Friday, January 22, 2010

Tales of T212 #28 : Howard Murphy

(Sorry, no card photo.)

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.

I don't have an Obak card photo of Howard Murphy because he only appeared in the scarcer 1909 set. (The Murphy that appears with Los Angeles in 1910 Obaks in Frank Murphy.) That was his only year in the Pacific Coast League, when he was an outfielder with the Oakland Oaks. I tell a lie . . . Murphy was also with the Oaks in 1908, for one game, as an unsuccessful pinch-hitter.

Murphy played with four Class A minor league teams in 1908, each in a different league. He was with Memphis (Southern), Lincoln (Western), Kansas City (American Assn.) and Oakland (PCL).

His stop with Memphis in 1908 was his second stint with the team then known as the Egyptians. He had begun his pro career with them in 1901 at the age of 19.

Murphy was botn on Jan. 1, 1882, in Birmingham, Ala. He tried hios hand at pitching in his early minor league days, with Class D clubs in Sherman-Denison/Texarkana (Texas Lea.) and Baton Rouge (Cotton States Lea.) in 1902-1903, and Pine Bluff (Cotton States) in 1904.

Having hit .343 with Pine Bluff, he moved to the outfield and split 1905 with two American Association teams, Kansas City and Louisville in 1905. He started 1906 with Louisville, then dropped down a class to Decatur in the Three-I League. That may have been due to an injury, as he does not appear to have played in Organized Baseball in 1907.

After his four-team sojourn in 1908, he was back with the Oaks to begin 1909, then was sold to the St. Louis Cardinals in mid-season, taking over in center field for Al Shaw, but hitting only .200 fore the rest of the season.

The 1910 season found him back in the Southern League in his native Alabama, with Mobile. He headed out West in 1911-1913, playing with Great Falls (Mont.) and Salt Lake City of the Union Assn., batting a cumulative .374, including 240 hits in 1912.

There is another gap in Murphy's record for 1914. In 1915, at age 33, he appeared with Shreveport (Texas Lea.), before wrapping up his professional ballplaying days with Tulsa and Sherman of the Western Assn. in 1916.

After his playing days, Murphy was baseball coach at Decatur (Tex.) Baptist College. Decatur Baptist College, established in 1898, was the forerunner of Dallas Baptist University. It had the distinction of being the first two-year institution of higher education in Texas.

Murphy died in Ft. Worth, Tex., Oct. 5, 1926.

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