Monday, July 6, 2015

Anson's '84 contract once offered to fund VA tix

Something I learned while reading back issues of The Sporting News for 1964 is that for a time at the end of the season, the Cleveland Indians were making noises about leaving Cleveland and their cavernous home at Municipal Field where they had played most of their home games that season to crowds averaging 8,065, about 10.5% of capacity.

The most serious suitor was Seattle, but the team was also being wooed by Oakland and Dallas.

Predictably the fan base, and everybody else in town who benefited from big league baseball there, rallied to convince ownership that the city could still support the team.

One facet of the effort was a drive to sell season tickets.

In the Nov. 4, 1964, issue, TSN reported on one fan who was offering to sell what today would be a five-figure bit of baseball history in support of the ticket drive.

The article was headlined, “Fan Offers to Sell ’84 Anson Pact, / Donate Tribe Ducats to VA Patients”.

In its entirety, the piece read . . .

CLEVELAND, O.—During the “Save the Indians” campaign, a Tribe fan offered for sale the original 1884 Chicago Cub contract signed by Cap Anson, with the money to be used to buy 1965 season tickets for patients of the Veterans Hospital here.
            The valuable document belongs to Raymond J. Carson, who operates his own insurance agency in Cleveland. Carson’s brother, Thomas, was married to the widow of Bert Briggs, a teammate of Anson.
            Briggs died in 1910 and his wife Bridgett, kept the contract until her death in 1953. It was then passed along to Carson, who is still willing to sell it—and still anxious to use the money for tickets for Indians’ games next year.
            Anyone interested in buying the collector’s item should contact Carson at [street address redacted], Cleveland, O.

The article did not speculate on the value of the Anson contract.

As usual in such cases, the team wasn’t really looking to accept the blandishments of major league wanna-be municipalities, but rather to squeeze the current home town – and its taxpayers – for a better deal.

In exchange for staying on the Cleveland reservation, the Indians got a new 10-year lease that called for a reduction in Stadium rent from seven percent of gross receipts to six percent.

The team also got a $32,500 annual credit to pay approximately two-thirds of the Indians’ costs in hiring special help (off-duty police etc.).

The city also kicked in with Stadium improvements including a new press box, new and added seating with rearrangement of the box seats, refurbished rest rooms, improved inside and outside lighting, an escalator, hard-surfacing of the parking lot and construction of a Stadium Club.

At the time the new lease arrangement was approved in mid-October the season-ticket sales campaign had raised over half a million dollars in just four days. TSN reported that was the equivalent of 2,750 season tickets, compared to the 1,925 sold for the 1964 season. The goal had been 4,500 season tickets.

When the Dec. 1 ticket-campaign deadline arrived, the sponsoring Greater Cleveland Growth Board and Chamber of Commerce announced that its $900,000 goal had been exceeded by $5,051.

Attendance did improve in 1965, to 934,786, an average of about 11,541, an improvement of about 43%.

I never saw a follow-up to indicate whether the Anson contract was sold, or for how much.

A 1918-dated signed Anson vaudeville contract has been making the rounds of hobby auction houses for much of the past decade. It sold in 2006 for $2,039, brought $2,937.50 in 2008 and $3,120 in 2012. A similar contract, dated 1917, sold at auction for $3,230 in 2013.

Because of its specific baseball connection, the 1884 Chicago contract would do considerably better in a sale today. In 2013, Robert Edward Auctions sold an 1883 Chicago White Stockings payment voucher signed by Anson for $8,888.

In 1884, Anson's team finished fifth in the eight-team National League. Anson batted .335 and led the league with 102 RBIs.

Friday, July 3, 2015

1963 Jell-O Mantle remake . . . and a Pete Rose

Yesterday I presented the first of a new genre for me . . . custom re-creations of 1963 Jell-O baseball card boxes.

Today I'm sharing the other two that I've done.

The first is a revision to the original Jell-O Mickey Mantle card.

The format and graphics are the same as an original (and as my reprint), but the card photo has been changed. I've dropped in the Mick's image from the in-store display materials used back in 1963. The unmistakable Yankee Stadium upper-deck facade and the brighter pose seem like an upgrade from the original Jell-O version.

Just for variety, I also changed the "flavor" of my Mantle 2.0 box from strawberry to black raspberry.

My third custom 1963 Jell-O baseball card box adds a player to the original line-up . . . a rookie Pete Rose. Just for the heck of it.

I'm not currently planning any more 1963 Jell-O box cards, but may reconsider if a high-res scan of the large "2c OFF" marked box or a 3-oz. box becomes available to me.

You can purchase this card. You can obtain a copy of either of my 1963 Mickey Mantle Jell-O boxes or my Pete Rose for $12.50, each.postpaid. You can get all three for $29.85. 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.

Thursday, July 2, 2015

There's always room for more Jell-O (cards)

Regular followers of my blog know that I recently completed the first phase of custom card creations related to the Post cereal box-back cards of 1961-63.

You can see what was accomplished by scrolling back to my April 24 posting (1961), May 15 (1963) and June 1 (1962).

Today I'm unveiling a spin-off . . . a re-creation of a 1963 Jell-O box.

For many years I had in my collection a never-used 1963 Jell-O "flat" of Frank Lary on a 6-oz. strawberry box. Before selling it recently, I made a high-res scan that I could use as the basis for some new creations.

I started with reproducing -- sort of -- the original 1963 Jell-O Mickey Mantle. I say "sort of" because my Mantle is actually a re-creation. 

If I could have gotten a high-res scan of an original card, I would have done so, but my efforts were unavailing. So I did my best to replicate the format and typography of an original, and dropped in the best scan I could find on the internet of the Mantle pose. 

I'm happy with the work I did on re-doing the typography. Only a really dedicated '63J collector would be likely to spot the subtle differences, and probably only then by having a real card to compare side-by-side.

Because my box so closely parallels the genuine  1963 product. I've added a discrete 2015 copyright notice.

As the culmination of the Jell-O box project, I printed out the complete box, attached it to card stock closely approximating the original, and got out my X-Acto knife and double-sided tape.

Being a past master in the art of box folding from decades of forming up card boxes and USPS Priority Mail boxes, I wanted to see if I could do a creditable job of cutting and pasting my Mantle flat into a 3-D presentation.

With the various fold lines clearly visible on the sheet, the job turned out to be easier than I had dreaded. By scoring the back of the cardboard with my blade, I was able to make generally crisp folds .A torn seam that manifests itself in the lower-left corner of the box back is evidence that I had done a good -- but not a great -- job.

I finished the project by inserting a package of strawberry Jell-O from a current package into my retro box. It gives the newly created box a pleasing heft and sound. 

While I will be offering my complete-box panels to collectors, I won't be offering my origami skills. Those who want to make a box will have to undertake the construction themselves.

Check back tomorrow and you can see my revised version of a 1963 Jell-O Mickey Mantle box and a box for a player who did not make the cut in 1963.

You can purchase this card. You can obtain a copy of my 1963 Mickey Mantle Jell-O reprint box for $12.50, postpaid. 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.

Tuesday, June 30, 2015

'Bama booter Tim Davis added to '55AA customs

As an Ole Miss fan I don't go out of my way to add to my All-American-style customs players who were nemeses of the Rebels.

Because he was such a great college and AFL player, with an interesting post-pigskin career, it wasn't too hard to make a Billy Cannon yard 10 years ago.

Now I've created a card for 1961-63 Alabama placekicker Tim Davis. 

Truthfully, until I read about the 1964 Sugar Bowl in a January, 1964, issue of The Sporting News, I had never heard of Tim Davis. If you're also unfamiliar with Davis' big day, here's an excellent account.

1964 Sugar Bowl

A couple of points not made in that article were . . .

  • the Jan. 1, 1964 Sugar Bowl was the first meeting between Ole Miss and Alabama since 1944. Since they were both in the Southeastern Conference, I'm not sure why that was the case.
  • the three inches of wet snow that fell on New Orleans on New Year's Eve was the biggest snowfall there since 1895.
  • the teams went into the Sugar Bowl with undefeated (7-0-2) Mississippi ranked seventh in the nation and 8-2-0 Alabama ranked eighth.
  • in part because Joe Namath had been suspended in December for a team-rules infraction, Ole Miss was a 7-1/2 favorite.

Tim Davis was the first of four brothers who kicked field goals and PATs for Alabama. Tim scored 139 points for the Crimson Tide, 1961-63. Steve Davis scored 112 points, 1965-67, Bill was the team's kicker, 1971-73 and Mike booted for 'Bama in 1975.

All were sons of Alvin "Pig" Davis, who was the first player recruited by Bear Bryant when he became an assistant coach in 1936. Pig Davis was a fullback on 'Bama's 1938 Rose Bowl team. Besides the four football-playing sons, Pig sent another son, Robert, to Alabama, where he graduated in 1967 with the highest grade point average in the university's College of Arts and Sciences. All five of Pig's sons went on to become doctors of medicine or dentistry.

Tim Davis, like his brothers, played high school football at Columbus, Ga., with their father as head coach. He was a promising quarterback, but tore up a knee. He perfected his kicking game and with his father's advice to pick a school with formidable linemen, he accepted a scholarship to Alabama.

He was the placekicker on the 11-0-0 1961 Alabama National Championship team that outscored its regular-season opponents 287-22. On New Year's day, in 'Bama's 10-3 win over Arkansas, Davis set a Sugar Bowl record with a 32-yard field goal.  

Despite his record-breaking performance in the Sugar Bowl, and the fact that the NFL and AFL were in a bidding war for player talent, Davis was undrafted. He went to medical school and later formed a practice in Mobile, Ala., with his brother Mike.

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.

Sunday, June 28, 2015

Here's to Hornsby!

The more I read about Rogers Hornsby is the back issues of The Sporting News, the more I like him as an old-school ballplayer.

While perusing the Jan. 19, 1963, issue of TSN, I found several items that reinforced that image.

In an editorial in that issue, TSN said . . . 

Rogers Hornsby was tough, he was demanding. He was never schooled in the niceties of diplomacy. 
But it must be remembered that he not only was one of the game's greatest hitters, but a man who held baseball in such high esteem that he could not tolerate those who did not.

As an example of Hornsby's single-mindedness where baseball was concerned, the sporting paper described how he had blown off his mother's funeral to prepare for the World Series.

Hornsby's mother had died in Texas shortly after the Cardinals, whom he managed, had clinched the 1926 NL pennant in the East in the final week of the season. The World Series was scheduled to start the next week in Yankee Stadium. 

"I've got a job to do here," Hornsby explained, "getting this club primed for our games with the Yankees. Mother would have understood," he added. "She always stressed doing the job we had to do." 

The Cardinals split the first two games of the '26 Series at Yankee Stadium, then went on to win the World's Championship in seven games.

Such traits did not endear Hornsby to large segments of baseball's family. In 1924, the year he batted .424, Hornsby didn't even win the NL MVP Award.

That went to Dazzy Vance, who was 28-6 for the second-place Dodgers. 

Hornsby lost the MVP when Jack Ryder, Cincinnati's representative on the NL MVP Committee refused to name the Rajah on his ballot. "Hornsby is a Most Valuable Player to himself, not to his club," Ryder said. Besides the award, Hornsby lost out on a $1,000 cash prize, paid in gold coin.

Hornsby didn't mellow any when his days as a player and manager were over. 

At sprig training in St. Petersburg, Fla., in 1962, when Hornsby was a coach for the expansion N.Y. Mets, photographers tried to get a picture of him posing with baseball's new home run king, Roger Maris.

Maris refused to pose with Hornsby over comments Hornsby had made about Maris' .269 batting average while hitting 61 homers. Hornsby exploded, "That thick-skulled busher! There never was a time when he could have carried my bat."

Friday, June 26, 2015

Houston name change stymied Topps

Many baseball card collectors believe that potential litigation over the team nickname "Astros" resulted in Topps using the city name "HOUSTON" in the banner of the First Series of Astros cards in its 1965 set.

That wasn't the case at all. 

When the dome opened in 1965 the field was natural Bermuda grass blended for indoor use. When players complained that the semi-transparent Lucite panes that made up part of the done's ceiling made fielding difficult, they were painted over . . . and the grass died. Most of the 1965 season was played on painted dirt and dead grass.

The artificial surface was not laid until 1966, and then in stages, since supply of the material was tight. At that time, the product was named ChemGrass. It was soon rebranded as Astro Turf. If any litigation was forthcoming, it seems it would have been the team suing Monsanto, the turf's manufacturer.

In actuality, the fact that "HOUSTON" appeared on the First Series 1965 Topps cards stems from the fact that there WAS legal wrangling over the team name. The legal posturing, however, was between the team and Colt Firearm Co.

The nickname "Colt .45s" for the expansion Houston National League team had been the result of a "Name the Team" contest. Initially, the gun maker reportedly had no objection to the team using the name and a smoking six-shooter as its logo.

By 1964, however, Colt was voicing concerns about the team sub-licensing the name and logo to manufacturers of souvenirs and novelties. While it was no doubt couched in terms of "maintaining control, brand integrity, blah, blah, blah," it obviously came down to money; Colt wanted royalties.

Team president Judge Roy Hofheinz, being loath to give up the revenue or share the profits, decided he'd rather switch than fight. There was no fan contest this time. 

A couple of months after the end of the 1964 season, Hofheinz announced he was going to change the team nickname to Astros, in recognition of Houston's role as the hub of the U.S. space program. The 18-story, $24 million stadium subsequently dropped its original Harris County Dome name and adopted the Astrodome label to be in synch with its principal tenant.

A reported early favorite of Hofheinz' was "Stars," but local pundits felt it would be too pretentious a name for a team that didn't have any.The  Sporting News weighed in to suggest that the team revert to the nickname "Buffs," which had been used for Houston's American Association team for the three years prior to the N.L. expansion of 1962. Houston's minor league team had been known as the Buffaloes nearly every season between 1896-1958, which nickname was often affectionately shortened to "Buffs."

That change from Colt .45s to Astros came too late for Topps to reflect in its First Series 1965 cards, so the first five Astros cards (#16 Rookie Stars, #31 Mike White, #48 Claude Raymond, #80 Turk Farrell, and, #109 Walt Bond) are found with only "HOUSTON" on the banner at lower-left. Beginning with the Second Series, the banner was changed to read "HOUSTON / ASTROS", except on the later-series "Rookie Stars" cards, which continued to use the "HOUSTON" banner.

Another baseball card result of the name change is that there is no Houston team card in the 1965 Topps set. All the other 19 American and National League teams have a team card, but nothing for the Astros.

Wednesday, June 24, 2015

Former/future teammate owned Clemente

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. 

When the Pittsburgh Pirates bought Bob Purkey from the St. Louis Cardinals just prior to the opening of the 1966 season there was probably nobody happier to see him in the Bucs locker room than Roberto Clemente.

The two had been teammates on the Pirates from 1955-57, until Purkey was traded to Cincinnati in the off-season.

In his seven years with the Redlegs (1958-64) and one season with the Cardinals (1964), Purkey had been Clemente's nemesis.

Clemente faced Purkey 94 times in that span and was only able to hit .195 against him. Purkey threw Clemente an assortment of knuckle balls, sliders and curves that yielded only 17 hits, just three of them for extra bases (doubles). Clemente struck out nine times against Purkey and drew just five walks. Purkey plunked Clemente once.

Purkey had a decent major league career. He had a lifetime record of 129-115 with an ERA of 3.79. He was a three-time all-star with Cincinnati, in 1958, 1961 and 1962, when he led the N.L. in winning percentage with a 23-5 record.

He had signed with the Pirates at age 18, but spent four years in the minors and two in the military before getting his shot in the bigs. He had been 11-13 with Class AA New Orleans in 1953 before getting a chance in Pittsburgh, for a team that was in the midst of four straight last-place finishes.

In his rookie year he was 3-8, and overall with the Pirates 1954-57 he was 16-29.

As a kid collector, I always liked Bob Purkey's baseball cards. His moon face had a big smile most years. Purkey had made his baseball card debut in 1954, but was missing from the 1956 set. He then was in every Topps annual issue through 1966.

Purkey also appeared in many other sets of the Sixties, including 1961-63 Post cereal, 1960 Leaf, 1963 Fleer, 1962 and 1963 Salada coins, every Kahn's Wieners issue 1958-64, and many Pirates and Reds team-issues. He's got a big grin on most of those, too.

I imagine Clemente grew to dislike that smile over the years.