Friday, July 24, 2009

Tales of T212 #5 : Ike Rockenfield

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.

Ike Rockenfield, 13 Teams in 12 Years

We know Ike Rockenfield played for a dozen minor league teams and one major league team in 12 seasons, and, it's possible he may have played for even more pro clubs, since his official record does not commence until 1901, when he was 24 years old. He may have had some earlier engagements that are lost to 19th Century baseball history.

He was born Isaac Broc Rockenfield in Omaha, Neb., on Nov. 3, 1876. Ike wasn't particularly a big man, 5'7", 150 lbs., even by the standards of ballplayers in his day. He played most of his games at second base, hitting about .266 for his minor league career.

Here's the rundown of where Rockenfield played his pro ball . . .

1901 Seattle
1902 Tacoma
1903 Tacoma, Seattle, Olympia, Oakland
1904 Portland (where he hit .361), Spokane
He was drafted from Spokane in the Rule 5 Draft and played the entire 1905 season with the St. Louis Browns.
He returned to the minors in 1906 with St. Paul and Seattle, and closed the season again at St. Louis, ending his major league career with a .221 average.
1907 Spokane, Little Rock
1908 Jersey City, Montgomery
1909 Montgomery
1910 Tacoma
1911 Tacoma, Kansas City
1912 Kansas City, Quincy

Rockenfield was quite the traveling man in his baseball career, playing from the West Coast to the East Coast, and from the far north to the deep south.

After his playing days, Rockenfield was a cigar salesman. He died in San Diego on Feb. 21, 1927, at only 50 years old.

Rockenfield appeared in both the 1910 and 1911 Obak baseball card sets (the same picture on both cards).

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