The Luxello Cigar Baseball Pin Set
The pins comprising the Luxello Cigar set (referenced as P13) offer an enchanting glimpse into baseball history. The set features players from the Philadelphia Athletics and the Philadelphia Phillies. There is a story to be told about this set, replete with intriguing subplots. The story begs answers to several questions. Some are more readily answerable than others.
The graphic design of the set is richly elegant. Each pin depicts a head shot of a player. At the 3:00 and 9:00 positions are matching symmetrical images. The outer portion of the image shows a horseshoe (presented with such precision that eight nail holes are readily observable). Within each horseshoe is an image or logo. It appears to be a monogram consisting of three overlapping letters. Each letter appears to be the letter “L” in a script font, but the fonts are of different styles.
There are two manners of dress for the players. Some are featured wearing a uniform, while others appear in the formal dress attire of the day (high white collar with a tie). Each player’s full name (first and last) is given, and some also have either a first or middle initial. Following the name a baseball position is listed. Presented above the player’s name and position is the team name. The two respective names are “Athletics” and “Philadelphia NATL.”
Two immediate questions are evident. Why were the Philadelphia Athletics players listed as “Athletics,” while the Philadelphia Phillies players were listed as “Philadelphia NATL?” Why not “Athletics” and “Phillies” or “Philadelphia AMER” and “Philadelphia NATL?” Second, why were some players depicted in uniform while others were not?
Based on the individual players presented, the pins were made in 1910. But was the set made before the start of the season or following its conclusion? The presence of the horseshoe is a sign of good luck, suggesting the pins were issued prior to the start of the season. Other pin sets of the era (as the Hermes Ice Cream set featuring the 1909 Pittsburg Pirates) were made following the season and celebrated their championship that year. One player featured in the set (Tully Sparks) played his last game on June 8, 1910. While the Athletics would go on to win the World Series in 1910, the evidence indicates the Luxello pins were made prior to the season.
The pins (7/8” diameter) were manufactured by the Parisian Novelty Company of Chicago (so identified on the curl). I could find no business records of a tobacco company named “Luxello.” Since the pins depict players from Philadelphia, it would be reasonable to conclude Luxello was a company based in or near Philadelphia. There were many companies that made pinback buttons in this era, including several located in Philadelphia. It was not unusual for pinmakers in one city to produce pins promoting the products of companies from other cities. However, Luxello would have had no shortage of pinmakers from Philadelphia. The reason for their choice of a Chicago-based company is unknown.
The manifest refers to the specific pins comprising a set. To commission this set of pins, Luxello would have told the Parisian Novelty Company which players were to be included. Luxello would also have to specify the size of the production run. The greater the size of the production run, the lower the per-unit cost of each pin. The size of the production run is unknown, but based on the scarcity of the Luxello pins, it was probably a very small run.
The manifest becomes the “checklist” of pins to be collected for hobbyists. As is the case with most pinback buttons in sets, there is no known manifest. Pins in sets become known when they “turn up” (the verb of choice in the hobby). If at some point either Luxello or the Parisian Novelty Company ever published the manifest, it has been lost to history.
The pins comprising the set have long been a mystery to pinback button collectors. For many years the set was believed to have 21 pins, 11 for the Athletics and 10 for the Phillies. A 22nd pin turned up around 2000, and shortly thereafter a 23rd pin. As of this writing I have identified the 24th and 25th pins to the set. I strongly believe there is a 26th pin, plausibly a 27th, and possibly a 28th.
The existence of the 26th pin is provided courtesy of Luxello being precise in listing the specific position of each player. A reasonable way to plan such a set would be to identify eight position players and then include several pitchers. It is through the logic of this approach I have deduced the existence of a 26th pin. Here is the identity of the players for each team by position as presented on each pin.
… Athletics Phillies
1st Davis Bransfield
2nd Collins Knabe
SS Barry Doolan
3rd Baker Grant
LF Hartsel Bates
CF Heitmiller ?
RF Murphy Titus
C Livingston Dooin
P Coombs Moore
P Morgan Moren
P Plank McQuillen
P Krause Schettler
P Dygert Sparks
Additional Pins to the Set?
The two most recently identified pins are Bransfield and Hartsel. Would Luxello commission a set of pins, player by position, and omit the centerfielder for the Phillies? Not likely. So who is the most likely candidate to be the 26th pin in the set? Sherwood (Sherry) Magee. Magee was the star player of the team. Although unknowable at the start of the 1910 season, Magee would go on that year to have the best year of his career. He would lead the league in hitting (.331) and break the string of batting titles by Honus Wagner. While his performance in 1909 was not as sterling, he led all Phillies outfielders in games played that year with 143. While the evidence clearly suggests Magee is the 26th player, mystery remains. Throughout his career Magee mostly played left field, not centerfield. In the Luxello pin set it is Bates who is listed as the leftfielder. Why? Is Magee the only possible candidate to be the missing centerfielder? The Phillies had reserve outfielders, but they played very sparingly. So unless something is really amiss, there is a 26th pin, the player would be listed as playing centerfield for the Phillies, and the overwhelming choice is Magee.
The existence of a 27th pin is speculative, but it is highly plausible. With all eight positions covered, it obviously would be a pitcher. The Luxello set contains five pitchers per team. Why might there might be a sixth pitcher? The answer lies in who is missing from the set. In 1909 Eddie Plank led the Athletics with 19 wins. The remaining four pitchers from the Athletics featured in the Luxello set were Harry Krause (18 wins), Cy Morgan (16), Jack Coombs (12), and Jimmy Dygert (6). Missing from this group is Charles (Chief) Bender, who had the same record in 1909 as Krause (18-8). Why would Luxello create a pin of Krause (and Dygert) but not future Hall-of-Famer Bender? If there is a pin for a sixth pitcher on the Athletics, Bender would be the obvious choice.
The possible existence of a 28th pin is a long stretch. It is based on the social desirability of equality and symmetry. Nothing more. If a Bender pin exists (and also assuming Luxello selected a player to be the centerfielder for the Phillies), we would have 14 pins for the Athletics but only 13 pins for the Phillies. We would need a sixth pitcher for the Phillies to make it 14 pins for each team, and a total of 28 for the set. Earl Moore, Lew Moren, and George McQuillan, respectively, led the 1909 Phillies in wins. The next two pitchers in wins were Frank Corriden and Harry Coveleski, neither of whom was on the 1910 team. Tully Sparks was next in wins, and he is included in the Luxello pin set. The fifth Phillies pitcher in the Luxello set is Lou Schettler, who wasn’t on the 1909 team. If there is a sixth Phillies pitcher, there is no likely candidate from the 1909 team who also played on the 1910 team. The only other pitcher who played for the Phillies in both 1909 and 1910 is Bill Foxen. Foxen had a record of 3-7 in 1909. However, the Phillies had several pitchers new to the team in 1910. Schettler was one (his only year in the Major Leagues), along with Bob Ewing and Eddie Stack. In the 1910 season Ewing would be second to Moore in wins with 16. He joined the Phillies in 1910 at age 37, and was the oldest player on the team. As a player new to the Phillies, perhaps he was not deemed worthy of having a pin made of him. The other pitcher, Eddie Stack, was the youngest player on the team (22), and perhaps little was expected of him. In short, if there is a sixth Phillies pitcher to the Luxello set, the two most likely candidates are highly unlikely: the oldest player and the youngest player, both new to the team in 1910.
Some Possible Answers
The history of baseball in Philadelphia provides insights as to why the Luxello pins were designed as they were. This information is provided in a blog “Philly Sports History” written by Michael Lalli. In November 1909 the Phillies were purchased by Horace Fogel. Before the start of the 1910 season, Fogel announced the name Phillies was too trite. Furthermore, an old name for the team, the Quakers, suggested a team unwilling to fight. Fogel wanted his 1910 team to be called the Philadelphia Live Wires, and designed a new logo for the team featuring an eagle grasping sparking wires. Lalli indicated the new name wasn’t popular with the sportswriters or fans, who continued to refer to the team as the Phillies. Luxello could not have known at the start of the 1910 season if the team would be known as the “Live Wires” or the “Phillies.” Accordingly, on the Luxello pins the Athletics players were identified as “Athletics,” while the Live Wires (or Phillies) players were identified as “Philadelphia NATL.”
Lalli also offers a possible clue as to the differing manners of dress for the players on the Luxello pins. Lalli stated Fogel completely redesigned the uniforms for the 1910 season, going from black trim on white or grey to green on white while adding a large Old-English “P.” All 13 Luxello pins of Athletics players picture them in uniform. About half of the known Phillies pins show the players in street clothes, including the newcomer Lou Schettler. While the differences between teams in manner of dress are not as definitive as their team identification, the uncertain status of the Philadelphia Phillies at the start of the 1910 season is reflected in the design of the Luxello Cigar pins.
The linguistic style of the players’ names presented on these pins is unique to the Luxello set. Baseball players are typically referenced by their nicknames, not their formal birth names. In this set only one nickname is used. The formal first name of Hartsel is “Tully,” but in this set his nickname was used (“Topsy”). Several players had their birth name used rather than their nickname: John (Jack) Coombs, James H. (Jimmy) Dygert, Louis (Lou) Schettler, Harry (Cy) Morgan, and William (Kitty) Bransfield. Initials were used in various combinations: Eddie S. Plank, J. Frank Baker, and T. F. Sparks. Abbreviated first names were also used: Wm. Heitmiller, Wm. E. Bransfield, Ed. L. Grant, Chas. S. Dooin, and Geo. McQuillan. One player’s last name was misspelled: Hartsel is spelled “Hartsell.”
The Luxello Cigar pin set is a majestic tribute to baseball. Uncertainty surrounds the set, adding to its lore. The past is reluctant to yield its secrets.
Next up: The Deer Club Pins