Saturday, August 29, 2015

Schneider hit 5 HR in game, wound up in prison

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.

In my posting on March 13, 2014, I presented the story of Nig Clarke's eight home-run game.

The next highest homers total in a single professional game is five. 

In the history of Organized Baseball, only four players -- all minor leaguers -- have hit five home runs in a game.

Only one of that quartet had his five-homer game in a league higher than Class A. Two of them played in the major leagues (one before and one after his feat). As far as I can tell, only one of the four can be found on a contemporary baseball card.

The principal subject of this posting is Pete Schneider, who hit five home runs in a Pacific Coast League game on May 11, 1923, when his Vernon Tigers traveled to Salt Lake City to play the Bees in a game won by Vernon 35-11.

The first of the "other" three minor leaguers to hit five homers in a game was Lou Frierson in 1934 with Paris, Tex., of the Class C West Dixie League. Two years later, Cecil "Dynamite" Dunn hit five with Alexandria, La., in the Class D Evangeline League. Most recently, the feat was performed by Dick Lane with Muskegon, Mich., in the Class A Central League in 1948. Lane appeared in a dozen games with the Chicago White Sox in 1949.

Schneider stands out because he not only hit five home runs in a game, but also because he began his pro career at age 16, pitched for six years in the major leagues and spent time in prison for manslaughter after killing a man who insulted his wife.

Rather than my rehashing work that has already been done by others, let me direct you to the Diamonds in the Dusk web site: Pete Schneider .

Schneider is the only player in this group who seems to have appeared on a career-contemporary baseball card. He was included in the Fleischmann Bakery set in 1916, the second of three seasons in a row which he lost 19 games.

There is a "Schneider" on the checklists of 1921-24 Zeenuts PCL card sets; I have no reason to believe this is not Pete Schneider, but I'd have to see the team designations on the cards to be sure.

Tuesday, August 25, 2015

Finally, Isis gets a bubblegum card

If this blog unexpectedly goes dark, you can assume I'm locked up in a secret CIA prison somewhere, being waterboarded for the sake of my "art."

I fear the google-searching I did to gather data for the back of my latest non-sports custom card may have piqued the interest of Homeland Security.

Other than a potential Isis recruit, who else would be trying to find out how many air miles separate New York and Al-Raqqah and photos of Isis fighters?

Just me, I guess, trying to make my "update" to the 1956 Topps Flags of the World set as accurate as possible.

The Flags set was a childhood favorite. Besides the bold colors of the banners, the background art had a lot of appeal to a kid. There were Commie soldiers, Vikings, an octopus, a Canadian Mountie, an erupting volcano and sports action such as soccer, bobsledding and skiing. What's not to like?

The 80 cards in the 1956 set (one of the last from Topps in the 2-5/8" x 3-3/4" format) covered much of the world, but there were some countries omitted, from Kenya and Uganda in darkest Africa to Bermuda and the Bahamas in our part of the world.

I looked at the feasibility of creating some Flags customs a year or so ago, but was discouraged because my lack of true artistic ability would have required me to work with background art that appeared on existing cards and because my Photoshop skills are not advanced enough to convert a flat picture of a flag to a flapping banner as shown on the cards.

A recent image search for the Isis flag unexpectedly turned up a suitably waving version of the terrorists' dreaded ensign. (There are some funny vulgar parodies of the flag to be found, as well.)

It then occurred to me that Topps' FOTW card for Syria was perfectly suited for conversion to an Isis card. The Topps card already featured a sword-waving Arab and a Mideastern backdrop.

I merely had to swap out the flags and convert the figure's burnoose to the preferred Isis basic black, adding a face cloth. I did take the liberty of keeping a bit of bling on the lungi and the colored sash. Covering them over would have given the figure a pretty flat look.

Providing the translations on the back of the card was much more of a challenge than I anticipated. There are no -- at least I couldn't find them -- web sites that offer a simple phonetic translation from English to Arabic. My solution was to use a site that gave an aural translation of English words. I had to use my imagination to come up with written versions of the spoken form, and even though I listened to them half a dozen times or more, I'm sure my interpretations horribly butcher the actual words.

On a more technical note, I could not find a font that very closely replicated that used by Topps for the word balloons on the backs in 1956. I cam close enough that I don't think many will notice.

On that topic, fortunately for me I was able to cut and paste the front font to make "ISIS" out of "SYRIA". Finding a close match to the country-name font would have entailed a long search.

Some of the stats on backs had to be my interpretation of estimates by international news sources for the amount of territory under Isis control and the population. I was pleasantly surprised to find that the "official" monetary unit of Isis and its nominal conversion rate were easily available.

For reasons already spelled out, I'm pretty sure this will be my one and only FOTW custom card. You never know, though, the right piece of art may drop into my lap someday.

Friday, August 21, 2015

Mets valued Willie Davis alongside Aaron, Koufax

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.

Would you trade a Hank Aaron card for Willie Davis? How about Koufax-for-Davis? Or Mays? Already got Willie Davis? Would you take Vada Pinson instead? Or Billy Williams?

Back at the MLB winter meetings in Houston in December, 1964, Mets chairman of the board Don Grant equated those six players when he made “desperation” offers of $500,000 each to the Dodgers for Koufax or Davis, to the Braves for Aaron, to the Reds for Pinson and the Cubs for Williams.

Going into the meetings, the Mets’ most pressing need was for a center fielder. Jim Hickman had been the most regular CF for the Mets since they entered the league, but had batted just .242 between 1962-64 and fielded the position near the bottom of the league.

At the meetings, Dodgers’ owner Walter O’Malley had made an off the cuff comment to Grant that that Mets had yet to make an important player deal. Admitting as much, Grant pointed out that his club didn’t have the players to offer in significant trades, and blurted, “I’ll give you $500,000 for Willie Davis.”

Grant followed up by making the same half-million dollar offer to the other named clubs, and was rebuffed at each turn. He did receive a facetious counteroffer from Reds president Bill DeWitt—for $2 million.

New York baseball writer Barney Kremenko, writing in the Dec. 26 Sporting News, speculated on the value Grant attributed to Davis.

“Puzzling to some was why Willie Davis, with a lifetime batting average under .270, should not only be included among the super stars but should be the first to come to Grant’s mind,” Kremenko wrote.

“However, Willie has been one of the National League terrors for the last-place Mets from the day they came into being in 1962.

“Last season alone, Willie the Swift clobbered Casey Stengel’s pitching at a .338 clip with 24-for-71. In 19 games, Mets flingers horse-collared him only twice, and one of these games was a 1-1 tie rained out after five innings.”

Kremenko also pointed out that Davis, who was third in the majors in stolen bases with 42 in 1964, “ran the Mets crazy with his speed, either stealing or going for—and getting—the extra base.”

The writer also pointed out that at the age of just 24 as the 1965 season opened, Davis “would go exceedingly well with the Mets’ youth-building program.”

Kremenko concluded, “Putting all these facts together, it becomes somewhat more plausible why Grant should hold the Dodgers’ comet in such high esteem.”

 Speaking of Willie Davis . . .
One of Willie Davis's career-high 21 home runs in 1962 came after he'd apparently flied out to lead off the top of the fifth inning in a game at Milwaukee on April 23.

First base umpire Dusty Boggess ruled that Braves pitcher Lew Burdette had thrown an illegal pitch(!). Back at the plate for a do-over, Davis homered to give the Dodgers a 3-1 lead on their way to a win.

Monday, August 17, 2015

1965 ad offered Yankees pix for 75c

While reading through spring issues of the 1965 Sporting News recently, I spotted an ad offering "N.Y. YANKEES / IN FULL COLOR!"

I did not recognize the name of the advertiser, Pan American Photo," but from the description of "8x10 AUTOGRAPHED PHOTOS" and the checklist, I realized that the ad was offering what the hobby knows today, and what I listed in the Standard Catalog of Baseball Cards many years ago, as Requena photos.

In the tradition of Dormand and Bill and Bob color player postcards of the mid-1950s, the Requenas offered exceptionally sharp posed player photos. In fact, many of the Requena Yankees pix were also offered in postcard format.

What was new to me in the ad was that the Requena pictures were also offered in black-and-white versions, as were a number of Yankees and players from other teams. Those b/w issues are not cataloged, probably because if they follow the format of the color photos, they are not marked as to issuer.

I note that two of the cataloged Requena color 8x10s, Ralph Houk and Al Downing, were not listed in the original 1965 TSN ad, though Downing was offered in black-and-white.
After having managed the Yankees to three AL pennants and two World Championships in 1961-63, Houk was serving as General Manager when the Requenas were first issued in 1965, returning as field manager in 1966 (and finishing in last place).

Thursday, August 13, 2015

Spring training 1938 tidbits

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.

I spent a muggy Saturday afternoon indoors recently, reading microfilm of Sporting News issues from March-April, 1938, just before and during spring training. I didn't find anything earth shaking, but did find a number of tidbits that seem worth sharing.

As a kid in the early 1960s I remember being impressed by the fact that Jethro's pa -- Max Baer, Sr., not Jed Clampett -- had once killed a man in the boxing ring. Jethro, of course, was the character played in The Beverly Hillbillies by Max Baer, Jr.

Back then you could occasionally win a nickel or dime bet with some neighborhood know-it-all who mistakenly believed it was the affable actor who had killed a man.

Here's a good  recap of the fatal fight: Baer-Campbell fight .

Until I read it in a 1938 Sporting News column, however, I did not know that the ill-fated boxer Frankie Campbell was the nom de guerre of Francisco Camilli, and that he was the older brother of 12-year major league veteran first baseman Dolph Camilli.

* * *
In the years I've been reading back-issue microfilm of The Sporting News, I've learned not to take everything prnted therein as gospel.

For example, it appears TSN editor and publisher J.G. Taylor Spink wasn't correct when he told the readers in a March, 1938, column that actress Arleen Whelan was the daughter of former professional catcher Bert Whaling.

Whaling is best remember, when he is remembered at all, as the back-up catcher for the "Miracle Braves" of 1914. He caught part-time for Boston 1913-15 and played 11 seasons between 1908-25 in the minor leagues, mostly in Class A and B leagues in the West and Northwest.

Whaling is found on a couple of baseball sets over the years, notably 1915 Cracker Jack and 1914 B-18 felt blankets,

Arleen Whelan was a stunning red-headed actress whose prime years in the movies were 1938-53, with some minor TV work through the 1950s.

None of the actress's biographies mention any connection with baseball player Bert Whaling. She is most often described as the daughter of a Los Angeles electric shop owner. 

In his book on the Miracle Braves, editor Bill Nowlin says that Whaling and his wife had no children. 
* * *
I'm also not buying wholeheartedly the assertion made by a Brooklyn beat writer concerning Dodgers pitcher Van Mungo's thirst.

When Mungo reported to spring training for 1938, he told reporters that he had not had a drop of liquor -- not even beer -- since a few days prior to Christmas.

Mungo said that during the previous season he had spent $2,000 on liquor. At a time when $5,000 was a good annual salary for a big-league pitcher, Mungo's bar bill has to be exaggerated . . . doesn't it? According to an inflation calculator, $2,000 in 1937 was equivalent to more than $33,000 today.

Thirty-three grand is certainly not unheard of for a top athlete's bottle service behind the velvet ropes at a club today, but $2,000 in bar tabs in 1937 beggars belief.

If, indeed, Mungo did stay on the wagon for 1938, it doesn't seem to have helped his pitching performance. He'd been 9-11 in 1937 with a team-leading 2.91 ERA. In 1938 he was 4-11 with a 3.92 ERA.
* * *
With spring training barely underway, TSN writers cast a wide net in March-April, 1938, looking to fill their columns. One writer tells us of the "exotic" family origins of some of the day's players.

Pete and Joe Coscarart were Basque. Career (1935-41) minor league outfielder Bill Sodd, who struck out in his one major league at-bat with the Cleveland Indians in 1937 was Syrian. Cubs outfielder Frank Demaree (born DiMaria) was Portugese.

* * *
NFL halfback John Doehring (Chicago Bears 1932-34, 1936-37; Pittsburgh Steelers 1935) was wrestling professionally around Florida during the off-season.

When the Cincinnati Reds arrived in Tampa for spring training, Doehring asked manager Bill McKechnie if he could work out with the team to improve his physical conditioning.

McKechnie liked what he saw of Doehring's throwing and hitting and signed him to a contract with the Reds' Class B (Sally League) team at Columbia, S.C.

Doehring appeared in four games as a left-handed relief pitcher, winning two and losing one, before being sent down to Class D Palatka, where his dreams of a pro baseball career died.

Wednesday, August 12, 2015

Custom cards feature Bouton with Pilots (1969), Astros (1970), Braves (1978)

If it wasn't for his iconoclastic Ball Four and a handful of other baseball books he authored, few of today's fans or collectors would remember Jim Bouton.

He came up with the Yankees in 1962 as a flamethrowing starter/reliever who often lost his cap firing to the plate.

In his second season with New York in 1963 his 21 wins were second on the team to Whitey Ford and he led the Yankees with a 2.53 ERA. He'd won 11 games by the All-Star break and pitched a perfect inning in the sixth for the AL.

In the Dodgers' World Series sweep of the Yankees, Bouton started Game 3 in L.A. In the bottom of the first he walked Jim Gilliam, who took second on a wild pitch and scored on Tommy Davis's single. It was the only run Bouton allowed in the game, giving up just four hits and losing despite a 1.29 ERA.

Bouton won 18 in 1964, then arm troubles coupled with a bad attitude as perceived by the baseball establishment relegated him to the bullpen and annual trips to the minor leagues and the trading block. From 1965 through 1970 he was 15-33 for the Yankees, Pilots and Astros.

He left Organized Baseball after the 1970 season, playing amateur ball and working as a broadcaster and actor, including a short-lived 1976 TV series based on his Ball Four book.

Bouton began a comeback at age 36 in 1975 with independent Portland in the short-season Class A Northwest League. He was 4-1 with a 2.20 ERA, but returned to broadcasting in 1976.

In 1977 he was given a shot with the White Sox' Class AA team at Knoxville, but was released after an 0-6 start. He went back to Portland and went 5-1.

Somewhere between Hollywood and bushes, Bouton caught the eye of Ted Turner, who gave him a chance with the Braves' Southern League club at Savannah. He won 11 games on a 2.82 ERA to help the S-Braves to the league championship.

With Atlanta in last place in the NL West, destined to finish 26 games out, Bouton was called up to the big club on Sept, 10, returning to the major leagues as a starting pitcher eight years after his "retirement." 

Bouton had five starts for the Braves, winning one and losing three. When the '78 season ended, Bouton left professional baseball for good.

In 1980 Bouton partnered with former Portland teammate Rob Nelson to create and market Big League Chew shredded bubblegum. A year later, Bouton founded Big League Cards, making personalized baseball cards. Both companies remain in business today.

Despite the fact that he played in three major league seasons after leaving the Yankees, Bouton was not included in any of Topps issues after 1968, though the gum company did photograph him in spring training in 1969 and 1970.

In tribute to Jim Bouton's prowess and a ballplayer and an author, I've filled in those gaps with a trio of Topps-style custom cards in the 1969 (Pilots), 1970 (Astros) and 1979 (Braves) formats.

You can find a great summary of Bouton's career in and out of baseball written by Mark Armour as part of the SABR BioProject. Bouton bio

Tuesday, August 11, 2015

Gifford tribute in my '55 All-American customs

Until the other day, it never registered that my on-going series of 1955 Topps-style All-American college football custom cards did not include one of the biggest stars of the 1950s: Frank Gifford.

While many folks today know Gifford only for his Emmy-winning role on Monday Night Football and his other TV sports broadcasting of the Olympics, etc., I grew up watching the N.Y. Giants star runner/receiver on our black-and-white TV.

Gifford had a career-contemporary college card, of course. His "rookie" card pictured him with USC and presented his college stats in the 1952 Bowman "College to Pro" set.

At some point in the future, when I've completed by 200-card '55-style series, if I had not included a Frank Gifford card, I believe I'd of felt my efforts were not complete.

Sunday, August 9, 2015

Where'd you get your cards in 1965?

Where did you get your baseball cards in 1965? Assuming, of course, that you were around in 1965.

For me, the answer is, "I didn't." For the first time in more than a decade, in 1965 I don't believe that I bought a single baseball, football or non-sports card. My card collecting had given way to hobby electronics.

If I had been collecting cards in '65, however, my options for acquisition would have been significantly more limited than they would be in coming decades. There was no internet, no card shops, no card shows, no collectors' magazines on newsstands.

Other than buying packs at the corner market, the only other card venue was the ads that appeared in The Sporting News, Baseball Digest, Street & Smith, Boy's Life and other general circulation sports titles.

Recently when I began reading microfilm of back issues of TSN from 1965, I made some notes about what was available, when, from whom and for how much. Each issue, between one and six mail-order card dealers ran 1" or 2" box ads offering mostly the current year's cards.

Card sales of 1965 Topps started right out in the first TSN issue of the year, with a Jan. 2 cover date.

An ad by one of the hobby's pioneering dealers, Bruce Yeko, operating as Wholesale Card Co., N.Y., offered the 1965 Topps baseball card set at $12.95.

"You get a card picture in color of almost every major league ball player . . . totaling about 600 cards," read the ad. Those who ordered by Feb. 15 were entitled to a "free set of Fleer Baseball Greats or the Ted Williams set of 79 cards." While the ad didn't specify whether the Fleer set was the 1960 or 1961, I'd bet that it was the single-series 1960 set of 79, rather than the 1961 issue of 154. And, of course, the free Fleer Ted Williams set didn't include card #68, "Ted Signs for 1959."

In that same issue of TSN, The Trading Card Co. of Farmington, Mich., was selling 1964 football and hockey sets.

Featured in the ad was the 1964-65 hockey set, including "All six NHL teams" in "larger card size (2-1/2" x 4-3/4")." The buyer could select either of the 55-card series at $2 each, or get the entire 110-card set for $3.75.

The ad offered the Philadelphia Gum Co., set of 198 NFL cards for $4.25, the Topps AFL set of 176 cards for $3.75, and the 88-card Topps Canadian Football League set at $2.50.

In the Jan. 9 issue of TSN, Wholesale Card Co,, matched The Trading Card Company's offerings of 1964 hockey and football sets, at prices about 25-50 cents higher than the Michigan dealer, but also offered the football and hockey cards individually at three cents each, with a 50-cent minimum.

In that same ad, Wholesale offered the previous year's Topps baseball card sets. The 587-card regular set was $12,80. Also for sale were the Topps Stand-Ups and Giants. Designated as "limited supply" the 77-card Stand-Ups set was priced at $2.95, or five cents apiece. The "rare" Giant All-Stars" set of 60 was $4.95, or 10 cents per individual card.

By the Jan. 16 issue, Woody Gelman's Card Collectors Co., had entered the card wars in the pages of TSN, offering the 1965 baseball set at $12.50.

The Feb. 6 issue had the year's first ad from Stan Martucci of Brooklyn. Martucci later operated Stan's Sports World and Stan's Sports Bar virtually in the shadow of Yankee Stadium. When I was publishing Sports Collector's Digest in the 1980s-1990s, Martucci was a regular advertiser, later operating out of Las Vegas.

Martucci's ad undercut both Yeko and Gelman, offering the 1965 Topps baseball set for $12. Free with all orders was "25 Topps color baseball stamps." Those were likely a selection of leftovers from the 200-piece 1962 Topps stamp set. "Early bird orders" could also receive their choice of "1964 Topps All Star baseball buttons set (44)" or the 1945 Sporting News Baseball Register (serviceman's edition."

The "buttons" are better known to collectors today as Topps Baseball Coins. The 44 All-Star coins were a subset from the 164-coin issue.

In the Feb. 20 TSN, Hobby Cards of Long Island City put further price pressure on the other advertisers by offering the 1965 set at $11.50, or three cents apiece with a $1 minimum.

The Trading Card Co. ad in the March 6 issue didn't attempt to get into a pricing war with the other advertisers, offering its 1965 Topps baseball set at $12,95. As an incentive, though, the company offered "36 5x7 pictures of 1965 major league stars." These were probably selections from contemporary Jay Publishing Co, team picture packs. Until April 1, the buyer could specify three teams of his choice (Jay team sets were 12 players each); after April 1, the advertiser made the team choices.

Also offered in that ad was a complete set of the checklists for 1965 Topps baseball for 35 cents "when available." Like the baseball cards themselves, the checklists were issued in series from about the first of the new year through mid-season.

An innovation in Sporting News' March 13 issue was the grouping of all the card dealers' ads in one place, under the heading "HOBBY CORNER".

In the March 20 issue, New York dealer Marshall Oreck (yes, the same vacuum cleaner maker whose ads run on TV) was selling the 1965 baseball set for $11.95 plus 50 cents postage. He also offered for 25 cents the "most complete catalog ever published. Over 30 fascinating pages, big 8 x 10 size fully illustrated showing thousands of sports and non-sports cards."

By the April Sporting News issues, most of the advertisers were offering the 1965 cards in series, generally around $2.25 to $2.50.

Martucci was back in the June 5 issue offering vintage cards in a "BASEBALL CARD COMPLETE SET SELLOUT". This was the only ad I saw that mentioned condition. According to Martucci, all of the obsolete sets he was selling were in "A-1 Condition."

The advertised prices were . . .

1953 22.00
1954 15.00
1955 10.50
1956 13.50
1957 16.00
1958 17.00
1959 17.00
1960 17.00
1961 14.00
1962 15.00
1963 12.50
1964 12.00
1950 27.00
1951 27.00
1952 28.00
1953 (color) 18.00
1954 11.00
1955 18.00

I find it interesting that Martucci didn't offer the 1953 Bowman black-and-white set. Either the 64-card set was too small to deal with, or the cards were too hard to find to build sets.

The first ads for 1965 football cards appeared in the July 3 issue. Card Collectors Co, offered the 176-card Topps AFL set at $3.95, the Philadelphia NFL set of 198 for $4.95 and the newly expanded 132-card Topps CFL set at $5. Singles were three cents each for the NFL, four cents for AFL and CFL.

The number of ads in TSN's "Hobby Corner" dwindled as the baseball season came to a close.

In the paper's Oct. 9 issue, however, there was a spike in the number of ads, as sellers took advantage of presumed increased circulation of the World's Series edition. (TSN circulation, by the way, as attested to by a mailing permit statement around that time, was based on a print run of nearly 290,000 copies.

That special issue was the first time I noticed an ad from Larry Fritsch of Stevens Point, Wis.

The headline on his box ad read, "HEY KIDS!! WHY PAY MORE?" The offered Topps baseball and football cards "1958 thru 1965--all years, all numbers" at two cents apiece and a nickel postage for each 20 cards ordered. Fritsch asked that second choices be provided. He also offered a price list of "thousands of other cards in stock" for a nickel.

Wednesday, August 5, 2015

Hard luck hounded Virtue's baseball days

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.

Jake (Jacob Kitchline) Virtue was but a footnote figure in 19th Century professional baseball history. When he suffered a stroke at age 29, he'd played nine years in pro ball.

Virtue was born March 2, 1865 in Philadelphia. He played there with the Somersets in 1883-1884. In 1885 he played with the Lancaster Ironsides (Eastern League). He joined the ranks within the structure of Organized Baseball with Altoona and Lancaster (1886) and Altoona, Canton and Oswego in 1887. He remained with Canton for 1888 before being brought up by the Detroit International League club for 1889.

The Detroit club had dropped out of the National League after the 1888 season.

He hit .314 with Detroit in 1889. He received a salary of $325 a month with the Wolverines, pretty good pay for a professional baseball player at the time. In those days, many clubs carried as few as 13 players: four pitchers, two catchers, four infielders and three outfielders.

As the 1889 season was drawing to a close, Detroit needed to win only one of its remaining three games to win the pennant.

Virtue broke a finger in practice, but because he was Detroit’s only first baseman, and batting over .300, he had to stick it out. Detroit won the IL pennant. Because his finger was never properly set, it remained crooked for the remainder of his life.

Virtue returned to Detroit for 1890. The International League folded on July 7, with Detroit atop the standings. Virtue signed with Cleveland of the National League.

He played first base for the Spiders through the 1894 season, batting .274 in his five-year major league career.

That winter he suffered a stroke that paralyzed his entire left side. At the age of 29 he was rendered what The Sporting News characterized as a “helpless cripple.”

Virtue lived with his son, William, in Camden, N.J., until his death on Feb. 3, 1943, at the age of 77.

Though he played pro ball during the first great baseball card-issuing days of the 1880s-1890s, Virtue appears on only one known card . . . and you probably couldn’t afford it even if you could find it.

He is one of 16 Cleveland Spiders in the ultra-rare Just So tobacco card issue of 1893.

Monday, August 3, 2015

Winchester, Va., recognized in Civil War News custom card

On July 11, I presented my Civil War News custom card (see that post for background). At the time I undertook the project, I intended that it would be my only custom in the format of that 1962 Topps issue.

I enjoyed the process so much, however, that I immediately dove into another. I didn't really know anything about the Battle(s) of Winchester, but while searching for Civil War art, I had found a painting, "Especially for You," by genre master Mort Kunstler that "spoke" to me as a natural for a CWN card.

Once again, let me refer you to someone more qualified to present the history behind the card:

Winchester in the Civil War

As is the case with my University Greys custom card, I'm not offering my Victory Parade custom for sale, but I wanted to share it here.

Given my lifelong interest in the Civil War, and the cornucopia of wonderful Civil War art, I could easily create enough new CWN cards to match the original Topps 88, but at this juncture, I believe I'm going to cease working in that format, with the exception of one more card that will be forthcoming.

Saturday, August 1, 2015

Pierce's death brings '52T survivors to 49

On June 10, this blog featured a necrology of the players (and managers and coaches) who had appeared in the iconic 1952 Topps set.

On that date, there were 50 surviving players. Now there are 49.

Long-time Chicago White Sox left-handed ace Billy Pierce died Friday, July 31, at the age of 88.

Here's the current roster of surviving subjects from 1952 Topps.