Thursday, December 28, 2023

Sharkey Week: A Deeper Look at Baseball's Colledge Brothers of Comiskey Park


If you're like me, Roy Carlson's Topps team card analysis for Sports Collectors Daily started a wave of enthusiasm for vintage player identification that's yet to crash. Discovering pre-rookie Tim Raines on Montreal's 1980 team card justifies his work all by itself.

I turned back our hobby clock to prewar for a related investigation of Goudey's All-Star team premiums, cataloged R309-1, and cleared up several naming errors. Today's article focuses on three brothers who appear in its photos under a shared name, "Sharkey." We'll track those Comiskey Park staffers from photo to photo and see how long they stuck it out in ChiSox pale hose.

1933 American League All-Star Team

Chicago photographer George Brace took this photo of 1933's seminal AL squad. I circled the three brothers he labeled "Sharkey," whose given names were Art, Harry, and Ephraim Colledge. Two of them ran Comiskey Park's clubhouses, offering a natural reason to be part of All-Star Games played there.

While I bet major leaguers who played in Comiskey knew each brother by sight, this team photo failed to give them first names. Fortunate for us, George Brace shot a standalone portrait of Art and Ephraim, so we can tell them apart in later "Sharkey" photos.

This portrait and many others of that era appear in The Game That Was, a collection of George Brace's photography. I trimmed its digital image from an Ohio newspaper article about that book's release. Harry failed to reappear in team photos after 1933, so we can write him off as the opportunistic Sharkey. A huge game came to town, he helped his brothers for a day, and then returned to his previous life.

1936 Chicago White Sox Team

Art and Ephraim's family name does appear on some photos, so "E. Colledge" at far left, wearing a dark jacket, is credited as "C.M." for "clubhouse manager."

Two other non-players also wore dark outfits in that 1936 picture.

We'll see young Chuck again in team photos before long.

1937 Chicago White Sox Team

Each team photo juggled player and staff placements somewhat. For this year, Schacht stood hatless at upper-left and "Sharkey" stands at upper-right. The narrow nose bridge and angled brows make me confident that's Ephraim.

1938 Chicago White Sox Team

Two Sharkeys appear this year and that broader face (far left) belongs to Art Colledge. It appears Ephraim (far right) stands a bit shorter than his brother. I assume Chuck Comiskey, now uniformed and seated up front with batboy Pete Pervin, helped with on-field work by this point.

1940 Chicago White Sox Team

Adolph Schacht's dark jacket returns at upper right, with Ephraim's white polo just below.

Batboys like Pete Pervin (seated at front) earned a spot in team photos because they did far more than collect discarded lumber after plate appearances. Ron Meadows, his 1948 equivalent, recalled many duties as his team's unofficial gofer.

Some team batboys, like Brooklyn's Charlie "The Brow" DiGiovanna, learned how to sign autographs in each player's handwriting. They provided dozens of baseballs in response to fan requests and his "ghost signatures" continue to circulate in our modern hobby. Some dealers know how to identify staff-signed items and others might not.

1954 team ball signed by Di Giovanna, $600 on eBay

"The Brow" did sometimes sign in his own name...

"To Eric, a real good boy, your pal, Charlie Di Giovanna"

...and even appears on 1956 Topps, congratulating Duke Snider after this home run trot.

The Brow proved so popular in Brooklyn that he garnered his own 1955 Golden Stamp and did local advertising for Wilson sports equipment.

1955 Golden Stamps Dodgers

If you own a 1950s Brooklyn Dodger signature, it could be The Brow's handwriting. Does that mean Pete Pervin or the Sharkeys signed pieces from Comiskey's clubhouse? If so, perhaps this autographed 1940 George Brace photo shows their work on behalf of many of its players.

One guy's clipped off the left edge of this original 1940 photo, rookie pitcher Oral Grove. He notched just three MLB games for Chicago that year, so missed out autographing that piece, if each player did indeed sign it.

1942 Chicago White Sox Team

Art Colledge sits at lower left with Ephraim at far right. Fast-growing Chuck Comiskey sits front and center next to Pete Pervin and new team trainer Ed Froelich (top left) replaced Adolph Schacht for 1942 following his passing in January of that year.

Froelich could sound familiar to Brooklyn fans, as he also trained the Dodgers and traveled with this sweet monogrammed trunk. Check out that patina and stenciling! 

This trunk sold on eBay several years ago, so should remain somewhere in the hobby.

1951 Topps White Sox Team (unnumbered)

Our Sharkey brothers stuck around Comiskey Park long enough to appear in many Topps sets, including one based on Chicago's 1950 team photo.

Ephraim stands below its exit sign, left of Dave Philley. The dark jacket at far right belongs to trainer Packy Schwartz, serving his final year with the team. Myron Esler took over in 1951 and Ed Froelich returned for 1954-1966.

1956 Topps #188 White Sox Team

I rely on several of Roy Carlson's original sources for detailed player and staff identification. Chicago's 1955 team photo included typeset notes that tell us how Al and Ephraim Colledge shared their Sharkey responsibilities.

Ephraim served Comiskey's home team clubhouse and Art handled visitors, explaining why the former appears most often in White Sox home photos. I'm acquainted with a Mariners equipment manager and his 40+ years of service aligns with what we see from these brothers. They found a reliable job, served their park well, and stuck around for decades.

1957 Topps #329 White Sox Team

The Sharkeys posed in similar spots and outfits as last time. A legend once again notes home and visitor clubhouse responsibilities in the source photo's fine print.

1958 Topps #256 White Sox Team

By now, I assume Ephraim always appears in home team photos, even when identified by last name alone. Art must be handling visiting clubhouse work elsewhere.

Tony Cuccinello, who shared our original 1933 AL All-Star photo with all three Colledge brothers, reappeared here as White Sox coach, a role he held through 1966.

1959 Topps #94 White Sox Team

Chicago's 1959 team photo distinguishes these brothers in a new way, as Art (seated lower left) added glasses. Ephraim (seated lower right) continues as he looked before.

1960 Topps #208 White Sox Team

That helpful distinction lasted one whole year before Ephraim also donned specs on this team card. I find its muddy printing frustrating, so seek out guys without Sox logos to find team staff. Ephraim stands (far left) in front of their traveling secretary, while Art makes trainer Ed Froelich look tall by side-to-side comparison along its right side.

1961 Topps #7 White Sox Team

As the brothers age, their slight frames stand out against robust White Sox players. Art's pose (far right, arm akimbo) gives an almost frail profile. Ephraim assumed a kneeling position at far left, just above the seated Larry Doby.

Topps reran 1959 photos on White Sox team cards for the next three years, 1962-64, so we can skip ahead to...

1965 Topps #234 White Sox Team

It appears those three years of repeats brought Art's work for Comiskey to an end. Pike Alebich (white shirt, far left) now stands with Ephraim Colledge as 1964's clubhouse managers.

Pike's son Michael Alebich worked as a 1964 batboy and sits with arms on his knees at lower-left. Topps repeated this photo for 1966 and 1967, which gave us two more identical cards for Ephraim, Michael, and Pike.

1968 Topps #424 White Sox Team

Sorry to see that this year brings Sharkey Week to an end as our first Topps White Sox team card without any Colledge brother. Pour one out for them, a full 35 years after appearing in that 1933 AL All-Star photo! (Art passed that year at age 70 and Ephraim passed in 1973 at age 77.)

For those tracking new Comiskey Park staff, Larry Licklider (home clubhouse) stands above trainer Charlie Saad at far left. John McNamara (visiting clubhouse) kneels at far right. It seems a Topps editor thought less of traveling secretary Howard Roberts (suit) and batting practice pitcher Joe Heinsen. Just half of their bodies survived its right edge cropping.

"Sharkey" explained via

If George Brace's photo book came out today, the Internet would help it trace Sharkey's origins. A search for Epraim's name turned up Francis Stann's March 5, 1959 profile of his 54 years with Chicago as they opened spring training in Florida.

I see astounding stuff all over this profile. If Ephraim joined Chicago in 1906 (at age 10), and continued to appear in team photos through 1965, his tenure far exceeds, say, Connie Mack's legendary 50 years helming his Athletics.

Tom Sharkey, Art and Ephraim's nickname inspiration, boxed as a pro 1893-1904, and his highlights include this controversial 1898 win over James J. Corbett by corner disqualification after an earlier draw between the pair.

Records of Art Colledge fighting as "Jack Sharkey" will be hard to locate, given his era's overlap with a HOF boxer of that same name. Did star catcher Ray Schalk indeed pull double-duty as Art's boxing manager? Decide if you trust Ephraim as our single source for these two notions.

Tacking care of business

Emil Rothe wrote about Chicago's long-held "City Series" exhibitions for SABR, which helped each organization raise money for team payrolls and local charities. Like his South Side colleagues, Ephraim picked up extra money in 1941 for taking part.

The Pasadena Post, Oct 25, 1941

One more Ephraim piece stood out to me, a photo of the man himself at work. Here he packs uniforms for 1963 spring training. Its "40 years" subtitle makes me think Francis Stann's profile started counting from Colledge's time as team mascot or batboy, while this writer counted from the start of his clubhouse work.

The Mercury, Feb 7, 1963 (excerpt)

I bet that uniform went to Ron Hansen, who Baltimore traded to Chicago a few weeks earlier. He wore #4 during the regular season, so this #17 seems a stopgap choice for spring training.


Whatever you call them, these Sharkey brothers provided valuable continuity for a franchise that went many decades between World Series wins. Do you have a favorite non-player staffer, be they trainer, mascot, or batboy? Were you ever a batboy yourself? Let me know in the comments.

Wednesday, December 13, 2023

Identifying everyone in the 1933 Goudey R309-1 American League & National League All-Star Team photos

The 1933 World's Fair in Chicago, also called A Century of Progress, included baseball's first All-Star Game, an assumed one-off benefit that became MLB's annual midseason event thanks to vigorous fan response. Discussions from April to May coalesced into a real game by June and team owners rearranged all scheduled games for July 6, allowing top stars to face off that day in Chicago, where the AL triumphed 4-2.

Full ticket auctioned for $4300+ in 2004

Breathless pregame coverage included complete position-by-position and "who will pitch first?" analysis, echoing what you hear from today's sports reporters. Fans chose each starting nine via newspaper ballots, with pitchers and reserves falling to legendary managers Connie Mack and John McGraw.

As the multi-franchise host city, Chicago assigned on-field staff by league affiliation, so the NL team photo included Cubs batboy Gilbert Hasbrook and team trainer Andy Lotshaw. Almost everyone wore matching "National League" uniforms, perhaps as mandated by McGraw.

Another, crisper view of this august assemblage, sans chapeau. (Credit Wally Berger as the sole player to spot this photo's camera head-on.)

Some names faded faster into baseball history than others, so let's spell them all out.

Non-All-Star Bill Walker stands out from that crowd in his distinctive Cardinals "birds on a bat" uniform. Based on 1933 game splits, he pitched four-plus innings in Pittsburgh the day prior (July 5), so I think St. Louis player-manager Frankie Frisch brought him along to toss National League batting practice.

The American League team stuck to original team uniforms for their photos, with Comiskey Park's clubhouse attendants (three Colledge brothers, all nicknamed "Sharkey") crashing its photo.

In the spirit of Roy Carlson's recent legwork on Topps team cards for Sports Collectors Daily, let's nail down everyone in that photo, since Goudey left some stones unturned.

This photo from The Sporting News did a better job than Goudey identifying peripheral participants William Conroy, an 18 year-old future catcher who Connie Mack brought to throw batting practice, and those three "Sharkey" brothers (Ephraim, Art, and Harry Colledge).

The aforementioned Roy Carlson pointed me to "Colledge" as proper last names for those Sharkey brothers. Two of them, Ephraim and Art, worked in Comiskey's clubhouse until 1966 and 1958 Topps shows one under his given last name at far left of its second row. 1933 NL All-Star Tony Cuccinello, now coaching, also reappears in a White Sox uniform.

1958 Topps #256, White Sox team with Colledge & Cuccinello

All-Star batboy John McBride cameoed with Lou Gehrig as Ruth crossed home plate after hitting the All-Star Game's first home run. Dreams come true!

AL batting practice pitcher William Conroy's 1933 victory charm later passed to his family and surfaced in our hobby via an REA 2013 auction.
Anything else you'd like to know about the game's players or staff, let me know below.

Friday, December 8, 2023

2021 and 2023 TTM autographs from Vern Law and Pittsburgh's fielding safety helmets

Our hobby's fortunate several 1950s veterans remain with us who sign through the mail (TTM) in 2023. Pittsburgh Pirate pitcher Vern Law's own history goes all the way back to 1951 Bowman and he signs for $10/card to support his son's cancer care and no doubt pay other living costs that come from being 93 years old. Check out some of those card inscriptions! (Comeback Player of the Year, Lou Gehrig Award, 1960 World Series Champ, Cy Young, 2x All-Star, etc.)

My 2021 return from Vern Law

Edited letter from Vern: "Our son is home with us and is doing quite well under the circumstances, as when the doctor opened up his chest he couldn't believe he was still alive with all the damage he saw -- he spent 7 straight hours repairing all the damage -- it was a marathon operation -- it's hard to just watch 7 jours of TV let alone working on an intense operation like that. To me it's a miracle and an answer to prayers."

Last month, I found four more cards at New England's biggest annual show, including two 1953 Topps Archives "expansion" series and a 1979 TCMA Japan Pro Baseball card from two years coaching the Seibu Lions in Japan, and asked him about that experience. (I majored in Japanese, so like to know how others intersect with their culture.)

Vern: "I enjoyed my 2 years there in Japan. They wanted me to sign a ten year contract -- I said no -- as if you don't like me you can send me home -- if I don't like you I stay home. I was promised they'd take care of my taxes -- etc. -- they did care of Japanese tax, but not US taxes, so with that problem -- I stayed home and coached here at Brigham Young University. The kids were great to work with and with what I taught them they won the Championship in 1981 [ed note: they won in 1982] so I did have a good impact on the way the pitchers approached how to get their hitters out. Their system was totally different than ours."

Several mid-50s cards show Vern wearing Pittsburgh's on-field safety helmet, the same style later sported full-time by select players like John Olerud.

While Pittsburgh failed to get player buy-in for this protection back in the 1950s, enough guys wore it during spring training to show up on many 1950s Pirate cards. I'm surprised their MLB uniform history lacks those details!

Keith Olbermann's baseball blog, Baseball Nerd, covered Branch Rickey and Pirate fielding helmets in detail in 2013, in the context of contemporary and vintage pitchers struck by line drives. 

Pirates fans could build a solid collection of fielding helmets without spending more than a few bucks per card! Let me know if you take on that challenge.

Sunday, December 3, 2023

Piercing the 1930s Sea of Sameness with Oscar Melillo

People who pursue sets between the world wars notice a certain unwelcome consistency to what's on offer. Some 1930s companies recycled their limited number of images, year by year, tweaking things just enough to keep their gum moving. Even 90+ years later, hobby malaise can set in.

Think about spending hundreds on this top-tier HOFer. "How do I feel about such similarity? Are two cards twice as good as owning one? Half as good?"

When kids opened penny gum packs in spring 1934, they found a familiar Foxx pose, as Goudey copied series one (#1-24) from existing 1933 cards. You can imagine the childish frustration over these retreads, which would suit crosstown competitor National Chicle, whose Diamond Stars Gum offered fresher images in an Art Deco style.

Chicle and Goudey each put star Lefty Grove in their first series, a predictable way for two Massachusetts companies to recognize the key Red Sox offseason acquisition. Goudey, perhaps chastened by complaints, changed direction after #24. Their checklist for #25-96 looks like what we now call an "update set" of lesser-known guys and roster changes. Jason Schwartz wrote a lot more about this at SABR's card blog. It included someone they left out of 1933's 240-card set, Oscar Melillo.

1934 Goudey Big League Gum #45

Let's track this popular 1930s second baseman through his lookalike collectibles and rank the best choices for those who like their prewar on a budget. Our first option isn't even a card!

1933 Gum, Inc. Double Header Pins (PX3)

Gum, Inc., who later made 1939-41 Play Ball cards, started in baseball with metal medallions that were meant to be paired front-to-back, hence the name "Double Header." An unopened pack, perhaps unique to our hobby, sold in 2011 via REA.

Their medals cropped Oscar to face alone. He looks friendlier here than on your other 1933 choice, DeLong Gum, a small set published by Goudey's former treasurer, Harold DeLong.

1933 DeLong Play Ball Gum (R333) #3

Metal coin sets remain a gray area and hard to recommend when other options remain. This set's drab and little-known in our hobby.

Cost: As of writing, eBay sellers ask $60-200 Buy-It-Now for graded PX3 coins (example search).

1934 Goudey Big League Gum (R320)

Oscar's first Goudey card shows DeLong design influence with its sketched grass and cartoon diamond. Its photo expands what Gum, Inc. put on its coin to show his batting follow-through and classic bloused uniform.

Oscar played every day at a key position, second base, so it's a mystery why Goudey left him off 1933's set. Just nine Browns got cards that year, well below average for a 240-card set covering 16 teams. The crosstown Cardinals got 14 and Rogers Hornsby appears for each squad thanks to his move from Cardinals player to Browns player-manager in late July.

Cost: 1934 commons like Oscar run ~$5-10 in low grades.

1934 O-Pee-Chee/Butterfinger Premiums (V94)

Here's our prizewinning "complete view" of Oscar, the Oscar for Oscar, at Sportsman's Park in St. Louis. Canadian card maker O-Pee-Chee produced a handful of 1930s baseball sets and V94 stands out for its photo quality and size (6.5" x 8.5").

I think earlier cards cropped away Oscar's background to remove those teammates running sprints.

Cost: It's easy to damage OPC's thin paper stock and most surviving examples are low grade. Common players start about $10 and go up fast for stars and HOFers.

1934-36 National Chicle Diamond Stars Gum (1935 series)

Chicle expanded their Diamond Stars Gum checklist to 84 cards for 1935 and used Oscar's now-familiar pose at #53.

Some Chicle cards include buildings from their player's town, as on #5 Tommy Bridges, so that could be a real 1930s St. Louis structure. If you recognize it, let us know in the comments!

Cost: Diamond Stars commons crept up in recent years, so expect to spend $10 or more, even in low grade.

1935 Goudey Big League Gum (R321)

Goudey re-cropped Oscar's larger image for this 4-panel layout. Each card required an original (small) painting in those days, so reusing art saved them time and money.

The Browns sent Melillo to Boston in a splashy mid-1935 trade, more details below, so this card preceded that move.

Cost: As with Chicle cards, Goudey also crept up of late and even those with four common players like this run $15 or more.

1935 Goudey Premiums (R309-2)

Prewar collectors might recall Goudey offered mail-in premiums for 1933 and 1934 that include this famous Babe Ruth image.

1933 R309-1 Babe Ruth with mail-in promotional strip

Goudey switched to black-and-white photos on thin paper as an in-store loyalty program for 1935. They packed these premiums with Big League Gum shipments and kids would swap empty wrappers back to the pack seller for their preferred photo. The fifteen known R309-2 premiums cover just five metro areas (New York, Boston, Detroit, Cleveland, Washington), with good odds each city received premiums for its local guys.

R309-2 contains three composite photos, Boston, Cleveland, and Washington. Their Red Sox premium shows our Melillo pose and pitcher George Pipgras, who used the same base photo as 1933 Goudey.

1933 Goudey Big League Gum #12, George Pipgras

Melillo and Pipgras make an intriguing combo for this Red Sox composite, considering Boston's mid-1935 team transactions.'s 1935 Red Sox transactions (excerpt)

Does this mean Goudey printed their Red Sox composite in that one-week window? I bet they just added Oscar following his trade and failed to remove George when released, dating Boston's R309-2 to "sometime after May 27."

Goudey also gave Oscar a personal photo and tweaked the cap to "B," as Beantown expected great things on his arrival. Melillo delivered excellent defense and modest hitting, holding down second base until Bobby Doerr's much-hyped arrival in 1937. This feeds Melillo into Doerr's own significance to Goudey's unusual 1938 "Heads Up" set.

Cost: R309-2s prove scarce, so availability means more than price. I'd pay $20-25 for common, low-grade players.

Summary: "...and the Oscar goes to..."

What did you think of all these sets based on one Melillo image? This happens often with 1930s players and can cut into your enjoyment as a collector. I think four float atop this sea of sameness.
  1. Diamond Stars Gum for balanced art quality, availability, and hobby familiarity. This set produced a lot of best-of-career player cards.
  2. OPC/Butterfinger for its big, detailed images. Rank this first if display quality matters most to you.
  3. 1934 Goudey is comparable to Diamond Stars, if lesser in image quality most of the time.
  4. R309-2 Goudey remains interesting, if tough to find. OPC/Butterfinger looks better and you avoid competing with team collectors over a scarce issue, the Red Sox composite in particular.
Hope you enjoyed Oscar's parade in (St. Louis) brown and red (Sox). If you'd go after something else in this situation, sound off below!