Sunday, October 18, 2009

Tales of T212 #14 : Mickey LaLonge

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.

Lewis W. "Mickey" LaLonge had a long career (1906-1924) as a catcher in the higher levels of the minor leagues in the U.S. and Canada, but never had even a game at the major league level, probably because he was a lifetime .250 hitter, who never had more than three home runs in a season.

LaLonge was born in Dundee, Mich., and played his first pro ball at the age of 24 for Akron in the Class C Ohio-Pennsylvania League in 1906-1907. He moved out to the West Coast for the 1908-1912 seasons, where, except for 1910, when he was exlusive with Sacramento in the PCL, he split time each season between two clubs: San Francisco and Oakland in 1908, Oakland and Sacramento in 1909, Sac'to and Portland in 1911, and, Portland and Tacoma (NWL) in 1912.

He moved east to play for Buffalo in 1913-1915 in the Class AA International League. He split time between Louisville and Columbus in the American Association in 1916, then went back to the IL with Toronto in 1917.

He was signed by Kansas City for 1918, but jumped to the "outlaw" Steel League with Lebanon, Pa. He returned to OB with K.C. in 1919, his last year in the upper reaches of the minors. He again jumped his contract with the K.C. Blues in 1920, to play independent ball at Oil City, Pa. and Newcastle (state unknown).

In 1922, LaLonge once again returned to organized baseball as playing manager for Brantford in the Michigan-Ontario League. In 1924 he was the pitching coach for Cornell University, then, at the age of 40 resurrected his playing career at the Class B level with Harrisburg and Wilkes Barre of the New York-Pennsylvania League, and Rocky Mount in the Virginia League, hitting a respectable .306.

LaLonge signed on as a coach with Toronto in 1927. His last known pro ball assignments were as manager in the Pennsylvania-Ohio-New York League in 1939 with Jamestown, and 1940 with London.

In the off-seasons, LaLonge worked a silver mine he owned in Canada.

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