Posts Tagged ‘cigarette cards’

flat screenings: diminished capacity (2008)

February 1, 2011

Can you think of a better way to celebrate Ernie Banks’ 80th birthday than to watch a quirky indie film that features him playing himself signing autographs at a baseball card show in the Windy City? Well sure, probably… but that’s what I did Monday night, so I’m going to blog about it.

Clearly Mr. Cub’s highest profile role since he played a judge in the 2003 film “Malibooty,” Diminished Capacity also stars Alan Alda as the colorful owner of a baseball card that MAY prove more meaningful to him than the cold hard cash it could be exchanged for. Matthew Broderick plays Alda’s nephew with fewer tricks up his sleeve than Inspector Gadget. – ROAD TRIP!!!!

Diminished Capacity was a book
some 10+ years before it became a movie, so you may have read it. I haven’t. Instead, I will wait for the graphic novel to be released.

Overall, I found the movie entertaining, and not just because of all the baseball card angles. Chances are, if you are reading this blog, you will catch yourself laughing during this film. Don’t worry, I won’t spoil the movie for you. (That’s what trailers are for.)

– Kris

cards your great grandmother didn’t throw away

December 12, 2010

Yesterday, December 11, 2010, marked the 135th anniversary of the birth of Roy A. Stamm. Odds are stacked against you having heard of this man before, but considering that you are reading this blog, I would imagine that you would have shared some common ground with him.

Roy Stamm and friends circa 1890

Given my interest in most things historic, I always have an eye peeled for early mentionings of baseball and baseball cards. As a result of my ongoing research, I have amassed a sizable database of historical accounts of the origins of baseball in the New Mexico Territory, including the names and addresses of businesses and homes associated with people who either played baseball or had their hand in the industry in one manner or another… saloon owners, tobacconists, printers and photographers are prime examples of historical folks I collect data on. The bottom line is that you simply cannot know when that sort of information will prove valuable, even though your hunch tells you that you should try to only have to sift through the written archives once. At any rate, I’ve already gone further into all of that than I intended to do here.

With little spare time to spread around, I sometimes must make a decision to ignore the stacks of unsorted baseball cards on (or near) my desk, and pick up a book instead. The result can prove both entertaining and informative. The written account of Roy Stamm’s life struck me like an unexpected bubble envelope stuffed full of baseball cards off my want lists. Although Stamm completed his work in 1954, “fOR ME, THE SUN: The Autobiography of Roy A. Stamm, An Early Albuquerque Business Leader,” the book wasn’t published until 1999, some 42 years following his death.

Stamm the man, his book and his balloon (1890)

The following except from the book followed an incident in 1882 in which a bully had tossed the author, then six-years-old, into a mud puddle on South Second Street in New Albuquerque and attempted to force him to eat a toad. I’m not sure which is worse, the incident or one’s mother finding out about it.

“She was of Puritan Massachusetts and Mohawk Valley Dutch ancestry and had taught school in Kansas. Outraged by this “plain evidence of racial resentment”, she saw that from that time on I rode my saddle horse during most of my childhood (I became so accustomed to this, I’d ride across the street instead of walking!).

This decision was all right with me. Forbidden to play tops or marbles “for keeps” and ordered to hold myself, literally, “above those bad boys,” I used this easy transportation to reach the tremendous distinction of owning the “third largest cigarette picture collection in town.” The first and best belonged to a black boy whose father and brothers were porters in saloons; the second, to a newsboy. Their inside sources of supply were partially balanced by my ability to move around and to trade for pictures desired by others to complete their sets.

All of which distressed mother but, fair minded, she allowed me to retain my well won trophies. No matter how strong and possessive a mother’s instincts may be, unless he is predisposed, a boy’s natural inclinations seldom will permit him to become “sissified.”

The only conclusion I am going to allow myself to draw from this segment of Stamm’s book is that card collectors of the past were as varied and passionate about the hobby as are card collectors of today- and most likely, the future. I did contact Roy’s son to tell him how much I enjoyed the book and to thank him for his efforts in helping bring his father’s words to print. We were not able to pinpoint which cigarette cards were contained within the collection, but I have been having a blast paging thru my copy of “American Tobacco Cards: Price Guide and Checklist” by Robert Forbes and Terence Mitchell and wondering about what treasures may have been contained within Stamm’s collection.

Allen & Ginter: “American Indian Chiefs” and “American Editors” series

I think it is reasonable to predict that Roy may have been fond of the Allen & Ginter American Indian Chiefs series since he was an twelve-year-old boy growing up in the wild west when the cards were issued in 1888. As wonderful as these cards are, I feel the need to remind readers that many of the men featured on the cards were still alive when the amazing Linder, Eddy & Clauss lithographs were reproduced as tobacco cards. Even if Roy didn’t collect the Allen & Ginter American Editors (1887) cards, you can bet your bottom dollar that the Albuquerque newsboy did, and would have traded handsomely to complete his 50-card set.

Roy Stamm and his UNM football teammates (1894)

Roy Stamm led a fascinating life; regardless of what angle you choose to examine it. However, I will not be spoiling potential future book sales by stating whether or not he included more about tobacco cards or baseball as he drew from his extensive journal that he kept throughout his life. Stamm passed away two years after the release of 1952 Topps baseball cards, 10 years before the first Sharpie mark became permanent and decades before the dawn of blogging. I wonder whether he would have adapted to trading his cards via the internet, or if he would have stuck to his guns and traded only on horseback.

– Kris

fred raymer … still life in empty pockets

November 12, 2008

Fred Raymer

Approximately two years have passed since the first time I read his name as part of my ongoing research into the origins of baseball in Albuquerque, New Mexico. When I “discovered” that Fred had a couple of baseball cards about a week later, I made a mental note to make an attempt to pick one up if I ever had an opportunity. Further research is needed to determine whether Raymer was the first professional Albuquerque ballplayer to end up on a baseball card (one of my research questions). I will be shocked it that turns out to be the case, but for now, he’s at the head of the class.

Today marks the 133rd anniversary (November 12, 1875) of Frederick Charles Raymer’s birth in Leavenworth, Kansas. If Fred were alive today, I would be honored to help him extinguish the blaze resulting from 133 candles that would be ignited on the top of his birthday cake- ideally, before it became visible to scientists living in the International Space Station. Afterwards, I would ask him so many questions about baseball that he may begin to regret the game’s very existence.

What? You don’t know who Fred Raymer was? Consider for a moment that Fred’s career major league baseball offensive stats include 301 hits, 95 runs and 101 RBIs with a .218 batting average over parts of three seasons with the Chicago Orphans and Boston Beaneaters more than a century ago. Unimpressed? Raymer also swiped exactly 50 bases without being caught once, and also never grounded into a double play. Granted, those stats aren’t going to result in Raymer’s descendants receiving a key to Cooperstown, but neither can Fred be summarily dismissed as a potential candidate for inclusion in the Albuquerque Professional Baseball Hall of Fame simply because no one has really has a handle on who some of these early players were.

This particular baseball card was issued in 1911; some six years after Raymer’s stint in the major leagues, and a whopping seventeen years after he played ball professionally in Albuquerque. Having survived two world wars, the great depression, lord only knows how many spring cleaning and garage sale “near misses,” tradings and everything else time has subjected it to, this fascinating baseball card was destined to occupy a prime spot in my collection. I acquired this tiny piece of history last week from a collector in Alaska in exchange for the proceeds from a two-dollar win-place-show ticket on “El Becerro”- the nine horse in the 400-yard 5th race of the day at the Downs at Albuquerque on November 2nd.


Numbered 420, Fred Raymer’s baseball card is one of the final offerings in the three-set run of some 426 minor league “T212” baseball cards issued by OBAK Cigarettes (an American Tobacco Company product) between 1909 and 1911. In those days, collectors were willing to sacrifice a lung (sometimes two) in order to build an entire set of these stellar baseball cards. That, my blog reading friends, is dedication! Of course card collecting was simpler back then since there were no sequentially numbered superfractors, parallel inserts or game-used nicotine patch cards to distract and confuse collectors.

The Victoria Bees were one of six teams from the Class B Northwestern League that were featured alongside players from Pacific Coast League teams in the OBAK T212 “Type 3” subset that was released in 1911. These teams included professional ball clubs located in Spokane, Tacoma, Vancouver, Los Angeles, Oakland, Portland, Sacramento, San Francisco, Vernon, Portland and Seattle. The few reports I’ve managed to uncover suggest the 1911 Bees were wildly popular among fans living in Victoria, British Columbia in spite of their dismal record of 41-125. Of course with a record that lopsided, a stretch is hardly necessary to imagine that the Raymer and his fellow Beemates, including Ten Million, were welcomed with open arms by fans of opposing teams wherever they played.

I’ve modified this photo of the 1894 Albuquerque Browns Base Ball Club to show the ghost of “Raymer future” standing over the shoulder of his younger self- because I can. Fred was only 19 years old when he played short stop for the Albuquerque Browns. He was also employed at that time as a fireman for the Atlantic & Pacific Railway. Fred Raymer reminds me of Josh Wilson.

Another item that I feel the need to point out in this image is the scorebook. When I begin to think about the possibility that such an interesting artifact may have survived into modern times, I become a little dizzy.


My historical baseball research has included spending countless hours at the Albuquerque Public Library reviewing reel upon reel of microfilmed historic newspapers, capturing digital images of any and all mentionings of “base ball” and subsequently transcribing those old newspaper articles into Word documents and Excel spreadsheets. I’m recording box scores, game write-ups, and even intra-territorial “smack” and challenges issued between the various ball clubs and other interested parties- all while compiling rosters for the home team as well as their worthy opponents.

I don’t think I can adequately describe the warm feeling of discovery that comes with reading copies of 120-year-old newspapers and piecing together the history of a baseball team’s forgotten past one day at a time. The baseball reporting enough makes the project more than interesting, and then there are all of the other items (that I refer to as “distractions”) such as ads for bizarre household and personal items, obituaries, police and court reportings, accounts of fairs, carnivals and pie baking contests to either ignore or digest. It is an incredible method of discovering the history of a city. I guess my point is that one could find less interesting ways to spend the winter…

Fred Raymer also has a card in the 1910 OBAK set that I would love to add to my collection. The few I’ve seen for sale have been graded, slabbed and ultimately priced completely out of my price range. That’s okay though, because I have the patience of an archaeologist, which is more than enough to allow me to wait for a well-used specimen in need of a caring home to blip on my radar. I would enjoy nothing more than to manage to complete a trade for that one!

Fred Raymer passed away in Los Angeles on June 11, 1957. I wonder if anyone ever asked Fred to autograph one of his cards.

A quick word about the background image I’m using to frame the back of this kool relic. As I’ve mentioned in previous posts, Shorpy is an amazing resource for intriguing photographs, such as this one. It is a great site to visit if you want to kill a LOT of time, or if you are simply in need of inspiration to modify your current perspective.


Let’s see… Lewis Wickes Hine took this photo in November of 1912 at the Whitman Street dump. For those unfamiliar with the history of Pawtucket, Rhode Island, the Whitman Street dump is likely where a number of unwanted cigarette era baseball cards ended up. Just think of it, these gems were probably often casually cast aside in the same manner that grocery store ads that appear in our mailboxes each week are treated. I guess what I’m wondering is how many of these cards did these young scalawags find, if any, while poking around in that dump and others just like it. Do you suppose either of them collected cigarette cards?

Finally, I created a couple of greeting cards featuring variations of the images used in this blog entry over at you know, to send out for the upcoming holidays, birthdays and to include in random mailings as needed. These same cards are also available to you if you find that you like the concept, but run short on the time needed to create your own (which I highly recommend). You can even personalize these note cards in case you want to use them to pimp your blog, website, or upcoming card show. In the interest of full disclosure, ten percent of the purchase price (but none of the shipping) is paid to the Aardvark Trading Company (friendly folks!).

The first features the ominous greyscale background that you had to have seen near the top this post. The second offering is for people desiring full color. What about stickers? Okay… but that’s it!

– Kris

whatever happened to baby doll jacobson

June 9, 2008

I was searching through the names of baseball players past looking for someone I could tie loosely to the movie “Whatever Happened to Baby Jane,” to use as an introduction to my subject of the use of baseball cards in movies. (I’ll get to that in a bit.) That movie has nothing to do with baseball or baseball cards- I just thought it would make for a fun title.

At any rate, I ran across the name Baby Doll Jacobson, and decided that it sounded interesting enough to me to justify further research. Probably by now you are beginning to figure out why I tend to have difficulties finding time to blog frequently. As it turns out, William Chester Jacobson was born in 1890 in the tiny town of Cable, Illinois, located less than 50 miles from where I spent the vast majority of my first 20 years. Jacobson spent 11 years (1915-1927) in professional baseball, playing outfield and first base for the Tigers, Browns, Red Sox, Indians, and Athletics. Baby Doll recorded 3,933 putouts in 4,073 chances, which translates to a lifetime fielding percentage of .973. Jacobson also maintained a career batting average of .311 with 787 runs scored and 819 driven in over 5,507 at bats. Baby Doll hit 83 homeruns during his professional baseball career, and in 1922, recorded his only grand slam. Jacobson passed away during the early winter of 1977, and was laid to rest in Colona, Illinois, again only about 50 miles from where I grew up. It is a shame that I didn’t know about this person before today.

Baby Doll was only a teammate of Ty Cobb for 37 games before he was traded to St. Louis (where he spent the majority of his career) for pitcher Bill James. Interestingly, two days after Jacobson’s first game with the Tigers, they signed a pitcher named Razor Ledbetter. I’ve decided to mention Razor here as well since he probably doesn’t get much attention, given his career stats of ONE inning pitched in relief in which he gave up a single hit- no walks- no runs (earned or otherwise)- no hit batters. Razor also failed to record any strikeouts, which suggests that he wasn’t fooling anyone. Perhaps that is why he decided to hang up the cleats after that one appearance.

What got me started on this particular blog entry was the beginning of the film “Big,” where best pals Josh and Billy were opening packs of baseball cards after school. The cards appeared to be packs of 1987 Topps, which makes sense given that the movie was released during the summer of 1988. I would imagine that those particular cards were tossed, or could not be located today. And probably few would care if they could.

However, there is another movie that contained a baseball card (of the cigarette variety) that possibly could be located today either in some movie memorabilia collection, or less likely- in a vault at MGM. There are a couple of scenes in the Frank Sinatra-Gene Kelly musical Take Me Out to the Ballgame (1949) in which cigarette cards of Wolves shortstop Eddie O’Brien (Gene Kelly) are used as props- including one scene where O’Brien gives the cards to several young boys who are waiting to meet the players. I snapped a photo of a close-up of the card as it demonstrates that someone in the MGM art department was on the ball. I wonder how many of these things were made, and where it/they ended up.

Strangely, there was a non-fictional Eddie O’Brien who broke into the major leagues four years after the film was released as a shortstop with the Pittsburgh Pirates. He would have been only 18 when the movie was made, so I presume the use of his name was coincidence. This particular O’Brien made baseball history when he and his brother Johnny became the first twins to play for the same team in a major league baseball game. The twins were also on the same Seattle University Chieftains basketball team that stunned the sporting world in 1952 by upsetting the Harlem Globetrotters by a score of 84-81.

Finally, in an effort to bring this full circle and leave your brain spinning like a dog chasing his own tail, it is reported that since Gene Kelly disliked a swimming number that he performed with Esther Williams for “Take Me Out to the Ballgame,” they came up with an alternate number called “The Baby Doll.” Weird, huh? Apparently, it didn’t make the final director’s cut, which leaves me wondering…. What ever happened to Baby Doll (Jacobson)?

By the Beckett, Jacobson appears on 22 baseball cards printed between 1917-1927, in 1987, 1988 and 1993.

What other movies feature baseball cards?