Wednesday, April 26, 2023

1927 Honey Boy Ice Cream Baseball #5, William "Snake" Siddle

This Honey Boy set exists thanks to an ideal confluence of circumstances: baseball's growing popularity at all levels, recent success for a local Manitoba (Canada) team, and better refrigeration technology. Mix all three and you get this set of 21 cards recognizing local heroes, including Snake Siddle, alongside MLB stars like Babe Ruth and Grover Cleveland Alexander.

"Snake" played shortstop for 1926's Wesley Senior League champs, the Arenas (plural of Arena), who won several titles during Snake's era. searches for Siddle will come up empty, as that league played amateur ball on days off from work. Count us fortunate that Western Canada Baseball does a great job summarizing year-by-year results, including title series highlights of his game seven heroics.

"Home runs by Greig Warren and Bill 'Snake' Siddle accounted for three of the winners’ four counters. Siddle’s blast was a two-run clout but he also contributed significantly on a defensive level by igniting a pair of twin killings."

In 2005, Manitoba recognized Siddle's career achievements with induction into its sports hall of fame and picked him as the shortstop for its All-Century team. He also appears (as umpire) in a SABR game story from Satchel Paige's long exhibition career and did some barnstorming of his own, sporting a requisite beard, for The House of David.

Snake's The House of David look, circa 1929

I bet this set exists in large part because Winnipeg's 1926 club won that title in thrilling style. Its first nine cards feature Canadian amateurs (TCDB gallery), including Snake, followed by 11 major leaguers, almost all of whom later reached Cooperstown. This contrast reminds me of earlier prewar sets, such as T206, that mix top-tier Hall of Famers with minor leaguers who appear on their sole baseball card.

While you can still learn about Snake Siddle today using Google, the Purity Ice Cream name more-or-less disappeared in 1930. Major advances in refrigeration technology around this time helped dairy companies grow from family farms into industrial operations. A larger holding company acquired Purity not long after this set's release, folding its products into a nationwide umbrella of Canadian dairy producers.

A handful of contemporary sports sets exist with this "redeem a full set for prizes" model, including some other ice cream collectibles. I remain amazed that any of these cards survived past the 1920s, let alone 2023. Anything convertible into ice cream during my childhood ended up in mah belly sooner than later!

Some who suited up for amateur baseball did so for more than fun. Western Canada Baseball's 1926 season page shows that players could also win prizes, including these Regina home game bonuses from local businesses.
  • MVP - overcoat by Ware's
  • Top hitter - silk pyjamas by "Mac and Mac"
  • Best fielding average - suit case, Wood Hardware
  • Each player with a steal of home - meal ticket, Balmoral Cafe
  • First homer of the season - season pass, Capitol Theatre
  • Most homers - Stetson hat, R.H. Williams
  • Most stolen bases - ton of coal, City Coal Company
  • Most extra base hits - silk shirt, Warren and Wilkins
  • First perfect day at bat - box of cigars, Royal Billiards

Getting a ton of coal for stealing bases would encourage me to do more wind sprints, that's for sure. Even though our preferred sources of power have changed, would giving practical awards change how people played the game? Imagine if the MLB gave each SB league leader a solar farm!

Value: Some sets remain too scarce to predict a reasonable price. Several years into my quest for #5 type cards, Snake Siddle popped up on eBay for $200 and I pulled the trigger. Hall of Fame players could run several times that amount today and who knows how much Babe Ruth would cost?

Fakes / reprints: Take care when buying this kind of obscure regional set. It contains huge names that should sell for big money, so you want to be certain any card is genuine. Work with dealers you trust and get second and third opinions from other seasoned collectors before you lay down $$$$.