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.
"Flannagan," The Mystery Beaver
This player who appeared only in the 1910 Obak set, with his name misspelled as "Flannagan" is one of the few whom I never definitively identified in my years of Obak research. It was only years later, as I began actually writing this series, that I found out who he was from the SABR Minor Leagues database.
My early notecard on Flannagan offered as possibilities James F. or Edward J., who had played the outfield and pitched, respectively, for the 1909 Vancouver Beavers of the Northwestern League. Neither played there in 1910. Since it is my impression that Obak made few, if any, errors such as producing a card for a player who wasn't on a particular team in the year the card was issued, I wasn't comfortable designating the card-guy Flanagan as either James or Edward.
S.S. Flanagan (his full name is not recorded by SABR, nor any biographical details), played for Vancouver in both 1908 and 1910. He is not shown as playing anywhere in organized baseball in 1909. He had batted .351 for the Beavers in 1908, but his a career low of .209 in 1910 and was demoted to the Class D Union Assn. at Boise for 1911.
He rebounded at Boise and hit .342. That earned him a call back to Class B play with Decatur of the Illinois-Indiana-Iowa League for the remainder of his known pro career (1912-1915).
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