Friday, January 1, 2010

Tales of T212 #21 : Jimmy Adams, Will Chenault

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 Adams, Will Chenault
This pair of Vancouver Beavers were (probably) teammates for a short time in 1910, and each appeared on a single Obak card, Adams in 1911 (I never owned one, so no picture) and Chenault in 1910. While each had a five-year career in pro ball, neither ever tasted major league meal money.
Adams, a career outfielder, started his professional career at the highest level he would attain, the Class A Pacific Coast League in 1906 with Seattle and Los Angeles. Jimmy's ball-playing whereabouts for 1907-1908 are uncertain. There was an Adams (first name unrecorded) who played the outfield for Edmonton of the Western Canada League in 1907; that may have been our boy.
He was back in the PCL in 1909, with both Vernon and Sacramento. In 1910 he dropped down to the Class B Northwestern League with Seattle and Vancouver. In 1911 it looks like he opened the season with the Beavers then moved on to Brownsville in the Southwest Texas League. He was back in the NWL with Victoria in 1912, which looks like his final year in pro ball.
Will Chenault was a pitcher, like Adams, there is no record of when or where he was born or died, He also began playing in the minor leagues in 1906, in the Class D Kentucky-Illinois-Tennessee League, where he split the season between the Paducah Indians and the Vincennes Alices (!). The next year he started at Class B with Terre Haute of the Central League, then loved up another notch to A ball with Indianapolis of the American Association.
He dropped back down to the Class C Virginia League in 1908, pitching for three different teams in the circuit: Norfolk, Portsmouth and Richmond.
In 1909 Chenault took his glove to the West Coast, with Portland of the Northwestern League. In 1910, his last season of pro ball, he threw for both Vancouver and Seattle of the NWL.
Considering that so little is known biographically, at least in baseball historical circles, about these men, it's good they have been immortalized on their Obak cigarette cards.

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