Saturday, October 17, 2009

Globe Printing Co. historical data comes to light

For as long as I've been writing baseball card columns, one of the topics that nevers seems to fail to generate reader response is the series of minor league team sets, albums and "Souvenir Pictures" booklets issued between 1949-1954 (mostly 1951-1952) by Globe Printing Co.

The pair of posting that appeared on this blog on Aug. 25-26 proved to be no exception. After those posts were reprinted in Sports Collectors Digest, I received a phone call from Bill Weiss of San Meteo, Calif. Long-time baseball fans and historians, especially those with an appreciation for the minor leagues, will remember Weiss as the official statistician and unofficial historian of the California League, the Pacific Coast League and several other western minor leagues for more than 40 years, beginning in 1949. Weiss has written extensively on a wide and diverse range of baseball subjects and for many years his column was a staple in Baseball America. Bill has been retired for a good while now, but still maintains an active interest in his lifelong passion.

As a first-hand witness to what was going on in the world of minor league baseball 60 years ago, his phone call with information about Globe Printing Co. was especially welcome.

According to Weiss, Globe Printing was a San Jose, Calif., firm owned by Jack Anderson. The company's association with minor league baseball began in 1949, when Globe produced a yearbook, titled Your California League. The pages devoted to each team presented player photos in the approximate size and in the format that collectors now associate with the company's baseball card issues: Full-length poses with the player name in a white strip at bottom.

According to Weiss, Globe's first baseball card set was produced that same year for the Stockton Ports, sponsored by Sunbeam Bread and unusual for Globe issues in that there is advertising and player biographical data on the back. A similar set was produced in 1950.

A number of similarly formatted card sets were issued for PCL teams in that era, including the Sunbeam-sponsored card sets of the 1946-1947 Sacramento Solons, Oakland Oaks sets in 1946-1947 and 1949-1950 sponsored by Remar Bread, and in 1947-1948 sponsored by Smith's Clothing store, and, the 1948-1949 S.F. Seals sets sponsored by Sommer & Kaufmann boy's clothier. It is unknown whether Globe printed those sets or just drew heavily on their design.

Weiss said that 1949 Stockton set was initially printed in blue ink, later switching to black. He said the cards were distributed four at a time in a folder as a stadium giveaway, which is likely the manner of distribution for many of Globe's later card issues, considering the dearth of complete set, and even the lack of complete checklists for many of the team sets.

Globe continued to print programs and other promotional items for minor league teams, and in 1951-1954 really cranked up its efforts in the area of team-sponsored baseball card sets, with more than two dozen card sets (and a handful of picture albums) for big- and small-market minor league teams from Ventura, Calif., to Miami Beach, Fla. The breadth and depth of Globe's card sets are scattered throughout the Vintage Minor League section of the Standard Catalog of Baseball Cards.

In discussing the various Globe Printing items that he has in his archives, Weiss provided several nuggets if special interest to vintage minor league collectors. He has a six-card sheet of the 1952 Ventura Braves (I've also seen one), that has marginal notations that 3,000 of the sheet were to be delivered before April 14. This indicates to me that Globe did most or all of its baseball card printing in sheets of six. Indeed, many of the checklists of known Globe issues consist of 12 or 18 cards.

Bill also provides information on an heretofore uncataloged Globe card set. He has among his holdings an album for the 1952 Bakersfield Indians (though he has none of the cards). Thus we can expect to someday be treated to the discovery of one or more cards from that California League team, though there won't be any future or former major league stars on its checklist, probably the biggest names being Hank Aguirre and Gene Lillard. (A similar album for the 1952 Visalia Cubs is believed to exist, though to date no cards from the set have been cataloged.)

Finally, Weiss relates a tale that will bring a tear to the collector's eye. Some years ago, Globe Printing Co. had "boxes and boxes" of cards and other printed material in the basement of its plant on South First St. in San Jose when a flood occurred and destroyed all of it.

I imagine that a thorough Google search on Globe Printing could turn up more information, such as the company's destiny, but that will have to wait for another time or another researcher.

Many thanks to Bill Weiss for coming forth to share his knowledge about Globe Printing's baseball cards and related issues.

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