Thursday, May 28, 2020

TCMA Cardinals, The Gas House Gang

A few years ago I was at the regular hotel card show buying a stack of cards for a set I was building at the time. As I was paying, the dealer, one of the few who has stuff worth looking at, handed me a paper sack. It was one of those in which you'd tote a school lunch. He said he'd bought a collection earlier in the day, and he had no use for the bag's contents so it became his 'gift' to me.

I peeked inside and saw an unruly jumble of Cardinal cards that I didn't recognize. I stuck it in my backpack and forgot about it until I was going back to the next show. Turns out that the cards were TCMA near-sets from 1974 and '75.

The first is the oddly interesting Gashouse Gang set of 31 cards issued in 1974. As with many TCMA issues, figuring out just what you have can be challenging. There are 26 different players represented. These are narrower than standard-sized modern cards, though just as tall.

Here are a few of the individual player cards. I say 'player', but player/manager Frankie Frisch and a coach or two are also in there.

This illustrates how they differ in size from standard cards:

Ernie Orsatti has two different poses, a portrait and a full-length shot of him with a bat.

There is also a card of the Dean brothers, Dizzy and Daffy. That brings us to 27 plus the Orsatti variation.

The backs of these have nominal stats for most players, a blurb for the coaches, and a notation of games played with other teams in 1934.

There are also four over-sized cards. These clock in at 3.5" x 4.5" and feature action from the '34 World Series, and one showing Dizzy Dean and Leo Durocher celebrating the title.

Here is the back of the oversized Dizzy and Leo photo card:

 And the others:

Oh, the backs are darker you say? Hold that thought, because, as with a lot of things TCMA, stuff gets a bit complicated.

You may have noticed that some cards have '1934 Cardinals' at the top, others show 'The Gashouse Gang'. I haven't seen both versions for every card, but I saw enough in my travels down eBay and COMC rabbit holes to be fairly confident that the whole bunch comes in both versions.

Then there's this....

The cards (all? some?) also have blue tint versions.

And then there's this:

I mistakenly picked up a second Daffy Dean card. When it arrived it was obviously printed on brighter paper. And the back, like those of the oversized cards, was on darker cardboard. The Trading Card Database calls these 'graybacks' but the checklist is identical. Were these reprinted by TCMA? Did someone go to the trouble to 'counterfeit' these? Surely not.

The whole deal is more than I can process. There is a 'regular set' with white backs and '1934 Cardinals' on the front, a set with white backs but with 'The Gashouse Gang' on the front. Plus a blue tint versions of both of the above. Then there are the 'dark cardboard' versions.

I may need to consult Twitter acquaintance Andrew Aronstein, son of the company's founder, Micheal Aronstein, to help me sort it all out.

Running down the checklist I found on the Trading Card Database told me I needed four cards. I was able to find them without too much hassle on SportsLots and COMC. Then, when I became aware of the multiple version fun, I decided that one of each player (and the two Orsatti poses) would be plenty for me. I went ahead and picked up a blue tint or two just as examples. 

Once COMC starts shipping again I'll have everything in hand. Then I'll turn to the other TCMA Cardinals set which was in the paper sack. That's the 1942-46 Cardinals has 'red jersey Cardinals' variations. Oy vey.

Wednesday, May 27, 2020

1954 Orioles/American League Schedule Booklet

I don't remember where this little item came from. Someone may have gifted me with it. But it's been sitting on my desk for months waiting to be posted.

1954 was, of course, the inaugural season for the Orioles in the modern Major Leagues. So I suppose this qualifies as a 'rookie' schedule booklet. More than that, though, I love that it features a neat design with Jim Hartzell's original Oriole and some fun typography.

The booklet is 2.5"x4" and I scanned it with a standard Topps card to show how it compares. The card also gives me a chance to plug my 1960 Topps blog. I'm posting four or five times a week over there.

I only scanned the cover. The rest of this post uses phone photos with the schedule held open with clips. I hate squashing old paper items on my scanner's platen. And this piece is in very nice condition.

Most of the pages are a day-by-day American League schedule.

The center pages are specific to the Orioles, beginning with the ticket price and ordering info. NO TELEPHONE RESERVATIONS

Next is the centerfold with stadium and game facts. The opposite page list the Orioles' home night games for 1954. Night games were not the default back then so pointing them out was a necessity I guess.

Next comes a list of Sunday and holiday dates at Memorial. A few things of note include the fact that the Orioles had home games on the three major in-season holidays, Memorial Day, the 4th of July, and Labor Day. There were eight doubleheaders. We're raising a generation of fans who have no idea what it's like to watch two games with one ticket. And it's apropos that the second half of the booklet starts with the All-Star Game, played in Cleveland.

BTW...that was a wild and fun game, won by the AL 11-9. There were four AL homers, two by Indians' corner infielder Al Rosen, a pinch knock by Indians' outfielder Larry Doby, and another by former Indian, Ray Boone. Bobby Avila, yet another Indians' player, started at second for the AL and went three for three before being replaced by Nellie Fox who won the game with a two-run single in the eighth.

Back to the schedule... The whole league took off for the then-annual Cooperstown Hall of Fame Game in August. The Yanks beat the Reds 10-9 with Mickey Mantle hitting a home run.

Following the AL schedule, we get a listing of ALL the league's night games.

Inside the back cover gives us a promo for some big league films available for screening. Nowadays you can just crank up YouTube.

And the back cover had a promotional ad for the official big-league baseball. The AL used Reach branded balls while the NL had ones with the Spalding markings. But as the page points out, Spalding made them both. Spalding had acquired Reach, a rival sporting goods firm, way back in 1892 but kept the name on the AL balls for decades. 

I remember league-wide schedules back when I was a kid. We used to find them at the local car dealerships. I don't think I ever had any with team-specific covers or info, though. It might be a fun area of collecting to dig into.

Monday, May 25, 2020

Eddie Grant

NOTE: Again on Memorial Day I thought I would reprint the post I made in years past showing Eddie Grant, the first major league player to die in combat in the service of the United States.

The first major league player to die in the service of his country was Eddie Grant. With a law degree from Harvard he was quite unlike most of his contemporaries. It was said that instead of the usual "I got it!" called out when a player has a bead on a pop-up, Grant would shout "I have it!"

A native of Franklin, Massachusetts, he played 9 seasons of baseball with four different clubs, most notably the Phillies for whom he held down the regular third base job for most of four seasons, 1907 through 1910. Although only a .249 career hitter Grant nonetheless was able to lead the NL in singles in 1909 and 1910 and in hits overall in '09. A better fielder than hitter he finished near the top of several defensive categories when he was a regular.

Grant appeared in the 1913 World Series with the New York Giants as a pinch hitter and pinch runner. He left the game after the 1915 season to open a law practice in Boston.

He enlisted when his country called as we entered World War I in 1917. Wikipedia summarizes his Army service and the details of his death on the battlefield in France in 1918:

Grant was one of the first men to enlist when the United States entered World War I in April 1917, and he served as a Captain in the 77th Infantry Division. During the fierce battle of the Meuse-Argonne Offensive, all of Grant's superior officers were killed or wounded, and he took command of his troops on a four-day search for the "Lost Battalion." During the search, an exploding shell killed Grant on October 5, 1918. He was the first Major League Baseball player killed in action in World War I. He was buried at the Meuse-Argonne American Cemetery in Lorraine, France.

This New York Times article (opens as a .pdf file) from October 22, 1918 relates the story in full.

I have the Eddie Grant T205 Gold Border (shown above) as well as his T206. The Gold Border cards are just a wonderful set and Grant's is a great portrait I think. Here are a few more pics and details from the life of Captain Eddie Grant found around the 'Net:

Here is the plaque that was installed in the Polo Grounds by the New York Giants to honor him.

It's position in the stadium is visible in this famous shot of Willie Mays' catch in the 1954 World Series. It's on the left under the 483 distance marker.

And finally, Eddie Grant's grave marker in Lorraine, France. R.I.P. and Thanks for making the ultimate sacrifice for freedom, Capt. Grant.

Tuesday, May 19, 2020

WHA, Revisited

A week or so ago I posted my Houston Aeros Media Guide collection. I was inspired to poke around eBay looking for Aeros/WHA items and this guide from the league's first season popped up. I made an offer and landed it. Makes for a nice companion piece to my Aeros run.

In a comment on that post, Joe Shlabotnik mentioned the lack of the city name on the Aeros first guide. Given that they were originally bound tor Dayton it's quite possible that things were kind of hurriedly thrown together. Obviously the Aeros 'cribbed' the league's logo for the cover. No other team (as far as I could find) did the same. They all used original artwork or photos.

This guide is pretty simple. Most of it is taken up with team pages consisting of a roster and a directory with a short write-up. Here is the contents page...

And we get a big dose of the WHA's 'godfather', Gary Davidson. He knew about as your pet turtle does about hockey.

A page of flunkies. The guy on the bottom left looks like an extra from the set of 'Moscow On The Hudson'.

You can click to enlarge but the part that interested me was this:

Well over a year into the process the Aeros move from Dayton to Houston. That's about six months prior to training camp.

The rules page is the most interesting thing here. The WHA, like so many startups since, tried to be innovative. Overtime, shootouts, less restrictive passing and icing rules were part of it. They also made a big issue of being less punitive on guys who jumped into fights (Third Man Rule) and the sticks had a much bigger curve allowance. The page even mentions Bobby Hull and how his curved stick had been dialed back in the NHL.

What surprised me, though, was the last section which mentions 'colored' pucks. They acknowledge the failed experiment of red ones but trumpet the use of blue pucks.

All this was news to me. I kind of followed the league pretty closely but I have no memory of any of that. There are a few listed on eBay but the color doesn't really come across as blue. EDIT: As I re-read this it occurs to me that I have an Aeros puck, supposedly official and from the '75-'76 season, on a shelf behind me. It's black as coal.

Every team got the double page roster/team info page. The non-players are all listed as well as broadcasting info. Below that is a blurb about the city itself.

Here is my crew, the '72-'73 Aeros. It looks like a skeleton crew was running the club. They were probably still hiring when this book was put together.

The Squad. At the time I think I had some familiarity with maybe two players from their NHL careers, Dunc McCallum and Paul Popiel. For this former pond hockey goalie Don 'Smokie' McLeod quickly became a favorite.

There's your five-man front office. Four if you don't count the owner.

Yes, they may have been in a hurry but..."Golf Coast"?... "baseball Houston Aeros"? Yup, I realize the irony of me, Mr. Typo, picking on a few mistakes, but this was a pro team.

The Raiders had an old friend from the Rangers, Camille Henry as head coach. He'd been retired a year and had spent it coaching in the Central League at Kansas City. But the reason I show this is that there are two other familiar names listed. Herb Elk, the Raiders' PR Director and Assistant GM later came to Houston to work with the Astros. I got to know him through working at the Houston Post. He was a huge, jolly man. He died before he was 50.

And the Raiders' radio voice? John Sterling. "Theeeeeeee Raiders Win!"

Then there is a filler page with the team logos. And a complete league schedule.

The WHA refs were listed. I hadn't realized how many of them had come over from the NHL. Bill Friday was a very well known name back then. According to Wikipedia, he is the only referee to work both the Avco Cup finals in the World Hockey Association and the Stanley Cup finals in the National Hockey League. There are about six other names I know.

Then comes another throwaway page, league-wide start times. I guess those would be useful if you actually were a member of the media.

The back cover had an ad for the now-defunct Host Rent-A-Car.

The WHA produced league-wide guides in later seasons but I didn't find all of them with a quick eBay search. It doesn't matter since I won't be chasing any others down. Having the first year guide is kind of fun, though.

Speaking of the WHA... I am just about to crack the spine on this book...

I've wanted to read it for a while and I'm finally finding the time. Hopefully, it'll have some laughs and some memories. I'll be particularly interested in reading about the Howe Family signings and the sad end of the Aeros franchise. I may do a book report! šŸ‘Ø