Tuesday, July 28, 2009

Tales of T212 #6 : Rollie Zeider

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.

Zeider Played for Three Chicago Teams

One of the players appearing in the 1909-11 Obak cigarette card sets who had a long major league career was infielder Rollie Zeider. Among the Obaks, Zeider appeared only in the 1909 issue, by the next season he had begun his big league career and was soon showing up in many of the well-known card sets of the day (T207, Collins-McCarthy, Cracker Jack, etc.).

Zeider was born in Auburn,Ind., in 1883. At the age of 21 he began his pro career in Canada with Winnipeg and Crookston in 1905. He spent parts of the next two seasons with Winnipeg, also playing with Springfield IIII League) in 1906 and San Francisco in 1907, doing a little pitching as well as playing a stellar shortstop.

The Chicago White Sox bought Zeider from the Seals for 1910, paying $5,500 and two players to be named later. Zeider played the 1910-12 seasons with the White Sox, and was with them until June 1, 1913, when he was traded to the N.Y. Yankees with the later-banned Babe Borton for bad boy Hal Chase. Zeider, one of whose nicknames was "Bunions," or the "Bunion King," suffered a serious injury early in 1913 when Ty Cobb spiked him at second base, nearly cutting off his bunions and putting Zeider in the hospital for six weeks with blood poisoning.

In 1914, Zeider jumped to the new major league, the Federal League, with the Chicago Whales, playing there until the league disbanded. In the dispersal sale of Fed players, Zeider went to the Cubs, completing his Chicago trifecta.

Zeider's big league days came to a close in August, 1918, when the majors cut their season short because of World War I. In the off-season he had the garbage disposal contract for his home town of Auburn. In 1919 he joined Toledo as player-manager, but left the team in mid-season to manage a semi-pro team in LaPorte, Ind.

With the war over, Zeider returned to California in 1920, playing there with the L.A. Angels in 1920-21 and the Vernon Tigers in 1921-22. He was very popular in the Pacific Coast League. Baseball Magazine called him, "the Hans Wagner of the West . . . the greatest drawing card out there." He split the 1923 season between Portland in the PCL and Mobile.

In 1924, at age 40, Zeider began the season wth Shreveport, but obtained his release in late June to sign as playing manager with the Paris North Stars of the Class D East Texas League, his last professional engagement.

Zeider died back in his native Indiana in 1967.

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