Tuesday, July 18, 2023

"Baseball in the Berkshires" exhibit in Lee, MA (July to August 2023)

A long chain of events, fortunate and unfortunate, led me to factory outlet shopping in Lee, MA, over the weekend. I parked our car and turned around to see a local success story looking back.


Earlier in July, a dedicated group of local historians opened a storefront museum featuring the many MLB, minor league, and amateur baseball teams that played local forms of our pastime since (by their count) at least 1791, with online details at Baseballinberkshires.org.

Jack Chesbro garnered a street-facing banner as half of their Cooperstown inductees.

African-American pioneer Frank Grant is their second HOFer

Local news coverage gave a good sense of the inside, including an on-camera chat with its curator: "Baseball in the Berkshires opens new exhibit in Lee" (July 6, 2023).

I spotted card sorting near the back, where they offered any visiting kids a free variety stack of 1960s to 2000s.

I hope those youngsters appreciate broadcasters well-known, lesser-known, and also Ron Salcedo.

Lots of recognizable names in those stacks, even in the minor league sets. Those exhibit hosts said all their cards came from local collectors and donors.

Their batch of hand-updated cards should be perfect for people playing Immaculate Grid. I've already used Jim Perry multiple times!

If you live anywhere near the Berkshires or take a roadtrip to Cooperstown, I recommend stopping by before the end of August. Tell them you heard about it from that guy holding a Calvin Klein bag!

Monday, July 17, 2023

1935 Goudey Big League Gum baseball: over the border line (for the SABR Baseball Cards blog)

Intro for my latest at the SABR Baseball Cards blog

I enjoy picking apart hard-to-explain details of vintage cards to see where that journey leads. This post puts three aspects of Goudey's 1935 Big League Gum baseball set, which most shorten to "1935 Goudey," under the microscope. It plays with definitions of "border" and considers how gum companies took advantage of legal gray areas to sell more gum to baseball fans. If you like learning about Prohibition's impact on greater society, this will be grist for your mill. You might even agree that "1935 Goudey" tells just half of its story.

Read the rest there!

Saturday, July 8, 2023

1923-24 Tomás Gutiérrez (Cuban cigars) Baseball #5, Dave Brown

While my type collection might never include this hobby rarity, it deserves a profile on its own merits and for those of its subject, Dave Brown.

First excelling on independent teams in the 1910s, Brown's star burned brightest for Rube Foster's American Giants, winner of the first three Negro National League titles (1920-22). He might well reach the Hall of Fame, given sufficient time and career examination by their election committee.

Havana-based tobacco company Tomás Gutiérrez published this set of 1923-24 winter league players and each back explains that collectors of complete sets could redeem them for a display album. Hake's Auctions sold one SGC-graded collection of all 84 known numbers in 2014. That listing and this Flickr album provide good pictures of most cards.

The collector album shows players by team, two pages each, with Brown's photo taken against a studio backdrop, while others stood next to an outdoor stadium or building.

1923-24 Santa Clara team (detail from Christie's album auction)

Gutiérrez released this set at a high point for Cuban winter league ball, as explained in Brown's SABR profile by Frederick C. Bush.

"[Dave] Brown, [Oliver] Marcell, and [Bill] Holland were three of the numerous Negro League players who joined the Santa Clara squad for the 1923-24 Cuban winter season...finishing in first place with a 36-11 record. In fact, this Santa Clara squad came to be “[c]onsidered as the most dominant team ever in the history of Cuban baseball by amassing an 11½ game bulge over their nearest rival." Bill Holland led the team and league in wins with a 10-2 record, Rube Currie contributed an 8-2 mark, and Brown finished with a 7-3 ledger.

The 1923-24 Cuban season was such a popular success that fans clamored for more baseball, and a special season, named Gran Premio, was quickly arranged. Santa Clara finished with a 13-12 record that enabled it to edge out Almendares by a slim half-game margin. Brown (4-2) and Holland (4-3) tied for the team lead in wins in this second season."

A handful of graded examples exist for almost #1-85, with none at all known for #84. I've seen just one #5 Dave Brown card in person. Given that scarcity, my shot at this type card will rest on good "chance" fortune, good "money" fortune, or some of each!

Value: In today's market, you can expect to pay hundreds for individual cards and far higher for Hall of Famers, reflecting its quality player selection and good images for that era. Brown will cost me thousands, if that opportunity even presents itself.

Fakes / reprints: I know of no official reprints. Many Negro League collectors possess considerable knowledge about this era's sets and players, making it risky to attempt fakery in such a niche market. Perhaps some exist that are good enough to slip by everyone!