Friday, March 4, 2016

Heroes of the Deadball Era Do Not a Dead Post Make

Aloha, everybody, 

Let's return to the early 20th century and the Deadball era. It was named that because the same balls were used for entire games, making them mushy and harder to see as they got dirtier and games wore on into the twilight. Besides that, all sorts of crazy ball-doctoring was allowed. 

This resulted in low-scoring games that eventually caused a retooling of the sport through rules and equipment changes. Let's take a look at some of the players who excelled despite, and perhaps because of, those deadballs. 

Dig the high collar and button front with the word "Brooklyn".

Leading off is a Conlon Collection Dodger, Jake Daubert. While some guys had trouble hitting the ol' shineball, Daubert batted over .300 for ten seasons and was an outstanding triples hitter. 

Next up is some righteous numbered goodness (60/825) of Honus Wagner and his bat that looks like it's made of solid lead. 

Shoeless Joe isn't on a whole lot of cardboard out there, and I'm lucky enough to have some of it that's a bit scarcer than most. 

This Joe Jackson card is from a limited run of custom cards that commemorate the Black Sox scandal. They were created by my friend Terry, the director of The Institute for Baseball Studies (there's more from me on that Black Sox set here). 

Here's the card back. Terry listed Jackson's numbers for the season, and for the infamous World Series...

At a time when pitchers routinely used the spitball as one of their primary pitches, Christy Mathewson is said to rarely have used it...

Mathewson pitched three shutouts in the 1905 World series. He was exposed to chemical weapons during army training, which permanently damaged his respiratory system. He eventually died from tuberculosis in 1925, and later bacame one of the inagural class of five to the Baseball Hall of Fame.

Next up are a couple of 1961 Fleer cards. These cards are real vintage beauties. I only have a handful, but I eventually plan to chase the set as a collecting goal.

Walter Johnson is another pitcher who didn't have to rely on tricks to beat the batters of the day. He had a fastball that was said to be over 90 miles per hour - pretty much unheard of for that era. Add his sidearm delivery to that fastball and you get a strikeout record of 3,508 that stood for 55 years. 

Time for Zack Wheat, who left his mark as a Brooklyn Superba, Robin and Dodger....

Wheat made a pretty good living selling pack mules to the U.S. Army, so he often bragged he didn't have to play ball in order to make money during the season. He routinely held out for more money, and every year he got what he demanded. 

The final Dodger in ATBATT's Deadball line up is a pitcher...

This cardboard beauty is from 2003 SP Legendary cuts. The mahogany red and deep blue compliment each other and give a warm, cigar room feeling to the Conlon-style photo. 

The spitball was so much a part of Grimes' arsenal, that when baseball outlawed the pitch, he was grandfathered in, with some others, and went on to become the last man allowed to throw the spitball. 

We close out with another Conlon.

Veach played for the Detroit Tigers. When Ty Cobb won the batting title in 1919, Veach was right behind him in second place with a .355 average. 

In fact, despite playing above the levels of most players from his time, Veach remains little known because it was his luck to be overshadowed by three of the other greatest outfielders Detroit ever had - Cobb, Sam Crawford and Harry Heilmann. 

In 1919 Baseball introduced a livelier ball, outlawed doctored and dirty baseballs, and killed the Deadball Era. 





  1. What a small world, my brothers favorite cards when he was a kid was that Black Sox set. They're gems!

    1. A small world indeed. I'll bet Terry will be happy when I tell him about this connection.

  2. I need to figure out a player collection from the pre-1950s era. I was thinking about Al Simmons, since he's a fellow Milwaukeean...

    Sure, the Deadball Era and the pre-WWII era was a black eye in many respects thanks to segregation. It was also filled with some great stories too. Great post!

    1. I like that choice of Al Simmons.
      You're right about understanding the downside of those eras, but that shouldn't stop us from collecting or learning about the players and the game during those times. I love old time baseball.

  3. The stories from this era are always interesting. I could never get enough baseball history when I was a kid.
    Great post

    1. Have you read "Glory of Their Times". My favorite baseball book

    2. Thanks for the compliment, Mark.
      No, I haven't read that book. I'm glad you mentioned it because I'm due for some new reading.
      I'll keep my eye out for that one the next time I'm trolling through the bookstore.