Back in the early 1980s I thought I'd combine my interests in minor league baseball and vintage baseball cards by assembling a collection of the Obak cigarette cards that were distributed on the West Coast in 1909, 1910 and 1911.I didn't realize it then, but those cards are so much rarer than most of the contemporary T206 cards from "Back East" that putting together complete sets of the Obak could take decades to accomplish -- and that's if a guy had more money than God to buy the cards when they became available.At about the time I started my Obak collection I also started researching the players who appeared in the sets. Over the course of several long Wisconsin winters I pored over microfilms of The Sporting News and The Sporting Life from the period several years before to several years after the Obak cards circulated, making prodigious notes on 3x5 file cards for each player in the set.I gave up trying to collect the T212s (that's the catalog number Jefferson Burdick assigned the three sets in the pioneering American Card Catalog in 1939), long ago, and have since sold off all my Obaks, one-by-one, first on eBay, then on the Net 54 baseball card forum. As I was selling each card, I included interesting tidbits about each player from my notes. The bidders seemed to like learning a little bit about these guys on the cards, so I thought I'd now begin sharing their stories here.
Tom "Don't Call Me 'Bunny'" Madden
This was one of the more challenging identifications to make among the Obak players in the pre-Google days. There were two Tom Maddens playing at the same time. Thomas Francis Madden, nicknamed "Bunny" was born in 1882 in Boston and played 1909-1911 with the Boston Red Sox. Thomas Joseph Madden -- this Tom Madden -- was born in 1883 in Philadelphia and played in 1906 with the Boston Beaneaters (Nat'l League).
Between the notes I made all those years ago while paging through the sports papers, and the on-line reference by the Society for American Baseball Research, I've got it straight now and can positively identify the Madden who appears in the 1911 Obak set.
This is the Tommy Madden who was born in Philadelphia and at age 22 turned pro with Haverhill in the Class B New England League before being sent to the Boston Beaneaters for a trail at the end of the 1906 season. At the big league level he hit .267 in four games and returned to Haverhill for 1907. He spent the next two seasons at Utica in the New York State League, where he batted .310 and was purchased by the New York Highlanders (now Yankees).
After getting a lone pinch-hit appearance for New York, his last taste of big league life. He returned to the Class A minors in 1910, splitting the season between Montreal and San Francisco. He was traded to Sacramento in mid-1911, batting .3030 that season.
He opened the season with Sacramento for 1912, but in July was fined and suspended for heavy drinking, apparently ending his professional baseball career. He died back in Philadelphia in 1930.