everyone had one. Maybe they sounded better or filled time while doing play-by-play on the radio.

 

<><><><><><><><><><><>

Babe Ruth

PLAYER:          Babe Ruth

CARD #:           145

AUTHOR:        Anthony Salazar

 

Little things tend to bug me to no end.  It’s not that I’m the obsessive type, but I have a hard time getting past incongruities.  The Babe Ruth card (#145) is one of them.  I don’t mean to rag on the Babe – I’m just as much of a fan as the next guy – but I’ve got major issues with this particular card that commemorates the 75th anniversary of the Red Sox 1916 World Series victory.

 

The #145 card depicts the Babe as a 21-year-old pitcher for the Boston Red Sox, though the photo has him taking a pre-game swing at home plate.  If he’s a pitcher, where’s my photo of a guy on the mound?  If you say he’s a pitcher, give the guy a ball and put him 60 feet 6 inches from a batter.  The Babe had a great year as a pitcher in 1916, going 23-12 with a league-leading ERA of 1.75 with 170 strikeouts.  This, compared to his performance as a batter, where his average was .272 with 37 hits and 3 home runs over 67 games.

 

In my efforts to locate a Conlon photo of Ruth as a pitcher, I came up empty.  Searching through the books, “Baseball’s Golden Age: The Photographs of Charles M. Conlon” and “The Big Show: Charles M. Conlon’s Golden Age Baseball Photographs,” I did discover, however, that the Ruth photo used for the #145 card was not actually shot in 1916, but in 1918!  For the record, he went 13-7 with a 2.22 ERA and 40 strikeouts that year.  Obviously not as impressive as two seasons prior.

 

I was rather disappointed with this discovery, which led me to believe that the card was apparently created to fit a specific narrative, rather than paint an accurate picture of the time and place.  Little things tend to bug me to no end.

 

Though, as photo composition goes, it’s a striking piece especially when shown next to Conlon’s 1922 photo of the Babe in almost exactly the same swing in “Baseball’s Golden Age: The Photographs of Charles M. Conlon.”  The card seems to depict a picture of what we might expect from the future Babe Ruth.

 

<><><><><><><><><><><>

Rogers Hornsby

PLAYER:          Rogers Hornsby

CARD #:           1

AUTHOR:        Thomas Saunders

 

The look of a stoic, heroic, determined Texan…that’s the first thing I see when I look at the first card in the Conlon Collections series…card number one…Rogers Hornsby holding his bat in the Cubs dugout circa 1929.  The look on his face stands out to me; his eyes glaring yet half squinted, like he is looking into the west Texas sun of his birth; his mouth with a half smirk as if he has just spied a tell in a pitcher’s delivery that he is about to exploit with a line drive back through the pitcher’s box; his hands, bare and griping his bat in anticipation, tight but not too tight as his pink finger gently rests an inch above the knob.

 

I grew up just 30 miles from Winters, Texas the place of Hornsby’s birth.  I grew up loving baseball and, as a good Texian would, the state of my birth and its heroes and while Chicago or St. Louis might lay claim to Hornsby as theirs, living so close to his birth place I laid claim to him for Texas.

 

I played summer ball against teams from Winters, who’s baseball park bared Hornsby’s name.  I remember asking my grandmother once, before the age of the Internet, to see if we could try locate the great Hornsby’s grave in Winters as the native son MUST have been buried there and I wanted to pay my respects.  She obliged, and I fondly remember searching in vain two cemeteries looking for this legend’s final resting place so I could pay my respects, but to no avail.

 

The Conlon Collection always reminds me of my childhood and series one, card number one started that set and in many ways started me on the path of reading and appreciating baseball history.  The card was later made into a special issued color card, one of a series issued every year which I strove to collect.  Card #20 in the color card set was the same card #1 of Rogers Hornsby.  Color card #21 was of Shoeless Joe Jackson who I had grown to love through the movies “Eight Men Out” and “Field of Dreams.”  As a kid I thought he was wronged and as his card suggested why shouldn’t he be in the Hall of Fame.

 

I was 10 years old when I first discovered the Sporting News’ Conlon Collection, and I collected every set and still store them in protective three ring binders.  I still strive for Jackson’s reinstatement, and I remember fondly the fruitless search with my grandmother, who died just a few years later, for Rogers Hornsby’s grave in Winters, Texas…and I still claim Hornsby as a great Texas athlete.

 

…and interesting aside is this…while visiting my home for the holidays back in Blackwell, Texas I found an envelope the Mega Card company.  In 1995 the Mega Card factory had a special mail away where if you collected a specific number of proofs of purchases and mailed them in they would send you some rare color cards. I collected them and mailed them in, and they mailed me my limited edition cards.  However, they had misspelled my name, instead of Leman Saunders they had my name down as Lee Ann Saunders…the name of my future wife…Lee Ann and I have been married for over three years now.

 

The Conlon Collection Project: Part 4

1991 Conlon packs

The Conlon Project series continues with Part 4, a collection of five stories based on cards selected by our writers.  We continue to present different writers and different stories.

This week’s installment includes stories on Conlon figures: Pie Traynor by Scott Chamberlain; Bennie Tate by Tim Jenkins; Dizzy Dean by Tom Shrimplin; Earl Webb by Tony Lehman; and John “Chief” Meyers by Anthony Salazar.

If missed the incredible story of the origins of the Conlon Collection by Steve Gietschier, be sure to check out: https://sabrbaseballcards.blog/2017/11/27/the-conlon-collection-project-intro/

Enjoy!

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Pie Traynor

PLAYER:          Pie Traynor

CARD #:           268

AUTHOR:        Scott Chamberlain

As a Pittsburgh Pirates fan, my attention turns to players in a Pirates uniform first. But the Pie Traynor card in my pack grabbed my attention for more than just that. I selected his card because of the expression on his face. Charles Conlon captured Pie talking with a big smile on his face. That expression on his face seems to be saying, “I love being in a Pirates uniform and being part of this team!” Pie’s smile on this card is one that makes me feel good every time I look at it. I sure wish I knew what he was saying when the photograph was taken.

 

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Beeny Tate.jpg

PLAYER:               Bennie Tate

CARD #:               220

AUTHOR:             Tim Jenkins

Even though there were several well-known players in my pack, I was drawn toward a “common” player’s card: journeymen catcher, Bennie Tate. The anonymity of “scrub” players leads one to flip the card over to answer the question: Who is this guy?  Bennie’s biographical information on the back confirms his modest credentials by insinuating that his most significant “accomplishment” was calling the pitch that Babe Ruth hit for his 60th home run in ‘27.

Tate’s lack of notoriety aside, the photo is a classic Conlon portrait in that it reveals much about the person.  In an era where players often appeared older than their ages in photos, Bennie looks like a 25-year-old.  His demeanor is serious but not stern.  He seems pleased that Conlon is photographing a career back-up.

In addition, the image captures the feel of the early 20th century.  The high-collard, Senators uniform along with the WW1 memorial patch evokes the era.  Also, Tate wears the low-crowned, cap style of the period.  If the photo were in color, the cap would be white with a navy “W” and a red bill.

The clarity and evocative nature of Conlon’s work transcends baseball. My wife was intrigued by Conlon’s stunning photos and collected all the series in the 90s. Once, I visited a 6th grade classroom to show part of my memorabilia collection.  I gave the students Conlon doubles.  The kids were intrigued, as was their non-sports fan teacher. A testament to Conlon’s lasting artistry.

 

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Dizzy Dean

PLAYER:          Dizzy Dean

CARD #:           3

AUTHOR:        Tom Shrimplin

As I opened the package of Conlon baseball cards, one after another were names I remembered hearing about, until I got to the next to the last one in the stack.

Dizzy Dean is one of the first memories I have of baseball.  In the 50’s he was on the GAME OF THE WEEK, on TV in black and white, describing the action on the field and telling us stories of his time on the field.  Ol’ Diz was as entertaining as any comedian, now or then. And as a 6-year-old, his strange twang and dialect was something I had never heard.  At first, it was hard to understand, but after a few weeks, it was as familiar as Howdy Doody.

Only after I grew older and started to learn about baseball in the 20’s, 30’s, and 40’s did I find out what a great pitcher he was.  He definitely deserves to be in the Hall of Fame, and it makes me sad I wasn’t able to see him pitch.  With an ERA ranging from 2.66 to 3.30 between 1932 and 1937, and a winning percentage of 0.644, I agree that he was one of the all-time best pitchers.

Only in baseball will you find a “character” like Dizzy Dean. That’s what make the game unlike any other.

 

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Earl Webb

PLAYER:          Earl Webb

CARD #:           261

AUTHOR:        Tony Lehman

Card #261 features Earl Webb – still the leader for most doubles in a season with 67. As the card informs us, Webb set this record in 1931 at the age of 32. Webb has always been something of a blank slate in my head, with thoughts of him colored by an old Topps cartoon on the back of a 1977 card.

This portrait of Webb that Conlon captured, however, shows more. An unsmiling Webb stares out from the dugout, looking directly at the camera. His uniform is buttoned all the way to his neck and adds to the seriousness of the photo. Webb almost looks crestfallen at the fact that it took him until his thirties to make an impact in the major leagues.  It’s a solemn photo, befitting the seriousness of the Great Depression era.

I chose this photo of Webb in part because of the solemnity – something about the look in his eyes feels like it is telling a story of a fight to get to the major leagues and, then, a fight to stay there. The other part: the photo is the first time I have ever seen Earl Webb as a person rather than being a cartoon character on the back of a baseball card.

 

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Chief Meyer.jpg

PLAYER:               John “Chief” Meyers

CARD #:               171

AUTHOR:             Anthony Salazar

Over the course of the Conlon Collection Project, I’ve looked over all the cards in this 1991 330-card set, the Chief Meyers card is one of the few that features a catcher.  Ray Schalk (#48) and Tony Lizzeri (#113), being the others.  The bulk of the set portray awesome player head shots, or pitchers and batters in action, but this Meyers card stuck me with great interest.

I usually don’t think too much about catchers (my apologies to those of you who do), but when looking at Meyers’ card, I thought about his era, the 1910s, the types of players he had to face and the equipment he used.  Meyers played the bulk of his nine-year career with the New York Giants, with a couple of season with the Brooklyn Robins.  He’s listed as being 5’11” and 194 lbs.  Not the most bulky of catchers, but he sounds pretty athletic.  The photo depicts Meyers presumably before the game taking some warm-up tosses.  He’s wearing his shin guards and a chest protector, sporting his pillowy catcher’s mitt with his facemask is in front of him on the ground.

Again, not being an avid aficionado of the catcher, I was intrigued enough to do a bit of research on the evolution of the catcher’s gear, particularly of his mask.  The version that Meyers seems to have was developed in 1910, called the “Wide Sight” or “Open Vision,” which gave catchers a better peripheral vision of the action.  I’m appreciative of the Conlon card for providing me the insight not only of Meyers, who was one of the few Native Americans on major league rosters at this time, but also of the catcher’s equipment during this era.

The Conlon Collection Project: Part 3

1991 Conlon packs

The Conlon Project series continues with Part 3, a collection of five stories based on cards selected by our writers.  We continue to present different writers and different stories.

 

This week’s installment includes stories on Conlon figures: Wes Ferrell by Mark Armour; Ray Morehart by Mark Black; Lon Warneke by Mike Beasley; Lefty Grove by Nick Vossbink; and Al Simmons by Rock Hoffman.

 

If missed the incredible story of the origins of the Conlon Collection by Steve Gietschier, be sure to check out: https://sabrbaseballcards.blog/2017/11/27/the-conlon-collection-project-intro/

Enjoy!

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Wes Ferrell

PLAYER:          Wes Ferrell

CARD #:           198

AUTHOR:        Mark Armour

 

The cello pack Anthony sent me had Joe Cronin visible on top.  This was Anthony’s gesture, as he knows I wrote a book on Joe, so he was basically tossing me an alley-oop.  Determined not to take the easy way out, I opened up the pack.

During the several years I worked on Cronin’s story, I got to know many of the players from this period, especially the AL players.  My Conlon pack included many of Joe’s teammates or players he managed.  Tony Lazzeri was a rival in San Francisco when both were kids. Goose Goslin was a star Senator when Cronin finally got his big chance on the same team. Bob Johnson was a star opponent for a decade before the Red Sox finally acquired him during the war and he became Cronin’s best hitter.

But my guy today is Wes Ferrell.  He was one of many AL stars (Jimmie Foxx, Lefty Grove, etc.) whom Red Sox owner Tom Yawkey acquired from other less rich teams in the 1930s.  Many of these strong-willed men made Cronin’s life hell for a few years, none more so than Wes Ferrell.  Cronin was the club’s shortstop and if Ferrell saw a reliever warming up in the bullpen he’d call Cronin over and say, “if that mother f**ker doesn’t sit down, I ain’t pitching.”  He’d walk off the mound if there were errors made behind him, especially by his manager.  One time, Cronin gave him a big fine, and Ferrell said he’d punch him in the face the next time he saw him.  Eventually it all blew over, but inevitably he had to be traded.

But Wes Ferrell could play.  In 1935, for example, he won 25 games as a pitcher (a total of 8.4 WAR) and also hitting .347 with 7 home runs as a hitter (2.6 more WAR).  His 11 WAR (per Baseball-Reference.com) were the most in the league.

Like many pitchers of his time Wes Ferrell did not age well.  But he was one of baseball’s best players for several years, and deserves to be remembered.

 

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Ray Morehart

PLAYER:          Ray Morehart

CARD #:           102

AUTHOR:        Mark Black

 

My first 18 years of Sundays were spent in a (seemingly) never ending sequence of church, visits with relatives, Sunday dinners, and feelings of resentment because I was missing out on better ways to spend the weekend.

My grandmother didn’t have cable so while adults were visiting, we’d entertain ourselves by exploring my grandmother’s bookshelves. There was one book that seemed to capture our attention over and over again, Mining Photographs and Other Pictures, 1948–1968 by Leslie Shedden. A collection of stark black and white industrial photos, it covered every aspect of the mining history of Cape Breton – pit ponies, safety photos, labor conditions, and family life.

Over 20 years separates the Conlon collection from the Shedden collection, but for me there’s an echo of Conlon’s work in those mining photos and there’s an echo of my grandmother’s house in Ray Morehart’s face.

Every player in my pack seemed more well-known, more talented, more accomplished, and possibly more appealing. I could have chosen any of them for this project, but I chose Ray Morehart. There was something about Ray Morehart – his ‘snaggletooth’, the bags under his eyes, his uneasy smile – among the Hall of Famers, the legends, and the more fêted members of the ’27 Yankees, he clearly stands out. Ray Morehart looks like he doesn’t belong and more strikingly, it looks like he knows it.

There’s a down-to-earthness to Morehart’s photo, that same modesty and humbleness that resonated with me when I cracked open that book of mining photos 30 years previous.

 

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Lon Warneke

PLAYER:          Lon Warneke

CARD #:           231

AUTHOR:        Mike Beasley

 

The quintessential quaff? The perfect pompadour? Baseball’s Brylcreem Boy for 1939? With hair combed high, the 6′ 2″, 185-pound right-handed sidewinding Lon Warneke compiled a 192-121 won-loss record, completed 192 contests, and threw 30 shutouts over a 14-year (1930-1945) span with the Cubs and Cardinals, posting a career 3.18 ERA. Warneke threw a no-hitter against Cincinnati in 1941. Of his four one-hitters, two were back-to-back to open the 1934 season for the Cubs. Following his playing days, the lifelong Arkansas resident umpired in the National League for five years, including the 1952 All-Star Game and the 1954 World Series. On retiring from baseball, he was elected a county judge in his home state, serving in that capacity from 1963 until 1972. Warneke passed in June 1976 at the age of 67.

It was almost a draw of the hat in choosing a particular Conlon card from the pack of 18, but Warneke won out for a variety of reasons. First, I was only vaguely familiar with the name, embarrassingly so, I have to admit. Then there’s the photograph, with rakish tilt of the cap, the high cheekbones, penetrating eyes and lean cheeks.  But that pile of hair propping up the ball cap! A display of the cool confidence of the Arkansas Hummingbird. I wonder, though, if he ever thought “a little dab’ll do ya” and slipped a slippery one into his repertoire?

 

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Lefty Grove.jpg

PLAYER:          Lefty Grove

CARD #:           23

AUTHOR:        Nick Vossbink

 

The thing about the Conlon photos is that you don’t see portraits like this too often on cards. They’re clearly Baseball™ but they’re also distinct from what we think of as card material. The thin depth of field from the 4×5 camera is something that we see now with super telephoto lenses yet the interaction between the photographer and the subject confirms a close working arrangement. Lefty Grove is isolated from the background but also clearly engaged with Conlon.

And the tones. My goodness. While panchromatic emulsions were available in the early 20th century, their expense delayed their adoption. As a result, Conlon’s images are especially sensitive to blue light — resulting in a rugged masculine beauty where everyone appears tanned and strong. Even though Lefty Grove looks young, his wrinkles are defined, and you can see the face he’ll mature into.

His uniform is also wonderful with the white elephant logo the A’s still use and even an undone middle button Pedro Martinez style. The piping on the jersey is classic and the piping on the hat is something I wish we still saw today. Also, that standup collar is something I can never picture working when I see it on a coat hanger, but I love how it looks here.

 

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Al Simmons

PLAYER:          Al Simmons

CARD #:           49

AUTHOR:        Rock Hoffman

For the Conlon Project, I selected the card of Al Simmons because the Athletics occupy a special place in the minds of Philadelphia baseball fans who know their history. I was born in Philadelphia and raised just outside of the city and I think there is a sense of pride that we had the Athletics and their five World Series wins. Of course, there were all those losing season too and combined with the Phillies, the fans of the Delaware Valley have seen a lot of bad baseball. Ultimately, I think there’s a feeling of disappointment that they left the city.

As I looked at the card of “Bucketfoot Al,” I saw that the photo was from 1924 which was Simmons first season in the majors, essentially it his rookie card. He’s 22 years old and has a look in his eyes of a life full of possibility. It’s like the line from the movie “Field of Dreams,” when Ray Kinsella sees his father as a young catcher and says, “He has his whole life in front of him.”

You wonder what Simmons is thinking, does he feel like he can become a star play or is he just hoping to hold on for a few years before he gets on with his life’s work.

 

The Conlon Collection Project: Part 2

The Conlon Collection Project series continues with Part 2, a collection of five stories based on cards selected by our writers.  Over the next several weeks we will present different writers and different stories.

This week’s installment includes stories on Conlon figures: Hack Wilson by Jennifer Hurtarte; Joe Giard by Jim Hoffman; Lyn Lary by Jonathan Daniel; Sam Rice by Josh Mathes; and Benny Bengough by Keith Pennington.

If missed the incredible story of the origins of the Conlon Collection by Steve Gietschier, be sure to check out: https://sabrbaseballcards.blog/2017/11/27/the-conlon-collection-project-intro/

Enjoy!

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Hack Wilson

PLAYER:          Hack Wilson

CARD #:           29

AUTHOR:        Jennifer Hurtarte

Hack Wilson was a Chicago Cub, which is the primary reason I chose him. However, another reason is that I have a promotional picture for Diamonds in the Rough with Wilson posing next to Radio Flyer wagons hanging on my bedroom wall. (It was inside the copy of Diamonds that I checked out from the Chicago Public Library many years ago and I thought it was cool, so I kept it. Please don’t tell anyone at CPL. J)

Wilson’s card makes me feel wistful, but it also reminds me why I love baseball. I am fascinated by history, and baseball’s rich history is probably the main reason I came to love it so much. This card makes me want to go back in time to see all the great players of the 1920s and 30s. Although he’s in the Hall of Fame and still holds the NL RBI record, I don’t think Wilson is as well-known as he should be. Perhaps he would have been remembered as one of the greats if his career (and life) hadn’t been cut short by alcoholism.

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Joe Giard

PLAYER:          Joe Giard

CARD #:           119

AUTHOR:        Jim Hoffman

Joe Giard of the 1927 Yankees is depicted on card 119 in the Conlon Collection set.  I prefer Conlon’s portrait images, and Giard is an interesting subject.  He’s smiling in this shot.  He seems confident and approachable.  His Yankees cap is pristine and fits perfectly on his head.  His eyes are clear and his eyebrows full.  His facial features remind me of my wife’s long passed Italian relatives, and in Giard, I feel their welcome and genuine sense of family.  It’s a flattering image of a man in his prime.

Still, the lines on Giard’s face make him appear 15 years older than he is here, in his late twenties.  1920s America was harder on the body, with alcohol, tobacco & environmental pollutants.  Personal training and nutrition were primitive.  All the players in this set appear older than they were.  We romanticize about the era, but it had to have been a more difficult life.  Still, Giard smiles.  He’s probably the least consequential member of one of the most consequential teams in history.  He only made it into 16 games all year, with a 0-0 record.  All the games had been decided when they called on him.  I wonder if he got tired of talking about Ruth and Gehrig, Hoyt, Lazzeri, Pennock and Miller Huggins.  What would it be like to be part of greatness, but almost all of it as a spectator?  But the stories he could tell.  And it looks like he’d be happy to tell them.

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Lyn Lary

PLAYER:          Lary Lyn

CARD #:           318

AUTHOR:        Jonathan Daniel

He’s 29 but he looks older. Much older.

Lyn Lary has the look of someone who has worked hard his entire life. He’s from Armona, CA, a town I know nothing about. But in my mind, Lyn Lary played baseball to escape Armona and make a better life for himself.

The main reason I chose Lary is that I’d never heard of him before and those players interest me. Who were they? How did they get to the big leagues? What did they do after they retired? Writing about the other players in my pack of cards like Al Simmons, Hack Wilson and Honus Wagner would be “easier,” but my preconceptions would bleed through. Choosing a player who was anonymous, at least to me, allowed me to focus on the image rather than the player and that’s what drew me in.

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Sam Rice

PLAYER:          Sam Rice

CARD #:           54

AUTHOR:        Josh Mathes

There are just a few things that have stayed almost exactly the same since before there was even one World War in the history books, let alone two.

I couldn’t travel back to our nation’s capital in 1916 and have a meaningful conversation with Sam Rice about too many things. We’d have no common background to discuss food, travel, or politics. We both grew up in the rural Midwest, so I suppose we could talk about the hot, humid summers or October leaves. But the vast majority of my experience in 21st century America would make no sense to Sam.  But we could have a catch.

He’d whip the ball to me the same way my dad and uncles did on summer weekend afternoons. The sound of the ball sailing through the air and smacking our leather gloves would be the same whether I went to Griffith Stadium or he came to a ballpark with a name like Guaranteed Rate, Globe Life, or SunTrust.

The world was bigger then. The ballparks, too. Sam played 20 seasons of big league ball and only hit a pitch over the fence 13 times. He had more home run sprints than trots (21 inside-the-park homers) and used the massive Griffith Stadium outfield to rack up 184 triples. Parks were built then to fit into their surrounding areas, not the other way around. Exit velocity and launch angle don’t matter as much when the left field pole is more than 400 feet away. So, although Sam would’ve recognized the basics of the game, as a guy who struck out about twice a month, he might be amused at the all-or-nothing approach of today’s hitters.

Throwing a baseball back and forth, though, getting ready to play the game, would feel the same no matter the time.

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Benny Bengough

PLAYER:          Benny Bengough

CARD #:           103

AUTHOR:        Keith Pennington

After looking through my pack of Conlon cards a couple of times, one card seemed to stand out to me.  It is a card of New York Yankees and St. Louis Browns catcher Benny Bengough. There was something about his look and his very slight smile.  He has very clear cool eyes and he just seemed to have an aura of peace and satisfaction to his smile.  Also, he looked current.  Like someone who could be working with me or that I knew today.  He did not look dated.

But again, it was the eyes that drew me back. The only thing I really knew about Benny was that he was on card #1 in the 1933 Goudey baseball set.  Aside from that, nothing.  I read the back of the card to learn about Benny and found out that he played on the 1927 Yankees (1923 through 1930, in fact).

Amazingly, in 1926, Benny was hitting an unbelievable .381 in 36 games, but was sidelined by a broken arm after being hit by a pitch.  He played six years after that but did not again come close to that previous success.  He also did not hit a home run in the majors.

Looking at his stats really made me wonder when the picture was taken: before or after the injury.  Is he is smiling because of a bright future ahead or is it a wistful smile at what might have been or a smile of contentment regardless of his circumstances, or a smile of knowing he was playing with some of the best baseball players and arguably on the best team of all time.

I don’t know.  But it was the smile and the eyes that led me to select this card.

The Conlon Collection Project: Part I

On November 27, I introduced the Conlin Collection Project.  This is Part 1 of a the resulting series of articles.

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George Burns

PLAYER:               George Burns

CARD #:               309

AUTHOR:             Alex Diaz

 

After opening the pack, I realized that many players took their photos without smiling, simply looking serious. Some players turned away from the camera. However, Mr. Burns did not. He looked right into the camera and purely smiled. His joy can be felt as soon as you see the card. If Mr. Burns was with us today, I believe this is what he will say: For the love of the game.

Every day, I button up the rough uniform, put on the old hat, and do what I love most, play baseball. Truth is, at the end of the day, baseball is a game. Nothing more, nothing less. What many people don’t realize is that life is a game, too. Sometimes you might hit a single and have everyone cheer for you. Sometimes you might hit a grounder and have everyone dislike you. Sometimes you might hit a homerun and feel like king of the world. While sometimes you might strikeout with bases loaded at the bottom of the ninth and cry yourself to sleep. You don’t know what each trip to the plate will bring to you, just like you don’t know what life will bring your way.

 

Life is a game, and I love to play it.

 

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Mel Almada

PLAYER:          Mel Almada

CARD #:           234

AUTHOR:        Anthony Salazar

 

By 1936, Almada was a 23-year-old veteran, having spent over three seasons with the Boston Red Sox.  He had performed fairly well with the club, appearing in 151 games the year before, sporting a .290 batting average with 176 hits.  In 1936, his batting verage would fall to .253.  I think the card reflects some of the intensity he was looking to re-capture from previous seasons.  Unfortunately, he would be traded from Boston to the Washington Senators the following season.

The card shows Almada in an away jersey, playing probably in Yankee Stadium against the Bronx Bombers.  He’s taking a few cuts before game time, probably awaiting his turn in the batting cages.  The away jersey is gray, though the stirrups are mostly red with blue and white stripes of different widths.  Of course, I’m looking at a black and white photo, but thanks to the Baseball Hall of Fame’s “Dressed to the Nines” online color exhibit, the 1936 stirrups are easy to tell.

Mel, or really, Baldomero Melo (Quiros) Almada, a native of northern Mexico, grew up in Los Angeles, and later spent a couple of seasons with the Seattle Indians (1932-33), playing with his brother, Lou.  I was excited to see his card, because I identified with him in a number of areas.  My family hails from northern Mexico, and settled in Los Angeles.  As I am based in Seattle, the Almada brothers are two of the early pioneers of Latinos in Seattle baseball history that I have admired.  It’s unfortunate that his career was not more widely known outside the Boston area.  I am glad, however, that Almada is featured in a great SABR Biography.

 

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Bob O'Farrell

PLAYER:               Bob O’Farrell

CARD #:               175

AUTHOR:             Chris Dial

 

My favorite part of the Conlon Collection is that there are photos of everyone. No need to be a star; it’s as if Conlon’s entire thought was towards baseball cards. In this pack, it’s a leisurely stroll – which player do I know the least about? Which ones are the most obscure? Or who is the most famous player that is “uncommon”?

One such player that came up was Bob O’Farrell, the catcher for the 1926 St. Louis Cardinals. I’d never heard of him. I know all his teammates – Rogers Hornsby, Sunny Jim Bottomley, Billy Southworth.  Even more from playing Diamond Mind, I knew of Les Bell, Taylor Douthit, and Ray Blades.  This card said even more – O’Farrell was the National League’s Most Valuable Player.  He caught nearly every game, and posted a 112 OPS+.

The most amazing part of learning O’Farrell’s name, and then going to Baseball-Reference.com and reading his career stats, was the light bulb that turned on: O’Farrell was a key actor in one of the most famous moments in World Series history.  He was the catcher that threw out Babe Ruth trying to steal to end the 1926 World Series. A piece of trivia I have bantered about for most of my life, and I never knew who the catcher was until this pack of cards.

 

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Johnny Evers

PLAYER:          Johnny Evers

CARD #:           15

AUTHOR:        Craig Hardee

 

“Tinker to Evers to Chance” is the classic phrase that describes the Chicago Cubs infield of the early 1900’s. But the Johnny Evers card of the Conlon collection pictures him in a Boston Braves uniform in 1929.

By then, Evers was 47 years old, and had not played major league baseball since 1922, when he appeared in one game for the Chicago White Sox. His last significant action was in 1917, when he split the season between the Philadelphia Phillies and the Boston Braves.  Evers appeared in one game for the Boston Braves in 1929, on October 6, 1929. He’s not listed as a coach or manager of the Braves that year.

A mystery? Perhaps the Braves signed him so he could retire as a Boston Brave. He was a member of the Braves in 1914, when the Miracle Braves went from last place on July 4 to win the World Series. He was the National League MVP that year.

The back of the card reveals that Evers had two nicknames: “Crab” and “Trojan.” He was on the small side, listed at 5’9” and 125 lbs. To compare, the Yankees Aaron Judge is almost a foot taller than Evers was, and is more than twice Evers’ weight.

Evers was elected to the Baseball Hall of Fame in 1946, shortly before his death in 1947.

 

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Chief Bender

PLAYER:          Chief Bender

CARD #:           20

AUTHOR:        Dawn Gibson

 

There are certain players in the big league whose smiles shine as bright as the sun. Many of these men are the beloved bearers of a poetic athleticism that blends the bashing of balls with the graceful maneuvers of ballet. Baseball is a beautiful game.  Baseball is all encompassing, from the ace on the mound to the dreamers looking down at the game play from their seats in the stands. One is not indifferent to baseball. Either you love baseball, or you do not. Baseball is simple that way. When the gods play ball, we cheer with a hope and a joy that that unites the fans with the players, and when our heroes laugh, kid, and smile for all to see, we smile in return. Smiles are the knowing winks that fans and players alike use to confess their love of the game.

Mr. Cub, Ernie Banks, had that smile. I cannot look at a baseball card of Ernie Banks and not smile. The Conlon Collection has a card bearing one of these glories of baseball.  Chief Bender, who in 1926, was a coach for the Chicago White Sox.  Bender was born of Chippewa blood in 1884, the same year that a US Supreme Court decision declared Native Americans ineligible to vote because they were not considered to be citizens of the United States. In 1919, women were afforded the right to vote. It would be another five years before the US Congress finally ‘granted’ citizenship to all Native Americans, clearing the way for Native Americans to become part of the voting population. However, it wasn’t until 1956 that all states complied with voter rights laws.

Chief Bender died in 1954, one year after his induction into the Baseball Hall of Fame. As a Native American, he faced the adversities of that era of US history, and he overcame them. He overcame them with a heart for baseball and as a big league pitcher with a career 2.46 ERA. Baseball is an exquisite equalizer.  It gave an outcast in his own homeland the chance to excel and become one of the best baseball players in history.  It warms the heart to see a challenge fiercely met and conquered. Done so with a smile to prove there is indeed something deeply beautiful about the game of baseball. Wink.

 

NEXT WEEK: PART 2