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. 

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