Thursday, December 28, 2023

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

Introduction

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 Newspapers.com

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.

Conclusion

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.

3 comments:

Bo said...

Great research. As a Yankee fan I am reminded of Pete Sheehy, who began working for the team in 1927 at the age of 17 and continued straight through to his death in 1985, also exceeding Connie Mack's 50 years with one team.

Mark Zentkovich said...

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Matthew Glidden said...

Thanks and another great one, Bo. What a career to bridge from Ruth to Mattingly like that!