Saturday, June 30, 2012

Phil Page killed youth in hunt accident

Uncommon commons: In more than 30 years in sportscards publishing I have thrown hundreds of notes into files about the players – usually non-star players – who made up the majority of the baseball and football cards I collected as a kid. Today, I keep adding to those files as I peruse microfilms of The Sporting News from the 1880s through the 1960s. I found these tidbits brought some life to the player pictures on those cards. I figure that if I enjoyed them, you might too.

Within 24 hours after he had given a talk on hunting safety at the annual deer hunters’ banquet in Milo, Maine, former big league pitcher Phil Page was involved in the fatal shooting of a young man.

Page was in a hunting party that included National Leaguers Ken Raffensberger of the Reds, Monte Kennedy of the Giants, Carl Furillo of the Dodgers and Vern Bickford and Johnny Logan of the Braves. 
Page had recently lost his job as pitching coach of the Cincinnati Reds when Rogers Hornsby was hired as manager for the upcoming 1953 season.

Around 1948 the hunting lodges, guides and outfitters in central Maine had conceived a plan to offer free hunting accommodations to major league ballplayers on the theory that other hunters would be attracted by the celebrities during deer season.

Page had accepted the hospitality for a number of years, and in 1949 had killed a 12-point buck, one of the biggest deer taken in Maine that season. 

On November 17, 1952, Page, 47, and his guide, Carleton Bragg, 26, fired on “what looked like a deer moving in the brush.”

There was no deer in the brush, it was 18-year-old Gerald Caron, of Howlane, Me., who was cutting pulp wood with his father. The young woodsman was hit in the chest, stomach and arm. Page had fired his rifle once, Bragg had shot twice.

The shooters said they were 20-30 feet apart when they heard twigs snapping. They fired from about 150 feet, killing Caron, who was wearing a red hat and red plaid shirt. 

The shooters were arraigned in Medford, Me., on charges of negligence in the death. They were freed on $1,000 bond and slated to appear before a grand jury in March at Dover-Foxcroft, Me. In March, Page and Bragg each pled no contest in the shooting and were fined $400 apiece.

Less than two weeks later, in the midst of Maine's worst flooding in nearly a century, Bragg drowned when his canoe capsized in a swollen stream about a quarter-mile from where Caron had been killed.

Page had begun his pro baseball career in 1927-28, pitching for his native Springfield, Mass., in the Class A Eastern League. He spent parts of 1928-30 with the Detroit Tigers, splitting time with their AA farm club in the International League.

After pitching with Seattle in the Pacific Coast League in 1931-33, Page had a last major league fling with the Dodgers in 1934. He spent most of the 1934 season with Kansas City (American Association), also appearing with the Blues through 1937 and again in 1939. From 1937-38, and 1942-45 he was with the Yankees' top minor league team at Newark. 

In this picture from the Nov. 21, 1951, issue of The Sporting News,
Phil Page (left) was pictured with his hunting party in Maine.
From 1947-52 Page returned to the major leagues as a pitching coach for the Reds. He later managed the Yankees' Southern Association club in Birmingham, 1955-56. He died in 1958.

There are no "mainstream" cards of Phil Page. He appears in the Zeenut candy series of PCL players in 1932-33, and as a Reds coach in the 1949 Eureka Sportstamps set of National Leaguers.

Thursday, June 28, 2012

1952 World Series tickets cost teams a nickel

The 1952 World Series tickets that collectors prize so highly today originally cost the Yankees and Dodgers about five cents apiece to produce, according to a contemporary article in the New York World-Telegram and Sun.

In that article, Bill Roeder interviewed Robert G. Arcus, of Arcus-Simplex-Brown, Inc., the New York printer who supplied major league baseball with its World Series tickets in 1952.

According to Arcus, a typical order for Series tickets cost each team $5,000-10,000, depending on the number of seats and the number of games each team would host.

The pennant winning teams were responsible for paying for their own tickets; other teams that might have been authorized by the commissioner to have tickets prepared were compensated out of the 15% cut of World Series receipts that went to the commissioner's office.

For the Brooklyn Dodgers, Arcus reported, the Series ticket order for 1952 called for 160,000 tickets. Ebbets Field, after some much-needed safety and convenience upgrades prior to the season, had a capacity of about 32,000 and was scheduled to host up to four games in the World Series. The extra 32,000 tickets in the order? Arcus revealed that an extra game's worth of tickets was always printed in the event that a tie game required replaying.

Arcus also said that even that long ago, security measures were in place to thwart counterfeiters. "We put in a secret identifying mark," he told the reporter. "It would be impossible for anyone to copy that mark."

Because the Dodgers broke with tradition and elected to offer single-game tickets for the 1952 World Series, 3,800 tickets reportedly went unsold for Game 6. That seems odd, because the Dodgers led the Series 3-2 going into Game 6 and had the chance to clinch their first-ever World Championship.

It was reported that scalpers along Sullivan Place and Bedford Avenue were offering $6 tickets on game day for as little as $3.50 apiece in groups of 10.

Recent sales results indicate a typically well-handled stub/rain check for a 1952 World Series game can be had for $50-100.

Tuesday, June 26, 2012

My first Joe DiMaggio custom card

Frankly, I've never been a big fan of Joe DiMaggio.

I was too young to have first-hand knowledge or appreciation of him as a player.

My involvement in the hobby later brought me into contact with people who knew him -- as much as any outsider could know Joe DiMaggio -- in later life. The stories they told of the reclusive, even paranoid figure he became didn't give me any reason to change my impression.

Most recently, reading contemporary accounts of his final years as a player in The Sporting News have also failed to improve my estimation of the man.

Likewise, I have never been a fan of the 1968 Topps baseball card format. I had stopped collecting as a kid several years earlier, and my youngest brother had no yet begun to collect in 1968, so I didn't have any contact with those burlap beasties prior to my becoming a professional in the hobby in 1980.

Yet, strangely, here is my latest custom card: a 1968 Topps-style Joe DiMaggio card.

I could have chosen to work with the 1969 format, but the managers' cards in that set featured line art on the backs that I would have found daunting. I'm not saying it won't happen someday, but for now this is the extent of my DiMaggio opus.

There's not much I can tell you about my card. It combines a colorized photo of the A's coach with the background of Dick Green's 1968 Topps card.

I can tell you one impressive thing I learned about DiMaggio while researching to write the card back: He holds the all-time record for home runs to strikeout ratio.

In his big league career, DiMaggio hit 361 home runs, while striking out only 369 times. That's a ratio of 1.02 K's for every HR.

By contrast, Mickey Mantle homered 536 times, while striking out 1,710 times -- a 3.19 ratio.

Babe Ruth numbers were 714 HR, 1,3039 K, a ratio of 1.86.

Barry Bonds has a 2.023 ratio, striking out just over twice (1,539) for every home run (762).

Maybe if I'd been exposed to DiMaggio as a player in his prime, I'd have developed at least a grudging admiration for his on-field skills, but I still don't think I'd have liked the man.

Sunday, June 24, 2012

Bowman sponsored "Good Sportsmanship" award

In the May 30 TSN, the first in a series of
full-page ads detailing Bowman's
sportsmanship awards appeared.
While reading microfilm of The Sporting News for 1951, I found a series of full-page ads and small articles about an award that Bowman Gum Inc. sponsored to promulgate good sportsmanship in Major League Baseball. It was touted as being the first such award in baseball.

With great fanfare early in the season, Bowman announced the creation of what was intended to be the annual "Jack Singer Good Sportsmanship Award" program. 

According to the certificate that the winners ultimately received, the award was created to recognize the player on each team whose "play has been a source of inspiration to his teammates, and to the youth of America . . . the ballplayers of the future."

The certificate also read, "He has, by his skill and conduct, carefully guarded the priceless principles of baseball in keeping with the highest traditions of the national pastime."

The contemporary accounts didn't specify why Bowman chose to name the award after Jack Singer, but it may have been that he had some connection to the bubblegum card company.

Singer was a veteran sportswriter who left the baseball beat on the New York Journal-American to become the International News Service's war correspondent with the Pacific Fleet. 

He was at his typewriter on the aircraft carrier Wasp near Guadalcanal on Sept. 15, 1942, when the ship was torpedoed by a Japanese submarine. The first four paragraphs of a dispatch he was writing, detailing the crew's efforts to save the ship, were the last words he ever wrote. He died at the age of 28.

In late June, Bowman's selection committee met in New York
to determine winners of the Singer Award. Scattered
around the table in the photo that appeared in TSN on July 4
were several boxes of 1951 Bowman baseball card wax packs.
Bowman chose a committee of distinguished sports media representatives to chose the winner on each team. Those players were to receive the aforementioned certificate of award and a $500 defense savings bond. From those winners, one player in each league was to be selected to receive a large trophy and a $1,000 bond.

The judging committee for the Singer Award was comprised of:

  • Jack Brickhouse, sports director WGN-TV Chicago
  • Lawton Carver, sports editor, International News Service
  • Harry Grayson, sports editor Newspaper Enterprise Association
  • Russ Hodges, sports announcer WPIX New York and Dumont Broadcasting
  • Max Kase, sports editor New York Journal-American
  • Leo Peterson, sports editor United Press International
  • J.G. Taylor Spink, publisher, The Sporting News

 The committee duly met in New York in late June. After their deliberations, it was announced that the umpires at the games on Sept. 23 would present the awards. 

Winners of the Jack Singer Good
Sportsmanship Awards from
each MLB team were featured in
this Oct. 3 TSN ad.
Winners of the $500 bonds and Jack Singer Award certificates were:

  • Richie Ashburn, Phillies
  • Ewell Blackwell, Reds
  • Phil Cavarretta, Cubs
  • Bobby Doerr, Red Sox
  • Bob Feller, Indians
  • Ned Garver, Browns
  • Sid Gordon, Braves
  • Gil Hodges, Dodgers
  • Larry Jansen, Giants
  • Eddie Joose, A's
  • George Kell, Tigers
  • Ralph Kiner, Pirates
  • Stan Musial, Cardinals
  • Phil Rizzuto, Yankees
  • Eddie Robinson, White Sox
  • Mickey Vernon, Senators
Sometime between the announcement of the award's creation and naming of the winners, a requirement that the winners appear on the sponsor's "Baseball Gum picture cards" to be eligible fell by the wayside, as Musial, Doerr and Kiner were not included in the 1951 Bowman set.

Doerr, who had been in the 1949-1950 Bowman sets, appeared on the 1951 Topps Blue Back set, and never again appeared on a Bowman card. 

Kiner had appeared in every Bowman set from 1948-1950, then jumped ship to Topps (Red Back and Major League All-Stars) in 1951, then returned to the Bowman fold 1952-1955.

This ad in the last issue of TSN for
1951 pictures the league winners of
the Jack Singer Award, Stan Musial
and Phil Rizzuto.
Musial had been in Bowman's sets in 1948-1949, but did not appear again with them until 1952, the year after he won the Singer Award.

On Dec, 15, 1951, a luncheon was held at Camillo's restaurant in New York, at which it was announced that the league-wide winners of the trophies and $1,000 bonds were Stan Musial and Phil Rizzuto.

As mentioned earlier, I had never previously encountered mention of Bowman's Signer Awards. While it was originally announced as an annual affair, I don't believe it continued after the inaugural 1951 program. If it did, it was never mentioned in The Sporting News.

I doubt that any of the 16 award certificates have survived to pass into collector hands. The trophies given to Musial and Rizzuto, according to the photo in a Dec. 26, 1951, TSN ad, were large and impressive. And while players of that caliber collected enough such dust catchers to fill a stadium, I'd say there is an outside chance that one or both of the trophies survive as an unrecognized link between a fallen war correspondent and the bubblegum cards we collect. 

Friday, June 22, 2012

Eddie Mathews was our Mickey Mantle

One of the advantages of being retired is that I have lots of time to search eBay for items of interest, either for my custom card-making projects, or as fodder for my blog.

One of my regular searches is for baseball and football photos in all of the pertinent eBay categories. I often filter the searches to return only Milwaukee Braves images.

Recently in such a search, I found two Eddie Mathews pictures that reminded me of how much of a baseball hero he was to many of us who grew up in Wisconsin in the 1950s.

Mathews was OUR Mickey Mantle. He was a big moon-faced slugger who, we were convinced, would have made the coolest big brother or uncle a kid from Wisconsin could ever hope for. 

There were lots of parallels in the lives and careers of Mathews and Mantle. They were born within a week of each other in 1931. They came to the majors within a year of each other (Mantle in 1952, Mathews in 1952) amid great fanfare and each retired after the 1968 season. 

They led dissolute lives that contributed to early deaths, Mantle in 1995 at age 63; Mathews in 2001 at age 69.

In the mid-1980s, we (Krause Publications) were of the opinion that the then relatively new National Sports Collectors Convention needed to be something more than a cash cow for individual promoters. We felt it should be a showcase to promote the growth of the hobby. 

Accordingly, we determined to bid to host the show in Milwaukee in 1986. To preview our concepts and gain a little experience, we held the Milwaukee '85 sportscard and memorabilia show in downtown Milwaukee June 29-30. 

The show was a success, such as it was, but it failed to convince the electors at the 1985 National in Anaheim, and the 1986 show was awarded to John and Wanda Marcus in Arlington, Tex.

Since we had already booked the MECCA convention center in Milwaukee for the third weekend in June in 1986, we went ahead and held Milwaukee '86.

Our featured autograph guest was Eddie Mathews. The iconic Milwaukee Braves star had never before returned to town for an autograph event, so his appearance was a big deal among local sports media and hobbyists alike. 

As a souvenir and autograph vehicle for show attendees, we printed up several thousand copies of a 4-1/8" x 5-7/8" glossy postcard featuring a reproduction of the Bill and Bob postcard of Mathews issued in the mid-1950s.

Unfortunately, I never got to meet my childhood hero during the show. I was tied up with operational details and putting out fires. Maybe it was for the best that my memories of Mathews weren't clouded by the realities of 30 years later.

In any event, I was moved by a pair of photos that I saw on eBay. 

One photo shows a 10-year old Milwaukee girl meeting Mathews and having him sign her autograph book at spring training in 1957. I was never an autograph seeker as a youngster, but I would have walked to Florida for the chance to meet Mathews. 

Ironically, when I did have the opportunity to meet the man at Milwaukee '86, and perhaps share a beer and hear some stories in the hospitality room, the boyhood dreams had to give way to adult realities and I missed my opportunity because I had to deal with a perceived security breach on the show floor. 

The other photo shows Mathews in 1978 with his dog, Luke. I'm a dog fancier and always feel a special affinity to ballplayers who share that sentiment. 

I have no interest in buying either photo, but I wanted to share the memories they evoked. 

Wednesday, June 20, 2012

My '55 Mantle completes Topps-style customs

When I presented my 1954 Topps-style custom Mickey Mantle card in this space on June 1, I mentioned that I would likely be creating a companion 1955-style custom.

I have completed that task, and with it my "run" of Topps-style-customs . . . at least for the time being. (I've got one more project bouncing around in the back of my mind.)

Topps itself has been making up for its lack of an original 1955 Mantle card for a number of years. In at least 2006, 2007, 2008 and 2011, the gum company has issued some sort of Mantle tribute card in the format of the 1955 issue. I'm sure the hobby didn't need yet another retro '55T Mantle, but I felt compelled to try my hand at putting a Mantle card together in one of the favorite formats of my childhood.

As Topps often did in that era, I reused the portrait from my 1954-style card in the creation of my 1955. I'd already put in the work to colorize the photo for my '54-style card.

For the full-figure photo, I colorized a picture I found on the box of a Rawlings Mickey Mantle-model glove.

I experimented with background color, and even conducted a couple of popularity polls on baseball card forums that I frequent.

There were 13 New York Yankees cards in the original 1955 Topps set. Ten of them utilized yellow backgrounds. Two had red backgrounds and there was one in green. Because Topps so often used the yellow background in its 21st Century '55-style Mantles, I was hesitant to make that my choice.

However, after working with the card some more, I decided that yellow was the way to go. I'll give you as look at the red and green beta tests, just for fun.

Monday, June 18, 2012

Pretty Pictures: Sandy Koufax and Mr. Ed

Nine months ago I presented a handful of blog entries using the umbrella title of "Pretty Pictures." That was the title of a 1930s book of cartoons by Otto Soglow that I read and reread as a child.

These photos represent the gleanings of 30+ years of throwing pictures into files during my days as a sports collector, writer, editor and publisher. I've moved these folders full of photos, cards, photocopies and notes at least six times. What makes me think that if I haven’t found time in the last couple of decades to convert these bits and pieces into features for the entertainment of collectors, that I will do so in the next couple of years?

Fortunately, rather new to the equation is this blog. It’s a lot easier to convert photos to images and “publish” articles on the internet than it was in the ink-on-paper days.

With that in mind, I’ve determined to try to wade through the files and present, as space and time allows, some of the highlights. 

The photo presented here came to the forefront due, of all things, to a clue in the June 6 New York Times crossword puzzle.

Clue 27-down was "TV star who homered off Koufax in a 1963 episode." Four letters.

A member of one of the baseball card forums that I frequent brought this to the forum's attention and it elicited some fond memories of some of the older members.

The answer was Mr. Ed, the "talking horse" of the 1961-66 TV show of that name. The referenced episode, the series' 81st, was titled "Leo Durocher Meets Mr. Ed." It originally aired on September 29, 1963. Besides hitting a home run off Koufax, the talented horse made a slide into home plate on the episode.

A 1997 tally of the "100 Greatest Episodes of All Time," by TV Guide named that show #73 on the list.

You can find a lot about the series by googling "Mr. Ed," but I thought I'd share just a couple of highlights . . . 

Mr. Ed was the Show Business name of Bamboo Harvester, a gelding palomino who was 12 years old when the TV series began. He died in 1970.

The voice of Mr. Ed was provided by character actor Allan Lane, who was never listed in the credits.

Mr. Ed. ran in reruns on Nick at Nite 1986-93 and on TV Land 1996-98 and 2003-06. Most recently it has been running mornings on This TV. Episodes are also available on Hulu.

The photo shown here, apparently a studio promotional still, pictures Mr. Ed, of course, at center. At left is Alan Young, who played the horse's owner and confidant Wilbur Post. Sandy Koufax is at right, autographing a baseball.

Saturday, June 16, 2012

Robinson made good on autograph promise

A ball autographed by the 1951 Brooklyn Dodgers (similar to this
example from a recent Heritage auction) is a treasured childhood
memory representing Jackie Robinson's fulfilled promise to a

For whatever reason(s) I was never a particular fan of Jackie Robinson. I suppose the biggest reason for my animus was that he was a Dodger during a period when they were often in contention with my Milwaukee Braves for the National League pennant. 

In recent years, my reading of back issues of The Sporting News from the 1950s really hasn't changed my attitude about Robinson. I'm not keeping any tally of positive and negative articles, but if I had to guess, I'd say the editor of TSN also had an ax to grind against Robinson, or at least wasn't an ardent member of his fan club.

Nevertheless, there was a decidedly favorable short article in the Aug. 22, 1951, issue. The article should be of special interest to baseball memorabilia collectors.

Jackie Robinson made a promise to 14-year-old Johnny Nagelschmidt at Cooperstown, N.Y., and kept it, with interest. The youngster had approached the Brooklyn second baseman at the annual Baseball Shrine exhibition with the Athletics and asked for his autograph on a crumpled scorecard. As league rules prohibit such autographs, Jackie sorrowfully declined, but took the lad’s address. The youth received a ball, with the signatures of the entire Brooklyn squad and a note.

The Hall of Fame game at Abner Doubleday Field drew a crowd of 9,029 fans on July 23. The Dodgers beat the A’s 9 to 4, scoring five runs in the ninth inning. Robinson was 0 for 4.

As recently as 1987, Nagelschmidt still had that special ball. But the story he told to Syracuse Post-Standard columnist Frank Brieaddy differed considerable from the account in TSN.

It may have been that TSN got the story wrong in 1951, or it may be that the passage of 35+ years had muddied the memories of that lucky lad.

Brieaddy's column was published to mark the occasion of the 40th anniversary of Robinson's major league debut.

The column was titled, "A Special Memento From Robinson Era." Providing some background on the event, Brieaddy wrote, "Nagelschmidt was reared in Cooperstown. As a young man, he enjoyed watching the greats of the game pass through once a year for the Hall of Fame game."

He quoted Nagelschmidt, "We used to have quite a time growing up down there. A couple of years, Ty Cobb and Connie Mack would come by and we'd stroll up and down the streets talking with them."

Nagelschmidt recounted how on July 23, 1951, he was a 14-year-old selling scorecards at the game. "When the game was over, I grabbed a scorecard and started getting autographs."

The youngster had gathered quite a few signatures from both teams outside the locker rooms, including Robinson's. When the Dodgers' bus left Doubleday Field, Nagelschmidt decided to race the bus to the hotel in hopes of adding more signatures to his scorecard. 

"Being a local boy, I knew all the gardens and back yards and stuff, so when the bus pulled up to the hotel, I was running alongside," Nagelschmidt was quoted. 

"And Jackie Robinson rolled his window down, offered me an autograph. I said I already had his. He said, 'Well anybody that wants one that bad deserves to have them all."

So Robinson took young Nagelschmidt's program and passed it around the bus for everybody to sign.

Nagelschmidt recalled that the bus only stopped briefly at the hotel, and that the players didn't get off. Other youngsters began to swarm the windows, begging for autographs.

"They were getting ready to leave," Nagelschmidt said, "and I went over and asked him for my scorecard. He had mistakenly given it to somebody else."

Robinson offered to make it up to young Nagelschmidt and took his name and address. "He volunteered right away that he'd send me the ball," Nagelschmidt said. "But, you know, I still wasn't expecting it."When the ball arrived by mail a couple of weeks later, Nagelschmidt said he was "one thrilled kid.  It was covered at the time by all the area newspapers."

That team-autographed ball is Nagelschmidt's only memento of that time in his life.

"When I went into the service," he told Brieaddy, "my mother got rid of everything. My baseball card collection; they're all gone."

Nagelschmidt's encounter with Jackie Robinson isn't his only memory of autograph hunting during the Hall of Fame game. "Back in '48 (it was actually 1947)," he told Brieaddy, "the Yankees and the Braves played and I went to Joe DiMaggio. I was about 11 years old and I asked him for his autograph and he promptly became the first adult to use profanity at me."

Brieaddy's column concluded, "Nagelschmidt didn't like the Yankees after that. But he became a Dodgers fan and a big fan of Robinson's from 1951 to this day. Said Nagelschmidt, 'I'm sure glad he lost that scorecard.'"

Thursday, June 14, 2012

Triandos' successful one-night stand

Uncommon commons. Based on contemporary accounts from The Sporting News; tidbits that as a collector of baseball and football cards I found interesting because they help bring to life the faces on the cards I collected. I figure that if I found these items of interest, so would other vintage card collectors.

Gus Triandos was signed by the New York Yankees as a 17-year-old catcher in 1948. However, with Yogi Berra blocking his way to the majors, Triandos spent six years knocking around Yankees farm clubs, even though he generally hit 10-25 home runs a season and batted an average .325.

During the Korean War, Uncle Sam called and after a couple of games with Kansas City in 1951, Triandos headed off to the Army. 

On his way to induction, however, the Yankees prospect stopped off in Beaumont, Tex.,  on April 30. Beaumont was a Class AA Yankees minor league team in the Texas League, a team that Triandos had managed to miss on his way up and down the farm system ladder.

At Beaumont, Roughnecks manager Harry Craft "certified" Triandos (whatever that meant) and made him eligible for that night's game.

In his only game ever in the Texas League, Triandos batted 1.000 with a pair of singles and a three-run home run to beat Oklahoma City 3-1. 

Sporting News writer John Cronley commented, "The one-day 'season' must have been a record for the shortest--and most successful--fling in the Texas League.

Triandos spent the rest of 1951 and all of the 1952 season in the military. He returned to Yankees minor league service in 1953-54, getting into a total of 20 games with the big club.

After the 1954 season, Triandos became part of what was then the largest-ever major league trade. In a 17-player swap that took some two weeks to finalize, Triandos was traded to the Baltimore Orioles, where he became an All-Star catcher. He played in the major leagues through 1965.

Tuesday, June 12, 2012

Chandler scuttled shady Snider-to-Cubs deal

Duke Snider's baseball cards in 1952 might
have had an entirely different look if baseball
commissioner Happy Chandler hadn't
investigated a 1951 Cubs-Dodgers deal.

             In the lead story on Page 1 of the June 27, 1951, issue, The Sporting News publisher J.G. Taylor Spink wrote, ‘The startling Chicago-Brooklyn four-for-four player trade, which created a storm of discussion June 15, is expected to have an even more sensational sequel next season.
            “In 1952, it is learned from a reliable source, the Cubs will receive Outfielder Duke Snider in exchange for $200,000 in cash, as the finale of the multi-player swap arranged just before the trading deadline this year.
            “No trade in recent years aroused as much comment as the transaction that sent Outfielder Andy Pafko, Pitcher Johnny Schmitz, Catcher Al Walker and Second Baseman Wayne Terwilliger to Brooklyn for Pitcher Joe Hatten, Catcher Bruce Edwards, Infielder Eddie Miksis and Outfielder Gene Hermanski.
            “The almost unanimous opinion was that the acquisition of Pafko clinched the flag for the Dodgers."
            Actually, the Dodgers ended the 1951 season in a tie with the N.Y. Giants, who won the pennant in a one-game playoff on Bobby Thomson's walk-off home run.
            Spink's scoop continued, “So far as the Brooklyn club is concerned, the trade was negotiated with the 1951 pennant in view. The Dodgers received in 30-year-old Pafko a player that other clubs in the league eagerly sought, while apparently offering more than Brooklyn did. The whole transaction mystified many, because of its seeming one-sidedness, but the Cubs’ officials were not as na├»ve as they have been made to appear. Each club achieved what it sought—the Dodgers practically assuring themselves of the 1951 pennant by rounding out the hardest-hitting team in the league, while the Cubs get the promised nucleus for rebuilding that will place them among the strongest teams in 1952.”
            Spink made sure the sporting world recognized the exclusiveness of his scoop by taking the unusual step of adding a “(copyright, 1951, by The Sporting News)” notice at the bottom of the story.
            Lame duck commissioner Happy Chandler was quick to respond to the situation reeking of at least the perception of impropriety, sent investigator Dick butler to Brooklyn to quiz team officials and those writers regularly covering the club.
            Dodgers’ vice president Buzzie Bavasi, who had engineered the trade for Brooklyn, assured the commissioner’s inquisitor that the trade with Chicago “had been completed without any 1952 involvements.” He assured Butler that the Dodgers had no intention of breaking up “the greatest outfield in the history of Brooklyn baseball,” (Carl Furillo in left, Snider in center and Pafko in right).     
            Accepting those protestations, Chandler closed the investigation, apparently without making formal inquiry of Cubs’ officials.
            New York baseball writer Dan Daniel summed up the incident by saying, “Any chance that Snider might go to the Cubs, as a delayed part of the recent deal, now seems ended as a result of the Chandler inquiry . . . despite the fact that the original story in The Sporting News came from a source regarded as well-informed.”

Sunday, June 10, 2012

I always liked Emlen Tunnell: Part 2

The more I read contemporary accounts of Emlen Tunnell's Hall of Fame career, the more I admire him.

As I said yesterday, that admiration caused me to add a couple of Tunnell-as-Packer cards to my opus of custom cards.

The latest is in the style of 1961 Fleer. Such a card would have likely been the end of the line as far as Tunnell's football cards went, as he retired after that season.

I guess we'll never know why Fleer's art department chose to present the Packers logo in mirror image, creating a backwards Wisconsin state map and left-handed quarterback. While it would have been easy enough to correct that error, I chose not to.

I did, however, elect to pick up the stadium photo background that was on all except one of the eight Green Bay cards in the original set.

Here is an article I found in the Nov. 7, 1951, issue of The Sporting News; it help explain why I was such a fan of Emlen Tunnell.

Saturday, June 9, 2012

I always liked Emlen Tunnell: Part 1

I always liked Emlen Tunnell . . . and his football cards.

It probably started with some sort of personal eye appeal of his mid-1950s Topps and Bowman football cards (I especially liked his 1956 Topps). 

I'm sure my appreciation for Tunnell as a football player increased as we sat around the black-and-white TV on Dec. 28, 1958, watching the Colts beat the Giants 23-17 in overtime for the NFL title.

By the time new Packers head coach Vince Lombardi made Tunnell one of his first acquisitions in 1959, I was eager to see his new cards as a Green Bay Packer. 

That never happened. In his three-year stay with the Packers, ending with his retirement following the 1961 season, Tunnell never cracked the Topps or Fleer checklists.

I was no longer following football when Tunnell was inducted into the Pro Fottball Hall of Fame in 1967 and didn't realize until recently that he was the first African American to be so honored. I don't recall even noting that he died in 1975, at only 50 years of age, while coaching with the Giants.

For much of the past decade, I've thought of Tunnell several times a years while driving I-80 between Wisconsin and central Pennsylvania. There is an Exit sign on the freeway in the western part of Pennsylvania for the town of Emlen. I'll have to stop some day.

So, when a trio of photos of Emlen Tunnell as a Green Bay Packer came up for sale on eBay a year or so ago, I knew I'd have to add some Tunnell-as-Packer cards to my custom card endeavors.

Both of the cards I created represent new "types" in my on-going efforts. There is a 1960 Topps-style card, shown here, and a 1961 Fleer-style card that I'll present tomorrow.

I've still got a Tunnell photo in reserve, and someday will likely complete my trilogy with a 1959 Topps-style custom card.

Thursday, June 7, 2012

Milo Candini was Truman's bodyguard

Uncommon commons. Based on contemporary accounts from The Sporting News; tidbits that as a collector of baseball and football cards I found interesting because they help bring to life the faces on the cards I collected. I figure that if I found these items of interest, so would other vintage card collectors.

Senators pitcher Milo Candini received a special assignment during the 1949 Washington season opener at Griffith Stadium on April 18.

Harry Truman was on hand for the traditional presidential first pitch. After the photos had been taken and the umpire called "Play Ball!", Candini was stationed in Truman's box to protect the president from foul balls. 

I don't suppose this was the first or the last time that a player was assigned to protect dignitaries from screaming foul balls, but I had never heard of it before. 

I don't know if he had any "chances" in that role as a Secret Service temp, but at least he got a good view of the game as the Senators beat the Philadelphia A's 3-2. That was the only day in 1949 that the Senators led the American League. 

By the time the rest of the circuit got into action the next day, and Washington lost at New York, the Senators assumed their traditional role as "last in the American League." They finished 1949 with a 50-104 record, 47 games behind the Yankees.

Candini wasn't around to witness Washington's failure in 1949. On May 24 he was sent to Oakland of the Pacific Coast League. 

He won 15 games for the Oaks and was drafted by the Philadelphia Phillies, for whom he pitched in 1950-51, wrapping up his major league career with a 26-21 record. 

Candini played on in Coast League through 1957, then retired to operate a liquor store in his home town of Manteca, Calif. 

The only mainstream baseball card on which Candini appears is in the 1951 Bowman set. He also had several appearances on scarcer regional card issues as both a major leaguer and minor leaguer. 
On April 18, 1949, Pres. Harry Truman throws out the first ball to open the
American League season. To his left are A's manager Connie Mack and
Senators skipper Joe Kuhel. 

Tuesday, June 5, 2012

Bill Hart had Hollywood star son

Uncommon commons. Based on contemporary accounts from The Sporting News; tidbits that as a collector of baseball and football cards I found interesting because they help bring to life the faces on the cards I collected. I figure that if I found these items of interest, so would other vintage card collectors.

Bill Hart played professional baseball for 25 years around the turn of the 20th Century.

From 1885-1910 he played 16 years of minor league ball mostly in the Midsouth and Midwest, playing the outfield when he wasn't pitching. He won 230 games in the minors, losing 212.

Between minor league gigs, Hart spent parts of eight seasons in the major leagues between 1886-1901. He never had a winning season in the bigs, and led the National League with 29 losses in 1896 with the St. Louis Browns. Lifetime in the majors he was 66-122 with an ERA of 4.65.

After his playing days he umpired in the Southern Association and the National League.

In 1917,  Hart had a son, William Sterling Hart. Growing up with leading-man good looks, the younger Hart was signed to a movie contract by Columbia Pictures in 1939. To avoid confusion with silent film cowboy start William S. Hart, the ballplayer's son changed his name to Robert Sterling.

With time out as a flight instructor during World War II, Sterling played many, but forgettable, movie roles through the 1940s, most notably in 1951's Show Boat, and 1961's Voyage to the Bottom of the Sea.

Television revived his flagging career and he continued to play handsome middle-aged characters through the 1960s, then dapper elderly gents into the mid-1980s.

His most famous TV role was as the ghost of George Kerby in the 1953-55 CBS series Topper, in which he co-starred with his wife Ann Jeffreys.

You can, of course, find out much more about Sterling's TV and movie career on site such as the Internet Movie Database (

Bill Hart, the pitcher, is included among the scarcer T206 Southern League series of cigarette cards circa 1909. He's the Hart with Little Rock, as opposed to Hart, Montgomery (Jimmy Hart). 

Sunday, June 3, 2012

Reds gave Ramsdell little run support

Uncommon commons. Based on contemporary accounts from The Sporting News; tidbits that as a collector of baseball and football cards I found interesting because they help bring to life the faces on the cards I collected. I figure that if I found these items of interest, so would other vintage card collectors.

Knuckleballer Willard Ramsdell had an undistinguished five-year career in the National League (Dodgers 1947-48, 1950; Reds 1950-51; Cubs 1952). His lifetime record was 24-39 with a 3.83 ERA.

His record might have been better if Cincinnati had given him more run support. 

A tidbit in The Sporting News early in the 1951 season related that in his last 21 innings pitched in 1950, and his first 19 innings in 1951, the Reds failed to score a run.

Finally, in the top of the 1st inning at the Polo Grounds on May 6, Reds third baseman Grady Hatton homered off Giants pitcher Dave Koslo. It was not enough to help Ramsdell's record, however, as he was chased from the mound in the second and tagged with the 8-5 loss.

The Reds inability to score for Ramsdell was not the first time he had pitched in such hard luck. In 1949, with the first-place Hollywood Stars of the Pacific Coast League, his Twinks' teammates scored only one run for him in 30 innings, dropping his record at the time from 12-3 to 12-7.

I have a special affinity for Ramsdell as he was one of the few former or future major leaguers to play pro ball at Iola (Kansas, not Wisconsin). He managed the Indians for most of 1954. The team ended up dead last in the Western Association with a 39-101 record . . . 49 games out of first place.

Despite his modest big league career, Ramsdell can be found on a few mainstream early 1950s baseball cards: 1951 and 1952 Bowman (Reds) and 1952 Topps (Cubs).

Saturday, June 2, 2012

Antebellum check was child's play

As I continue to work with an old-time collection of stocks, bonds, checks and related collectible fiscal paper, I find items of special interest to me and feel compelled to subject you to them as well.

One such item is a pre-Civil War check that appears to have been repurposed as a child's plaything, perhaps to while away the hours on a rainy day in the Delta.

There is a lot of charm in this historic old check. It looks as if a child got ahold of, or was given, an unused check of the Rail Road and Banking Co., Grand Gulf, Miss.

The payee data and other details are written in pencil in a legible cursive script that would have made a 19th Century school marm proud.

Dated May 31, 1868, and signed by G.H. Calkins, the check directs the cashier of the "southern confdercy" to pay $500 to Evaline Calkins.

Cursory poking around on the internet didn't turn up much about the issuing entity, although it looks as if the railroad was operating as early as the 1830s. The 7-1/2" x 3-1/2" blank check is dated "18__" and has the look of an 1850s instrument.

The check was the work of Daper, Toppan, Longacre & Co., Philadelphia and New York. It is evident those Yankee engravers never saw a real alligator . . . if that's what the dragon-like creature on the riverfront vignette is supposed to be.

Even with multiple creasing throughout and a coupler of small areas of missing paper, the check sold for $36 on eBay in late May.

Friday, June 1, 2012

Ho-hum . . . another 1954 Topps-style Mantle. But mine has a story.

Everybody and their uncle seems to have done a 1954 Topps-style Mickey Mantle card. Upper Deck had one in its 1994 All-Time Heroes set. Topps had a bunch of them in 2007, and again in 2011 and now in 2012 Archives.

And several of the other custom card makers had tried their hand at creating the 1954 Topps Mantle "card that never was."

For that reason, I never made too much of a priority of doing one of my own. But, because of a long held -- but as it turns out, faulty -- childhood memory, the time has come for me to make such a card.

We have to first travel back to the late 1970s, when I renewed my interest in 1950s baseball cards. It was about 1979 that I became aware of the "organized" hobby, such as it was 35+ years ago, with its collectors' papers, nascent show circuit and rudimentary catalogs/price guides.

At the top of my newly created want list back then, besides the Johnston cookies Milwaukee Braves sets of 1953-55, were 1954 Topps cards of Henry Aaron and Mickey Mantle.

Imagine my surprise, then, when I bought a copy of Larry Fritsch's baseball card checklist book and discovered that there was no 1954 Topps Mickey Mantle card.

Mind, until 1956 when Topps finally started including them in wax packs, we kid collectors never had a checklist for the Topps and Bowman cards we accumulated every summer. The only way we had of knowing how many cards were in a particular set was when, after buying pack after pack late in the summer, nobody in the neighborhood had found a card numbered beyond a certain point. And in those years when the companies skipped a few card numbers, some obsessive kids went broke trying to find the "missing" cards (as the gum companies had intended).

Why did I have a '54T Mantle at the top of my want list? Because I was sure I had seen one as a kid.

We now have to travel back even further in time, to about 1959. I had a vivid memory of having seen a '54T Mantle during a card trading session.

A handful of us second or third grade collectors had gathered on the sidewalk in front of Dave Domenget's house. I know it was about 1959 because I was still attending public school and Domenget was a classmate. In  1960 I was transferred to the newly opened parish school and didn't hang out with my old classmates much.

I don't remember who I misremembered as having had the 1954 Topps Mantle, but even 25 years later, I could recall the lime green background on the card's front. Obviously I was unsuccessful in trading for the card.

As an adult collector, I soon realized that what I thought had been a 1954 Topps Mickey Mantle card had probably been a Gene Woodling, which sports the lime green background that I so distinctly remembered.

Naturally, when I decided to finally realize my childhood dream of owning a 1954 Topps Mickey Mantle, my custom card had to have that green background.

If you're interested in the other pieces that were assembled for my Mantle . . . 

The facsimile autograph was lifted from a 1954 Bowman. It is more period-correct than the sig used by UD in 1994 and Topps this year.

The portrait photo is from some auction or other. While you can't see it on my card, the rookie-year picture has the 1951 American League 50th anniversary patch on the uniform's left sleeve. The photo was originally in black-and-white, so I colorized it.

The full-length photo is from the Dormand postcard series of the mid-1950s. It shows the N.Y. Yankees 50th year sleeve patch that the team wore in 1952. Unlike the portrait, the Dormand photo was originally in color, so I converted it to black-and-white.

The cartoons on back were repurposed from original '54T. The cartoon at left is from Jim Pendleton's card. Those in the center and at right originally appeared on Preston Ward's card.

Since I've gone to the effort of creating such a compelling card-portrait photo, I've decided to put together a 1955 Topps-style Mickey Mantle card in the near future. 

Watch for it here.