Saturday, August 29, 2015

Schneider hit 5 HR in game, wound up in prison

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 my posting on March 13, 2014, I presented the story of Nig Clarke's eight home-run game.

The next highest homers total in a single professional game is five. 

In the history of Organized Baseball, only four players -- all minor leaguers -- have hit five home runs in a game.

Only one of that quartet had his five-homer game in a league higher than Class A. Two of them played in the major leagues (one before and one after his feat). As far as I can tell, only one of the four can be found on a contemporary baseball card.

The principal subject of this posting is Pete Schneider, who hit five home runs in a Pacific Coast League game on May 11, 1923, when his Vernon Tigers traveled to Salt Lake City to play the Bees in a game won by Vernon 35-11.

The first of the "other" three minor leaguers to hit five homers in a game was Lou Frierson in 1934 with Paris, Tex., of the Class C West Dixie League. Two years later, Cecil "Dynamite" Dunn hit five with Alexandria, La., in the Class D Evangeline League. Most recently, the feat was performed by Dick Lane with Muskegon, Mich., in the Class A Central League in 1948. Lane appeared in a dozen games with the Chicago White Sox in 1949.

Schneider stands out because he not only hit five home runs in a game, but also because he began his pro career at age 16, pitched for six years in the major leagues and spent time in prison for manslaughter after killing a man who insulted his wife.

Rather than my rehashing work that has already been done by others, let me direct you to the Diamonds in the Dusk web site: Pete Schneider .

Schneider is the only player in this group who seems to have appeared on a career-contemporary baseball card. He was included in the Fleischmann Bakery set in 1916, the second of three seasons in a row which he lost 19 games.

There is a "Schneider" on the checklists of 1921-24 Zeenuts PCL card sets; I have no reason to believe this is not Pete Schneider, but I'd have to see the team designations on the cards to be sure.

Tuesday, August 25, 2015

Finally, Isis gets a bubblegum card

If this blog unexpectedly goes dark, you can assume I'm locked up in a secret CIA prison somewhere, being waterboarded for the sake of my "art."

I fear the google-searching I did to gather data for the back of my latest non-sports custom card may have piqued the interest of Homeland Security.

Other than a potential Isis recruit, who else would be trying to find out how many air miles separate New York and Al-Raqqah and photos of Isis fighters?

Just me, I guess, trying to make my "update" to the 1956 Topps Flags of the World set as accurate as possible.

The Flags set was a childhood favorite. Besides the bold colors of the banners, the background art had a lot of appeal to a kid. There were Commie soldiers, Vikings, an octopus, a Canadian Mountie, an erupting volcano and sports action such as soccer, bobsledding and skiing. What's not to like?

The 80 cards in the 1956 set (one of the last from Topps in the 2-5/8" x 3-3/4" format) covered much of the world, but there were some countries omitted, from Kenya and Uganda in darkest Africa to Bermuda and the Bahamas in our part of the world.

I looked at the feasibility of creating some Flags customs a year or so ago, but was discouraged because my lack of true artistic ability would have required me to work with background art that appeared on existing cards and because my Photoshop skills are not advanced enough to convert a flat picture of a flag to a flapping banner as shown on the cards.

A recent image search for the Isis flag unexpectedly turned up a suitably waving version of the terrorists' dreaded ensign. (There are some funny vulgar parodies of the flag to be found, as well.)

It then occurred to me that Topps' FOTW card for Syria was perfectly suited for conversion to an Isis card. The Topps card already featured a sword-waving Arab and a Mideastern backdrop.

I merely had to swap out the flags and convert the figure's burnoose to the preferred Isis basic black, adding a face cloth. I did take the liberty of keeping a bit of bling on the lungi and the colored sash. Covering them over would have given the figure a pretty flat look.

Providing the translations on the back of the card was much more of a challenge than I anticipated. There are no -- at least I couldn't find them -- web sites that offer a simple phonetic translation from English to Arabic. My solution was to use a site that gave an aural translation of English words. I had to use my imagination to come up with written versions of the spoken form, and even though I listened to them half a dozen times or more, I'm sure my interpretations horribly butcher the actual words.

On a more technical note, I could not find a font that very closely replicated that used by Topps for the word balloons on the backs in 1956. I cam close enough that I don't think many will notice.

On that topic, fortunately for me I was able to cut and paste the front font to make "ISIS" out of "SYRIA". Finding a close match to the country-name font would have entailed a long search.

Some of the stats on backs had to be my interpretation of estimates by international news sources for the amount of territory under Isis control and the population. I was pleasantly surprised to find that the "official" monetary unit of Isis and its nominal conversion rate were easily available.

For reasons already spelled out, I'm pretty sure this will be my one and only FOTW custom card. You never know, though, the right piece of art may drop into my lap someday.

Friday, August 21, 2015

Mets valued Willie Davis alongside Aaron, Koufax

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.

Would you trade a Hank Aaron card for Willie Davis? How about Koufax-for-Davis? Or Mays? Already got Willie Davis? Would you take Vada Pinson instead? Or Billy Williams?

Back at the MLB winter meetings in Houston in December, 1964, Mets chairman of the board Don Grant equated those six players when he made “desperation” offers of $500,000 each to the Dodgers for Koufax or Davis, to the Braves for Aaron, to the Reds for Pinson and the Cubs for Williams.

Going into the meetings, the Mets’ most pressing need was for a center fielder. Jim Hickman had been the most regular CF for the Mets since they entered the league, but had batted just .242 between 1962-64 and fielded the position near the bottom of the league.

At the meetings, Dodgers’ owner Walter O’Malley had made an off the cuff comment to Grant that that Mets had yet to make an important player deal. Admitting as much, Grant pointed out that his club didn’t have the players to offer in significant trades, and blurted, “I’ll give you $500,000 for Willie Davis.”

Grant followed up by making the same half-million dollar offer to the other named clubs, and was rebuffed at each turn. He did receive a facetious counteroffer from Reds president Bill DeWitt—for $2 million.

New York baseball writer Barney Kremenko, writing in the Dec. 26 Sporting News, speculated on the value Grant attributed to Davis.

“Puzzling to some was why Willie Davis, with a lifetime batting average under .270, should not only be included among the super stars but should be the first to come to Grant’s mind,” Kremenko wrote.

“However, Willie has been one of the National League terrors for the last-place Mets from the day they came into being in 1962.

“Last season alone, Willie the Swift clobbered Casey Stengel’s pitching at a .338 clip with 24-for-71. In 19 games, Mets flingers horse-collared him only twice, and one of these games was a 1-1 tie rained out after five innings.”

Kremenko also pointed out that Davis, who was third in the majors in stolen bases with 42 in 1964, “ran the Mets crazy with his speed, either stealing or going for—and getting—the extra base.”

The writer also pointed out that at the age of just 24 as the 1965 season opened, Davis “would go exceedingly well with the Mets’ youth-building program.”

Kremenko concluded, “Putting all these facts together, it becomes somewhat more plausible why Grant should hold the Dodgers’ comet in such high esteem.”

 Speaking of Willie Davis . . .
One of Willie Davis's career-high 21 home runs in 1962 came after he'd apparently flied out to lead off the top of the fifth inning in a game at Milwaukee on April 23.

First base umpire Dusty Boggess ruled that Braves pitcher Lew Burdette had thrown an illegal pitch(!). Back at the plate for a do-over, Davis homered to give the Dodgers a 3-1 lead on their way to a win.

Monday, August 17, 2015

1965 ad offered Yankees pix for 75c

While reading through spring issues of the 1965 Sporting News recently, I spotted an ad offering "N.Y. YANKEES / IN FULL COLOR!"

I did not recognize the name of the advertiser, Pan American Photo," but from the description of "8x10 AUTOGRAPHED PHOTOS" and the checklist, I realized that the ad was offering what the hobby knows today, and what I listed in the Standard Catalog of Baseball Cards many years ago, as Requena photos.

In the tradition of Dormand and Bill and Bob color player postcards of the mid-1950s, the Requenas offered exceptionally sharp posed player photos. In fact, many of the Requena Yankees pix were also offered in postcard format.

What was new to me in the ad was that the Requena pictures were also offered in black-and-white versions, as were a number of Yankees and players from other teams. Those b/w issues are not cataloged, probably because if they follow the format of the color photos, they are not marked as to issuer.

I note that two of the cataloged Requena color 8x10s, Ralph Houk and Al Downing, were not listed in the original 1965 TSN ad, though Downing was offered in black-and-white.
After having managed the Yankees to three AL pennants and two World Championships in 1961-63, Houk was serving as General Manager when the Requenas were first issued in 1965, returning as field manager in 1966 (and finishing in last place).

Thursday, August 13, 2015

Spring training 1938 tidbits

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.

I spent a muggy Saturday afternoon indoors recently, reading microfilm of Sporting News issues from March-April, 1938, just before and during spring training. I didn't find anything earth shaking, but did find a number of tidbits that seem worth sharing.

As a kid in the early 1960s I remember being impressed by the fact that Jethro's pa -- Max Baer, Sr., not Jed Clampett -- had once killed a man in the boxing ring. Jethro, of course, was the character played in The Beverly Hillbillies by Max Baer, Jr.

Back then you could occasionally win a nickel or dime bet with some neighborhood know-it-all who mistakenly believed it was the affable actor who had killed a man.

Here's a good  recap of the fatal fight: Baer-Campbell fight .

Until I read it in a 1938 Sporting News column, however, I did not know that the ill-fated boxer Frankie Campbell was the nom de guerre of Francisco Camilli, and that he was the older brother of 12-year major league veteran first baseman Dolph Camilli.

* * *
In the years I've been reading back-issue microfilm of The Sporting News, I've learned not to take everything prnted therein as gospel.

For example, it appears TSN editor and publisher J.G. Taylor Spink wasn't correct when he told the readers in a March, 1938, column that actress Arleen Whelan was the daughter of former professional catcher Bert Whaling.

Whaling is best remember, when he is remembered at all, as the back-up catcher for the "Miracle Braves" of 1914. He caught part-time for Boston 1913-15 and played 11 seasons between 1908-25 in the minor leagues, mostly in Class A and B leagues in the West and Northwest.

Whaling is found on a couple of baseball sets over the years, notably 1915 Cracker Jack and 1914 B-18 felt blankets,

Arleen Whelan was a stunning red-headed actress whose prime years in the movies were 1938-53, with some minor TV work through the 1950s.

None of the actress's biographies mention any connection with baseball player Bert Whaling. She is most often described as the daughter of a Los Angeles electric shop owner. 

In his book on the Miracle Braves, editor Bill Nowlin says that Whaling and his wife had no children. 
* * *
I'm also not buying wholeheartedly the assertion made by a Brooklyn beat writer concerning Dodgers pitcher Van Mungo's thirst.

When Mungo reported to spring training for 1938, he told reporters that he had not had a drop of liquor -- not even beer -- since a few days prior to Christmas.

Mungo said that during the previous season he had spent $2,000 on liquor. At a time when $5,000 was a good annual salary for a big-league pitcher, Mungo's bar bill has to be exaggerated . . . doesn't it? According to an inflation calculator, $2,000 in 1937 was equivalent to more than $33,000 today.

Thirty-three grand is certainly not unheard of for a top athlete's bottle service behind the velvet ropes at a club today, but $2,000 in bar tabs in 1937 beggars belief.

If, indeed, Mungo did stay on the wagon for 1938, it doesn't seem to have helped his pitching performance. He'd been 9-11 in 1937 with a team-leading 2.91 ERA. In 1938 he was 4-11 with a 3.92 ERA.
* * *
With spring training barely underway, TSN writers cast a wide net in March-April, 1938, looking to fill their columns. One writer tells us of the "exotic" family origins of some of the day's players.

Pete and Joe Coscarart were Basque. Career (1935-41) minor league outfielder Bill Sodd, who struck out in his one major league at-bat with the Cleveland Indians in 1937 was Syrian. Cubs outfielder Frank Demaree (born DiMaria) was Portugese.

* * *
NFL halfback John Doehring (Chicago Bears 1932-34, 1936-37; Pittsburgh Steelers 1935) was wrestling professionally around Florida during the off-season.

When the Cincinnati Reds arrived in Tampa for spring training, Doehring asked manager Bill McKechnie if he could work out with the team to improve his physical conditioning.

McKechnie liked what he saw of Doehring's throwing and hitting and signed him to a contract with the Reds' Class B (Sally League) team at Columbia, S.C.

Doehring appeared in four games as a left-handed relief pitcher, winning two and losing one, before being sent down to Class D Palatka, where his dreams of a pro baseball career died.