Thursday, May 5, 2011

'53 Braves were buried in endorsement largesse

This 7" x 10" photo was one of a series issued
between 1953-1957 by Spic and Span dry cleaners.
 Last time out we presented some details about the 1953 Milwaukee Braves endorsement deals as exemplified by an issue of window posters advertising Top Taste bread and Pictsweet frozen produce.

Some of the details of that endorsement deal were revealed in a late-season article in The Sporting News written by Edgar Munzel.

As the first major league team to be involved in a city switch since the turn of the 20th Century, the Braves were overwhelmed by the outpouring of fan fervor that not only set the County Stadium turnstiles spinning, but also made local heroes of even the team's bench warmers.

In his article detailing some of the endorsement deals, Munzel quoted one of the Braves players as saying that about outside of their house or apartment, most of the players had little in the way of day-to-day out-of-pocket expenses "except meat."

Many of those endorsement deals resulted in the issue of baseball cards and collectibles that remain much sought-after by collectors 60 years later.

The entire roster, including coaches and manager each received $50 and all the cookies they could eat from Johnston Cookie Co., whose factory used to be visible from virtually every seat in the stadium. Johnston, of course, produced baseball card sets in 1953, 1954 and 1955.

The players got $100 apiece and free dry cleaning from the local Spic and Span chain. Between 1953-1960, Spic and Span issued seven distinct sets of Braves cards. Wisco gas stations also had a deal with the players, though they did not issue branded cards. It is believed that blank-backed versions of the 1953-55 Spic and Span card set were actually distributed by the gas stations. The players got $100 cash and 100 gallons of gas in that arrangement.

It was reported that "half a dozen" of the Braves were given endorsement deals by R.G. Dun cigars, calling for $50 cash and free stogies. To date, only two players (Lou Burdette and Jim Wilson) have been seen in what is presumed to be a set of 10" x 9-1/2" countertop signs picturing the player and offering a team game schedule.

Naturally in Wisconsin, at least two dairies extended endorsement deals. Golden Guernsey gave the players $100 and free dairy products. If Golden Guernsey issued any type of card or premium in connection with the deal, they have not been identified to date. Neither are any surviving collectibles known from Bendfeldt Ice Cream, which paid the players $50 each and kept a freezer stocked with dairy treats in the clubhouse.

In total, Munzel estimated that the totality of what he labeled "extracurricular loot" for the Braves in their first year in Milwaukee was about $100,000. Not bad at a time when the starting MLB salary was $5,000 and top stars like Mathews and Spahn might be bringing down $25,000-40,000.

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