Thursday, June 27, 2013

Henry Oana, Hawaiian playboy prince, joins custom card team

More than 20 years ago (Aug. 2, 1991 issue) I wrote a lengthy article in SCD about Henry Oana and the paucity of baseball cards on which he appeared.

Known as Prince Oana in deference to a fanciful story that he was of Hawaiian royal blood, Oana's lack of "real" baseball cards can be laid to the fact that while he enjoyed a professional baseball career that spanned from the 1920s to the 1950s, he played only three seasons -- 30 games -- in the major leagues, mostly during World War II when few cards were being produced.

I wish I had the capability of reproducing my long-ago article from SCD, or that it was available somewhere online, because his story is interesting to anybody who likes baseball history.

Failing that, I can strongly recommend Rory Costello article on Oana that appears on the SABR baseball biography site: . 

Reading that will give you a flavor for why Oana's Major league days were short, and thus opportunities for baseball card appearances. 

I chose to model my custom card in the 1934 Goudey format. That's a new style for me, and I enjoyed working in that medium.

While I would have liked to make my Oana card one of the "Lou Gehrig says . . . " variety, I chose instead for greater historic accuracy.

If Goudey had made a '34 card for Oana, it would most likely have been in the high-number series. And in that series, all of the National Leaguer's cards featured commentary by the Cubs' Chuck Klein.

I would have liked to have done my Oana card in the 1941 Play Ball style, but by then the slugging pitcher was in the middle of a three-year stay with Fort Worth in the Texas League. That's not so say that I categorically reject making minor league cards in major league formats, but I resisted the temptation in this case.

Most of Henry Oana's career-contemporary baseball cards are minor league issues. He appears with the San Francisco Seals in the 1929 and 1932 Zeenuts PCL sets. The '32 card that I borrowed from Larry Fritsch to illustrate my 1991 article appears in the Standard Catalog of Baseball Cards. He is also the card pictured in that book with the 1943 Grand Studio Milwaukee Brewers. That's the portrait that I used to create my custom card.

As a major leaguer, Oana had only one card, in the scarce 1934 Al Demaree die-cuts (R304). He is also included in the 1934 silver-bordered series of Diamond matchbook covers.

All of those vintage Oana cards are scarce to rare, and finding just one of them could involve a lengthy search and considerable cash outlay.

Perhaps my custom card can fill the gap.

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