>Craig and Rob have been all about hyping t-shirts lately. While The Common Man is definitely a t-shirt guy, he doesn’t think he’ll ever get to be “fixated on t-shirts that memorialize the most temporary of baseball stories, quotes or happenings,” as Craig claims to be. No, what The Common Man likes more than t-shirts commemorating the Running of the Don Zimmers or the Albert Belle Equipment Retrieval Squad is cold, hard memorabilia that he can see and touch. Memorabilia that, while not necessarily museum-worthy, bring to life a moment or an era that has passed him by. Of course, the best place to find that memorabilia today is on Ebay, where every discerning collector can bid against housewives and homebodies for a little piece of history. Here are the 10 most interesting items The Common Man found up for bid this morning. Since TCM has a birthday coming up, he thought he’d give you a few ideas for what to get him. Just sayin’.
These are in no particular order, mind you. Any and all would be appreciated. But it seems fitting to start at the beginning.
1883 American Association Game Scorecard, Philadelphia Athletics vs. New York Metropolitans, $395
The Athletics narrowly won the American Association in the league’s second season, and were a formidable club, led by Harry Stovey. When Stovey retired in 1896, he was the All Time HR and SB king, but pretty obviously benefitted from the AA’s status as a lesser league. The Metropolitans were headed up by Hall of Famer Tim Keefe, who would lead the league in games, innings, and strikeouts, and won 41 games. The scorecard seems to indicate that the Metropolitans pulled this one out 14-5, probably because the A’s committed six errors.
(Also available is an 1885 scorecard for an exhibition game played by Old Hoss Radbourne’s Providence Grays for $550. Sadly, Hoss must have taken the day off to go whoring or some such. You can ask him on Twitter where he was that day, and TCM’s sure he’ll have a good answer.)
1938 Game Used World Series Baseball $24,295
While the ball is impossible to authenticate in full, the owner claims it’s the home run ball hit by Joe DiMaggio in the 9th inning, against Dizzy Dean of the Cubs, that allowed the Yankees to pull away in that game. The Memorabilia Evaluation and Research Service (MEARS) has concluded that the ball type, wear, and inking are all consistent with the era, and can find nothing to contradict the seller’s claim. Also, the seller has two letters, one from the son of the man who purportedly caught the ball, and the other by the man who eventually bought it from the son. According to MEARS, “[MEARS is confident this baseball is consistent with all the characteristics of a baseball expected to be used in the 1938 World Series in Chicago. The provenance is reasonable and the baseball manufactured characteristics and hand applied notation is verifiable when compared to the provenance.” Good enough for TCM!
Cuban Batos Batting Gloves, $199.95
If you’re looking for something relatively inexpensive for The Common Man, these will do. It’s a pair of leather batting gloves from Cuba. In no way do these look practical. For one thing, they are shaped like mittens, with no individual fingers. For another, they look heavily padded, leading TCM to suspect they weren’t particularly good for holding a bat. Plus, who wants a pair of heavy gloves to play baseball in CUBA??? They look more like sparring gloves from a boxing gym. Still, TCM doesn’t know much about Cuban baseball equipment, and could probably pass them off as authentic to his less knowledgeable friends.
1999 Minnesota Twins signed lineup card, $48
Whether you love or hate The Common Man, this may be the perfect gift. After all, this lineup card from April 20, 1999 hails from an era that simultaneously grounded TCM’s fandom in some much-needed realism and proved that he was, indeed, a die-hard fan and also was the pinnacle 8 years of his baseball-loving life. The Twins had become so bereft and distrustful of power that Todd Walker batted cleanup in this game. Brent Gates batted 5th. Benj Sampson (he of the 6.83 career ERA) started the game and gave up five runs in three innings before being lifted. The team got effective relief from Joe Mays, Mike Trombley, and Rick Aguilera, and won the contest in the 13th.
December 1916 Baseball Magazine with Babe Ruth, $1300
This appears to be The Babe’s first appearance on a magazine cover, in commemoration of his Boston Red Sox’s World Series win. Ruth won Game 2 for the BoSox, going 14 innings while giving up just one run on six hits. He had also been a terrific pitcher for Boston during the season, going 23-12, with a league-leading 1.75 ERA in a league leading 41 starts, with a league leading 9 shutouts. In 323 innings, Ruth allowed zero homers. There are several photos of the 21-year old Babe included, including two of him hunting in a big fur coat.
1915 Ban Johnson letter to Frank Navin, $495
The biggest headache of American League President Ban Johnson was, undoubtedly, Ty Cobb. Cobb’s behavior on and off the field proved to be problematic, as his propensity for violence led to numerous suspensions. But in 1915, Johnson was angry about something else entirely. Cobb had begun writing a syndicated column that was carried in several prominent papers, despite a 1913 league rule that prohibited players from writing their own columns because “several clubs in the Major Leagues had been thoroughly demoralized by the journalistic work of a few players delving into a profession where they do not belong.” In particular, Johnson is responding to a Cobb column on sign stealing and writes, “In a measure,the story is harmless, but he gives publicity to something that has absolutely no foundation in fact. Incidents of this sort are hurtful to the national game, and serve to tarnish the good name of the American League.” Johnson threatens Navin (and Cobb) with “immediate action” if Cobb doesn’t cease and desist.
Changing Base, 1869 1st Edition, $999.99
“Baseball Joe” Novels, complete set, 1st editions, 1912-1928, $495
The Common Man is a reader, and he does love old books, so these are great gift ideas. TCM has never heard of Changing Base, which the seller purports to be the first book to prominently feature baseball, including an illustration of a ballgame. It looks to be in relatively rough shape, however, from its time at the local library. Still, it’s a neat artifact. The Baseball Joe books are also interesting. Written by Lester Chadwick at the start of the 20th century, the books were popular enough to encourage publishers Cupples & Leon (who also produced The Hardy Boys and Nancy Drew) to put out 14 books. The stories are essentially one long bildungsroman that follow young Joe Matson, a poor country boy whose singular talent for baseball takes him from the local nine to the Ivy League, to the pros, and eventually to the Majors. Unfortunately, the series is marred by some significant Anti-Semitism in the final two books, as Joe is opposed in his efforts as a club owner by Moe Russnak, an “unscrupulous Jew” and “low, greasy specimen” who wants to buy Joe’s team for money (perish the thought!), while Joe wants to use it to put the local city of Riverside “on the map.”
Lip Pike profile, 1886 Newspaper, $4600
To combat that vile racism, and ensure that The Common Man is constantly reminded of the contributions of Jewish players to the National Pastime, you could get him this print profiling Lip Pike, generally acknowledged as the first Jewish major leaguer. Pike joined the National Association for its inaugural year in 1871 for the Troy Haymakers. Pike was one of the first great sluggers in the game, leading the league in homers in four seasons (including each of his first three), once in doubles, once in RBI, and once in slugging percentage. He allegedly beat a horse in a 100 yard dash in 1873. When the Association disbanded and morphed in to the National League, Pike’s play suffered, and he was essentially out of the Majors at the age of 33 in 1878.
1866 Unions of Lansingburgh baseball cards, $250,000
Hey big spenders! It’s unclear whether these are, as the seller suggests, the first baseball cards ever made. The Unions were one of the first teams to openly declare themselves a professional club after the National Association of Base Ball Players began allowing professional players. The club battled the great Cincinnati Red Stockings (then in the midst of their 67 game winning streak) to a tie through six innings before the Unions left the field in protest, essentially forfeiting the contest. There is some speculation that the Unions were a crooked club who fixed games and bribed umpires. The club included catcher Bill Craver, who was suspended with Jim Devlin in 1877 for fixing games (Craver was actually suspended for refusing to aid the investigation). There are apparently several cards vying for the title of “first card,” including a shot of shortstop Dave Birdsall from somewhere between 1865 and 1870, and an 1863 shot of Harry Wright that may or may not be from a cricket match, but this set of portraits definitely is in that conversation. And at a quarter million, the six cards here are much more of a bargain than the famous T-206 Honus Wagner.
Williams Deluxe Four Bagger Baseball Arcade Game, $4400
But all that is very heavy, thematically speaking. And not very interactive. Sometimes, The Common Man just wants to have fun. Which is where this nickel per game baseball pinball game comes in. Despite being more than 50 years old (it was probably manufactured in the late ‘50s), this machine is in great shape. The wood finish is beautiful, and there are no chips or dents. The scoreboard works, little figures run the bases, and a bell rings when you score a run. The previous owner claims to have had the machine for more than 30 years. TCM promises that, if you get this machine for him, you’re totally invited to come over to play. Hell, The Common Man would probably organize tournaments in his basement bar area every weekend. And while you’re at it, see if you can get that sweet looking Ms. Pac-Man game in the photo too.
But don’t feel limited by the list TCM presents above. The Common Man would also appreciate Val Picinich’s first baseman’s mitt, a complete set of the 18 Hartland baseball statues of the late 1950s, Yogi Berra’s Hall of Fame ring, or one of any number of other options that are floating around on Ebay. But hurry, because you only have a few shopping days left!
(Programming note: The Common Man will be out of town for the 4th of July, and almost certainly won’t have internet access. He’ll return, triumphantly, on Tuesday the 6th.)