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!


Fuji said...

Great post!

Mark Aubrey said...

I now know that I can find candy and garters here. Great. Hope that my ISP doesn't block me.

Mad Guru said...

Oh, to purchase a box of licorice with baseball cards on the box. There are times when progress just isn't.

Matthew Glidden said...

Funny they call the licorice "a penny package that is making good." Maybe "local boy makes good" was already a sports saying back in those days?