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?