Sunday, April 1, 2012

Players got penny apiece for facsimile auto balls

In our last posting, we revealed the production number for a series of 1951 St. Louis Cardinals player postcards.

Today, we have a similar revelation, from the same source.

Writing in his "from the RUHL BOOK" column in the August 13, 1952, issue of The Sporting News, Oscar Ruhl provided a glimpse into the finances of facsimile autographed souvenir baseballs, as sold at ballpark concession stands and by mail order. 

Facsimile or stamped autographed balls are collectible in their own right, and for many hobbyists represent a reasonably priced alternative to a genuine team-signed ball -- which may or may not be entirely authentically autographed, often bearing some signatures forged by the clubhouse man or bat boy. 

Since at least 1948, eight-year major league veteran Dick Culler of High Point, North Carolina, was operating the Autographed Ball Corporation in partnership with former Cubs and Giants shortstop Billy Jurges. Culler retired from professional baseball after playing the 1950 season with the Baltimore Orioles, .  

The company licensed the use of players' signatures on the basis of one cent apiece for each ball sold.

Washington Times-Herald baseball reporter Bob Addie did some digging and obtained the sales figures for the first six months of 1952. Ruhl quoted those figures in his TSN column.

The royalties paid to the players for the first six months' of sales in 1952, according to Addie, were:

American League
New York Yankees   $46.85 (representing 4,686 balls sold)
Cleveland Indians       18.33
Chicago White Sox    10.54
Boston Red Sox           9.84 (no Ted Williams that season)
Detroit Tigers               6.24
Philadelphia A's           4.56
Washington Senators  3.72
St. Louis Browns            .30 (Really? Just 30 balls sold in six months?)
National League
New York Giants       $16.82
Brooklyn Dodgers       13.73
Chicago Cubs             13.55
Philadelphia Phillies     7.80
Boston Braves              4.44
Pittsburgh Pirates        1.68
St. Louis Cardinals      1.08
Cincinnati Reds              .12

While these figures might be said to reveal the relative popularity of the teams of 1952 among souvenir buyers, those numbers for the Browns and Reds don't seem like they could be accurate. Perhaps those teams, and maybe some of the others, didn't offer the balls at their concession stands, or perhaps had their own version of the facsimile-signed spheres.

A year earlier in his column, Ruhl had mentioned that the 1950 Yankees "regulars" had been paid $99.18 each on the sales of the souvenir balls.

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