Tuesday, March 27, 2012

Spring Training Giveaway: Minnesota Twins

In the flurry of posting and mailing teams from last week's Spring Training giveaway, I left one for last: the Minnesota Twins.

2007 Upper Deck Masterpieces #35, Joe Mauer

A lot of fans with a soft spot for the Twins hearken back to when two worst-to-first teams faced off in the 1991 World Series, Minnesota and Atlanta. Several high points stand out, especially for fans of Kirby Puckett and Jack Morris.
  • The home team won all seven games, given us a full-length series and maximum fan energy
  • Five games decided by one run
  • Jack Morris went ten innings and shut out Atlanta 1-0 to win game seven
  • Kirby Puckett hitting extra-inning, walk-off homers

One of my favorite bits: game three went so late and swapped so many players (12 innings) that we almost saw an outfielder pitch in the World Series. Here's the late-innings summary from Wikipedia.
"At this point, the game got bizarre. Substitutions and double switches were used by both teams into the twelfth, when Minnesota manager Tom Kelly used up his entire bench and had to send reliever Aguilera to pinch-hit for the active pitcher, Mark Guthrie, who had never had an at bat in his major league career, with the bases loaded and two out (Aguilera flied to center and the ball was caught by center fielder Ron Gant). Kelly said in an interview that if the game had gone on longer, since he had used up all his relief pitchers, he would have put left fielder Dan Gladden on the mound and put Aguilera in the outfield."

1986 Big League Chew #5, Harmon Killebrew

WHAT YOU WIN: I've got about 30 Twins cards to pass along, including all three stars shown in this post.

WHAT TO DO: Add a comment with a fan memory related to the Twins, for good or ill. It can be one their World Series appearances, the time you met Kent Hrbek, or deep fly balls bouncing off "the baggie" in the Metrodome. I'll pick a random winner from all entrants!

Monday, March 26, 2012

2000 Topps Stadium Club Baseball One of a Kind #5, Shane Reynolds

Born on today's date in 1968, workhorse righty Shane Reynolds.

Shane's the only MLB player born on March 26th to win at least 100 games, totaling 114 over 13 years for the Astros (103), Braves (11), and (sort of) Diamondbacks (0). Reynolds started 30+ games for Houston 5 straight years from 1995 to 1999 and ranks 8th all-time in franchise wins.

Topps added this "One of a Kind" gold parallel to their 250-card Stadium Club issue and numbered each to 150. Reynolds only appears in the base set and parallels; bigger stars show up multiple times in the game-used, autographed, and die-cut subsets (checklist and set breakdown at BaseballCardPedia).

Value: Lesser-known players don't cost much, even in serial-numbered sets. (The CheckOutMyCards listing I nicked these scans from listed it at $4.)

Fakes / reprints: Plenty of 2000-era parallels reached the market and don't cost much today, so I doubt anyone would fake this set.

Friday, March 23, 2012

One Franchise, One PA, One HR

Plenty of major leaguers have homered in their first at-bat. Some even hit a grand slam. But in the post-1950s baseball card era, only three players (two pitchers and one catcher) have homered in their one-and-only plate appearance for a franchise.

The first guy to do so was Les "Buster" Narum, who pitched several games of middle relief in 1963, but only came to the plate once as an Oriole, facing Detroit starter Don Mossi on May 3 (box score).

1964 Topps #418, Knowles / Narum RC (autographed)

Don started the 4th inning up 3 runs, but plunked leadoff hitter Jerry Orsino and then gave up Buster's Baltimore bomb, narrowing the score to 5-4. Scoreless relief pitching and 9th-inning homers from Luis Aparicio and Joe Gaines completed an 8-5 win; the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette included a note on Narum's debut in their May 4, 1963 sports report.

Narum hit two more four-baggers as a Washington Senator, so had some power, but he rarely took pitches. Buster's one of just two MLB players with 100+ AB with at least 3 homers but no walks. (1990s journeyman pitcher Sean Bergman is the other.)

Next up, Venezuelan native Gustavo Chacin, who slugged his one-franchise homer during a 2010 stint with the Houston Astros, taking Luis Atilano deep to right in the 3rd inning of a 14-4 blowout (May 31 box score). It's also his only MLB hit to date. Thanks to interleague play, Gustavo batted 8 times for Toronto in 2005, but never reached base safely.

2005 Venezuelan sticker, Gustavo Chacin

The Baseball-Reference blog noted Gustavo's 1AB/1HR achievement in Chacin's Perfect Season. He's a free agent and only 31, so could bat again for Houston someday and drop himself off this list.

Current Cubs bench coach Jamie Quirk wore several uniforms during his 18-year career, but played exactly one inning of one game as an Indian during the heat of 1984's pennant race. And it was the biggest inning of the three mentioned in this post.

1978 Spokane Indians #5, Jamie Quirk

Jaime's moment in the sun began with Cleveland's 8th-inning rally. Starting catcher Jerry Willard singled in their first run, but yielded to pinch-runner Tony Bernazard. Out of other options, Quirk caught Cleveland's top of the 9th and batted third in the bottom half, with the score tied 3-3. Their apparent best hopes (George Vuckovich and Pat Tabler) both struck out, but Quirk made everyone forget it with a two-out, walk-off homer versus Minnesota closer Ron Davis. It'd be his only appearance in a one-week run as an Indian; they released him on October 1, after the season ended.

Jamie's shot kept the Twins two games behind eventual AL West winner Kansas City and is (unfortunately) one of the blown games fans remember most about Davis. (See The Ron Davis Trade and Jamie Quirk is Trying to Break Your Heart.)

Quirk doesn't appear on any MLB cards as an Indian, so I included this Spokane Indians #5 from his 1970s minor league days. (See its 1978 Cramer set profile for more info.)

1 Team/1 AB/1 HR is one of my favorite stat oddities, discovered in part because I keep a collection of Mr. Quirk cards. Any special stats you track for your player collections?

Wednesday, March 21, 2012

Spring Training Baseball Giveaway Results, Nationals to Grab Bag

Here's part two of the spring training team giveaway. Sharp-eyed readers probably noticed it includes cards like...

1984 Donruss Action All-Star, Steve Garvey

2008 Allen and Ginter, air guitar champ Andrew Litz

So exciting! Let's add Monday's winners to the full list of teams.
  • Angels: Angels in Order (1), Mariner1 (2), Jeff Laws (2), Orioles Magic (4)
  • Astros: Dimwit (1), Matt (5)
  • Athletics: Dan (2), Fuji (2), Jason C (3), Matt (3), Jason (3), Ryan G (3)
  • Blue Jays: Night Owl (5)
  • Braves: Captain (1), Dimwit (2), Jeff Laws (3), Mariner1 (4), Angels in Order (5), Jason C (5)
  • Brewers: Jason C (1)
  • Cubs: Cardanathema (1), Hackenbush (1), Nick (1), Jess (2), Mark A (3), High-Five (3), Matt (3), Jeff Laws (5)
  • Diamondbacks: Mark A (1), Dawgbones (3), Cardanathema (4), High-Five (5)
  • Giants: Fuji (1), Ed Watts (3), Dan (3), Mariner1 (3), Hackenbush (4), Steve D (5)
  • Indians: Jason (1), High-Five (2), Dawgbones (5)
  • Mariners: Mariner1 (1), Fuji (5), Dan (5)
  • Marlins: Ryan G (4)
  • Mets: Ed Watts (1), Steve D (1)
  • Nationals/Senators: Angels in Order (2), Cardanathema (3), Nick (3), Jess (3), Mad Guru (5)
  • Orioles: Orioles Magic (1),
  • Padres: Fuji (3), Jason (4), Ryan G (4), Jeff Laws (4),
  • Phillies: Dawgbones (1), Dan (1), Hackenbush (5),
  • Pirates: Sruchris (1-5), Night Owl (1), Orioles Magic (2), Cardanathema (2), Mad Guru (3), Jess (4), High-Five Man (4),
  • Rangers: Dimwit (3), Angels in Order (3), Night Owl (4), Nick (4), Steve D (4),
  • Rays: Steve D (3), Mad Guru (4), Jason (5),
  • Red Sox: Matt (1), Jess (1), Steve D (2), Captain Canuck (2), Dawgbones (2), Night Owl (3),
  • Reds: Mad Guru (2),
  • Rockies: Dimwit (5),
  • Royals: Night Owl (2), Orioles Magic (3), Mark A (5)
  • Tigers: Matt (5), Jess (5)
  • White Sox: Jeff Laws (1), Hackenbush (2), Nick (2), Dan (3),
  • Grag bag: High-Five Man (1), Ryan G (1), Mad Guru (1), Jason C (2), Mark A (2), Jason (2), Hackenbush (3), Fuji (4), Angels in Order (4), Mariner1 (5), Cardanathema (5), Nick (5)

We had at least one claimant for every team and people jumped all over the grab bag. There's a decent amount of material in it, so all #1 picks are its triune winners. I enjoyed sruchris putting all of his draft picks on Pirates, Ditka-style, so gave him that tie-breaker. Matt and Jess tied exactly for two teams (Tigers/Red Sox), so I'm going to split those between them.

Thanks again, everyone who entered! Winners, send your mailing address to Glidden dot Matthew at gmail to make the rest happen. (Several did so on Monday; no need to resend if you did.)

Monday, March 19, 2012

Spring Training Baseball Giveaway: A-M

Thanks to all who entered my Spring Training Giveaway last week. Who will walk away with awesome cards (and biceps) like this one?

I split my giveaway summary into two parts, lest the post office wear itself out carrying everything away at once. First up, the Los Angels Angels of Anaheim through the New York City Metropolitans.
  • Angels: Angels in Order (1), Mariner1 (2), Jeff Laws (2), Orioles Magic (4)
  • Astros: Dimwit (1), Matt (5)
  • Athletics: Dan (2), Fuji (2), Jason C (3), Matt (3), Jason (3), Ryan G (3)
  • Blue Jays: Night Owl (5)
  • Braves: Captain (1), Dimwit (2), Jeff Laws (3), Mariner1 (4), Angels in Order (5), Jason C (5)
  • Brewers: Jason C (1)
  • Cubs: Cardanathema (1), Hackenbush (1), Nick (1), Jess (2), Mark A (3), High-Five (3), Matt (3), Jeff Laws (5)
  • Diamondbacks: Mark A (1), Dawgbones (3), Cardanathema (4), High-Five (5)
  • Giants: Fuji (1), Ed Watts (3), Dan (3), Mariner1 (3), Hackenbush (4), Steve D (5)
  • Indians: Jason (1), High-Five (2), Dawgbones (5)
  • Mariners: Mariner1 (1), Fuji (5), Dan (5)
  • Marlins: Ryan G (4)
  • Mets: Ed Watts (1), Steve D (1)

All winners appear in bold type. Please email your mailing addresses (and team) to Glidden dot Matthew at Gmail for speedy delivery.

Lots of collectors voted for the Cubbies, but Hackenbush won a dice-rolling tie-breaker and two other two-man contests split via coin flip. Surprised that only one reader voted Blue Jays and for their #5 at that! Clearly lots of room remains to bulk up my Canadian readership. Captain Canuck is a Braves fan, but not the Montreal hockey team.

Tune in Wednesday to see winning results for Orioles through the high-demand Grab Bag...

Friday, March 16, 2012

Fenway Park's Centennial (and Cy Young's Final Curtain)

Fenway Park turns 100 this year and you can bet the Red Sox will make a big deal about it. I'm starting the fanfare early by looking back at Boston baseball (and its cards) during Boston's first season in what's now the majors' oldest active stadium.

Fenway's left field wall & seats (the future Green Monster), circa 1914

Boston built two new stadiums in that era (Fenway Park, 1912 and Braves Field, 1915) as crosstown competition for money and prestige spread across a decade of World Series championships, four by the Red Sox (1912, 1915, 1916, 1918) and one by the Braves (1914).

Several 1912 card sets include Boston players, but I think the 132-card Hassan Tobacco set presents best, with its combo of player portraits, action photo, and well-composed back text. (Find the whole Boston gallery at Retronaut.)

1912 T202 Hassan Triple Folders, John Kling and Cy Young

Cy Young closed out his career with the 1911 Boston Rustlers, going 4-5 across 11 starts. Hassan's set anticipated his return in 1912, but Young decided to retire to the family farm. Team owners changed their NL franchise from Rustlers to Braves between seasons, a name it retains despite later moves to Milwaukee and Atlanta.

1912-1914 Boston Garter ad board, John Kling and Ty Cobb

The 1912 Boston Garter promotional set features two local players (Tris Speaker and John Kling) mixed into a checklist of league stars. The scan above shows an advertising board with inset replicas of individual cards that came in garter boxes. Surviving examples cost thousands, so this vintage forum thread is about as close as you'll get to seeing a real one. (See the Old Cardboard profile for more about these unusual sets.)

1912 Base Ball Bats Candy trade paper ad

A handful of Boston players show up in another rare 1912 issue, Base Ball Bats Candy. I'd never heard of this crude-looking set prior to looking up Fenway's centennial, but Old Cardboard was there for me again with another set profile and checklist.

1912 J=K Candy Type 1, Hugh Bedient

J=K Candy took a page from the Base Ball Bats Candy book by printing blank-backed player photos on their boxes, which collectors could clip away and save. The known checklist contains five Boston players.

Finally, there's the super-obscure Plow's Candy, an attractive 3" x 4" set that PSA claims "takes rarity to the limit." John Kling and Tris Speaker once again represent Boston in this 68-card set, checklist at Old Cardboard. So few examples exist for most players that it's possible collectors will discover more, but the count's held steady for about 10 years.

That wraps up the Fenway centennial sets with Boston players I could track down. Opening day's only a month away--let's play some ball!

Wednesday, March 14, 2012

Spring Training Baseball Team Giveaway Bonanza

...because, like Crazy Eddie, my prices are INSANE.

Baseball cards qualify as "home entertainment," right? Just look at the teams left on our show floor! No price is too low for these cardboard beauties, especially when the only price is free.

WHAT TO DO: Add a comment naming your Top 5 Teams from those listed below. I'll leave the comments open through Friday, Mar 16th and will use the rankings and flip some coins to pick between multiple claimants.

WHAT YOU GET: Fistful of cards from 1981-2010 and some vintage if I have 'em! Team cards for you, more space for me. It's a super deal all around. Available teams thus:
  • A's
  • Angels
  • Astros
  • Blue Jays
  • Braves
  • Brewers
  • Cubs
  • Diamondbacks
  • Giants
  • Indians
  • Mariners
  • Marlins
  • Mets
  • Orioles
  • Padres
  • Phillies
  • Pirates
  • Rangers
  • Rays
  • Red Sox
  • Reds
  • Rockies
  • Royals
  • Senators
  • Tigers
  • White Sox
  • Grag bag (minors, non-sports, etc.)

UPDATE: OK, entries are closed! I'll summarize them and send out cards starting Monday, March 19.

Monday, March 12, 2012

1968 Bazooka Tipps From the Topps Baseball #5, Julian Javier

Prior to last week's number-crunching, soda-pop-drinking MIT Sports Analytics conference (and my personal highlights), I boned up on some of baseball's past glory, just in case a historian wanted to talk about Gashouse Gang utility players, the Polo Grounds' crazy outfield, or Dizzy Trout vs. Dizzy Dean. (The closest it got was an "underrated players" chat with Bill James, which was good enough for me.)

Card front (blank back)

One guy that popped up (no pun intended) during my research: St. Louis second baseman Julian Javier, an everyday player for most of the 1960s, two time All-Star, and top-10 MVP finisher during their 1967 championship season. (Voters filled 4 of the first 9 spots with Cardinals.)

I knew Javier as the guy who escaped Bill Mazeroski's shadow--Pittsburgh signed and traded Julian before he ever appeared in a Pirate uniform--but am surprised how underwhelming his numbers look on paper. It sort of goes without saying that 2Bs couldn't hit in that pitching-heavy era; his "peak" with the stick only broke average (100 OPS+) twice. He did finish high in range measurements for the early 60s, but lost a step by 1965 without reducing his total errors, so rates below-average defensively for his career.

Career numbers be damned, Topps published this series of playing tips on Bazooka gum boxes following the St. Louis title year, so Javier got their nod at second base. Each of the set's 15 panels shows a tight portrait and illustrated game situations, which I can easily imagine kids miming in backyards everywhere.

Wonder what the Bazooka card for this double play would look like? (I assume they altered logos to avoid a Bud Selig video crackdown.)

The full checklist includes six HOFers and two Maury Wills, once each for his small ball skills.

Topps also produced a paper booklet that collects all 15 panels into one product and made it available as a promo item for young collectors. The Topps Archives found advertising connections to both MacGregor clothiers and Boys Life magazine.

"Tipps from the Topps" cover and interior page

UPDATE: Looks like PSA's willing to grade the trimmed player photo (H/C = "hand cut"). Ugh.

Value: Bazooka panels of lesser-known players cost $10-20, thanks to the set's rarity. HOFers like Mays and Yaz run two or three times that.

Fakes / reprints: Haven't seen any in the marketplace, though Topps reused this "Tipps" concept in at least one other set without the inset player photos.

Friday, March 9, 2012

1975 Mike Mandel Baseball Photographers #5, Ron Walker

Not many baseball-related sets make me say...wha? But you can believe this one did. Because, c'mon, who is this plaid-wearing, belt-buckling, 3/4-arm-angle Phillies right-hander? And is he a prospect from the independent Lumberjack League?

Baseball-Reference.com records one Ron Walker (and two Ronalds) as pro ballplayers, but you're looking at a different kind of professional here. This Ron Walker, native of Chattanooga, made his money from the other side of the lens as an artistic photographer.

Artist Mike Mandel created today's set of 135 "baseball-photographer" cards as a satirical comment on the commercial world's consumption of "real" artists. Everyone pictured studied fine art seriously and has work hanging in museums, in contrast to the throwaway image of mass-produced cardboard originally created to sell plastic slabs of chewing gum.

Mandel contracted with Topps to package 10 of his cards with their gum in wrappers, hence their byline in the back text. Thanks to a profile by Shane Lavalette, I found Mike's own commentary on the set's origin.
"This is a first edition of all 134 Baseball-Photographer Trading Cards (plus one checklist, 135 cards in all)...Texts, statistics and quotes by the respective artists printed on verso. Each card 3-1/2 x 2-1/2 inches. The reverse side for each card enabled the photographer to fill in their own personal data that referred to the information usually included on real baseball cards. In a sense, each photographer’s response provides an insight about how they approached their participation."

This perspective's a level removed from typical 1970s bubblegum work, but still became a collectible in its own right. My favorite card (for both image and fame) is Ansel Adams in full catching gear.

I clipped Ansel's scan from a bookseller who charges $4000 for the full set. (That listing shows all 135 cards, in case you're a browser like me.)

Value: I obtained this #5 on eBay for $10 + shipping.

Fakes / reprints: Haven't seen any in the marketplace. Not sure how many would consider this a baseball set worth faking, high price tag or not.

Wednesday, March 7, 2012

5 More Notes from the 2012 MIT Sloan Sports Analytics Conference

My second batch of questions for 2012 MIT Sloan Analytics Conference panelists and writers starts with football. While the numbers-based sports world generally fits baseball and basketball best, NFL teams also look for ways to improve analysis of their player performance and game-planning.

Paraag Marathe, San Francisco 49ers COO 
Question: Do you use any stadium-specific measures in preparing for games or evaluating free agents?

Marathe: Yes, mostly for kicking. The winds in San Francisco frustrate a lot of teams, but it's not the only stadium with unusual conditions. We also consider Buffalo a particularly tough place to punt, for example, and any ball sails in Denver, so you adjust prospective players accordingly.

Aaron Schatz, Football Outsiders Editor-in-Chief
Question: Where should Peyton Manning end up in 2012? [Asked prior to the Colts cutting Manning, but many people expected it to happen.]

Schatz: Seattle gets my vote, given their improved defense and need for more experience and accuracy at QB. Tarvaris Jackson did OK for them last year, but few would argue Manning isn't an upgrade. Arizona's also a decent choice, but the team would have to dump their commitment to Kevin Kolb.

Bill Barnwell, Grantland  writer and Twitter feeder
Question: You're living in Las Vegas on assignment for Grantland, with an eye on both the world of sports betting and the city itself. What's one thing that surprised you about how Vegas watches sports?

Barnwell: The focus of bettors on points in garbage time, when victory is out of reach but someone has to finish playing the game. You've got people agonizing over every missed free throw or "prevent defense" touchdown when the spread's tight and money is on the line.

Janet Simmons' nephew, podcasting with the Commander-in-Chief
Question: Seems silly to ask, but are you any relation to Bill Simmons [of ESPN and Grantland]?

Janet Simmons (ESPNBoston Editor): Yes, Bill's my nephew. As a matter of fact, I helped him get his first writing job many years ago. We're both working with ESPN now, so I guess history comes full-circle. [Janet described her conference experiences in Eyeballing the saber metrics game, which includes a Red Sox dilemma in 2003: should they sign David Ortiz? Or Brad Fullmer?]

1976 Topps #50, Fred Lynn

Janet's article did bring up stats from one player's card, Fred Lynn. No doubt about it, Lynn tore the cover off the ball as a rookie in 1975 (and fashioned a decent career thereafter).

The conference's game room (an air-hockey-and-TV break area) broadcast sports analysis shows throughout. My favorite was Silly Little Game, ESPN's 30 For 30 on the start of rotisserie baseball (and fantasy sports in general). Here's its trailer.

The dramatic re-enactments look (appropriately) goofy, but fantasy sports are big business these days and it's a solid topic to explore. I caught most of the program during Saturday's lunch and can confirm it's up to the same level as most other 30 For 30 shows, which is to say "good."

Thanks for following my non-card diversion for two days and I recommend attending the conference if you can swing the trip to Boston and like hanging around with people who crunch numbers for a living.

Monday, March 5, 2012

Top 5 Notes from the 2012 MIT Sloan Sports Analytics Conference

March's annual MIT Sloan Sports Analytics Conference is nice bonus for sports and stats geeks who live through Boston winter, a season desperately in need of high points. On the surface, it looks like any suit-and-tie-heavy business conference, but provides access to plenty of interesting people in the arenas of sports writing and management. Here's my rundown of some Q&A with five conference panelists from last weekend.

Bill James (Baseball Abstract author, Boston Red Sox consultant)

Question: I recently researched Doc Ayers and Bob Friend (for 1922 Mrs. Sherlock's Bread), two "good losers" who had above-average peripheral numbers but losing career records. In the Neyer/James Guide to Pitchers, you called Friend a "gentleman in every sense," but also less than he seemed, never able to rise above his team's performance. What players did rise above their circumstances and deserve more respect for their individual skills?

James: Two come to mind: Dutch Leonard (1913-1925) and Bobo Newsom (1929-1953). Like Bob Friend, they both won at least one title, so found success during their careers despite the losing records.

Rob Neyer (writer for SBNation)

Question: Bill James recently published a true crime book that he'd been working on--by his estimate--"since the 1970s." If you weren't writing about baseball full-time, what would you cover instead?

Neyer: I enjoy bird watching and wouldn't mind publishing something in that vein. Don't have time for it in the near future, though.

Drew Carey (Seattle Sounders FC co-owner & The Price is Right TV host)

Question: You talked (at the conference) about Seattle's love for soccer stemming from a franchise willingness to involve fans in major decisions, such as naming the team and organizing social activities. Who created traditions like the stadium march before every home game?

Carey: Ideas like the march came from [co-owner] Joe Roth and others in the organization. I love the march and it's such a step up from teams that take a hands-off approach. (He compared it to L.A.'s "lackluster" fan feel in a 2009 Time article.)

Andrea Kremer (NBC/HBO reporter and writer)

Question: Do you collect anything connected to the events or sports you cover?

Kremer: I like to save my media credentials and I've got all of Mel Kiper's football draft guides, a decent stack of books. There's also a trunk somewhere at home with every issue of Sports Illustrated since 1971.

Shira Springer (Boston Globe special projects reporter)

Question: How does the New England fan reaction of losing the 2012 Super Bowl to New York compare to the same outcome in 2008?

Springer: New England took it better this time, as the game felt very different. First, and most importantly, there was no perfect season at stake. It was just unthinkable to fans that the Patriots would lose in 2008. New York came in balanced and the Patriots looked vulnerable on defense, so more people expected the close game we ended up with.

If you're a fan of fantasy sports, check out my interview with Jeremy Levine, the conference's "business pitch" winner for his daily fantasy sports matchup site, StarStreet.com.

Jeremy Levine (StarStreet.com founder)

I'll post another set of Q&A later this week and am already looking forward to the next conference in 2013!

Thursday, March 1, 2012

1922 Mrs. Sherlock's Bread Baseball Pins #5, Doc Ayers

In honor of Leap Day 2012, let's check out a set that's almost as rare as a double blue moon, Mrs. Sherlock's Bread Pins, and learn some interesting things about its pictured player, Doc Ayers.

Back in the 1920s, before widespread radio broadcasts pushed fan bases beyond a day's travel, the "local team" was a group of guys in your town, be it major, minor, or little league. That meant Mrs. Sherlock's Bread of Toledo, Ohio followed the Mud Hens of Toledo, Ohio, a franchise successful (and long-lived) enough to still be widely known today.

Mrs. Sherlock's Bread contracted with their parent company (Bastian Brothers of Rochester, NY) to produce button-style sets in 1920, 1922, and 1933 as store-distributed promos, few of which survived to reach the modern collecting market. Pins rusted, cracked, and bent over time, making them an easy target for trash day. Almost all surviving buttons lack the "Bastian Brothers, Co." label originally inserted behind the pin itself.

1922 is the only numbered set and its 21 tiny pins include HOF manager Roger Bresnahan (picture nicked from a now-defunct Legendary Auctions listing, circa 2012).

Doc Ayers pitched for 9 years in the AL prior to joining Toledo on the backside of his pro career (stats at Baseball Reference) and figures in some interesting baseball history.
  • Doc was one of just 17 MLB pitchers allowed to throw the spitball after its 1920 prohibition (type card Burleigh Grimes was another)
  • He was the opposing pitcher in Ernie Shore's no-hitter (in relief of Red Sox starter Babe Ruth)
  • He finished with above-average career metrics (2.84 ERA, 105 ERA+) but a losing record (64-78) thanks to some particularly lousy seasons

The "good-pitching loser" concept led me to an article called The Best Losing Pitchers of All-Time by The On-Deck Circle. Doc Ayers didn't make its minimum inning cutoff, but compares favorably to some of the guys talked about. In today's era of 30 teams and better trainers, I can imagine someone with his inning-eating ability hanging around for quite a while.

Value: This mid-grade #5 sold for $60 on eBay in Feb 2012, very close to the NM guide price. You can expect pins in decent shape to sell for higher amounts, thanks to their rarity.

Fakes / reprints: It be tough trying to fake a pin of this age and design, though the high value makes it a risk. (I haven't actually seen any in the marketplace.)