Friday, April 22, 2016

Jim McCarnes, this Wheaties custom is for you

An item in the Nov. 18, 1944, Sporting News column "In a Minor Key" had a tidbit that caught my eye. The column offered bits and pieces about minor leaguers around the country.

One of them read, "Outfielder James (Wheatie) McCarnes, Jr., Atlanta Crackers, acquired his nickname by saving baseball pictures from cereal boxes."

I'm not aware of any other ballplayers whose nickname stemmed from his baseball card collecting interest.

The mention of McCarnes being with the Atlanta Crackers is a bit of a mystery. His page on does not show him ever playing with the Crax. In fact, McCarnes isn't shown with any team in Organized Baseball prior to 1946. 

That doesn't mean he wasn't at least on the roster of the Atlanta Southern Association club in 1944 or 1945. Those were war years and players were scarce, so the 19- or 20-year-old McCarnes may have had a trial with Atlanta.

McCarnes was born in 1925 around Albemarle, N.C. In 1940 he was the right fielder on the Stanly County (N.C.) team that won the American Legion Junior National Championship.
James "Wheatie" McCarnes played on the 1940 American

Legion Junior World Championship team.

The record shows McCarnes got his start in pro ball in 1946, at age 21, with Waycross in the Class D Georgia-Florida League. His ,336 batting average was tops in the circuit for any player in 90+ games and he was named to the All-Star team.

In 1947 McCarnes appears to have been picked up by the N.Y. Yankees organization. He split the season between Class C Joplin, where he hit .303, and Class B Quincy (.107).

McCarnes had his best season, stats-wise in 1948 with Longview in the Class C Lone Star League, batting .305 with 11 home runs. He never had more than two homers in any other season. He was again named to the league All-Star team.

In 1949 "Wheatie" played in 11 games at the Yankees' Class A team at Binghamtom (.241), and in five games at Double-A Beaumont, where he was 1-for-2 at bat. That appears to have ended his professional baseball career.

McCarnes died in an auto wreck in 1964, at the age of 38.

Now, about that custom card . . .
Off and on during my days with Sports Collectors Digest and the Standard Catalog of Baseball Cards I entertained the notion of collecting Wheaties box-back cards of the 1930s.

I never got around to starting such a collection, but I admired their variety of sizes, art deco designs and the star power of the players that appeared.

Some time ago I found a posed action photo of NFL Hall of Fame quarterback Sammy Baugh during his one season (1938) with the St. Louis Cardinals AAA teams at Columbus and Rochester.

I was struck by the similarity of the pose to some of the Wheaties cards of the era. The result of pairing that photo with an original Wheaties card of Arky Vaughan is as you see it here.

I cheated a bit chronologically in working up my custom. The design I used was not from 1938, but rather from Wheaties Series 6 6-1/4" x 8-1/4" box-back issue of 1937, "How to Star in Baseball". Given the complexity of Wheaties designs in the late 1930s, I doubt that any but the most die-hard of Wheaties collectors would notice the deception.

There probably won't be many, if any, further Wheaties-style cards from my custom studio, but I did enjoy the process of making this one.

1 comment:

  1. From The (Nashville) Tennessean newspaper of March 13, 1947: " Mr. Earl Mann's Atlanta Crackers have Charlie Trippi, who will be a drawing card even if he can't play. He probably can, though. Mann also has Babe Ellis back from last year and a good prospect in Rookie Jim McCarnes."


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