Monday, November 30, 2009
Ferreting out George Wheeler's identity was one the more challenging during my Obak biography quest. I had it wrong for a long time, attributing his Obak cards to George Harrison Wheeler, rather than the correct George Louis Wheeler. The George Wheelers' careers overlapped around the time of the cigarette card era.
Again it was the SABR Minor League Database that straightened things out for me. This George Wheeler was really even a Wheeler, he was born George L. Heroux in Methuen, Mass., on either July 30 or Aug. 3 (sources differ), 1869. George was a right-handed pitcher who is said to have thrown lefty on occasion; he was a switch hitter, as well. Naturally enough he began his pro career in the northeast, at the age of 22 in 1892. Between 1892-1896 he played in the Class B New England League for Manchester/Lawrence, Lewiston and Bangor.
In mid-September of 1896 he made his major league debut with the Philadelphia Phillies. He was 1-1, earning a permanent spot in the 1897 rotation. He had an 11-10 record that year and pitched part of each of the next two seasons with the Phils, playing with Rome of the N.Y. State League in between major league tours (and also in 1900-1901). His overall big league record was 21-20 with a 4.24 ERA.
Wheeler also pitched in the American League, but it was in 1900 for the Milwaukee Brewers, before the A.L. was considered a major league. After opening the 1902 season with the Syracuse Stars of the NYSL, Wheeler took his act to the West Coast, where he spent the rest of his baseball days, increasingly filling the role of a utility player and pinch hitter. He played with Los Angeles in 1902 and 1903, before the formation of the Pacific Coast League as aClass A minor league. He opened 1904 wiht L.A., then moved to San Francisco through the 1907 season. He was traded back to the Angels in 1908 and closed out his playing days with them in 1911. He appears in al three Obak card sets of the era.
In 1913-1914 he managed Fresno in the outlaw California League and in mid-season 1914 joined the Northwestern League's umpiring staff. When his baseball days were over, Wheeler retired to farming. He died in Santa Ana, Calif. on March 21, 1946.
Saturday, November 28, 2009
- Joe Astroth
- Don Bollweg
- Bob Cain
- Joe DeMaestri
- Marion Fricano
- Forrest Jacobs
- Eddie Joost
- Alex Kellner
- Morrie Martin
- Ed McGhee
- Arnold Portocarrero
- Vic Power
- Bill Renna
- Jim Robertson
- Bob Shantz
- Pete Suder
- Bob Trice
- Elmer Valo
- Leroy Wheat
- Gus Zernial
Thursday, November 26, 2009
Wednesday, November 25, 2009
Sunday, November 22, 2009
My custom Mantle is in the original 3-1/2" x 4" format. To better replicate the original Red Mans, I used a thinner cardboard stock for this one. It really has the "feel" of the originals.
As opposed to most of my custom cards, on which the back -- which usually has biographical details, stats, cartoons, etc. -- takes more time to create than the front, this one was a snap. Since the backs of 1952 Red Mans (and 1953, 1954, 1955, as well) were "generic," I only had to scan an original and clean it up a bit.
The front is essentially a mashup of three elements. The background is from the front of a 1955 Red Man Whitey Ford card. With one click in my Photochop Elements graphics program, I flopped the image and moved the Yankee Stadium details from the left to the right side of the card.
The coupon at bottom started out on a scan I found on an auction site of a 1952 Red Man Ted Williams card. I changed the card number and cleaned up the typography and color bars.
Mantle's picture came from the cover of the 1953 Dell Baseball Annual. I had to do a lot of trial-and-error cutting and pasting to find a size and positioning that would allow for maximum detail yet still leave room for the text box.
I've always been frustrated that the Photoshop Elements program doesn't have the ability to create justified text . . . at least not that I've ever been able to find on my ancient 2.0 version.
After giving the matter some thought and trying a few workarounds, I determined that if I wanted to create justified text such as usually found on baseball cards, I'd just have to bite the bullet and do it the hard way. After writing my text in the designated space, I nudge every single word of it into a position that creates a pretty good approximation of justified type.
There's currently one more Red Man-style card on my to-do list, though I don't know when I'll actually get it into production. You'll see it here first.
As always, you can access images of many of my custom card creations at www.tinyurl.com/customcards. If you think you'd like any of the actual cards as holiday gifts, contact me for details at email@example.com.
Friday, November 20, 2009
"Stub" Spencer was nearing the end of a lengthy, though undistinguished, minor league career when he made his lone Obak baseball card appearance in the 1911 set. (By the way, I'm long overdue apologizing for the quality of the card pictures I use in these postings. They are lo-res images that I scanned from my Obak collection many years ago. The cards are now long dispersed in other collections, so I'm stuck with what I had.)
We don't know when or where Spencer was born. The SABR Minor League Database records his first professional engagement as being with St. Paul in 1901. A player's first pro team is often, though by no means not always, close to home, so it's possible Spencer was a "western" boy. He did, in fact spend his entire pro career west of the Mississippi River.
Spencer started out as an outfielder. In 1902 he was with three of the six teams that made up the short-lived (1902-1903) Class D Iowa-South Dakota League: the Sioux City Cornhuskers, Sioux Falls Canaries and Le Mars Blackbirds. Though the league's stats appear to have been unrecorded, Spencer earned a berth on a Class A team, Seattle of the Pacific National League, for 1903. In 1904 he was with Butte, also in the PNAL.
In 1905, Bellingham of the Northwestern League moved Spencer went behind the plate, where he remained for the rest of his playing days. It looks like Spencer spent most of his career as a second-string catcher, obviously because of his light hitting. Between 1903-1913, he never hit above .248, and four times failed to break out of the .100s. He had only two career home runs.
Spencer rarely spent more than a single season with any team. In 1906 he was with Davenport. He played for both Vancouver and Aberdeen in 1907, and split 1908 with Aberdeen and Butte. In 1909 he was with Spokane. He played for Seattle and Tacoma in 1911 and ended his professional career in 1913 at Edmonton. In looks like Spencer was out of Organized Baseball in 1910 and 1912.
As with his birth specifics, the date and place of his death are unknown.
UPDATE: Veteran collector Dave Eskenazi, who specializes in early professional baseball in the Northwest, has provided some further details about Stub Spencer. Armed with his findings, it looks like we've also found Spencer's whereabouts during the 1910 season.
In 1910 the Edmonton Eskimos of the Western Canada League had a catcher named Spencer. Since biographical details (such as furst names) for that Class D minor league circuit are hard to come by, we can't be sure, but it looks like that was ol' Stub. He hit a decent .280 that season.
After his return to the NWL with Seattle and Tacoma in 1911, Spencer was back in the WCL in 1912, with the Red Deer (Alberta) Eskimos, where he hit .251. That's Spencer's photo, provided by Dave, at left.
We noted earlier that he had ended his pro career with Edmonton of the WCL in 1913, but Dave found both a photo and a record that show that Spencer caught for the Saskatoon Quakers of the WCL in 1914, when they won the league pennant, though Spencer contributed only a .146 batting average to the effort.
Thursday, November 19, 2009
In that post we listed a checklist of nine Globe Printing Co. Ponca City Dodgers, speculating they were probably part of a set of 18, since it appears that Globe printed six-card sheets. The next day we posted about a Globe card for Fred "Rip" Collins, that had been reported by the same collector who turned up the P.C. Dodgers. We speculated that the Collins was probably part of a Globe team-set of the Independence Browns.
The other day, in response to the SCD Update #20-21, we heard from collector Chuck Hensley, woh has a friend who has a 1952 Globe Ponca City Dodgers album, with all nine of the checklisted P.C. Dodgers. What really caught my attention, though, was that the scans he sent also included the Rip Collins card, along with two other non-Dodgers.
Earlier I had been willing to believe that the inclusion of the Collins card with the first group of P.C. Dodgers was an anomaly, but when the same card turned up in a second grouping, it dawned on me that Collins was actually part of the Ponca City issue.
The two other non-Dodgers cards that Hensley has in the album are Hershel Martin and Al Reitz. It then became clear that Globe's issue for the P.C. Dodgers included not only their manager Boyd Bartley, but also the managers of at least three other teams from the 1952 Kansas-Oklahoma-Missouri League. Collins, as mentioned was one of them. A little poking around on the SABR Minor League database confirmed that Reitz and Martin were also K-O-M skippers in '52.
Reitz was plying manager for the Blackwell (Okla.) Broncos, the Chicago Cubs affiliate in the Class D K-O-M. Martin was manager of a Pirates farm team that moved from Bartlesville, Okla., to Pittsburg, Kans. during the 1952 season, the final year for the K-O-M.
Reitz was a career minor league player and manager whose career spanned 1924-1953. He made it as far as Milwaukee and Buffalo, but never saw any major league meal money. With the Broncos in 1952, he was still pitching at age 48.
Martin, in contrast, did enjoy a modest major league career, albeit mostly during the WWII years. After having been playing professionally since 1932, he spent the 1937-1940 seasons with the Philadelphia Phillies. He appears in both the 1939 and 1940 Play Ball card sets. After stints wiht Jersey City, Tulsa and Milwaukee, 1940-1944, he was traded to the New York Yankees, for whom, he played in 1944-45. After the war he played in 1946-1947 for Oakland in the Pacific Coast League, where he appeared on such regional minor league issues as the 1946-1947 Remar Bread Oaks, and the 1947 Signal Oil Oaks. He remained in the minors as a player and/or manager through 1957. With the K-O-M Pirates in 1952, at the age of 42, he managed and played some at first base and in the outfield, batting .298.
With those three managers and the nine known P.C. Dodgers, we come up with 12 cards -- two press sheets if Globe followed its usual format. Whether or not there was a third six-card sheet with a few more of the P.C. Dodgers and [the other managers of the K-O-M League, Woody Fair of the Iola Indians and John Davenport of the Miami Eagles, remains to be seen.
Tuesday, November 17, 2009
One of the more interesting players to be found among the 500 or so in the Old Judge tobacco card series of 1887-1890 is Harry Decker. He not only played four seasons of major league ball and was immortalized on a baseball card, but he was also an inventor and a felon.
Decker was born in Lockport, Ill., in 1864. His given name was Earle Harry Decker, but in the course of his lifetim, he was known to have adopted several aliases, making the tracking of his life outside of baseball impossible.
He began playing pro ball with Evansville as a teenager in 1884, before Indianapolis, then in the major league American Association, signed him later that season. After just a handful of games with the Hoosiers, he joined a second short-lived major league, the Union Association, with the Kansas City Cowboys.
Though the UA folded after just one season, Decker remained with the Kansas City team in the Western League for 1885.
He opened the 1886 season with Macon, then it was back to the bigs, with both Detroit, then Washington, of the National League. He was not a strong enough hitter to stick in the majors, even as a second- (or third- ) string catcher and utilityman, so he played the 1887-1888 campaigns with Toronto in the International Association.
Decker was again called to major league service in 1889 with Philadelphia, but was released in late July. He caught on with the Phillies again to start the 1890 season, then was sold in June to the Pittsburgh Alleghenys, with whom he batted .274 and hit all five of his major league home runs.
Decker's last known gig in professional baseball was in 1891 with the New Haven Nutmegs of the Eastern Association.
He next pops up publicly in 1904, when he filed for a patent on a catcher's mitt. According to Decker's application, "My invention relates to certain new and useful improvements in base-ball gloves, and has more particular reference to that type known as 'catchers' mitts.'
"The primary object of my improvement," Decker claimed, "is to provide a glove which is thumbless and, further, one in which the padding can be adjusted or regulated to suit the user."
The specifics of Decker's glove can be seen by searching on his name in a Google Patent Search, for, indeed, Decker was granted U.S. patent number 812921 in February, 1906.
Somewhere along the road, Decker fell into a life of crime, and in the 1910s his home was in San Quentin prison in California, where he was serving time under the name Earl Henry Davenport.
An item in the March 7, 1915, Sporting Life by an unnamed writer mentioned Decker, "The star base ball team of San Quentin prison, to which the Venice and Los Angeles teams sent uniforms last season, has sent Manager Hogan [of the L.A. Angels] an autographed photo of their team.
"They are led by a player who calls himself Davenport, but who is E.H. Decker, who is said to have been a catcher for the Detroit team years ago. When the writer knew him he was catching for the Keokuk, Iowa, team, and was a good man in the field in his position."
According to baseball historian Peter Morris, who is active in the SABR Biographical Committee, Decker was released from San Quentin in 1915, but can be traced no further due to a "very long career of crime" and the many aliases he used. The committee would like to be able to attached a date and place of death to Decker's records.
Decker appears on no fewer than five different poses in the Old Judge cigarette cards, all with Philadelphia. His cards are priced as "commons," but like many Old Judge cards, finding a specific player in the hobby market at any one time can be a challenge.
Monday, November 16, 2009
Sunday, November 15, 2009
Madden started at both offensive and defensive tackle at California Polytechnical University San Luis Obispo and was the 244th player selected in the 1958 NFL draft.
He injured his knee in the Eagles training camp and never played in the NFL.
Madden was in camp long enough for the Topps photographer to take at least one photo of him, a color shot of Madden in the three-point stance. The photo, however, is so fuzzy that it couldn't have been used on a Topps card back then, or even on my custom card creation 50 years later. I was fortunate enough, though, to find a great black-and-white portrait of Madden on the internet. It appears to have been taken by the team photographer. It colorized real nice and the result is what you see above.
Friday, November 13, 2009
The Innocent Man (2006), rather than being one of his crime/courtroom novels, was touted as the true story of a man wrongly sent to death row in Oklahoma.
I decided to give it a read when I found out that the principal character was a former minor league baseball player by the name of Ronald K. Williamson.
Williamson knocked around the A's farm system 1972-73, then after a couple of years off, was given a shot by the Yankees with Oneonta.
According to both the SABR Minor League database and the Baseball Guides for the appropriate years, Williamson started pro ball with the Koos Bay-North Bend A's short-season A team in 1972 after being drafted by Oakland as a catcher. He ended the '72 season with Brulington in the Midwest League and opened the 1973 season there. He was cut after five games and finished the season in the Florida State League with the independent Key West Conchs.
Williamson was out of OB in 1974-1975, drinking, doing drugs and committing petty crimes.
The Yankees gave his another shot in pro ball in 1976, signing him as a pitcher and assigning him to Oneonta in the New York-Pennsylvania League. He pitched eight innings in five games, giving up 12 earned runs (13.50 ERA) and walking 15. According to the "official" sources, that was the end of Williamson's professional baseball career.
However, according to Grisham's supposedly factual account, Williamson pitched for the 1977 Ft. Lauderdale Yankees of the Florida State League. The photo section of the book even shows a picture it says is the cover of a team program with Williamson and three others in a posed photo. Grisham even quotes such statistics that say Williamson pitched 31 innings in 14 games with a 2-4 record. However, there is nothing in the SABR records or the 1978 Guide to support that.
Since Grisham never met Williamson and didn't publish his book until 2006, two years after Williamson's liver did him in, it's possible the author took the word of a mis-remembering relative for the 1977 discrepancy.
While such a glaring factual faux pas gives one pause to wonder what else Grisham may have gotten wrong in this supposedly factual account, the book is worth reading. Former minor leaguer Ron Williamson was a bad-ass, but not of sufficient depravity to have warranted the downright abuse of the legal system that put him on death row, evem in those days when forensic criminal science was in its infancy.
Wednesday, November 11, 2009
Probably the same reason Wednesday is Wensday, and February is Febuary . . . lazy linguistics.
For that matter, it's prob-ab-ly, not prob'ly or prolly.
And it's re-mem-ber, not 'member
And irony is pronounced EYE-ron-ee, not eye-er-nee. It's ironic that folks don't have the same problem with "ironic."
Tuesday, November 10, 2009
Sunday, November 8, 2009
Saturday, November 7, 2009
I have really been slacking off in my custom card creations. It has been six or eight weeks since I've completed a new card. I've been doing bits and pieces on several on-going projects, but haven't completed anything new.
Thursday, November 5, 2009
Wednesday, November 4, 2009
At one time Greg was negotiating with a fellow to purchase a group of these rare cards, but because there was no real-world pricing to reference, a deal was never made, though he did obtain two examples of the cards, Tris Speaker and John McGraw.
As indicated in the SCBC, Greiners Bread cards are a parallel of the 1928 W502 set of 60. The backs indicate they were packaged with loaves of bread and in other pastries. Product stains on Greg's cards seem to verify that. We still don't know where Greiners was located.
Besides adding the photos to the catalog listing, I'm considering deleting the pricing information that has run virtually unchanged since the set was first listed. As best I can recall, there has not been a single example of a Greiners card offered on eBay or in a hobby auction in all the time the set has been listed. That being the case, the prices carried in the 2010 book are likely low-ball and are probably best eliminated unless or until some verified sales can be recorded.
As seen in the back scans below, there is a slight variation in the typography on the two cards. The McGraw card's back (top) has the second, third and fourth lines of each paragraph justified at left. On the Speaker card's back (bottom), the third and fourth lines are not quite justified with the second.
Monday, November 2, 2009
Walter Schmidt, a "better" little brother
Perhaps it is because his older brother, Charles "Boss" Schmidt had his major league career at the peak of the tobacco-card issuing era and that he played on three American League championship teams in the 1900s, but baseball card collectors generally are more familiar with Boss Schmidt than with his kid brother, Walter.
In actuality, Walter had a longer and slightly better, statistically, career than Charles, even though he never hit more than two home runs in a season (OK, it was the deadball era) and hit over .300 only once.
Walter J. Schmidt was born in Coal Hill, Arkansas, in 1887. He turned pro with Class D Helena of the Arkansas State League at the age of 21 in 1908. He played with Winston-Salem of the Carolina Assn. in 1909, and with Roanoke of the Virginia League in 1910.
In 1911 he moved west to the AA Pacific Coast League, where he was the first-string catcher for the San Francisco Seals through the 1915 season. He had made his baseball card debut the previous year in the Contentnea (T209) and Old Mill (T210) cigarette series, but in 1911 was pictured on his only Obak card.
After the 1915 season, Schmidt was called up to the big leagues, with the Pittsburgh Pirates, with whom he played nine years before moving on to St. Louis for 1925. He appears on a number of contemporary candy and other card issues from that era.
In 1926, Schmidt returned to the PCL as playing-manager for the Mission Bells. He moved behind the plate for Seattle, still in the PCL, for 1927-28, then ended his pro career back with San Francisco as a 42-year-old catcher.
After retiring, Schmidt evidently remained out in California, where he died in 1973.
George "Dutch" Schaefer, I struck out on him
Other than the notation that his name was George, his nickname was Dutch, and that Obak misspelled his name as "Shafer," my notecard for this Vernon Tiger is utterly blank.
Thanks to the SABR Minor League database, however, we can fill the blanks on Dutch's pro career. A pitcher throughout his playing days, he compiled a 93-95 record in 10 minor league seasons.
Schaefer began his pro career with the South Bend Greens of the Central League from 1903-05. He remained in that Class B circuit with Wheeling in 1906 and Terre Haute in 1907-08. Those teams had two of the more unusual nicknames in that era. Wheeling was known as the Stogies, and Terre Haute as the Hottentots.
Schaefer made his way to the West Coast in 1909, pitching for Vernon in 1909-10, and for Los Angeles in 1911.
His last year as a pro was 1912, with the Class D Ludington Mariners of the Michigan League.
Even though he was in the PCL for all three years of Obak cigarette card issues, the 1910 card was his only appearance in T212, and probably his only baseball card.