Warren Spahn Flexi Disc

May 19, 2013 § Leave a comment


1964 flexi disc of Hall of Fame pitcher Warren Spahn

Warren Spahn: 13 times a 20-game winner

This 1964 Warren Spahn flexi disc (for those who aren’t familiar with what that is, it’s a lightweight record printed on a flexible vinyl sheet) is part of a series produced by a company called Auravision for what I believe was a few years in the early 1960s. Others featured included players such as Mickey Mantle, Sandy Koufax, Don Drysdale, Bill Mazeroski, Willie Mays, Whitey Ford and Frank Robinson.

The back of the record looks more or less like a baseball card, with the player’s year-by-year statistics listed through the previous season. I thought it was interesting that while Spahn’s record in 1963 was a remarkable 23-7, he only recorded 102 strikeouts in 260 innings. It does seem that batters struck out less in previous eras (as a recent Sports Illustrated article discusses), but still, the major league leader that year among pitchers was Sandy Koufax, with a healthy 306. Spahn was, rather amazingly, 42 that season, so must have brought to bear all the craftiness with which nearly 20 years in the big leagues had endowed him. In any case, that was the last season in which he would post a winning record; in 1964 he was to fall all the way to 6-13, while his ERA more than doubled.

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Quite a Glove

April 24, 2013 § Leave a comment


Vintage snapshot of boy posing in his batting stance with glove on hip, circa 1920s/'30s

Batting Stance, c 1920s/1930s

A backyard pose, with glove close at hand. I’ve blown up a detail of the boy below, as it’s a little hard to see the great glove in the full photo. I picture him heading off to a game right afterwards, though I am not actually sure how many leagues they had for kids at the time (Little League baseball began in 1939 with just three teams, and until 1947 was limited to Pennsylvania). There are many snapshots of boys from that era in uniform, and I assume that at times they were on actual teams, but suppose that in many cases they were just wearing uniforms they were given by their parents.

Close-up of boy in batting stance, showing the glove hanging from his hip

Jackie Robinson at Pasadena Junior College, 1937

April 14, 2013 § 1 Comment


1937 yearbook photo of baseball player Jackie Robinson

An 18-year-old Jackie Robinson in his first year at Pasadena Junior College

What is now Pasadena City College in Pasadena, California was previously known as Pasadena Junior College, and the 1937 yearbook for the school features “Tech transfer” Jack Robinson (as he is called in the baseball and track sections) in his P. J.C. Bulldog uniform (though he seems to have missed the team photo). The 8-page varsity baseball section also includes brief accounts of the season’s games, an example of which is included below. It is full of charming lingo, such as “horsehiders,” and descriptions like the one of a batter who “swung a mighty bludgeon in this fray, and sent one out over the fence.” Interestingly, it seems the College also played company teams at times — Pasadena’s last two games took place on “the beautiful Emerald Isle of Catalina” (which in those years also served as the spring training home of the Chicago Cubs) against “a strong Firestone Tire team,” with which Pasadena split two games.

Text from the 1937 PCC yearbook baseball section mentioning a young Jackie Robinson's performance

A triple for horsehider Robinson; in the fourth he “cracked a double”

Herman “Germany” Schaefer

April 10, 2013 § Leave a comment


Vintage 1913 photo of baseball player Germany Schaefer leaping to catch a ball

Germany Schaefer in a non-comedic pose, 1913 (Bain Collection, Library of Congress)

This negative from the Bain Collection in the Library of Congress depicts Germany Schaefer during his time with the Washington Senators, for whom he played from 1910 to 1914. One of the early baseball “clowns,” Schaefer is perhaps best-known for stealing first base (at least once; an anecdote about a possible second instance, related by Davy Jones in The Glory of Their Times, does not seem able to be verified). In the ninth inning of a tie game in 1911, on first base with a runner on third, Schaefer stole second. Failing to draw the throw he had hoped might allow the runner from third to score, he headed back to first base on the next pitch. This started an argument, and after much chaos the runner on third, Clyde Milan, finally broke for home and was thrown out (though the Senators went on to win the game anyway). Several years later baseball instituted a rule that forbade such shenanigans. Rule 52, known to some as the “German Schaefer Rule,” states that  “A base-runner having acquired legal title to a base cannot run bases in reverse order for the purpose of confusing the fielders or making a travesty of the game.”

Travesties or not, Schaefer’s antics were legion, and you can read much more about them in this excellent piece. Schaefer seems to have felt that his pranks were of some actual value, once commenting that the approach “keeps our fellows in good spirits, and it sometimes distracts the opposing players.” And as the long-time Detroit baseball writer Harry Salsinger once wrote, “As a drawing card, Herman ranks second only to Cobb.”

Sadly, Schaefer died of complications of tuberculosis in 1919 at the age of 43, just over a year after playing his last major league game.

“After a Hard Battle with Willow River”

March 26, 2013 § Leave a comment


Vintage snapshot of a handsome amateur baseball player wearing a "Rutledge" uniform after a game

Postgame (c 1910s)

The back of this real photo postcard reads: “This picture was taken after a hard battle with Willow River.” I love how his socks sort of disappear into the vegetation, giving the whole thing a bit of a ghostly feel.

Murderers’ Row: The 1927 Fairfax High School Team

March 6, 2013 § Leave a comment


Yearbook photo of the 1927 Fairfax High baseball squad

The 1927 Fairfax High School baseball team, Los Angeles, CA (click to enlarge)

I recently came across a 1927 yearbook from Fairfax High School in Hollywood, and liked how they called the varsity teams from the various sports “Heavyweight” (for the football team they use that term in the title; here it is in the last sentence, where they refer to the “heavyweight nine”). It seems they were a good team, ending up in second place — rather than first — mainly due to some pitching issues. No players are named.

Odd Spot for a Ballplayer

February 15, 2013 § Leave a comment


Vintage snapshot of a baseball player in uniform, likely in Winona, Minnesota, circa 1920s

Winona, Minnesota, c 1920s (click to enlarge)

This is another snapshot from my collection, and one in which I have never been quite sure what is going on. There is a stamp on the rear from Van Vranken’s Studio in Winona, Minnesota, so I assume it was likely taken in or near that city, which is tucked into the southeastern corner of the state along the Mississippi River. The ballplayer has his right arm around whatever that black object is —  some sort of rolled flag or banner perhaps?

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