Thursday, December 10, 2009

Tales of T212 #22 : Jimmy Agnew

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. Please excuse the lo-res nature of the card pictures; they were scanned for my auctions many years ago.
Jimmy "Toots" Agnew was born in Portland, Ore., in 1890, and never left the West Coast during his injury-shortened career in professional baseball. When the sporting press first took notice of him, he was described as a "college pitcher from Seattle."
According to the SABR Minor League Database, Agnew's first pro gig was in the Pacific Coast League, with Los Angeles, in 1911. However, he appears in the 1910 Obak cigarette card set with L.A., so either SABR dropped a stitch or Obak jumped the gun. Considering that his 1911 Obak card says his pitching record for 1910 was "unavailable," it's more than likely that Agnew was Angels' property in 1910, but never actually played.
In 1911, Agnew lost 20 games, winning only five. That caused him to be sold to Vancouver (Class B, Northwestern League) for the 1912 season. He was reported traded to Tacoma (without an y record that he actually pitched for them), then to Portland (NWL).
With Portland again in 1913, he injured his arm in May. According to the baseball custom of that era, he was paid for two weeks at his regular salary ($200 per month), then for another two weeks at half-pay, per the standard injury clause of the day's contracts. The team then put him on as a gatekeeper, and we hear no more of Jimmy Agnew.
Besides his 1910 and 1911 Obak cards, Agnew appeared in 1911 sets from Pacific Coast Biscuit and Zeenuts candy.

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