A One-Day Event Pinback to Replace a Pinback of A Rained-Out One-Day Event

I prefer to write about baseball pinback buttons rather than the historical events in baseball that spawned their creation.  However, I feel it is necessary to examine some history to more fully understand the pins featured in this particular column.

A leading figure in the Negro Leagues was Augustus (Gus) Greenlee.  He owned a grill in Pittsburgh and also allegedly ran the numbers racket.  In 1932 he founded the National Negro League and in the same year built Greenlee Field, the first black-owned and black-built baseball park in America.  He also helped establish the East-West All-Star game that was first played in 1933 at Comiskey Park.  The All-Star game was referred to as the “Classic” and was played mid-season.  Financially prosperous in the early 1930s, Greenlee purchased the contracts of many star players of the day.  He assembled the finest team in Negro League history, the 1935 Pittsburgh Crawfords.  That team featured five future Hall-of-Famers.

By 1937 the National Negro League began to suffer significant financial losses.  Additionally, Greenlee became increasingly less interested in baseball and more involved in his other passion, boxing.  1938 was a watershed year for Greenlee.  Deep in debt, he had an idea to generate revenue by staging another All-Star exhibition game.  Except this game would be played in New York, and at the end of the regular season.  The game was to be played on Sunday, September 18, 1938 at Yankee Stadium.  It was billed as the “First Annual Negro Baseball Classic,” and instead of East-West, the two squads were composed of National-American league stars.  Greenlee’s luck that year remained bad, as the game was rained out.

This is a pin from that scheduled game.  Not only does it represent a single-day event pin, it also presents the date and location of the game.  If the pin had not contained such specific information, the pin could have been sold as a souvenir at the make-up game.  Alternatively, as I discussed in a previous column, an overlay could have been applied to the pin concealing the date and location.  However, an overlay of the required magnitude likely would have achieved an aesthetically unappealing pin.

negro league yankee

The make-up game was scheduled one week later, September 25, 1938, and the new location was the Polo Grounds.  A new pin was created for the make-up game.  In addition to the new date and location, the design of the pin went from black stitching and red lettering to red stitching and blue lettering.

negro league polo

While the make-up game at the Polo Grounds was played, the costs of staging both games further added to Greenlee’s debt.  Later that year Greenlee Field was demolished for non-payment of taxes.  Greenlee resigned as President of the National Negro League in 1939 and also disbanded the Crawfords.  What was intended to be an annual All-Star event became a one-off.

In 1945 Greenlee re-emerged in baseball, this time founding the United States League.  Branch Rickey of the Dodgers financially supported the league, and allowed the New York team to be called the Brooklyn Brown Dodgers.  The team was managed by Oscar Charleston.The United States league lasted into 1946.  In April, 1947 Jackie Robinson debuted with the Brooklyn Dodgers.  Greenlee, beset with financial and legal problems, died in 1952.

brown dodgers

In my book I said, “If only baseball pinback buttons could talk.”  What stories these pins could tell us!

Next up:  Knothole Gang Pins

Baseball Pins Worn By Stadium Employees

One of the uses for pinback buttons is they serve as a form of identification.  When used in such a manner they are more technically referred to as “badges” rather than “pinbacks.”    This column is about pinbacks worn by stadium employees, typically ushers or concessionaires. I do not know when stadium employees started wearing these pinbacks.  Perhaps some old photographs showing stadium ushers wearing them might give us some insights as to when they were first used.  Only three of mine are dated.  The first is from Wrigley Field, dated 1939.

cubs usher

The second dated pinback is from Dodger Stadium in 1966.  It is not technically a pinback as a cord was used instead of a pinning mechanism.  I do not know if it was worn by an usher or concessionaire.

1966 dodgers

I would estimate the date of most of these pinbacks as being from the 1950s or early 1960s.  Most of them are numbered.  The number is an employee identification number, not the section of the stadium where the employee worked.  The first is a “window” badge where the employee’s name would be inserted into the clear plastic opening.

tiger usher

Some of these pinbacks are not particularly scarce.  These two, from the Indians and Yankees, respectively, seem to turn up fairly often.

indians usher

yankees usher

Other employee pinbacks are rarely seen, as these for the Boston Braves, Milwaukee Braves, and Chicago Cubs, respectively.

boston usher

braves usher

wrigley usher

I got this Dodger pinback along with some other items from the early years of the Los Angeles Dodgers.  I don’t know if it was used in the Los Angeles Coliseum or Dodger Stadium.

dodger usher

I believe this window pinback is from the early years at Metropolitan Stadium.

twins food

A large (3.00″) concessionaire pin worn at Shea Stadium in the 1960s.

mets usher

In the early 1970s baseball stadiums began to present themselves as safe and enjoyable places for families, as evidenced by these pinbacks.  They were worn by ushers in support of facilitating a courteous atmosphere at Shea Stadium, Municipal Stadium, and Comiskey Park (dated 1984), respectively.

contagious

indians crowd

comisky usher

Some pinbacks were made for very special occasions.  The ushers at Dodger Stadium didn’t just promote Opening Day, but Opening Week.

Certified large WS343

The Philadelphia Phillies hosted an All-Star game at Veterans Stadium.  This unusual pin (in the shape of a star) and ribbon were worn by ushers encouraging fans to vote for Phillies players on the All-Star game ballot.

phillies usher

This pinback is very unusual in that it was not worn by an employee of Three Rivers Stadium, but by the guest singer of the National Anthem.  I don’t know how many times per year the Pirates did not use a recording, but it must have been often enough to warrant the making of this pinback.

pirates usher

Finally, relatively few baseball teams today issue pinback badges to their ushers and concessionaires, at least with a reference to the stadium or team.  One notable exception is the Baltimore Orioles.  Their employees often wear large badges with the distinctive orange color.  This pinback thanked the fans for supporting the Orioles for 50 years.

orioles usher

Next up:  A One-Day Event Pinback to Replace a Pinback of a Rained Out One-Day Event

Baseball Pinback Buttons of Questionable Taste

In previous columns I have extolled the delicate aesthetics of some baseball pinback buttons, particularly from the early years of the 20th century.  The ability to make pinbacks at that time was limited to companies that could afford the manufacturing technology required to do so.  By the end of the 20th century the technology used to make pinbacks had became more affordable.  It became possible for small companies specializing in creating merchandising products (e.g., fliers, banners, signs, etc.) to also make pinbacks.  Today individuals can purchase the technology and all the component parts required to produce pins.

With the greater ease of production came a concomitant decline in the overall quality of pinbacks, both in terms of design aesthetics and production standards.  Society also became more permissive in what messages were deemed acceptable for public expression, including pinbacks designed to be worn on clothing.  This column is devoted to baseball pinback buttons that contain words or images that never would have been approved for production decades earlier.  These pinbacks also reflect a shift in social preference away from supporting one team (as with a booster pin) to denigrating an opponent team.  I present these pins because they occupy a place in the spectrum of baseball pinbacks, not because they are the highwater mark of the hobby.  From a construction standpoint, many are poorly made.  Most of these pinbacks do not use a straight pin (as found in almost all of the pins from the early years of pinmaking), but instead use the clutchback type of pin.  In several of these pins the clutchback was mounted upside down in its production, suggesting the pinmaker was not familiar with how pinbacks are properly made (i.e., they are most likely “homemade” pinbacks).  I will limit my narrative comments for the most part, and let the pins speak for themselves.

This baseball pinback is one of the first to use profanity.  It is tame compared to the pins that follow.  Reader discretion is advised.

damn yankees

Sucking is a popular epithet in baseball pinback buttons.

American Leagues team do it.

yankees suck

boston sucks

National League teams do it.

dodgers suck

mets suck

Teams that switch leagues do it.

brewers suck

Even owners do it.

stein sucks

There was discussion of Major League Baseball contracting.  Teams that were not very profitable, as the Minnesota Twins, were the most frequent targets of proposed contraction.  One Twins fan did not support the idea.

contraction

After the Twins won the 1991 World Series, contraction talk involving the Twins abated.

bitchh

A “spoonerism” is a phonetic reversal of two consonants in a phrase.  This pin reflects a spoonerism.

yuck

This pin also reflects a spoonerism.

duck

This pin does not reflect a spoonerism.

fuck the dodgers

Cub fans have been taking rebuke for over a century.  One Cub fan was not reluctant to return it.

dodge this

I wonder if any collector has the complete set?

26 rings

I thought adding the (infield?) flies was a nice touch.

metshit

Finally, I got this pin off of eBay.  I recall the seller being from the Boston area.

2 pounds

Next Up:  Baseball Pins Worn by Stadium Employees

Some Intriguing PM10 Pinbacks

This column is about some PM10 pinbacks that I find intriguing.  By “intriguing” I do not necessarily mean scarce and valuable, although some are.  There is something unknown about all of them that invites an answer or explanation.  Unfortunately, as is so often the case with baseball pinback buttons, we will most likely never know.

The first pin is unusual in several ways.  It is of Cincinnati Reds catcher Ernie Lombardi.  I do not know the year of issuance, but since the Reds won the National League pennant in 1939 and 1940, that time period seems most likely.  The pin is 2.125”.  As such, it is the oldest of the large PM10 pins, pre-dating the large player pins of the Yankees, Giants, and Dodgers by about 15 years.  The Lombardi pin is one of five that I know of from this team.  The exact number of these large pins that were made is unknown.  The design is unique for PM10 pins in that it features the player in action, not a portrait.  Furthermore, the player’s name does not appear in block letters, but with a signature.  Perhaps the images of the players were also used to make cards, or perhaps they originated from team-issued photographs.  I wish we knew more about the first of these large PM10 pins.

Lombardi

The next two pins are among the most mystifying of all PM10 pins.  They were made from black-and-white photographs that were later colorized by hand.  The pins differ slightly in design.  Each of the plns shown represents several of that design.  At the 3:00 and 9:00 positions there is either a star or Chief Wahoo.  The pins with the star design have the team name in slightly larger letters compared to pins of the Chief Wahoo design.  Rob Dewolf, a collector of Cleveland Indians memorabilia, has identified the following known player pins by each design.  Chief Wahoo: Avila, Doby, Easter, Hegan, Mitchell, Rosen, and Wynn.  Star: Avila, Boudreau, Easter, and Hegan.    The poses of the players common to both designs (Avila, Easter, and Hegan) are different.  It is not known whether the pins were issued in one year or two, the reasons for the two designs, and the exact year(s) of issuance.  I believe the pins were more likely issued over two years, but it is speculation on my part, and others feel differently.  Some pins turn up occasionally, but others are extraordinarily scarce.  Approximately sixty years after their issuance (most likely around the Indians championship year of 1948), previously unknown pins continue to turn up.

Hegan

Easter

As I said in my column about the pinbacks of Jackie Robinson, it would not surprise me if a small (1.75”) PM10 pin of Robinson were to turn up in the hobby with the same pose as found on his large (2.125”) PM10 pin.  The next two pins are a case in point.  While one small PM10 pin of Preacher Roe is easily recognized (he is in his wind-up), this smaller PM10 pin of Roe features the same pose as found on his large pin.  But there is something most unusual about this small pin of Roe.  It is not 1.75”, the standard size of (small) PM10 pins.  It is 1.625”, one-eighth of an inch smaller.  I did not measure the pin incorrectly, as I measured it with three different rulers.  Furthermore, I have several other pins in this bizarre small(er) PM10 size.  All of the pins are of the Dodgers, and none of these other player pins have a known counterpart in the large PM10 size.  One can only speculate as to why a pinmaker would have used a 1.625” die and collett.  1.75” baseball pinbacks are the standard size, and occasionally we find 1.50” baseball pins.  But the 1.625” size is unique (to the best of my knowledge) to this group of Brooklyn Dodger pins.

Roes

This pin of Solly Hemus was selected to represent a group of pins of the same design made in the early 1950s.  The pins are distinctive because of their low quality of construction.  The images of the players often lack the crisp definition found in most PM10 pins.  The images on these pins often look weak or faded.  It is not uncommon to find the celluloid partially separated from the collett on these pins.  The crimping process used to secure the paper image, celluloid cover, and metal collett was apparently defective.  The metal disk behind the paper image is sometimes bent, suggesting thinner metal being used in the construction process compared to other pins.  I know of one hobbyist who believes these pins are recent fantasies because of their construction.  I am convinced the pins are vintage, but their occasional shoddy appearance serves to question their authenticity.  The pins are not limited to players on one team.  The teams most often represented by these pins are the Cardinals, Dodgers, and Red Sox.  Many pinback buttons were made by unionized metal works companies, as evidenced by the union logo or “bug” on the back of the disk, the curl of the pin, or a paper insert.  Union workmanship is typically of high quality.  I think these pins were not made in a union shop.

Hemus

Of all the players featured on the large PM10 pins in the classic design with the name on top, only one player appears in two different poses.  Given their popularity, the most likely candidate would ostensibly include future Hall-of-Famers Mickey Mantle, Yogi Berra, Willie Mays, Duke Snider, or Jackie Robinson.  The player is none of these.  The only player to appear in two different poses was Hank Bauer.  Bauer was not a star of the team and his tenure with the New York Yankees was not interrupted.  His second pin of the same design is particularly inexplicable.  Two large PM10 pins were made of Willie Mays, but both of the same pose, differing only in the NY or SF insignia on the cap.  Whitey Ford and Gene Woodling also appeared on large PM10 pins with different poses, but the second pin had their names on the bottom.  The Bauer pins are unique.

Bauers

This pin of Willie Mays was issued when the Giants first moved to San Francisco in 1958.  What is intriguing about the pin is the insignia on the cap Mays is wearing.  It shows the insignia of the San Francisco Seals.  One explanation for this pin is the front office of the Giants could not agree on the new insignia for the team.  Mays was thus featured wearing a cap with the familiar Seals insignia.  I do not know if Mays posed for this picture wearing a Seals cap, or whether the insignia was photographically added to a different cap.

Mays Seals

Finally, pinmakers typically stick with the same design when making PM10 pins.  While the images may occasionally differ across teams or across years for the same team (as by the inclusion of a background, for example), it is rare for a pinmaker to alter the same image of a player using a different design.  One exception to this rule is for some PM10 pins of the San Francisco Giants.  The player pins of the Giants in 1962/63 have the name of the player encased within a white stripe situated between the 3:00 and 9:00 positions.  Nine player pins of the Giants are known with this design.  However, two players (Jim Davenport and Willie McCovey) also have pins made with a modified design.  In these pins the white stripe is situated between the 4:00 and 8:00 positions.  Furthermore, the image of the player on one pin is a cropped version of his image on the other pin.  It is not known why the pinmaker made the modification in design, and why it occurred for only certain players.

DavenportsMcCoveys

Next up:  Baseball Pinback Buttons of Questionable Taste

Boston Red Sox All-Star(?) Pinbacks

This column is about three pinbacks of the Boston Red Sox.  All are 1.75″.  They are from the late 1940s or early 1950s.  All three have the same inscription: “Boston Red Sox” on top and “American League” on the bottom.  Two of the pins present a group photo of players, while the third just lists names.  I often say many baseball pinback buttons are of uncertain origin.  These three pins are among the best exemplars of baseball pins whose uncertainty produces frustration in trying to ascertain their meaning.

The Boston Red Sox hosted the 1946 All-Star game.  I believe all three pins refer to players on the Red Sox who were named to the American League All-Star team in subsequent years.  But that interpretation is both speculative and incomplete, as will be revealed.

I begin with the “names only” pin.  The pin lists the first and last name of four players: “Walt Dropo, Vern Stevens, Dom DiMaggio, (and) Johnny Pesky.”  Dropo appeared in one All-Star game, in 1950.  As such, one might conclude this is an easy pin to identify.  Not so.  First, “Stevens” is a misspelling of “Stephens.”  Second, Pesky was not named to the 1950 All-Star team.  Third, while Dropo, DiMaggio, and Stephens were on the 1950 All-Star team, so too were Bobby Doerr and Ted Williams.  The omission of these two players, especially perennial All-Star Williams (a starter), is most baffling.

Red Sox names

The confusion does not abate with the picture pins.  The first shows three players.  Even with magnification, I cannot definitively establish the identity of the third player.  Pictured are Ted Williams, Bobby Doerr, and a third player.  In no year did only three Red Sox get named to the American League All-Star team in the four years adjacent to 1950.  Here are the number of Red Sox players who made the All-Star team in those years: 1946 (8), 1947 (2), 1948 (5), 1949 (6), 1951 (5), 1952 (2), 1953 (3), and 1954 (2).  Williams and Doerr both made the All-Star team in 1946, 1947, 1948, 1950, and 1951.  The third player excludes 1947, and the “names only” pin presumably excludes 1950.  My best guess is this pin is from 1948, and the third player (from the All-Star roster) is either Stephens, Pat Dobson, or Birdie Tebbets.

Red Sox three all-stars

The third pin shows four players.  The player to the far right is not holding a bat, suggesting a pitcher.  Mel Parnell made the All-Star team in 1949 and 1951.  Because Doerr did not make the All-Star team in 1949, 1951 becomes the more likely year for this pin.  In 1951 five Red Sox made the All-Star team.  Besides Doerr, Parnell, and Williams, the fourth player would be either DiMaggio or Stephens.

Certified large WS300

So maybe these three pins are from 1948, 1950, and 1951.  Perhaps there is an undiscovered pin from 1949.  The connection to the All-Star team is based on the players named and pictured, plus the inscription “American League” on the pins.  A pin that identifies a league is usually limited to World Series and All-Star games.  However, perhaps my reasoning is off-base.  None of the three pins make any reference to All-Star game participants.  Maybe these pins are of Red Sox players who were just having good years.  Dropo was named to the 1950 All-Star team (his only All-Star year), and Pesky was named to the 1946 All-Star team (his only All-Star year).  Yet both names appear on the “names only” pin.  In addition to misspelling “Stephens” and omitting Williams, perhaps the pinmaker confused Pesky with Doerr.  That is quite an interpretive stretch, in my opinion.  If we abandon the All-Star team connection to these pins, we are left with a less confusing but also less comforting explanation of their origin.

Next Up:  Some Intriguing PM10 Pinbacks

The Classic Crossed Bats Pins and Their Derivatives

Pinbacks of the “crossed bats” design achieve aesthetic congruence by capturing the symmetry between a round baseball and a round pin.  These pins depict the three areas of a baseball demarcated by the stitching: an upper third, equally matched by a lower third, with a “sweet spot” in the middle.  There is ample room on the pin for both words and images.  The crossed bats pins exhibit a simplistic style and grace emblematic of the game itself.

The term “crossed bats” is highly descriptive of this pin design, as the crossed bats are the most distinctive feature of the pin.  Paradoxically, however, about 5% of the crossed bats design of pins do not depict crossed bats.  Other images or words are presented in their prototypical place.  A more precise and exhaustive term instead of a “crossed bats” design would be a “stitching” design, as ALL of the pins show the stitching on a baseball.  So, with due recognition of the occasional inaccuracy of the term, this column presents pins of the crossed bats design, along with their stylistic derivatives.

Pins showing the three parts of a baseball date back to the founding of celluloid pins in the late 1890s.  1934 is the earliest confirmed date of the type of pin I would classify as being of the crossed bats design.  The most recent pin of this design is the late 1960s when the Montreal Expos and the San Diego Padres joined the Major Leagues.  The crossed bats design appears on pins from both Major League and Minor League teams, as well as a few “oddball” pins.  Spanning at least 35 years and representing teams from across the nation, they are the quintessential exemplar of a “baseball pinback button.”

There are three major factors useful in classifying the crossed bats pins:

  1.  Size.  The pins come in three sizes: 1.25”, 1.75”, and 3.50”.
  2. Color:  The pins are of one color or two colors.
  3. Border:  The pins feature either a border or no border.

Pins in the largest size (3.50”) have only been seen with a border.  For pins without a border, there is typically a graceful pattern of very fine speckling in the bottom half of the pin.  The pattern begins at the 3:00 and 9:00 o’clock positions, starting within the sweet spot.  Moving downward, the pattern becomes more prominent, and is most evident at the 6:00 o’clock position on the pin.  The entire design is encased within a thin circle.  Pins with a border do not use the speckling pattern.  I have never seen a crossed bats pin without a border that had no speckling.  The earliest crossed bats pin featured no border.  Crossed bats pins with a border began to appear in the 1950s.

In an attempt to classify the crossed bats pins, it is instructive to first establish the standard (or most common) design.  The standard design has three features: 1) the crossed bats appear in the upper third; 2) the name of the city appears in the sweet spot; and 3) the name of the team appears in the lower third.  Here are some crossed bats pins illustrative of the standard design:

No border, one color.

nyy

No border, two colors.

mets small

Border, one color.

dodgers small

Border, two colors.

cleveland small

However, there are many pins that depart from this standard design.

Some crossed bats pins of the Baltimore Orioles, Chicago Cubs, Philadelphia Phillies and St. Louis Cardinals replaced the crossed bats with an image emblematic of the team.  Other pins of these same teams have the crossed bats, not the image.

cardinals cb

This pin has the city name in the upper third, and the team names in the sweet spot and lower third.

elite

This pin has the crossed bats, the team name in the sweet spot, and the lower third is blank.

phillies cb big

This pin has the team name in the sweet spot (with an incorrect apostrophe), and the city name in the lower third.

white roses

This pin has an image replacing the crossed bats, no city name, and two team names in the sweet spot and lower third (from the 1940s, when the Phillies experimented with having a new team name, the Blue Jays).

blue jays

This pin has the crossed bats, the team name in the sweet spot, and a nickname in the lower third.

whiz kids

This pin has the crossed bats, team name in the sweet spot, and reference to a special one-day event in the lower third.oldtimers

This pin has “Go Go” surrounding the crossed bats.

go go

In the 1.75” size, the crossed bats are larger in pins with a border compared to the pins without a border.

double large

In the 1.25” size, the crossed bats are the same size in pins with and without a border.

small double

The crossed bats design was adapted to the All-Star game.

all-star

In this pin the team name is in script.

orioles script

These pins have the same design but with different fonts.

double mets

This pin has an unusual grey background color.

rs cb

This pin contains a blatant typo.

detriot

This pin has a disproportionately thick border.

small mets

Not just any Senators.

the senators

In 1962 when the Minnesota Twins joined the Major Leagues, the Midwest Badge and Novelty Company of Minneapolis issued a set of 1.75” pins for all the MLB teams.  The pin for the Twins featured the image of two ballplayers shaking hands, symbolic of the Twin Cities.  A crossed bats pin was made for every other team.  The pins were of a most unusual design.  Instead of the speckling pattern being between the 3:00 and 9:00 o’clock positions, in these pins the speckling pattern is between the 4:00 and 10:00 o’clock positions.  There is also a break in the pattern of speckling at the 8:00 o’clock position.  The crossed bats were in the upper third, city name and the team name on the sweet spot, and the lower third feature a logo or caricature of the team.  The crossed bats were grossly out of proportion compared to all other crossed bats pins.  For some teams their logo appeared in the bottom third.  One such pin was for the Chicago White Sox.  However, the logo was inverted in production, so instead of S-O-X, it is S-X-O.

white sox cb

For other teams a caricature appeared in the lower third.  Some caricatures were plausible, as this pin for the Detroit Tigers.

tigers cb

Other caricatures were indeed novel, as this pin for the Washington Senators.

senators cb

Yet other caricatures exceeded “novelty.”  Have you ever wondered what a “Phillie” looked like?

phillies cb

I consider the crossed bats pin made by the Midwest Badge and Novelty Company to be an unusual variant to the conventional design.

The pin on the right has the delicate and graceful pattern of speckles.  The pin on the left is a re-issue, resulting in speckling that is heavy and unappealing.

double giants

This is a crossed bats pin that is not from either a Major League or Minor League team.  I do not know who or what “Selmon” is.

selmon

The little ball between the bats is in the space in the upper half of the crossed bats.  I know of one pin where the ball is in the lower half.  As another example of an oddball derivative, in this pin the crossed bats are in the lower third of the pin.

cb bottom yanks

The design of the crossed bats pins was modified to celebrate American League and National League championships.  This is the oldest known pin of this design.

1934

A (common) undated pin of the 1950 Philadelphia Phillies.

undated phillies

A (scarce) dated 1950 Philadelphia Phillies pin.

dated phillies

The New York Yankees won the American League pennant so often it is impossible to know the year this pin was issued.  It was likely reissued repeatedly in the 1950s.  As such, it is much more common than the standard crossed bats pin of the New York Yankees in the 1.75” size.

yankees

These pins are poorly made, lacking the delicate aesthetics of typical crossed bats pins without a border.  Furthermore, they were made without the thin circle encasing the design as found in other crossed bats pins without a border.  They were issued for the teams playing in the 1959 (Dodgers-White Sox) and 1962 (Giants-Yankees) World Series.  I believe they were made by a West Coast pinmaker. They were originally accompanied by a validating ribbon.  I have not seen a White Sox pin of this distinctive design, but I believe it exists.

1959 dodgers

1962 giants

yankees 1962

Although the crossed bats pins have a classic design, they are an enigma within the hobby.  There have no known manufacturer (except for those made by the Midwest Badge and Novelty Company).  It is likely the pins with a border were made by a different pinmaker than the pins without a border.  Furthermore, there are second generation or re-issued pins, as evidenced by the pin with the heavy speckling.  It would be incorrect to describe them as individual pins, but equally incorrect to describe them as a set.  I consider the pins from the Midwest Badge and Novelty Company to be a “set” embedded within the crossed bats design of pins.  Some pins in the 1.25” size have counterparts in the 1.75” size.  Other pins exist in the 1.25” size but not in the 1.75” size, and vice versa.  It is unknown why pins were made in the 3.50” size for certain teams but not others.  The presence of different fonts further adds to their intrigue.  I consider the crossed bats pins, especially those without a border, to be among the most archetypal baseball pinback buttons.  Although they are not particularly valuable, they are an embodiment of the hobby.

Next up:  Boston Red Sox All-Star Pinbacks

What We Learn From Hand-Written Notations on Pins and Ribbons (Update)

In my baseball book I said every pinback has a story to tell, and added, “If only they could talk.”  A few have.  I came across several pins that have hand-written notations on them.  These notes often add to understanding the context in which the pins were originally purchased, embellishing a piece of plastic with a human story.  I have found these notes written on the back of a pin, on an attached ribbon, and on a piece of paper tucked behind the pin.  Several of the pins establish a definitive date.

The first pin is courtesy of Andy Bowers.  The pin itself is stunningly beautiful, a classic 3.00” pin from the 1926 World Series.  The pin was made by the Steiner Engraving and Badge Company of St. Louis.  The company used a distinctive style of cardboard backing on its pins.  A lengthy notation was written on the cardboard backing.  It states: “I feeling fine.  Will write soon.  I want you to wear this everywhere you go.  From Tom Muth.  Waiting for the boys.  I mean the Cardinals, they are so many people in front of our house we can’t get out.” 1926 was the first year the Cardinals won the World Series.

1926 Cardinals

An undated 6.00” pin was made by the St. Louis Button Company that also used a cardboard backing.  On the cardboard it states, “Bob Williams, September 1,  (indecipherable) St. Louis, 1128 Restolozzi, Year 1944.”  I knew the pin was made in the mid-1940s, but until I saw this specimen, I did not know the exact year.

Cardinals

Cards reverse

Dick Farrell pitched for the Philadelphia Phillies starting in 1956.  He was traded to the Los Angeles Angels in mid-season 1961.  The little baseball logo at the 4:00 position was first evidenced on pins in 1959 and last used in 1964.  A hand-written date on the ribbon of “1960” identifies the date the pin was purchased.

Farrell

Connie Mack served as manager of the Philadelphia Athletics for 50 years.  He was honored with dated pins toward the end of his career, as evidenced by these two pins.

Mack old

mack window

However, other pins were made of Mack at earlier points in his career without a date or explanation for their issuance.  One such pin is this 1.25” pin.   On a small piece of paper tucked in the back it states, “August 4th, 1944, 50th anniversary “. In 1894 Mack began his managerial career with the Pittsburg Pirates.  The Athletics honored Mack with this pin, but I don’t know if August 4, 1944 was officially declared “Connie Mack Day” at the ballpark.  Without the note, the date of this pin would remain unknown.

Update:  I discovered that the Athletics did indeed honor Mack on August 4, 1944 with his “day” at the ballpark.

mack

mack reverse

I recently acquired this particular specimen of a Yankee pin.  The ribbon is dated, “September  13 , 1953.”  The Yankees did not clinch the pennant until the end of September in 1953.  As such, the pin was sold as a souvenir from a previous year, 1951 or 1952.  As shown in my book, there were three pairs of matched pins for the New York teams in the World Series, 1951-1953.  Undated pins are less difficult for vendors to sell when they become outdated.

1952 Yankees

1952 reverse

The final pin, like the 1926 St. Louis Cardinals pin, tells a lengthy story.  This 1.75” pin is of Red Grange.  Grange mostly played his professional football for the Chicago Bears.  However, in 1926 following a contract dispute with the Bears, Grange formed his own team, the New York Yankees, as well as creating a new league, the American Football League.  The league was also called “The Red Grange League” and the team was often called “The Red Grange Yankees.”  Tucked behind this pin was a folded piece of paper with a note written in ink with a fountain pen.  It reads: ”Oliver took me to see my first football game at the Polo Grounds.  November 2, 1926.  Red Grange Yankees vs. Rock Island Independents.  Score 35-0 in favor of Yankees.”  Above the “35” in smaller letters is “Yankees” and above the “0” is “R.I.I.”.  The “Red Grange Yankees” and the “Red Grange League” lasted one season.  In 1927 some of the teams were folded into the National Football League.  Grange would return to the Bears to complete his playing career.

AFL Grange

Grange note

Pins were made of Grange as a collegian at the University of Illinois,

Illinois Grange

during his barnstorming tours,

Barnstorming Grange

and as a member of the Chicago Bears.

Bears Grange

The note reveals this pin to be a scarce souvenir from his one year on the team and in the league that were both named after him.  Records indicate that the 1926 New York Yankees played their home games at Yankee Stadium.  Either this game was played in the Polo Grounds, or the original owner of the pin was so enamored with “Oliver” she didn’t realize the game was being played in the Bronx.

Aside from a note placed in the back of a pin, and without a cardboard backing or ribbon, there is literally no place for a notation to be written on a pin.  We are lucky to find a few pins that provide a glimpse into the date and/or occasion when they were purchased.

Next up: The Classic Crossed Bats Pins and Their Derivatives