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.
Tommy Murray was one of the Obak players who appears only in the 1911 set, with Portland of the Pacific Coast League.
It was reported that Murray was born in 1886 in Pittsburgh and played for the Pitt Panthers college team in 1906, the same year he turned pro with Steubenville in the Pennsylvania-Ohio-Maryland League. He was a lifelong minor leaguer whp spent his entite pro career behind the plate, most often as a back-up backstop because his hitting was generally in the under-.250 mark.
After another year with the Stubs in 1907, he jumped from Class D to Class B with Trenton. He found his way out the West Coast for 1909, where he played for both team in Portland, the Class B Colts of the Northwestern League and the Class A Beavers in the PCL at Class A, where he played through the 1911 season.
He reached the peak of his career in 1912 with the St. Paul Saints in the Class AA American Association, but when he hit only .224 for the season, he was turned back to the Colts in Portland for 1913, after which his pro career was over.
Tommy Murray is one of the many Obak players for whom personal information in my years of research was almost non-existent.