Monday, August 3, 2015

Winchester, Va., recognized in Civil War News custom card

On July 11, I presented my Civil War News custom card (see that post for background). At the time I undertook the project, I intended that it would be my only custom in the format of that 1962 Topps issue.

I enjoyed the process so much, however, that I immediately dove into another. I didn't really know anything about the Battle(s) of Winchester, but while searching for Civil War art, I had found a painting, "Especially for You," by genre master Mort Kunstler that "spoke" to me as a natural for a CWN card.

Once again, let me refer you to someone more qualified to present the history behind the card:

Winchester in the Civil War

As is the case with my University Greys custom card, I'm not offering my Victory Parade custom for sale, but I wanted to share it here.

Given my lifelong interest in the Civil War, and the cornucopia of wonderful Civil War art, I could easily create enough new CWN cards to match the original Topps 88, but at this juncture, I believe I'm going to cease working in that format, with the exception of one more card that will be forthcoming.

Saturday, August 1, 2015

Pierce's death brings '52T survivors to 49

On June 10, this blog featured a necrology of the players (and managers and coaches) who had appeared in the iconic 1952 Topps set.

On that date, there were 50 surviving players. Now there are 49.

Long-time Chicago White Sox left-handed ace Billy Pierce died Friday, July 31, at the age of 88.

Here's the current roster of surviving subjects from 1952 Topps.

Tuesday, July 28, 2015

Former MLB pitcher Elliott part of lynch mob

Uncommon commons: In more than 30 years in sportscards publishing I have thrown hundreds of notes into files about the players – usually non-star players – who made up the majority of the baseball and football cards I collected as a kid. Today, I keep adding to those files as I peruse microfilms of The Sporting News from the 1880s through the 1960s. I found these tidbits brought some life to the player pictures on those cards. I figure that if I enjoyed them, you might too.

 In 1943 former major league pitcher Jim (Jumbo) Elliott was indicted in the lynching of a black man. The story has similarities to events in the news in recent years.

A brief in the “Caught on the Fly” column of the July 22, 1943, issue of The Sporting News, reported . . .

          James (Jumbo Jim) Elliott, former pitcher with the Browns, Dodgers, Phillies and Braves, who made his last Organized Baseball appearance with the Indianapolis American Association Indians in 1936, was one of 13 named in an indictment in East St. Louis, Ill., July 14, in connection with the killing of a Negro by a mob near Paris, Ill., last Oct. 12. The victim, James Edward Person, 33-year-old former soldier, is alleged to have been shot to death by a posse which pursued him across the Indiana-Illinois state line after residents of Vigo County, Indiana, had been aroused by circulation of false rumors concerning him. Elliott was a deputy sheriff of Vigo County when the killing took place.

Person’s lynching was immediately precipitated by a complaint by a local woman who told the sheriff that she had been “bothered” by a black man who had come to her back door looking for work or a handout.

Person, from Somerville, Tenn., was an honorably discharged veteran who was said to have been living in the woods in the vicinity of the Indiana-Illinois border. He was reported to have upset a number of white families in the area (the area was all-white) by peering into windows.

Vigo County Sheriff James Trierweiler formed a posse including some deputies and nine local farmers and set out in pursuit of Person. According to the federal indictment, the sheriff authorized the posse to shoot Person on sight.

Spotted on the Indiana side of the border, shots were fired and it was believed Person had been hit, but he continued his flight and crossed over into Illinois.

The vigilantes again caught up to Person as he was standing in a farmyard, eating a turnip and talking to the farmer. The posse pulled up in two cars and piled out. The farmer advised Person not to run, but he took off towards the woods and was cut down in a hail of bullets. There was no indication he was armed at the time.

Of the 13 men indicted by the federal grand jury on a charge of conspiring to deprive Person of his civil rights, nine stood trial. Each pleaded nolo contendere and was fined $200 and court costs. The Vigo County sheriff, two deputies (one was Elliott) and a retired deputy were not tried, as they had not been at the scene of the actual shooting.

The $200 fine handed down seems like a slap on the wrist for cold-blooded killing, and it was. However, according to contemporary accounts, at that time the maximum penalty on the federal charge was a $1,000 fine and/or a year in prison.

Elliott had played his first pro ball at Terre Haute, the Vigo County seat, between 1921-25. In 1925 he’d led the Three-I League with a 25-8 record. He went up to the Pacific Coast League for 1926 where he won 26.

In 1923 he’d played one game with the St. Louis Browns in 1923, and three with Brooklyn in 1925. When he returned to Brooklyn in 1927 he remained for four seasons.

Elliott was traded to the Phillies in the 1930 post-season in deal that brought Lefty O’Doul to the Robins. In 1931 he led the National League with 19 wins.
The Phils sold him to the Braves early in 1934 and he was, in turn, purchased by Atlanta of the Southern Association in mid-June.

He finished the 1934 season with Columbus in the American Association and ended his playing days with Indianapolis.

After retiring from baseball at age 35, Elliott had settled in Terre Haute, Ind., where he owned an automobile garage. In 1941 he was appointed as a deputy sheriff in Vigo Co.

Elliott served for 25 years, rising to the rank of chief deputy. In 1968 he ran for sheriff of Vigo County as a Democrat. His opponent was former college, Olympic and NBA basketball star Clyde Lovellette, on the Republican ticket. The race attracted special interest because of the size of the candidates; Elliott was 6’3”, 250 lbs., Lovellette was 6’10”, 235 lbs. Lovellette won the election.

Elliott died in 1970. His only mainstream baseball card was in the 1933 Goudey set.

Friday, July 24, 2015

Custom card: 1976 Topps Mark Fidrych

The most newsworthy newcomer in baseball in 1976 was Mark Fidrych. At age 21, he burst onto the scene with a 19-9 record, league-leading 2.34 ERA, an All-Star berth, AL Rookie of the Year honors and second place in the Cy Young voting to Jim Palmer. He brought some color to the game and attracted legions of fans.

I wasn't following baseball or buying baseball cards in '76, but I couldn't escape the media frenzy that accompanied every outing of "The Bird" in his rookie season.

You can't blame Topps for not including Fidrych in its 1976 set. He was only in his third year of professional ball and the Tigers had been searching for his role, reliever or starter, as Fidrych had been searching for control.

The only baseball cards issued of Fidrych in 1976 were some Mike Schecter Associates discs.

I like working in the 1976-Topps format, so when one of the followers of my custom card making suggested  creating a '76T Fidrych, it seemed like a good idea.

For as hot as Fidrych was in the early years of his all-too-brief career, I was surprised to find there really aren't a lot of suitable color photos that match the "look" of a 1976 Topps Tigers card. I tried half a dozen before determining to go with what you see here.

You can purchase this card. You can obtain a copy of this (or any of my custom cards) for $12.50 each, postpaid, or $9.95 each for three or more. E-mail me at for ordering details. Illustrated lists of all my available custom baseball, football and non-sports cards can be found on my blog posts of June 14, 2015. 

Monday, July 20, 2015

Remembering 1964 Coke football caps

After going through all the effort to "hook" a cap from a
Coke machine's gizzard with a magnet. It sucked to find a
Viking instead of a Packer.

While reading microfilm of 1964 Sporting News recently, I found a short article that brought back childhood memories -- NFL Coke caps.

I didn't make note of which issue this appeared in, but here's what TSN had to say . . . 

Save the Bottle Cap, Kids;
Find Picture Underneath

               Something new is going on with the bubble-gum and Coke crowd.
            The junior sports executives who can so casually trade Mickey Mantle for Willie Mays in straight player deals are branching out. Any day now, Y.A. Tittle may go even up for Jimmy Brown.
            Where it used to be Topps, now it has also become tops.
            The Same wheeler-dealers who have been having fun trading Topps bubble-gum cards, now can trade for a new kind of tops—Coke tops, that is.
            Starting with the new pro football season, the fad for your lad will be “stocking caps.” Not the kind you pull down over your ears for those wintry days at the local pigskin palace, but the kind that adorns the top of your Coca-Cola bottle.
            In a “Go With the Pros” promotion, the Coca-Cola company hopes to start a new national collecting mania wherein pictures of players in both the National and American Football Leagues will appear under the bottle crowns.
            There will be more than 900 pictures, and local bottlers will offer various prizes for complete collections. The youngsters will be given charts to fill in all players on teams in their areas, depending on whether they live in NFL or AFL territory. For others who do not live in professional football areas, there will be all-star sets.
            It’s enough to make a youngster flip his lid.
            Or snap his cap.
            Or maybe even pop his top.

I was 13 years old when the Coke football bottle caps were introduced. I had pretty much abandoned card collecting by then, but I liked the caps and made an effort to collect them.

I suppose Coke was a dime a bottle back then . . . too expensive for me to buy many bottles of pop just for the caps. 

However, I soon figured out a way to score the caps without buying the bottles. 

Most of the neighborhood grocery stores -- there was one about every two or three blocks -- in those days had a pop machine out front, usually a Coke vendor.

When you opened a bottle of pop with the opener on the front of the machine, the cap fell down a chute and was collected in a bin below. I spent a lot of time that autumn "fishing" the caps out of the machines.

By tying a string between the legs of a plastic Scottie dog magnet, I could lower the magnet into the cap chute and pull up the caps one or two at a time. The weight of the magnet beneath the dog's feet allowed it to drop fairly straight, though you had to be careful to keep it centered so the magnet wouldn't stick to the sides of the chute.

I amassed a goodly trove of those football caps, concentrating, of course on Green Bay Packers. I don't recall now whether I had a complete team set. I also don't remember having a cap-saver sheet, though I'm sure they were available free for asking at the store's front counter.

Looking at images of the sheets, I see that complete 93-cap collections could be redeemed at local bottling plants for such prizes as a team bobblehead doll, a large pennant with team photo, a coach's cap or, for five sets, an "autographed football."

In recent years I've thought a time or two about starting a new collection of those Coke caps, since they are widely available on eBay and the original saver sheets are also seen there. However, I'm trying hard to divest myself of my sports "stuff," so I guess I'll resist that urge.

Tuesday, July 14, 2015

1964 Auravision records were kids' party favor at Mays' house party

When the unsold hoard of 1964 Auravision records was dispersed into the hobby in the early 1970s, it was believed that the Willie Mays record was scarcer than the other 15 players in the issue.

With the advent of eBay, we now know that the scarcity is more perception than reality, but it is a bit of hobby lore that persists to some degree.

An article in the March 2, 1965, issue of The Sporting News offered a glimpse into what may or may not be a disparity in surviving numbers of the Auravision discs.

Headlined “Small Fry Load Up on Cake, Ice Cream at Willie’s Party,” the boxed feature was written by Art Rosenbaum of the San Francisco Chronicle.

The article, in its entirety, follows . . .

Willie Mays gave a block party for the neighborhood kids on February 16. The invitation list was provided by the Forest Hills Improvement Association and some of the parents came to pay their respects to the Giants’ star.
“We took the group from the three blocks around my new house,” said Willie. Then he looked at the growing crowd. “I guess the others just came.”
Each guest received a Willie Mays color-picture recording, an autograph and all the punch, potato chips, cake and ice cream it was possible to eat. The cake was decorated on top like a baseball diamond with toy baseball players.
One family, the Labaughs, contributed nine children of all sizes.
“These kids,” Mays added, pointing around the room, “didn’t come to see me. They came to eat.”
            He wasn’t too far off base. His friend, Robbie, in charge of refreshments, reported six jumbo-sized bags of potato chips had suddenly disappeared. Another emergency developed; a full punch bowl of ice cream had quickly become an empty bowl.
            Willie’s decorator-plus home was not harmed, though the gold carpet may need extra cleaning from spilled cake and bubble gum. The children were well-dressed and well-behaved. They seemed impressed, but not very awed, by the Great Mays.
            One brash youngster, a boy named Jimmy, didn’t seem awed at the carpet. “Not a bad pad you got here, Willie,” he said.

An article in the August, 1963, issue of Ebony magazine said that about 75 children attended the TSN-referenced party. The article offered a color pictorial tour of the home.

 That gold carpet that Rosenbaum detailed had been mentioned in an earlier TSN article about Mays’ new home on Mendosa Avenue in what writer Jack McDonald called “the fashionable Forest Hill district.”

According to McDonald, the nine-room home into which Mays moved had cost the Giants’ star $90,000. Mays could afford it; he was about to sign his 1963 contact that would make him the fourth $100,000 player in baseball history, joining Ted Williams, Joe DiMaggio and Stan Musial at that exalted salary level. Mickey Mantle joined the $100,000 club a few weeks later.

McDonald added, “Willie did all the furnishing himself. He picked out every piece of furniture and every picture on the walls.  Everything is in excellent taste.” Mays told the writer, “I felt everything should be something I really wanted to live with. So when I went shopping and saw something I liked, I bought it.”

Here’s how McDonald described Mays’ home . . .

            All the pieces blend beautifully. The living room drapes alone cost $3,000. His white-walled living room with $25 per square foot gold carpeting looks out on a breathless panorama that takes in the Golden Gate Bridge, Sutro Forest, Twin Peaks, St. Francis Wood and Angel Island.
            A circular marble living room coffee table with gold legs is set off with an attention-commanding burnished gold lion’s head. There’s a pleasant gas-log fireplace and plenty of conveniently placed ash trays.
            A circular staircase, leading off the living room to the garage below, allows him to get to his lime-green 1962 Eldorado convertible almost as quickly as if he slid down a fireman’s pole.
            This dining room, done in French Provincial, has a circular table and his white Ransfil china plates have gold rims and are monogrammed ‘WM’ in engraved Old English. The insignia also decorates his wine goblets and the glass doors of the showers in his three bathrooms, taps of which are gold plated.
            Willie has five phones in the house, and four TVs, one a $900 color set. The three others are portables. His bedroom has a king-sized bed. ‘I like plenty of room to thrash around,’ he said. A closet, running over 20 feet, the length of the bedroom, holds his many sports jackets and other wearing apparel.
            There is a glass-walled billiard room and an alcove he uses to house his many trophies. The den has a small library. ‘I’m a newspaper and magazine reader, not a book lover,’ Willie explained. The books are confined to an Encyclopedia set, a Bible and a new-style abridged Webster dictionary.
            Though Willie lives alone, except for a maid who comes in days to tidy up and make the beds, his place doesn’t have a ‘bachelor’ look’.
            Why does he need nine rooms? He’s not a party-thrower. His idea of a good time is to have a few friends drop in for a game of cards, four-handed whist, bridge or gin rummy. Does he play poker? ‘Once in a great while,’ he said. ‘But Alvin Dark doesn’t like it.’ Willie has a well-stocked locker, with Scotch, bourbon, vodka and gin. He never drinks himself but likes to pour for guests.


Saturday, July 11, 2015

Yes, that is a Confederate flag on my Civil War News custom

Back on Dec. 18-20, 2014 on my blog I presented a pair of Civil War-themed custom cards in the format of the 1955 Topps Rails and Sails bubblegum card set.

At that time I mentioned that I had plans for a custom card in the style of the 1962 Topps Civil War News set.

Months passed and that project got put on the back burner.

Recent events, however, have spurred me to action. I present herewith my CWN custom, a tribute the University Greys of Ole Miss.

When I first heard the story of that unit, I was deeply moved.

When Mississippi became the second state to secede from the Union, on Jan. 9, 1861, the students at the University of Mississippi, along with many of their professors, left school and formed Company A of the 11th Mississippi Infantry Regiment.

The back of my card offers few more details, and you can spend days on the internet  studying the unit's participation in the war.

The patriotic spirit of the student-soldiers from Ole Miss is exemplified in a surviving letter home from one of Company A's casualties.

It is preserved in John Cofield's blog entry on, linked here:

A rebel's last words

As a child collecting Civil War News cards in 1962, I couldn't intelligently discuss the whys and wherefores of the war; I still can't. Suffice it to say that I was--and am--an admirer of the common man who took ups arms to defend what has been romanticized as the Lost Cause.

I have no illusions that the University Greys were the "common man" of 1860s Mississippi. The college students would have certainly been among the slave-holding aristocracy, but they were willing to fight and die for their beliefs. 

And that's all I'm going to say about the current politicization of certain symbols of Southern heritage.

Aw, hell. That's not all I'm going to say.

If that peckerwood had posted internet photos of himself holding the U.S. flag before he desecrated that church would there be an outcry to banish it? Or would the pointy-headed liberals find another pretense to reinterpret and demonize Southern history? Is what the Neo-Reconstructionists are doing any different than Isis's campaign to obliterate what it feels are politically incorrect historic sites and relics in the Mideast and Africa?

Once the Confederate battle flag has been removed from all government properties, will the bronze statues be toppled? Will bodies be exhumed from National cemeteries? There are already reports of Confederate soldiers' headstones being broken or defaced with graffiti. Will the playing of Dixie be outlawed?

Where does it end?

How divisive and/or violent will the inevitable backlash be?

Because my Civil War News custom card uses an original painting, "Imperishable Glory," by noted Gettysburg artist Dale Gallon, I will not be offering it for sale.