Sunday, December 28, 2014

1952 Red Man Ted Williams . . . now I know

For some years I have puzzled over the artwork used by Red Man chewing tobacco for the Ted Williams card in its 1952 set (it was the only year Williams was in Red Man).

The chest-up portrait shows Williams with a bat over his left shoulder . . . but what a left shoulder! He looks like Quasimodo.

I never understood why the Red Man artist added so much extra jersey.

Now, thanks to the Nov. 19-20 Legendary Auctions sale, I see what happened.

The Legendary auction included a number of original photographs by New York photographer William Jacobellis that were used either as photos or as the basis for artwork on classic baseball card sets of the 1950s.

One of those photos is that upon which the '52 Red Man T.W. artwork was based. The Red Man artist removed the American League 50th Anniversary patch that was visible on the left sleeve in the Jacobellis photo.

I believe that Red Man didn't want to date their picture as "old" by showing the patch used on 1951 A.L. uniforms. A cursory search of other American League cards in the set shows none of them with the anniversary patch.

I might have opted to truncate the left sleeve more radically when preparing the painting, but evidently the original artist felt that would create too much unused space on the card.

The Williams photo, by the way, sold for $2,032 in the Legendary auction.

Wednesday, December 24, 2014

Santa Claus souvenir card is Christmas collectible

From time to time on my blog I've referenced my past personal and professional interest in collecting paper money and related fiscal paper from the mid-1970s through the early-1990s.

During that era a phenomenon arose in that segment of the numismatic hobby for collecting souvenir cards. Basically, souvenir cards were larger-format cards (often 10 -5/8" x 8-1/2" or 10" x 8" of thereabouts) with intaglio impressions of paper currency designs of up to a century prior.

The first and best of the numismatic souvenir cards were produced by the Bureau of Engraving and Printing beginning in 1969 and continuing until largely dying out circa 2005. By the late 1970s, the venerable American Bank Note Company began creating the cards, drawing upon its archives of 19th Century engravings used on paper money, stocks, bonds, checks, etc. The "souvenir" designation derives from the fact that that the cards were originally created to be sold to collectors at coin, stamp and paper money shows where the BEP had set up a sales booth for its collectible products. Most were also available by mail.

At $5-6 apiece, the cards were, indeed, a colorful souvenir. Because they were made from original engravings, that often included color Treasury seals, background printing, etc., the full-size images on these cards made an attractive substitute for rare and expensive original currency notes that were out of the reach of most collectors.

By the early 1980s, everybody was getting into the act and regional, state and local coin clubs were having souvenir cards made as a fund-raiser. The quality on many of these latter-day issues generally suffered by comparison to the BEP and ABNC offerings.

All that by way of background, I'm presenting here one of my favorite souvenir cards from the heyday of the genre.

This card was produced by the American Bank Note Company in conjunction with the 1983 International Paper Money Convention in Memphis. It pictures the face of a $2 bill, circa the 1850s, of The White Mountain Bank of Lancaster, N.H. 

At top-center is a vignette of Santa Claus, an image right out of the Clement Moore poem. Other vignettes include Liberty and an Indian woman sorting out the new realities in America. At right is a steam train.

The card, and the original note, is enhanced by printing of denomination indicators in scarlet ink. On the 1850s notes, this was an anti-counterfeiting measure as much as a visual enhancement.

Santa Claus notes hold an esteemed position  among collectors of American obsolete bank notes. The various bank note printers used a handful of images of St. Nick on various currency productions in the pre-Civil War era. All such original notes are rare and in high demand. They routinely sell for thousands of dollars. 

This souvenir card from Memphis '83 makes a suitable substitute for those who can't pay the big bucks for an original Santa Clause note. The card is widely available today for $10 or less.

While in attendance at the Memphis show I bought five of these cards. Along with about 100 other BEP and ABNC cards I had acquired back in the day, I offered the White Mountain Bank card in a series of eBay auctions during November and early December; It sold for $5.50, postpaid.

Along with the rest of my souvenir cards that sold for as little as $2-3 apiece in group lots, the sales provide yet more proof that most collectibles that were made as collectibles 20-30 years ago . . . aren't.

Monday, December 22, 2014

Sad news of Thurston's death

I just learned that 1960s Green Bay Packer Fuzzy Thurston died on Dec. 14.

In tribute, I'm going to reprint the four blog postings I made since 2012 concerning my Thurston custom cards. I'll present them in the order in which they originally were posted.

*  *  *

From Jan. 21, 2012
Well, doody!

It was only a couple of years ago that I learned that 1960s Packer lineman Fuzzy Thurston had actually begun his NFL career as part of the World's Champion 1958 Baltimore Colts.

Since Thurston only appeared on two mainstream football cards, 1962 and 1963 Topps, and a 1962 Post cereal card, I thought it would be neat to create a custom card of Thurston as a Colt in the 1958 Topps format.

I scoured all the usual resources for a picture of Thurston as a Colt and came up empty until I discovered he was included in a team photo premium issued in 1959 by the Colts' radio-TV sponsor National Bohemian beer.

Originals of that premium picture are rare and costly. I thought I'd found a solution when I saw an 8 x 10 reproduction offered on eBay. I bought the repro and stuck it in my "futures" file.

When enlarged to "card size" the image of Thurston
scanned from the reproduced premium photo is not
sharp enough to be used on a custom card.
When I recently completed by first 1958-style football custom (Dave Hanner, presented in my blog on Jan. 18), I decided the time was now to work on the '58 Thurston.

I dug out the photo, scanned it . . . and was greatly disappointed when the quality of the image proved totally unacceptable. Thurston's image on the team photo is about 3/4" square. Because my photo was a picture of a picture, when enlarged to about 2", the player scan was, well, fuzzy.

Perhaps some day I'll have access to one of the original National Bohemian premiums, which are larger (though I don't know the actual size) and may yield a more usable scan.

I did find a nice college photo of Thurston with Valparaiso, so I guess I'll work on a 1955 All-American card. Watch this space for the result.

                                   *  *  *
From Jan. 24, 2012

As I posted on Saturday, I had long intended to create a 1958 Topps-style football card of Fuzzy Thurston with the Baltimore Colts. A lack of a suitable foil has sidelined that effort, but since I did find a decent picture of Thurston during his college days, I've gone ahead and created a '55 All-American custom.

In researching Thurston, I was surprised to find he didn't play college football until he was a junior at Valparaiso University in 1954. He had been recruited to Valpo as a basketball player. During and after his NFL career, Thurston continued to be a fixture on the Green Bay Packers charity basketball squads.

With the Crusaders in 1954, when they won the Heartland Collegiate Conference in 1954, Thurston was named an AP "Little All-American." As team captain in 1955, he repeated as a Little All-American and was named the HCC Most Valuable Lineman. In his two years at Valpo, the team was 17-7-2.

Thurston was a fifth round pick (#54 overall) of the Philadelphia Eagles in the 1956 NFL draft,but never played for them. He spent two years in military service before joining the Baltimore Colts in 1958. His play during the last four games of the stretch drive helped the Colts to a World's Championship.

Just three days into the Colts' training camp in 1959, Thurston was traded to the Green Bay Packers for linebacker Marv Matuszak. New head coach Vince Lombardi wanted Fuzzy to anchor the offensive line which was integral to the "run to daylight" offense he brought to the Packers' dynasty of the 1960s.

Thurston won five more championship rings with the Packers (1961, 1962, 1965, 1966, 1967) before retiring after Super Bowl II.

In my next posting, I'll tell you about the time I "met" Fuzzy Thurston.

                                  *  *  *
From Jan. 27, 2012
Menus, circa late 1960s, from the Left Guard restaurant, ownjed by
Fuzzy Thurston and Max McGee.
My two most recent blogs have detailed my attempts to create custom cards of Lombardi-dynasty Green Bay Packers great Fuzzy Thurston.

I actually met Thurston one night . . . sort of.

It must have been about 1971, when Thurston was about 38 years old. I was in college then, and working for a company that traveled around the state of Wisconsin taking physical inventory at supermarkets and other retail stores.

Our crew was headquartered out of Fond du Lac, where I was born and raised. At the edge of town was the "Left Guard," a supper club that was one of a handful Thurston owned along with teammate Max McGee.

One night after we had finished work, our crew stopped at the Left Guard for a drink. There were four or five of us in the car, which was driven by Bill, whose last name I no longer recall. Bill, at that time, really needed to be a "Friend of Bill." It's sobering (no pun intended) to think of all the miles we drove back then with Bill behind the wheel in various states of intoxication.

It was rather late on a weeknight when we entered the bar area of the restaurant. Besides the bartender, I don't recall seeing anybody else in the place . . . except for Fuzzy Thurston.

Thurston was sitting on a stool at the far end of the bar, with his stocking feet propped up on the bar.

After a few minutes, and probably into his second drink, Bill looked over, caught Thurston's eye, and said, "Jesus, you're a sloppy son of a bitch"

That night I witnessed what was usually reserved for opposing NFL linemen, Fuzzy Thurston in action. 

He came off his stool like a shot, grabbed Bill by the collar and belt and gave him the classic bum's rush out of the place, using Bill's head to open two sets of doors. 

Thurston came back in, and resumed his place at the end of the bar while we filed out without a word, helped Bill back behind the wheel and drove back to the nearby mall where we had parked our cars.

Come to think of it, and I may be misremembering because this happened 40 years ago, one of us may have said to Fuzzy as we were leaving, "Thanks for not killing him."

                                *  *  *
From Jan. 20, 2014
If you'll go back to my blog posting of two years ago (Jan. 27, 2012), you'll see why I have an interest in creating custom cards of Green Bay Packers great Fuzzy Thurston.

My post of Jan 24, 2012, presents the 1955 All-American card I made of Thurston, while my post of Jan. 21, 2012, details my frustration with being unable to make a 1958 Topps-style custom of Thurston with the Baltimore Colts.

The recent sale of several photos of Thurston from the Topps Vault has allowed me to finally create that '58 Colts card . . . along with a 1960-style custom that "predates" Thurston's actual Topps rookie card by two years.

Actually, my '58 Colts card required a bit of creative license on my part, the original photo showed Thurston in a Packers uniform, but when cropped to the format of the '58s, I was easily able to colorize the jersey to Baltimore blue.

I believe the completion of these two new custom cards will satisfy my desire to enhance Thurston's football card legacy.

*  *  *
Since I posted that last Thurston-related blog just about a year ago, I found a couple of more really nice original Topps photos of Thurston that I've filed away for possible future use in creating one or two more 1960s style Fuzzy Thurston custom cards.

The world is a ess colorful place without Fuzzy Thurston.

Saturday, December 20, 2014

Monitor, Virginia added to Rails and Sails customs

Last time I gave you the background of my childhood fascination with the Civil War that has, half a century later, spurred my desire to create a couple of cards for my custom additions to the venerable 1955 Topps Rails and Sails bubblegum card issue. 

Today I show you those results and offer a few notes about the creation process.

Unlike some subjects I've tackled in my sports and non-sports custom card work, there was no shortage of pictures among which to choose images for my cards of the U.S.S. Monitor and the C.S.S. Virginia. I had plenty to work with in choosing art that would fit my interpretation of what the Topps artists might have done in 1955.

For my Monitor card, I used box art from a 1:144 plastic model kit by the French company Battle Axe. I'm unsure of the vintage, but believe it is rather recent. Model kit box art was also the source for my Virginia. In this  case, it was from a 1950s Pyro kit inaccurately labeled "The Monitor And The Merrimac". 

There have been plenty of paintings of both ships, separately and together, over the past 150 years, but I believe the model kit box art comes closest to the style set by Topps artists in the 1955 card set.

Perhaps the biggest challenge in creating these cards was trying to present the history of each ship in about 90 words on the cards' backs, while trying to stay true to the tone that Topps' writers achieved 60 years ago when writing for their youthful target audience.

While I am in a Civil War "mood," one of my next non-sports custom card creations will be an addition to the iconic 1962 Topps Civil War News issue. It may not be the very next card I make, but it will be featured in this blog soon enough. 

Thursday, December 18, 2014

Rails & Sails customs feature Civil War ironclads

The Civil War Centennial was right in my wheelhouse when I was a kid. I was 10 years old when the centennial began in 1961. Like most 10-year-old boys in that era, I was enthralled with the idea of war, at least in the abstract.

On the block where I lived there was a large -- about 6' x 4' x 1.5' -- red granite monument marking the area as Camp Hamilton, where Union troops gathered before being marched southwest to Madison to join the war. 

Nearby, the alley behind Mrs. Thompson's house, there was another piece of granite, roughly hewn and unmarked, that looked very much like a double headstone. It was rumored among us kids that it was, indeed, a gravestone, marking the final resting place for two Yankee soldiers who never made it out of Camp Hamilton.

I was very much into the Civil War. Of course I collected the 1962 Topps Civil War News bubblegum cards. I had the 1961 Milton Bradley Civil War board game Battle-Cry.

For Christmas one year I received the large Blue and Gray playset from Marx. I had a color-by-number set of Civil War pictures (I tried unsuccessfully recently to find one on eBay). For a couple of summers our games of Cowboys and Indians and Cops and Robbers were changed to Yanks vs. Rebs. 

One year for my birthday my Aunt Corrine bought me the huge American Heritage Picture History of the Civil War. I wore that book out. And while my oldest brother wound up with it when my parents sold their home, I was able to pick up another copy a few years ago at Goodwill.

Like any juvenile Civil War buff of the day, I was fascinated by the alliteratively appealing but inaccurately named battle of the Monitor and the Merrimack.

When I recently began working on creating custom cards for some of my favorite childhood non-sports card sets, I discovered that the original 1955 Topps Rails and Sails set had no entry in its checklist for these Civil War ironclads.

So I recently made it my business to make those historic warships a latter-day addition to the R&S set.

In doing my research for the ships' histories on my card backs I was surprised at how little I really knew about that historic naval battle. You can go into as great a depth of that story as you like with a little google-searching, so I'll just present my version of cliff notes on the subject.

*   *   *

When the U.S. Navy abandoned the Norfolk Navy Yard to Virginia troops at the opening of the war, they scuttled the steam frigate U.S.S. Merrimack, burning it to the waterline.

The newly formed Confederate navy raised the hulk and, discovering that the hull and mechanics were still intact, refitted her as an ironclad ram. Up to 4" of iron armor was added, along with 10 cannons and a ram. 

By mid-February, 1862, renamed as the C.S.S. Virginia, she was commissioned to break the Yankee blockade of the Norfolk area.

Union spies had relayed details of the construction of the ironclad to Washington. The U.S. Navy rightly feared for the horrible vulnerability of its unarmored wooden vessels when facing a hostile ironclad. The Union press demanded immediate action, fearing that the rebels' ironclad warship would smash through the James River blockade, sweep the U.S. Navy from Chesapeake Bay and steam unchallenged up the Potomac into the heart of Washington, D.C. 

The navy plunged into construction of its own ironclad. In little more than 100 days, the U.S.S. Monitor left the Brooklyn Naval Yard on its way to Hampton Roads, Virginia. 

Due to perilous sea conditions, the Monitor was a day too late.

On April 8 the Virginia engaged the blockading U.S. fleet. She rammed and sank the sloop Cumberland, shelled the frigate Congress into submission and fired the Minnesota, which had run aground trying to evade the ironclad behemoth. Darkness prevented further decimation of the U.S. fleet. 

When the fog lifted the next morning, the Virginia set out to complete its mission. She was surprised when, from behind the still-burning Minnesota, the oddly configured Monitor steamed into view.

For four hours the ironclads threw shot and shell at each other, sometimes only a few yards between them. When the engagement broke off as the ships exhausted their supplies of ammunition, there was no structural damage to either ship and no fatalities among their crews. The Monitor had preserved the blockade and was hailed by the press as the "ship that saved the Union."

For several weeks the ships eyed each other warily, occasionally tossing desultory shots, but they engaged in no further significant action. The Monitor had taken refuge under the guns of the Union's Ft. Monroe. The Confederate ironclad had proven its invulnerability to the guns aboard U.S. Navy ships, but was unwilling to come under the fire of the larger shore batteries. The Virginia made repeated unsuccessful attempts to draw the Monitor into open water to effect a plan to capture the Yankee ironclad with a minimal boarding party.

When Confederate forces withdrew from the Norfolk area in early May, they scuttled the Virginia. The ironclad was too large to navigate the rivers and basically unfit to put out to sea. 

The Monitor did not survive the year, as well. She had remained in the Hampton Roads area to support Gen. George McClellan's Peninsula Campaign, then was ordered south in December to participate in the blockade of Charleston. In a storm at sea, the Monitor sank near Cape Hatteras, N.C.

*  *  *

Since this background has already run so long, I'll wait until next time to show you my Rails and Sails Monitor and Virginia custom creations.

Tuesday, December 16, 2014

Brown's bling tipped Senators' batters

The gold "bling" in Clint Brown's front teeth
provided Senators batters with a "tell" to
what pitch was coming.

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 the “Scribbled by Scribes” digest column in the June 25, 1942, The Sporting News, Shirley Povich of the Washington Post was quoted from a recent feature he’d written about pitcher Clint Brown.

            Brown was in the American League for 15 years, with the Indians, the White Sox and thence back to the Indians, but he hasn’t started a ball game since 1936. These past six seasons he has been earning his keep as a relief pitching specialist. His record of putting in rush appearances in 81 ball games in 1939 stands as an all-time high.
            Brown used to be a starting pitcher. He had particular success against the Yankees and Athletics, the two toughest teams of a decade ago. But for some reason he couldn’t beat Washington. In fact, he was lucky to last out the first inning against the Nats. Finally, manager Roger Peckinpaugh bowed to the weight of evidence and refused to start him against the Washington club.
            It wasn’t until several years later, along about 1934, that Cleveland learned why Brown was so habitually ineffective against Washington. It was all explained in great detail by Sam Rice, who was traded to Cleveland by the Nats. Rice threw complete illumination of the great secret of the Washington club’s ability to beat Brown.
            ‘He helped to lick himself,’ said Rice. ‘Did you ever notice all those gold teeth in the front of Brown’s mouth? Well, all the hitters on the Washington club noticed ‘em too. When Brown was going to throw a curve ball, his lips curled up and the Washington hitters saw those gold teeth. We’d take a toe hold and bang the curve we knew was coming.’
            Fortified by that knowledge, Brown got sweet revenge on the Nats in successive years. He’d bare his golden array and then cross up the hitters completely by fogging a fast ball past their unwary bats. He enjoyed their confusion hugely, and rarely missed a turn against the Nats thereafter.

The "Rice Revelation," does seem to have had an effect in Brown's success against the Senators. From 1930-33, Brown had a 1-5 record versus Washington, appearing in eight games. (He didn't face the Senators in 1928-29 when he first came up to the American League.)

Rice came over to the Indians prior to the 1942 season, and from 1934-42, Brown was 8-5 in 31 games against Washington.

Povich also observed that when, following his release by Cleveland, Brown announced that he was retiring to his chicken farm, “he . . . became the envy of most ball players.”

The writer explained, “Just as retired prize fighters gravitate to the tavern and restaurant business, the old ball players yearns for a chicken farm all his own. Approach any ball player, suddenlike, and ask him what he’d like to do when he’s through playing ball, and it’s even money that he’ll blurt out ‘chicken farm.’

“Why this compelling attraction for incipient omelettes? We don’t know,” Povich confessed, “and we leave you to figure it out. We are simply reporting the facts. The nation’s country side is dotted with chicken farms bossed by old ball players who saved their dough to that end.”

Despite pitching his entire big league career in
the Golden Age of pre-war bubblegum cards,
Clint Brown appears only in the 1934-36
Batter-Up set.

Friday, December 12, 2014

Baseball card for "local boy" Stu Locklin

Along the western shore of Lake Winnebago in east central Wisconsin there is a metroplex known as the Fox Cities. Four cities and half a dozen each of villages and towns follow the Fox River as it flows north from the lake to Green Bay. The total population is around 250,000.

My home in Iola is about 45 minutes west of the Fox Cities. In past years I used to drive over for Saturday baseball card shows and to catch a Class A Midwest League ballgame. Alex Rodriguez played for the Appleton Foxes when he began his pro career in 1994.

There have been eight or ten major leaguers who were born in the Fox Cities. Some you may have heard of are 1950s Giants and Braves pitcher Dave Koslo, 1970s-80s Milwaukee Brewers pitcher Jerry Augustine and Eric Hinske, who played for the Blue Jays, Red Sox, Rays, Pirates, Yankees and Braves between 2002 and 2013, and last season coached for the Cubs.

All of those guys had plenty of baseball cards to mark their major league careers, and several of the other Fox Cities native ballplayers also had cards issued during their playing days.

One who did not is Stu Locklin. It's not surprising . . . he played in only 25 games for the 1955 and 1956 Cleveland Indians.

Locklin was born in Appleton, Wis., in 1928. At age 86, he's working his way up the list of oldest living former major leaguers.

He graduated from the University of Wisconsin, where he had starred in baseball, football and basketball. He led the Badgers in hitting in 1947 and 1948, then signed with the Cleveland Indians (technically with their Baltimore Orioles farm team) in 1949. It is reported that in one Big Ten game against Michigan State, Locklin was 4-for-5 at the plate against future Hall of Famer Robin Roberts.

Locklin was bigger than the average ballplayer of his era; 6' 1-1/2" and 190 pounds, throwing the batting left handed. He generally played in the outfield and at first base.

Skipping the lower minors, Locklin started his pro career at Class A Dayton in 1949, where he led the Central League with 169 hits and was second with 39 doubles. 

Moving up to AA Oklahoma City in 1950, Locklin led the Texas League with 43 doubles. He followed his .311 batting average of the previous year with a .298 mark.

In 1951 Locklin was promoted to San Diego in the Pacific Coast League. In the faster company at the AAA level, Locklin's playing time diminished as a reserve outfielder and his average dropped to .267 with his power numbers also decreasing.

Locklin lost three prime years at age 23-25, serving in the Air Force during the Korean War, 1952-54.

When he returned from the service in 1955, he went right to the big club, playing in 16 games with Cleveland, nine of them as a pinch-hitter or pinch-runner. He hit just .167. 

The Indians kept him on the roster to start the 1956 season. He appeared in just nine games; the first eight as a PH or PR. In his only start, on May 30, he got his only hit of the season and was farmed out to Indianapolis with a lifetime .167 average.

Locklin never returned to the majors. He played five more years, all at the AAA level with Indy (1956), Miami (1957), Minneapolis (1958-60) and San Diego (1957-59).

After his playing days, Locklin returned to Appleton where he was a junior high school teacher, counselor and coach, and supervised the city's youth baseball program.

Locklin never had a baseball card contemporary with his playing days. He does appear in the 1974 Ed Broder collectors' issue set of Pacific Coast League "popcorn" cards picturing Coast League players of 1957-58.

Production notes

Initially I worked with the 1956 Topps card of Larry Doby to provide the background for my '56 Locklin. To make the colorized player portrait match the overall look of the night-game background, it would have been too dark.

I decided to work with the 1956 Art Houtteman background, which better matched the portrait in brightness. I had to move some things around, including flipping the entire background horizontally, and make other adjustments to erase the Houtteman portrait and action pictures.

There aren't many pictures of Locklin available on the internet, and no full-length shots. So I used the batting pose from Doby's card, lightening the skin, taking some weight off of the face and changing a few uniform details. As with most action pictures on original '56 Topps cards, you can't really make out who the player is, anyway.

On back, I repurposed two of the cartoons that I previously used on my Tom Gastall custom card (see my blog for May 1, 2011) and added a cartoon from the 1958 Red Schoendienst card.

Because of the cartoons on back, creating custom cards in the format of 1956 Topps is more difficult than most, but since that is one of all-time favorite Topps sets, I enjoy the challenge.

Monday, December 8, 2014

Christmas collectible: Santa looks over 1955 Ford

With Christmas right around the corner, I thought I'd share with you a Santa Claus collectible that is now hanging on the living room wall near the aluminum Christmas tree.

The postcard pictured here was issued in 1955 by Ford Motor Co., and distributed by local dealerships to be sent to customers to entice them to stop by and look over the new line of 1956 Fords.

Besides its colorful image, the promotional postcard does double duty as a 78 rpm record of Rosemary Clooney and the Mitch Miller Orchestra performing a Christmas song. I don't know what the song might be because I haven't had a turntable that plays 78s in several decades.

Notice that the record/postcard is produced by Auravision and Columbia Records. That's the same team that in 1963-64 produced a set of baseball player picture recordings featuring top stars of the day.

Note also that my Santa-Ford record has the sales pitch signed by "Bob Lemke". Presumably, that Bob Lemke was a salesman at the Ford dealer in Mosinee, Wis., where the card was postmarked on Dec. 9, 1955.

That signature is how I came to own the card. Years ago, one of my weekly eBay searches was for the name "Lemke." At the time I was trying to keep my collection of Mark Lemke baseball cards current.

The car-selling Bob Lemke is no relation of mine. There was or is a branch of the Lemke clan in and around Wausau, Wis., about 20 minutes north of Mosinee. The Wausau Lemkes
in the past operated a photo studio and a dairy.

Besides wanting the Ford Christmas postcard because it was signed by another Bob Lemke, I had another reason for adding it to my collection. It brings back childhood memories of my Aunt Corrine.

When I was very young, around 4-6 years old, my Aunt Corrine lived with us. She was my mother's youngest sister, and was very involved with raising me and my own baby sister.

Aunt Corrine worked as a bookkeeper for the local (Fond du Lac, Wis.) Ford dealership. Knowing my penchant, even at that early age, for colorful cards, she sometimes brought home for me the promotional postcards showing each year's new Fords in the mid-1950s.

Over the years I have thought of assembling a collection of those childhood automobilia memories, but I never pursued it. These days I'm more concerned with divesting my collections. So, this 1955 Santa Claus card will likely be the extant of my accumulation of mid-century Ford postcards.

I've got one more Christmas collectible to share with you in the near future. Watch this space.

Thursday, December 4, 2014

Yes, my '65T Paige custom card is an anachronism

This is my fifth Satchel Paige custom card (previous cards have been 1935 Diamond Stars, 1951 and 1952 Bowman and 1952 Topps). And, yes, it is something of an anachronism.

While Paige did pitch his final game as a major leaguer -- after a 12-year layoff -- he appeared so late in the season that Topps couldn't have included a baseball card of him in its 1965 set.

Sure, if they had been so inclined, the bubblegum company could have issued a 1966 Paige card, but they didn't; and I chose not to go with that format. I simply prefer the 1965 style.

Topps may well have chosen not to do a '66 Paige card because his appearance on the mound for the Kansas City A's the previous season was strictly a money/publicity grab by Charlie Finley.

When Paige ambled to the mound at Municipal Stadium on Sept. 25, 1965, to start the A's penultimate home game, a Saturday night affair, last-place K.C. was 57-97; 40 games behind the Twins. They were facing the ninth-place (37.5 games out) Boston Red Sox.

Bringing Paige back to the majors in the city where he made his home and where he had starred throughout the 1940s for the Monarchs of the Negro American League, proved to be a fiscal home run for Finley. The attendance was 9,289. That number was greater than the total attendance (9,199) for the other six games in the A's final home stand against the Senators and BoSox. On Thursday afternoon, the A's had drawn only 690 on Washington's get-away day.

All in all, it can be said Paige had a successful major league finale. He pitched his contracted-for three innings (that was his standard appearance for most of his barnstorming and exhibition games in those days). While he didn't figure in the decision, he shut the Boston club out. Don Mossi took the 2-5 loss against Bill Monbouquette.

A double in the top of the first by Carl Yastrzemski was the only hit Paige gave up. He walked nobody and set the Red Sox down in order in the second and third innings. He had one strikeout, pitcher Bill Monbouquette, who himself had struck out Paige to end the home half of the second inning.

Finley had played up the spectacle of Paige (probably 59) becoming the oldest player ever in a major league game. He had a big ol' rocking chair for Satch next to the A's dugout, and a pretty "nurse" to rub down the pitcher's salary wing between innings. Speaking of which . . . I haven't found mention of what Finley had paid Paige. He had been signed as a free agent on Sept, 10, and was released after the season, on Oct. 15.

Surprisingly there are not a lot of color photos of Paige in a 1965 K.C. uniform; at least I haven't found them. But the profile portrait I chose is certainly acceptable for my faux '65T custom.

I am, by no means, done making Satchel Paige custom cards. On my to-do list is a remake of my 1952 Bowman-style, and I'm also planning a 1953 Red Man and a 1956 Topps minor league custom.

Friday, November 28, 2014

Rifleman custom card added to TV Westerns

With the creation of this card based on The Rifleman television series of 1958-63, I've expanded into my third addition to the original Topps 1958 TV Westerns bubblegum card issue. (My Maverick cards were featured on the blog on Aug. 13, and Rawhide cards were presented on Sept. 28.)

The Rifleman is one of the few classic TV westerns that is currently (as of late 2014) being shown in reruns regularly on cable; Saturday mornings on AMC.

I'm not going to say too much about the television show, itself. There is plenty of readily available information on the internet. One recommended site is the "Official" web site of the series, at

I can tell you why I chose to make this custom card. I've always been a fan of Chuck Connors; moreso since I met him at the National Sports Collectors Convention in 1985.

A couple of years earlier, one of my contributors at SCD, Paul Green, had worked up a profile of Connors and conducted a Q-and-A session for the paper. The article heavily leaned toward Connors' career in professional baseball: One game with the 1949 Brooklyn Dodgers and 66 games in 1951 as a Chicago Cub, plus more than 950 games in the minor leagues in 1940, 1942, 1946-52.

As we were setting up our booth at the Anaheim National, a tall, well-built fellow, whom I instantly recognized, strode up to me, shook my hand and introduced himself as Chuck Connors.

He wanted to thank me for publishing that interview and, parenthetically, for kick-starting a secondary "career" as an autograph guest at Southern California card shows. Connors didn't do card shows for the money, obviously, but rather because he really seemed to enjoy interacting with fans both baseball fans and Hollywood fans.

When he invited me for a drink, I left the booth set up to my minions and we adjourned to one of the bars at the Disneyland Hotel. We probably talked for two hours.

I listened to great stories of his days in pro ball. I got a real feel for the frustration he suffered in going to spring training with the Dodgers every year in the late 1940s, only to be sent out to Montreal or Mobile  when the season started, where he'd regularly hit around .300 with nearly 20 home runs.  He summarized his lack of success in breaking into the Brooklyn squad by saying he'd had "Gil Hodges stuck up my ass all that time."

We also talked about  his acting career. I was particularly interested in a new project that he had just signed on for. He was going to play Capt. Jonas Skorzeny, an evil lycanthrope, in a series that eventually aired for some 30 episodes in 1987-88 as Werewolf.

Our conversation came to an end when it was time for him to participate in a card-flipping contest. If I recall correctly, he lost in the celebrity division finals to Bob Feller. 

At the 1985 National Convention in Anaheim, Chuck
Connors stands by while Bob Feller makes his throw.

Not long after I returned to Wisconsin from the show, I received an envelope with a handful of autographed 8x10 photos from Connors. We corresponded a time or two prior to his passing in 1992.

My Rifleman custom card focuses on character Lucas McCain's "gimmick gun." Many of the TV westerns of that era featured some sort of signature weapon wielded by the star. Wyatt Earp had his Buntline Special, Johnny Yuma had his double-barreled sawed-off shotgun, Josh Randall his cut-down Winchester, etc.

Lucas McCain had a tricked-out Winchester Model 1892 saddle-ring carbine. Viewers were expected to suspend disbelief that a character in a series set in the 1880s in New Mexico Territory was sporting a rifle that wouldn't be invented for a dozen years.

The Winchester had a 20" barrel and a capacity of 15 rounds of .44-40 ammunition. A modified reverse-D lever had a set-screw that could be deployed to make the rifle fire without pulling the trigger, allowing McCain to get off a string of rapid-fire hip shots.

Viewers also had to suspend disbelief that a rifle could be fired in that fashion with any degree of accuracy. 

According to what I've seen on the internet, there were five rifles used in the series. Several of them have made their way into the gun collectors' market, where they have fetched good prices at auction. 

This may be the only Rifleman custom card I'll make. Good color photos relative to the show are not plentiful. This surely will not be the last time Chuck Connors appears on one of my custom cards, however. Some day I'll work up a baseball card or two.

Wednesday, November 26, 2014

Is that name too ghetto for the Fortune 500?

Regular followers of my blog probably realize that my typical reader is a male baby boomer.

I'm going to step away from that target demographic this time to address a decidedly different audience -- soon-to-be baby mamas.

I want to plead with you that when the time comes to name your boy child, that you consider the long-term consequences of saddling him with a name that is too far out of the mainstream of contemporary American culture.

Sure, giving your baby a unique name might show the other girls in home room how clever you are when you pass around his picture on your Obama-phone. But please, look 20 years down the road.

Recently I've read of several studies conducted in which nearly-identical resumes were submitted to companies in response to job openings. The only difference in the resumes was in the names of the fictitious applicants.

The studies showed a remarkable difference in the selection of those who were invited for interviews or other second steps in the hiring process. Overwhelmingly, resumes of candidates with "normal" contemporary American names were shown preference versus those resumes on which the name was one which most people -- at least the people who make hiring decisions -- would perceive as "ethnic" in origins.

Unfair? Yes. Racist? Sure. Reality? You bet.

But please give this matter some serious thought. The "wrong" name at the top of a resume seems to insure that it never makes it out of the slush pile.

The following caveats are all related only to male first names. Surnames like Ramirez, Washington, Al-Mustafa, etc., are also likely to prompt an immediate rejection in today's business/corporate culture but to an extent, short of going to court to make a change, a person is stuck with his patronym.

And don't get me started on female first names . . . 

So here's ol' Uncle Bob's baby-naming tips to give your son a leg up when he goes job-hunting in 20-25 years.

That first name may be too ghetto:

  • if the name has the "shon" sound in it, and isn't "Sean" or "Shawn"
  • if the name ends in "us" or, especially, "ius," and it isn't shared with one of the 12 Caesars or 266 Popes
  • if the name has four or more syllables and is not found in the Old Testament.
  • if the name has an apostrophe
  • if the name has a "q" anywhere except the first letter
  • if, upon being introduced, the name has to be spelled or pronounced more than once
  • if the Scrabble-tiles total value of the name is more than 21
  • if the name starts with "Da" or "De" and the next letter is capitalized
  • if the name can’t be found on the revolving rack of miniature souvenir license plates at the truck stop/tourist trap/gift shop

If you were the unfortunate victim of first-name child abuse and are now having difficulty getting a foot in the door of corporate America, remember: there's no law against putting a different version of your first name on your resume (i.e., Da'Andre = Daniel), or even a completely different first name. "The Man" doesn't have to know the truth until after you've been hired and have to fill out HR paperwork. Then it's too late to renege on the job offer without landing in Federal court.

Monday, November 24, 2014

Dubuc escaped wrath of Judge Landis, Part 3

(Continued from yesterday)

           Rumors abounded in the 1923 pre-season that Dubuc would not return to Syracuse. He was said to be planning to join an expansion Ottawa team in the Eastern Canada League as stockholder-manager-pitcher. Another story had him taking the helm of a Syracuse farm club at Williamsport in the newly formed New York-Pennsylvania League.
          Syracuse's new president, Philip Bartelme, quashed all the rumors, however, by affirming Dubuc's place on the Stars roster. The executive called Dubuc, "a handy man to have around, as he can pitch, play the infield or outfield in an emergency and best of all can hit when a hit is needed." Unfortunately, Dubuc's hitting fell off considerably in 1923, dropping 114 points to .237.
          Dubuc did have an excellent, though injury-shortened, record on the mound for Syracuse in 1923. He went 5-2 with a 2.81 ERA. In June he was hit on the right arm in a game with Jersey City. He played the next three games but then went to the dcotor where he learned the arm had been broken. Dubuc was out of action from June 19 through July 29, spending part of his rehabilitation time in Canada on a scouting expedition to shore up the pitching staff.
          In 1924 the prediction that Dubuc would move to Ottawa proved accurate. The Eastern Canada League added a pair of Vermont teams and reorganized as the Quebec-Ontario-Vermont League. Jean Dubuc was able to purchase his release from Syracuse by re-paying his original signing bonus and joined the league as president and manager of the Ottawa-Hull team. To escape local blue laws, the Ottawa teams had for years played their Sunday home games across the river in Hull.
          Ottawa baseball writer M.J. Moloughney predicted Dubuc, whom he desribed as a "French-Canadian" would "receive a good welcome in this city. He will pitch and play the outfield for the local aggregation, and should just about burn up the league in both departments."
          The league consisted of two teams in Montreal, the Royals and Canadiens, the Quebec Bulldogs, the Ottawa Senators, and in Vermont, the Rutland Sheiks and the Montpelier Goldfish. The U.S. teams were unable to finish out the month of July. Neither was Dubuc. He was again disabled when his thumb was broken by a pitched ball in early July. He was able to pinch-hit and play some in the outfield for the remainder of the season, but his team ended the season in last place. Dubuc's pitching record for Ottawa was 2-2 on a 4.24 ERA. He had pitched in seven games and appeared 29 times in the outfield. He hit .286 for the year. The Q-O-V season had been set to run through Sept. 14, but closed after Labor Day. The league disbanded following the 1924 season.
          Dubuc returned to semi-pro ball for 1925, managing the Manchester, N.H., team in the Boston Twilight League. The following year Manchester joined the revived New England League and Dubuc was once again back in Organized Baseball.
          The Class B league consisted of teams in Manchester and Nashua, N.H., Lewiston and Portland in Maine, and the Massachusetts cities of Lynn, Salem, Haverhill and Lawrence. Dubuc's home base was considered the class of the league. Textile Field was described as the equal of any Class B facility in baseball. Its modern concrete and steel grandstand seated 2,900 fans, while an additional 2,000+ could be accomodated in the bleachers. An electric scoreboard allowed the fans to follow every ball and strike.
          Dubuc's 1926 Blue Sox won the premiere season's pennant. He had a 2-2 record and an ERA of 4.24. If he played any other positions in the field, it was not enough to be reported in the official records. He hit .311 for the season.
          In the spring of 1927 it was announced that Dubuc had accepted the position of baseball coach at Brown University. It was expected he would return to Manchester when the college season was over. Instead, Dubuc was reported to have accepted charge of a team in the independent Blackstone Valley League.
          In the off-seasons, Dubuc maintained an active interest in pro hockey. For many years he managed the Rhode Island Reds hockey team at Providence in the American Hockey League. His team made the playoffs for 12 straight years and won five championships.
          In 1928, Dubuc received an offer to return to major league baseball, as a scout for Detroit.
          In a letter dated Jan. 11, Frank Navin made this proposition, "Am going to let Charles Moran out as our representative in the east and I am offering you the position with us as Eastern representative. The position requires that you be on the look-out for us at all times during the year and if you care to you can work actively during the months of July and August when you are through with your college duties. We paid Mr. Moran $1,200 for the season and understood that if he picked up someone that was promising and of any use to us, he would get a suitable bonus in addition to his regular salary. But he never picked up anyone of any account to us so all he got was $1,200 and his expenses. The expenses to cover the time he was traveling for us during July and August. If this kind of a proposition interests you would like to have you advise me."
          Dubuc was interested in the scouting job and it paid big dividends for the Tigers when Dubuc landed Hank Greenberg from under the noses of the New York Yankees. According to what was supposed to have been a humorous account published in 1935, Yankees scout Paul Krichell "had Greenberg all sewed up and set for signing with the Yanks after having eaten Yiddish food at the Greenberg house for over a year to get in the family's good graces.
          "Then in stepped Jean Dubuc, Detroit scout, who called at Hank's house, bringing along his own ham sandwich, and signed up Hank right under the very shadow of the Yankee Stadium."
          The account continued, "Whenever Hank hits a home run Krichell has chills and fever, high blood pressure, water on both knees and a recurrence of the Slobodka Halitosis, which is a rare form, superinduced by eating fetulte miltz, gedumfte brust, gehachte laber and other Yiddish dishes. From that day to this, Paul gets mal de mer every time he gazes upon the corpse of a herring."
          In fact, Dubuc apparently got Greenberg the old-fashioned way -- by offering him more money. According to Greenberg's 1989 biography, The Story of My Life, Dubuc paid him a $6,000 signing bonus with the promise of $3,000 additional when he reported to the Tigers. Just out of high school, Dubuc got Greenberg a spot on the East Douglas, Mass., team in the Blackstone Valley League. "I think he found me the job because he wanted to hide me away from the other scouts in the New York area," Greenberg said.
          Under the terms of the contract signed with Dubuc and the Tigers, Greenberg was allowed to attend N.Y.U., but he quit school after one term to report to Detroit, pick-up his bonus and begin his Hall of Fame slugging career.
          Dubuc's brother Arthur purchased the Nashua, N.H., team in the New England League in 1929, though Jean apparently did not get involved, except perhaps as an investor.
          In spring training 1930, Dubuc put on the Detroit uniform once again, as pitching coach for manager Bucky Harris. Ironically, another of the Tigers coaches that season was Roger Bresnahan. Dubuc remained with Detroit as a coach through the 1931 season.
          In 1934 he was reported back in minor league ball as part-owner and manager of the New Bedford team in the Northeastern League. He returned to Brown University as baseball coach for another three-year term in the mid-1930s, according to an obituary.
          About the same time Dubuc became a salesman for the Braden-Sutphin Ink Co., a position he held for 20 years prior to retiring on the company's farm at Ft. Myers, Fla.
          In December of 1955, Dubuc -- already suffering from heart disease -- had a stroke from which he only partially recovered. His wife died in March, 1956.
          Later that year, a friend of Dubuc's wrote a letter which was published in Joe Barnea's "Barnstorming" column in the Manchester Union Leader, reporting on Dubuc's condition and soliciting letters and cards from well-wishers. While Dubuc was apparently financially sound, the stroke had left him unable to speak or write. "So you see," his friend wrote, "he is cut off from the world in so many ways and if you could drop a hint to his buddies that he'd appreciate hearing from them, you'd be doing him a real favor. He is gradually recovering his strength," the report continued, "and he is now able to get around without a great deal of difficulty. He reads the papers, watches television and the movies and, of course, is interested in baseball, as it was such a part of his life. He was able to watch the World Series games on television and was really excited about the perfect game pitched by Don Larsen of the Yankees."
          Dubuc himself was apparently the type of man who thought of others in times of ill health. The National Baseball Library has a letter from his 1918 Red Sox teammate Babe Ruth to Dubuc, dated Feb. 5, 1947, when the Bambino was dying of cancer. It reads, "Thanks so much for your kind wishes and most amusing get well card. I did not know I had so many thoughtful and sincere friends, and believe me it's messages like yours that have done so much to cheer me up during these long hours here at the hospital."
          Following three years of ill health, Dubuc died on Aug. 28, 1958, at the age of 70. He was interred in the Ft. Myers Memorial Gardens.
          Whether by luck or design, Dubuc was able to evade the wrath of baseball officialdom during the witchhunt that followed the Black Sox scandal. Available evidence indicates Dubuc engaged in activities that were no more than commonplace among the players of his era. Because Landis and his posse made only a token attempt to remove from the game all persons who had "guilty knowledge" of the fix, it was fortunate that Jean Dubuc was able to return and contribute to Organized Baseball. Others, no more culpable that Dubuc were not so fortunate.

Between 1910-1919, Dubuc appeared in all three series of
Coupon cigarettes tobacco cards (T213). He was always
pictured in the Cincinnati road uniform. In 1910 Type 1
His team designation is Cincinnati. In Type 2, 1914-16
his team is shown Detroit. In 1919 Type 3 his team
designation is "N.Y. Nat."

(Editor's note: Another account of the life and career of Jean Dubuc can be found in the SABR BioProject, authored by Tom Simon and Guy Waterman. It can be found at )