Thursday, May 30, 2013

Pepper Martin's unusal runs record

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.

Many baseball fans and collectors know Pepper Martin as one of the key players of the St. Louis Cardinals’ Gashouse Gang dynasty of the 1930s.

He had lifetime major league batting average of  .298 while generally holding down center field and third base for the Cardinals. Some feel is one of the players of his era most deserving of Hall of Fame consideration.

He was a four-time All-Star and the league three times in stolen bases, and once in runs scored.

I was surprised to find that for all his achievements later in his career, Martin had the unusual distinction in his first two years (1928 and 1930) with St. Louis of having more runs scored than at-bats.

Frequently used as a pinch-runner early in his career, in 1928 Martin had 13 at-bats in 39 games, and scored 11 runs.

In 1929, Martin spent the season in Texas League, hitting .298 for Houston.

Back with the Cardinals for six games in 1930, Martin had one at-bat and scored five times. 

Overall, in 1928 and 1930, Martin had 14 at-bats, four base hits (a .286 average), and scored 16 runs.

He played 13 seasons with St. Louis (1928, 1930-40, 1944), hitting a lifetime .298, leading the league three times in stolen bases, and being named an All-Star four times.

Tuesday, May 28, 2013

"Mini" 1960 Post Grape-Nut Flakes Mantle: Fooling collectors since 1982

It happened again recently.

Somebody was fooled by a fake 1960 Post Grape-Nut Flakes cereal box back Mickey Mantle that I had a hand in creating 30 years ago.

This time, however, it wasn't an unwary buyer at a local card show or on eBay, it was a major auction company.

In offering a complete set of the 10 box back "cards" that appeared on cereal boxes in 1960, the auction lot also included what was described as "a 6-1/2" x 9" ad card with Mickey Mantle that was hand cut from either some type of store display piece or more than likely from a Post cereal box announcing the upcoming promotion."

Actually, what this is, is a page from a book that I wrote in 1982 titled Baseball Cards A Collector's Guide.

The book was issued in a 100-page, spiral-bound 8-1/2" x 11" format by Beekman House books of New York. I wrote the book, and provided the 100+ cards illustrated in black-and-white and color, for the folks at Consumer Guide.

Many of the pictures printed in the book were actual-size photos that we had taken at Baseball Cards magazine in the early years of cards from the Larry Fritsch collection. The '60 Post Mantle panel was one of those.

The original box-back cards were printed in a 7" x 8-3/4" size including the wood "frame" around the color portrait photo. As it appeared in the Collector's Guide book, however, the card portion appeared in a reduced size of 5-3/4" x 7-1/8", with the entire panel measuring 6-3/4" x 9-1/8". That's about 82% of actual size.

When the page from the book is being offered to somebody as a "rare mini" version or some such, it is glued to a piece of cardboard to give the impression that it is printed on a cereal box.

In actuality, the book page has on its back half of a two-page spread picturing 1956 Topps cards that was printed in an early issue of Baseball Cards.

The "tell" that an undersized 1960 Post Mantle panel is from the Collector's Guide is that there is a poorly cut bottom border at the lower-right; that was on the original Fritsch card that we photographed. Naturally, if someone trims the page down to the wood border, that imperfection won't be visible.

Just remember, all genuine 1960 Post Grape-Nut Flakes box cards measured 7" x 8-3/4. There were no authentic pieces in other sizes, nor advertising or promotional pieces. With a genuine '60 Post Mantle worth hundreds of dollars depending on condition, that's valuable information to keep in mind.

Sunday, May 26, 2013

Rob a grave for a DiMaggio ball?

If jackhammering a field house wall for a couple of Lou Gehrig’s gloves is more of a challenge than you’re willing to undertake (see entry, May 23), would you consider desecrating a kid’s grave to get a baseball autographed by Joe DiMaggio?

On Aug. 18, 1949, a seven-year-old Arlington, Va., boy named Billy Paxton was killed when he walked into the path of an oncoming automobile near his home.

The boy’s family, remembering his hero-worship of Joe DiMaggio, determined to try to get an autographed baseball to place in the casket. An uncle reached out to Washington radio WTOP sportscaster Arch McDonald and asked if he could – quickly – obtain a ball autographed by DiMaggio.

The broadcaster tracked the Yankee Clipper down at the Philadelphia hotel where the team was staying and after a midnight call, the ball was rushed to the grieving parents in Washington.

“To Billy, from Joe DiMaggio,” the ball was simply inscribed. Billy was buried with his prized autograph near at hand. I’m not going to tempt any heartless collector by naming the cemetery.  

Thursday, May 23, 2013

Psst! Wan'na dig a Gehrig glove?

What would a glove that Lou Gehrig wore when he played at Columbia be worth in today’s collectible market?
I think I know where you can lay your hands on a couple of them . . . if you’ve got a jackhammer and the nerves of a cat burglar.
According to a short item in the “Major Flashes” roundup column of the April12, 1949, issue of The Sporting News, there are gloves (plural) stowed away in a time capsule at the school.
The article read, “The gloves used by Lou Gehrig, late first baseman of the Yankees, when he played with the Lions in 1923, are among the athletic memorabilia sealed in the new fieldhouse wall at Columbia University. A steel box containing mementos from five sports was embedded in the concrete during ceremonies, March 30.”
Even if the box’s location isn’t marked with a plaque or something, today’s state of the art metal detectors should be able to pinpoint its location.
How the leather has held up over 60+ years is anybody’s guess.

Tuesday, May 21, 2013

Fleer, Leaf sales had little effect on Topps 1959-63

This is the last installment of my rudimentary analysis of baseball card sales history that I discovered in a 1965 Federal Trade Commission decision against Topps in an anti-trust action.

As before, you really need to read the introductory piece that I posted on May 12 for context and general information.

The FTC document included basic sales information for Fleer 1959-1963 and Leaf 1960 baseball cards.

I've charted the figures they presented and, for comparison, have added Topps baseball card total sales for the same years. 

I don't think it can be definitively cited as the principal reason for the decline in Topps baseball card sales 1959-1961 (the only years' data available in the FTC report), but it seems likely that competition from Fleer and Leaf was at least a minor factor in that trend.

As with the other baseball card sales data from the FTC findings, the figures are presumed to be wholesale sales. In quoting the Fleer sales numbers, the FTC examiner stated they represent sales "before returns and allowances."

As with the other sales data that has been presented here since May 12, you are welcome to do your own analysis and draw your own conclusions as to what the sales figures tell us 50 years later about quantities of cards produced. 

Saturday, May 18, 2013

Goudey sales figures offer limited insight

Those who have been following this blog for the past two weeks have seen the results of my cursory study of baseball card bubblegum sales as reported in a 1965 decision by the Federal Trade Commission on allegations of anti-trust violations by Topps.

If you haven't already done so, I urge you to read the posting of May 12, wherein I presented the background of the FTC document and some caveats concerning its application to the hobby today.

In laying out the history of baseball cards sold with bubblegum, the FTC examiner in the Topps case dug up -- lord only knows where -- sales figures from the Goudey Gum Co. for the years 1933-1942.

The numbers presented in the FTC report were already 20-30 years old, and they were categorized in a manner differing from the Topps and Bowman reports. Still, they offer insights into baseball card sales -- and by extension baseball card production -- during Goudey's years in that market.

Notice that the Goudey sales chart has only three columns.

Total Sales are presumed to be company's gross wholesale receipts. I'm not sure what other "non-card" products, if any, Goudey may have offered in that era, but they may have had other confectionery items on the shelves besides bubblegum. 

Let's assume that the "Gum Alone" column presents sales of Goudey gum that was sold without accompanying baseball or non-sports cards.

That leaves the column titled "Baseball Packs." This column raises several questions. Foremost among them is what the sales reported in that column actually comprised, because in some of those years Goudey didn't offer its line of Big League Gum cards traditionally sold with bubblegum.

In 1939, for instance, Goudey's only baseball products were the premium photos (designated in the American Card catalog as R303-A and R303-B) that were distributed at candy store counters as wrapper redemptions. Goudey had no baseball products at all in 1940 or in 1942, yet sales are reported for Baseball Packs in all those years.

And, in the years when Goudey offered both baseball cards and premiums -- 1935-1937 -- do the Baseball Packs figures include only the standard baseball card bubblegum packs, or were the sales of gum that included premium redemptions rolled in? And how were sales of the flip-book movies Thum Movies and Big League Baseball Movies accounted for? Those novelty products were not packaged with bubblegum.

Similarly, are the Canadian sales of World Wide Gum bubblegum baseball cards included in the Baseball Packs column, the Total Sales column, or not all all?

Also unmentioned in the FTC decision was Goudey's sales of non-sports bubblegum cards throughout that span. It has long been accepted within the hobby that Goudey's Indian Chewing Gum and Horrors of War far outsold its baseball cards. If we subtract the Baseball Packs and Gum Alone columns from the Total Sales column, it is reasonable to assume that the remainder represented non-sports sales for that year? 

My eye was drawn to the Baseball Packs column because it seems to offer a reasonably clear picture of relative sales (and thus, production numbers) among the years that Goudey marketed its Big League Gum baseball cards.

Using 1933 as the base year, when Big League Gum was Goudey's only baseball card product, it can be seen that sales dropped by more than half in 1934. This was probably the result of the deepening of the Depression, and the fact that Goudey's card set dropped from 240 player cards in 1933 to just 96 cards in 1934.

In 1935, baseball card sales were again nearly halved, perhaps reflecting contemporary dissatisfaction with the 4-on-1 concept and puzzle backs, as opposed to the traditional format on a single player on front and a stats-heavy biography on back. 

For 1936, when Goudey issued a game-back card set of just 25 player cards -- in black-and-white no less -- sales in the category declined another 18 percent. In 1937, Goudey dropped player pictures entirely with its Knot Hole Game set and "Baseball Packs" sales plummeted to $36,000, a decline of more than 60 percent.

When Goudey returned to the use of baseball player pictures with its set known to today's collectors as Heads Up, sales more than doubled, even though only 24 players were included in the series. 

Before presenting the Goudey sales chart, let me summarize the baseball and non-sports bubblegum cards that were issued each year.

baseball -- Big League Gum, R309-1 wrapper redemption premiums
non-sport -- Indian, Sea Raiders, World War, Soldier Boys, Boy Scouts
(where Goudey accounted for sales of its multi-sport Sport Kings cards is unknown)

baseball -- Big League Gum, R309-1 wrapper redemption premiums
non-sport -- Indian, World War

baseball -- Big League Gum (4-on-1), R309-2 premiums
non-sport -- Indian, G-Men and Heroes of the Law, Mickey Mouse, Film Funnies

baseball -- Big League Gum (game cards), "Wide Pen" premiums
non-sport -- Indian, G-Men and Heroes of the Law

baseball -- Knot Hole Game, Thum Movies, Wide Pen premiums
non-sport -- Indian, Wild West

baseball -- Big League Gum (Heads Up), Big League Baseball Movies
non-sport -- Indian, Auto License Plates, Action Gum

baseball -- R303-A, R303-B premiums
non-sport -- Indian, World in Arms, War News

baseball -- none
non-sport -- Indian, Superman, Lone Ranger

baseball -- Big League Gum
non-sport -- War Gum


baseball -- none
non-sport -- War Gum

All of this provides interesting food for thought, analysis and speculation. You're welcome to share your findings by emailing me at scbcguy(at)yahoo(dot)com.

Wednesday, May 15, 2013

Feds reported 1951-54 Bowman baseball sales

To get the full benefit of this posting, you really should go back to my May 12 entry for the background on where these figures were unearthed.

That being said, let me preface this installment by saying that the Bowman wholesale sales numbers found in the 1965 Federal Trade Commission decision on anti-trust allegations against Topps were nowhere near as comprehensive as the Topps figures. And that's a shame.

The Bowman sales figures in the FTC report covered only the years 1951-1954, and they included only Total Sales and Baseball Card Gum.

I'm assuming that Bowman's Total Sales figures for those years included not only baseball cards, but also football and non-sports cards, as well as its popular Blony brand bubblegum that was sold as a stand-alone product. If the numbers in the FTC report are accurate, it is noteworthy how large of a percentage of Bowman's total sales that baseball cards represented.  

What immediately caught my attention as a collector -- as both a boy and a man -- was how precipitously Bowman's baseball card sales dropped in 1953. That iconic card set sold only 41 percent as well as the last of the "small" Bowman baseball cards in 1952. 

If I had to cite a single cause for such a decline, my money would be on the fact that Topps began to dominate the market by 1953, feeding off the success of its much larger -- both in format and in number of cards -- set of 1952. I'd still be at a loss, however, to figure out why Bowman baseball card sales rebounded so well for 1954.

To allow easier comparison, in the chart presented here, I've added a column for Topps baseball card sales for 1951-1954.

Within the FTC findings, besides the Bowman sales numbers, there was a fair amount of information about the sale of Bowman to Topps. Among the things I did not know heretofore were . . .

  • On Jan. 20, 1956, Topps actually bought Connelly Containers, Inc., the company formerly known as Bowman Gum and Haelan Laboratories, for $200,000. Topps bought all of the company's gum-producing assets and all of its contracts with ballplayers. In addition, Bowman agreed to a five-year non-compete clause.
  • Bowman signed baseball players to contracts for $10. If the player was on a Major League roster on Opening Day and for the next 31 days, he was paid an additional $100. 
  • In the ongoing litigation between Topps and Bowman over the legitimacy of each company's player contracts, Bowman spent as much as $110,000 a year in legal expenses, and Topps "only slightly less."

As I said on May 12, the FTC document offers a great deal of insight into the legal wranglings between Topps and its competitors, but that's not really an area in which I have great interest, so I'm leaving it to others to analyze and present that information to the hobby. 

In my next presentation, we'll look at the sales numbers that the feds found for Goudey baseball cards in the years 1933-1942.

Monday, May 13, 2013

Chet Krause dies at age 92.


Chet Krause died on June 25 of complications from a fall he suffered in February, 2016, and a stroke in January 2014.

For the entire second half of the 20th Century, the name of Chet Krause was well-known throughout the numismatic hobby; first nationally, then globally. This recognition resulted from his life's work focused on providing coin collectors with authoritative reference books, accurate price guides, hobby news and entertainment and trustworthy marketplaces to bring together buyers and sellers.

Chester L. Krause was born Dec. 16, 1923, in rural Waupaca County, about six miles east of the village of Iola in central Wisconsin. He was the youngest of six children. His education began in a one-room schoolhouse that had been built by his father next door to the family farm. From an early age, Krause learned the building trades working with his father who was an accomplished stone mason. He attended high school in Iola, graduating in 1941.

At the age of 19, Krause was drafted into the U.S. Army in February, 1943. He served as an auto mechanic with the 565th Anti-Aircraft Artillery Battalion, part of Patton's 3rd Army, in Belgium, Luxembourg and Germany through the end of World War II. He was among the first U.S. troops to witness the concentration camp at Buchenwald the afternoon after it was liberated in May, 1945.

Following his release from the Army in 1946, Krause returned to Iola where he worked on the family farm and set himself up as an independent builder. Through the early 1950s he constructed two dozen houses, two churches and a 105-foot ski jump in the Iola area.

In October, 1952, Krause published the first issue of Numismatic News. The one-sided 11" x 17" sheet was meant to fill a niche Krause identified to serve the buying, selling and trading needs of coin collectors nationwide who were far removed from metropolitan areas where numismatists enjoyed coin shops, clubs, shows and conventions. He was the prototypical customer for his new venture: a serious coin collector who was geographically cut off from that hobby's mainstream.

For the next five years the publication grew in advertising volume and circulation as Krause nurtured it on evenings, weekends and when inclement weather kept him away from current construction projects. In 1957, Krause finished the last building he would ever construct, a 40" x 40" brick and glass office a block off of Iola's Main Street. That would remain, with occasional additions as expansion dictated, the offices of Krause Publications for nearly two decades.

Numismatic News grew throughout the 1960s and Krause Publications expanded through acquisitions and start ups of periodicals to fill needs Krause identified in the coin collecting community.

When the coin collecting hobby suffered a serious downturn in the mid- 1960s, almost forcing the demise of his publishing business, Krause recognized that diversification was key to insure its survival. In 1971 he founded Old Cars, a virtual clone of the contemporary Numismatic News, and began to develop a parallel line of periodicals for antique auto enthusiasts.

His involvement with the car collecting fraternity led to one of the most significant contributions he would make to his hometown. In 1972, in conjunction with a pig roast and donation auction fundraiser sponsored by the  Iola Lions Club, Krause invited two dozen area vintage car owners to display their vehicles at the cookout. That was the first Iola Old Car Show, an annual event that draws tens of thousands of spectators to the village to view more than 2,000 collector cars and do business with 1,500 swap meet vendors. The event has raised millions of dollars with profits benefiting the dozens of area civic organizations that provide volunteer staffing for the largest collector car show in the Midwest.

The car show is only the most visible of the philanthropic activities that Krause has been engaged in over the years. Both personally and through a family foundation that he endowed, millions of dollars have been spent in such projects as village park improvement, street renovation, the removal of dilapidated buildings and the provision of assisted living housing for seniors.

Less visible support of the community has been ongoing for decades, often unbeknownst to the general public. He has been instrumental in drawing resources into the community such as medical practices, outdoor winter sports facilities, housing for seniors, day care operations and other amenities not usually found in similarly sized rural Wisconsin locales.

Besides providing financial impetus for such improvements, Krause consistently gave of his time to the community. He was a member of the local volunteer fire department, a member of the Iola Village Board of Trustees for eight years and a member of the Waupaca County Selective Service Board during the Vietnam War era.

Though most of his philanthropy has been focused locally, Krause has been a major benefactor over the years to the Rawhide Boy's Ranch for at-risk youths, the Badger State Winter Games, the Melvin Laird Center medical research facility at the Marshfield Clinic and the Max McGee National Research Center for Juvenile Diabetes at Children's Hospital of Milwaukee.

Through much of his publishing career, Krause devoted time and money to further the growth of the hobby fields in which he published. He testified frequently on coinage related matters before Congressional committees in Washington, D.C., lobbying the U.S. Mint and Treasury Department on behalf of the interests of his coin collecting readers.

He is a lifetime member of the American Numismatic Association and has been recognized by that organization with every major award it can bestow. In 2007, when the ANA was struggling with financial and operational issues, Krause ran for and was elected to the association's board of governors at the age of 83, bringing his decades of business acumen to bear in creating new leadership and direction for the ANA.

Krause guided the growth of his publishing company through the 1980s, expanding into more that a dozen collectible hobbies including sports cards and memorabilia, postcards, comic books, records, stamps, firearms, knives, toys, and general antiques, producing dozens of periodicals and more than 150 book titles, with revenues exceeding $50 million annually.

At the age of 63 he stepped down as president of the firm in late 1986, remaining as chairman of the board. In 1988, he converted the company to an Employee Stock Ownership Plan, eventually vesting the company's stock in the hands of its 400+ employees. When he had completed the transition of his shares to the ESOP in 1992, Krause retired from active participation in the company, though he maintained an office in the company headquarters.

While the ESOP was intended to insure that Krause Publications would remain in the hands of its employees, and thus in the Iola community, in 2002 a group of its largest shareholders voted to sell the company to an outside investment capital group.

Krause severed all ties with the company at that point. He set up a retirement office from which he oversaw the disposition of his lifelong collections of numismatic material, vintage autos and a large personal collection of World War II U.S. Army vehicles.

Now, as he nears the age of 90, Krause spends much of his time writing monographs on subjects ranging from family and local history to a compendium of places named Iola throughout the U.S.

Sunday, May 12, 2013

1951-61 Topps sales numbers discovered

As I said in my last presentation (May 9), I am not adept at navigating legal web sites so it was almost accidental when I recently discovered a federal government document that almost made me wish I was still editor of Sports Collectors Digest so that I could enjoy the thrill of presenting the hobby with some long-sought data.

Some of the most often asked -- but never answered -- questions about post-World War II baseball cards concern production numbers. How many cards did Topps, Bowman, etc., produce in the Golden Age of the 1950s-1960s? 

Admittedly, having access to those numbers would little change current market realities, for the value for such cards is as much a factor of demand as of supply. 

Still, because production numbers have never been revealed and are probably now lost to history, it is human nature to speculate. 

Unfortunately, I did not discover production numbers . . . but I've got the next best thing. An arcane entry in the 1965 compilation of Federal Trade Commission decisions has provided the first presumably accurate figures I've ever seen that list annual sales of baseball cards for Topps 1951-1961, Bowman 1951-54, Goudey 1933-1942, Fleer 1959-1962 and Leaf 1960.

If I ever had the mathematical acumen to translate these sales figures into production numbers, I no longer have the professional incentive to do so. About all I can do with these figures is draw relative comparisons, i.e., if Topps sold $950,000 worth of baseball cards in gum packs in 1953, and $1.9 million in 1957, the company must have printed about twice as many cards in 1957 as in 1953 (since the number of cards in a 5-cent wax pack was nearly the same).

Keep in mind that the numbers we'll be seeing represent wholesale sales and that they provide no data that would be useful in trying to determine the ratio between the quantities of early-season low numbered cards and late-season short-printed high-numbers.  

Some of the Topps figures separate sales of baseball cards with gum (wax packs) from sales of baseball cards without gum (vending boxes, rack and cello packs). Depending on which packaging Topps offered in any given year, this can provide a tantalizing clue as to relative production of the various packagings.

Because baseball card sales in that era were totally coincident with the baseball season, I think we can assume that sales figures for a given year represent only that same year's production of baseball cards.

As I mentioned in my last entry, I stumbled across this information while searching the internet for information about 1949 Bowman v. Leaf baseball card litigation.

These numbers are found in a Federal Trade Commission decision of April 4, 1965, regarding anti-trusts allegations against Topps made in a Jan. 20, 1962 complaint.

The decision runs about 100 pages in a pdf format. I'm sure that besides providing baseball card sales numbers it contains a lot of other information about the card companies' activities of 50 years ago. I didn't read the document thoroughly and, again, have no interest in trying to digest its findings in this venue. About all I took away from the legalese is that the examiner did find Topps guilty of at least come of the particulars in the complaint, though it would require a close reading by a legal mind to determine how that finding affected the company and its baseball cards in the aftermath.

If you want to read the document for yourself, and perhaps share your findings and analysis with the hobby, here's a link:

I'm just going to print here the sales numbers given and let you enjoy making of them what you will.

Unfortunately, a blog is not a great place to facilitate a dialogue about these numbers, but I invite you to share your thoughts, speculations, etc., Keep in mind that my blog doesn't accept anonymous comments, so you'll have to follow the directions at the bottom of this post to comment.

To make it easier, you can email me at scbcguy(at)yahoo(dot)com, and I can add appropriate follow-ups to this posting.

So, here's what the FTC found concerning Topps sales from 1951-1961. The FTC document did not have some data for some years, a N/A indicates "not available." Veteran collectors know that Topps was selling baseball cards without gum in cello packs as early as 1952, and in vending boxes by at least 1955, so we are left to assume that those numbers were not significant before 1956 and were rolled into the "with gum" number. There was some rounding of figures. 

We could be a lot closer to estimating production numbers if we had an idea of what Topps charged at the wholesale level for its products, but such information was not included in the FTC findings. Did the retailer who sold a wax pack for a nickel pay Topps 2 cents? 2-1/2? 3 cents? I have to think that some Topps wholesale price lists remain extant, though I can't specifically remember seeing them.

In future installments we'll look at similar baseball card sales numbers from the other bubblegum companies and some hobby odds and ends I noticed within the FTC document.

Thursday, May 9, 2013

1949 Bowman suit killed Leaf baseball cards

Like many collectors of vintage baseball cards, I am passing familiar with the lengthy “card wars” in the courts between Topps and Bowman in the early 1950s.

Until recently, though, I was unaware that there was an earlier baseball card court battle between Bowman and Leaf.

In the May 18, 1949, The Sporting News “Caught on the Fly” column, I found this tidbit . . .


Four Philadelphia companies are barred from distributing pictures of players in bubble-gum wrappers, following a preliminary injunction issued in that city, May 7, on the petition of six major leaguers, on behalf of the Bowman Gum Company. The latter company claims to have the signed contracts of 272 big league players, giving it exclusive rights to use their names and photographs in the advertising and sale of gum. Players filing the petition were Warren Spahn of the Braves, Al Evans of the Senators, Elmer Valo, Sam Chapman, Buddy Rosar and Lou Brissie of the Athletics.

There was no mention in TSN of further developments.

Digging a little deeper, I found that on May 4, 1949, the Associated Press had moved on its wires a short story that specified, “The complaint charges Jack A. Bendon of Philadelphia  and six Philadelphia distributors of gum manufactured by Leaf Brands, Inc., and Leaf Gum Co. illegally used pictures of the players.”

The AP story also included the fact Pacific Coast League players were included along with American and National Leaguers who signed contracts with the Bowman company.

I’m not adept at surfing legal web sites, so I don’t know how far through the court systems the Bowman-Leaf suit may have gone, but I did find that a “settlement agreement” between the parties enjoined Leaf from selling baseball cards “until 1951.”

Perhaps this litigation was at least partially responsible for the scarcity of the Leaf short-prints in its 1949 set.

While this information was interesting enough in itself, what I stumbled across while I was trying to find out about the outcome is mind-blowing for those of us with an interest in baseball cards of the 1930s-1960s.

Watch this blog in coming days for some never-before-seen (at least within the hobby) data on baseball card sales that could help collectors get a better handle on production numbers in that era.

Wednesday, May 8, 2013

When players had off-season jobs

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.

Among my favorite types of articles in the old Sporting News papers are the summaries of major leagues players’ off-season jobs.

With the exception of guys like Williams, DiMaggio, Musial, Feller and a few others, most ballplayers in the late 1940s and early 1950s had off-season employment to make ends meet and/or to keep in shape.

During the winter months TSN would occasionally print articles by one or the other of the team’s beat writers to update fans on what their favorite players were doing while waiting for spring training.

As I’ve done in the past, rather than trying to summarize or paraphrase where I don’t have any particular insight or comment, I’m going to reprint an article that appeared in the Jan. 12, 1949 issue.

Appearing with half-a-dozen player portrait photos, the article was by Chicago White Sox beat writers Jack Ryan.

Want Car Fixed, Shirt
Washed? See the Sox
            Just to get the record straight, the White Sox can do other things than lose ball games and finish in last place.
            Wanna shirt washed a sagging window frame repaired or a fender dent pressed out? The White Sox can take care of you.
            Or are you in the market for a new car, a septic tank installation, a small dab of surveying? You can find your man among the Sox.
            Off-season activities of the men Manager Jack Onslaw will try to get untracked this spring range coast to coast and in a dozen trades and occupations—including that fuzzy world of breweries and cocktail lounges.
            One of Onslaw’s rookie pitching prospects, Chuck Eisenmann, a 16-game winner at Memphis in ’48, is the man with a cocktail bar in his life. The Eisenmann refuge for the thirsty is in Los Angeles.
            Another type of filling station operated by a Sox player is located in Grand Junction, Colo. It’s the property of Pitcher Bill Evans, complete with a full line of gasoline, oil and spare tires.
            Fred Hancock, a candidate for the shortstop job Luke Appling has held since 'way back when a Republican received his mail at the White House, is working for a brewery. He’s promotion manager for a Memphis foam factory.
            Surveyors among the Sox include Pitcher Allen Gettel and Catcher George Yankowski. Carpenter work in the vicinity of Healdsburg, Calif., occupies the southpaw pitcher Bill Wight, and in Detroit, Infielder Don Kolloway is connected with a collision shop. Those who have lamented his so-so batting can only hope Don gets more hits in the off-season.
            Then there’s the no tickee-no washee man, Mr. Tony Lupien, with a laundry located in Vermont. Septic tanks may be bought from Catcher Mike Tresh—he’s a Detroiter—and Pitcher Bill Briggs, a rookie, can fix you up with a suit of clothes in a Memphis department store.
            Need a bulldozer? Pitcher Orval Grove, a Chicagoan, sells heavy road building and repair equipment. If you’re in the market for clay products, contact Pitcher Fred Bradley, sales representative of a concern in Whittier, Calif.
            Now, about that new car . . . the man to talk to is Dave Philley, the outfielder. But you may have to be patient about the whole thing. The Paris, Tex., agency Philley owns is for the Tucker automobile.

A potential buyer for one of Dave Philley's autos would have had to be more than patient. Only about 50 of the cars were produced in 1948. Well-restored examples of the survivors have sold for more than a million dollars.

Saturday, May 4, 2013

Tigers in shower was 1949 TSN photo op

As a result of a particular episode of the Seinfeld television show, it has become fashionably politically correct to add "Not that there's anything wrong with it," when mentioning homosexuality.

That phrase leaped to mind recently when I saw a photo on Page 3 of the May 4, 1949, issue of The Sporting News.

The photo showed four members of the Detroit Tigers in the shower after the April 20 game against the White Sox when Johnny Groth hit a grand slam home run in the bottom of the eighth inning to win 5-2.

In a similar vein of "too much information," that paper ran a photo on July 20 of then-St. Louis Cardinals radio broadcaster Harry Caray working the game topless. 

Thursday, May 2, 2013

Topps missed a Dick Wantz memorial card

In my posting of April 24, I showcased my 1965-style Dick Wantz custom card and presented the story of that L.A. Angels pitcher who died tragically one month after his major league debut.

Wantz's death just a year after Ken Hubbs' demise caused me to wonder why Topps didn't produce an In Memoriam card for Wantz as they had for Hubbs in the 1964 set.

It's possible that Wantz's death in May, 1965, was too late into the baseball card season to allow Topps to produce a memorial card in its 1965 set, and that the company felt such a card in its 1966 issue would have been too late to be an appropriate tribute.

Too, Hubbs had been the Cubs' starting second baseman for the two season's prior to his death, while Wantz had only a single major league inning under his belt.

Now I've created an In Memoriam custom card for Wantz. You'll notice it shares the same photo (courtesy Keith Olbermann) that I used on my 1965-style rookie card. As I said last time, there is a dearth of decent photos of Wantz available.

I decided to create my tribute card in the style of 1966 Topps. It is based on what Topps had done in 1964 for Hubbs. 

As usual, I'll have a few of my cards available for interested collectors. If you want either or both the 1965 or 1966 Dick Wantz cards. They are $7.50 each, postpaid. You can send me a check or money order at P.O. Box 8, Iola, WI 54945, or remit via PayPal to my account at crystalsdad1979(at)yahoo(dot)com; use the appropriate symbols where indicated in parentheses . . . I stated it that way to prevent robot email grabbing programs from loading me with spam.