Pins of the 1955 Brooklyn Dodgers

Pins of the 1955 Brooklyn Dodgers

Sometimes we encounter baseball pinback buttons that were made for no apparent reason.  Trying to establish their identity is part of the fun of collecting them.  Alternatively, sometimes a very significant event in baseball occurred, and you would think many pins would have been made celebrating the event.  The Brooklyn Dodgers lost the World Series seven times (1916, 1920, 1941, 1947, 1949, 1952, 1953) before they finally won it in 1955.  If any team winning the World Series should have produced many pins, the 1955 Dodgers would be a prime example.  However, such is not the case at all.

The first pin is unambiguous.  Although undated, it references Brooklyn’s only World Series championship.  It is a 1.25” pin in the classic design from pins ranging from the 1930s to 1950s.  If the pin exists in the corresponding 1.75” size, I have never seen it.  In fact, the larger size is more typical for World Series pins featuring this design.

1.25

The second pin is a generic team pin whose relevance to the 1955 World Series championship is evidenced by the ribbon.  It was seemingly made at the start of the 1956 World Series, won by the Yankees.

1956

The third pin looks like it references the World Series champions of 1955 because of the crown on top of the ball.  For many years Loeser’s was a popular department store in Brooklyn.  But the store announced in early 1952 that it was closing, so the pin was most likely issued for one of the National League champion teams of the 1940s.

Loeser's

The fourth pin is frequently cited as a Dodger pin from the 1955 World Series.  Although some people hold a different opinion of this pin, I think it is a fantasy.  I believe it was made after the Dodgers left Brooklyn, as a nostalgic reminder of their one World Series championship. Most specimens of this pin exhibit uncharacteristically low quality. Whoever made the pin also wasn’t all that knowledgeable of the Brooklyn Dodgers, as “Ebbetts” is a misspelling.

Ebbetts

The final pin has unambiguous meaning.  This 3.00” pin also makes unusual use of color.  The Dodgers dropped the image of the bum after they moved to Los Angeles.

bum

So, if we exclude the Loeser’s pin as being from the 1940s, the fantasy pin, and the generic pin with the ribbon referencing the 1956 World Series, the number of known pins actually celebrating the 1955 World Series champion Brooklyn Dodgers is only two.  I would have thought there would be more.  Perhaps over time others may turn up in the hobby, but I doubt it.

Next up:  Pins Saying Goodbye to a Franchise

Any Help (Part 1)?

Any Help (Part 1)?

As I have often said, there is an element of mystery or uncertainty to many baseball pinback buttons.   Sometimes we come across a pin that is completely baffling.  Here is one that has me stumped.

Reavis

I got it on eBay from a seller near Syracuse, NY.  It is a big pin, 4” in diameter, no maker’s mark, and very well made.  It seems to celebrate a team that won a championship four consecutive years, 1946 – 1949, apparently lost in 1950 (“Hitting .800”), and encourages the team to win again in 1951 (“Just groove us one in ‘51”).  The pin references “Reavis’ Rebels.”  I don’t know if Reavis is the name of the team or the name of the person (presumably the coach/manager) pictured.  The apostrophe is confusing, suggesting Reavis might not be a team name.  We would say the “Dallas Cowboys” not the “Dallas’ Cowboys.”  I have read descriptions of teams that were referenced through the name of the manager, as for example, “Mack’s Athletics” or “McGraw’s Giants.”  So either Mr. Reavis is coach of the Rebels, or there is a team, the Reavis Rebels.

The list of possible sources of this pin seems short.  I did a computer search and came up with nothing of value.  I think this is a high school pin, or possibly some minor league pin.  I think the latter is doubtful, but the former isn’t very plausible either.  Most high school baseball pins are generic team names, and to signify baseball, there would be a bat or ball hanging as a dangle.  Whoever commissioned this pin made a non-trivial financial investment in “Reavis’ Rebels.”  Any help in identifying this pin would be appreciated.

 

Next Up:  Pins of the 1955 Brooklyn Dodgers

An Unusual Pair of PM10 Pinbacks

An Unusual Pair of PM10 Pinbacks

This column is mostly about two PM10 pinbacks that have a curious history.

The first is a 1.75” PM10 pin of Walter Johnson.  It defies an exact classification among pinbacks.  A reproduction is a remake of an original pin.  This pin is not a reproduction.  A fantasy is a pinback that depicts an image (usually of either a team or player) that was never originally a pin.  The image may have originally appeared on a card or a form of advertising, but only in its re-creation does it appear as a pin.  A vintage pin is an original, made at the time of the player or team depicted.

johnson

This pin of Johnson is most certainly not vintage.  Johnson last pitched in 1927.  Johnson died in 1946; this pin was made following his death.  The inner portion of the pin (within the circle) was derived from a vintage pin of Johnson from the 1920s.  As such, the original image was reproduced, now featuring his name below the circle and the full team name above the circle.  I feel it would be harsh to classify (and basically dismiss) this pin as both a fantasy and reproduction, yet it contains elements of both.  The pin itself is quite old; it was made over 60 years ago.  Its origin is the second half of this column

As a team the Pittsburgh Pirates had relatively few pins made of them.  Yet there is a group of pins that defy conventional logic.  Many player pinback buttons (i.e., PM10s) are of notable players or players on popular teams.  Neither applies to this group.  Eight pins have been identified.  They are: Ralph Kiner, Bill McCollough (misspelled as “McCollouhg”), Bill Meyer, Danny Murtaugh, Stan Rojek, Eddie Stevens, Bill Werle, and Wally Westlake.  Here is the Westlake pin.

wally p

Kiner was the star of the team, and the pin of him from this group is not scarce.  Meyer was the manager.  Only a devout Pirate fan would recognize the other six players (Murtaugh would later gain recognition as manager of the 1960 and 1971 World Series champion Pirates).  These eight individuals had overlapping careers on the Pirates for only two years, 1949 and 1950.  The Pirates in 1949 had a record of 71-83, and in 1950 of 57-96.  As such, the players on this team are highly unlikely to be recognized by having pins made of them.  Furthermore, I believe there are additional pins to the group, as Werle is the only pitcher.  Aside from Kiner, these pins are exceedingly scarce.

To add to the mystery, players from some other teams were also featured on pins of this distinctive design.  Nine of these pins have been identified, and eight of them are of star players.  Two are from the Cleveland Indians: Luke Easter and future Hall-of-Famer Bob Lemon.  Two are from the Brooklyn Dodgers:  Don Newcombe and future Hall-of-Famer Roy Campanella.  Three are from the New York Giants:  Hank Thompson and future Hall-of-Famers Willie Mays and Monte Irvin.  While these individuals played for their respective teams for many years, I believe these pins are all from 1951.  The basis for my conclusion is the ninth player.  On June 15, 1951, Wally Westlake was traded to the St. Louis Cardinals.  A pin was made of him not only in the same pose as on his Pirate pin, but he is still wearing his Pirate cap, with only a different team name at the top of the pin.

wally sl

Perhaps the pinmaking company did not have the equipment for airbrushing, a technique used to alter pins of traded players starting in the mid-1950s.  Westlake was with the Cardinals for a very brief time.  In 1952 he was traded twice, from the Cardinals to the Reds and then to the Indians.

Why was this pin made of Westlake as a Cardinal?  Was it out of a sense of loyalty to Pirate fans that Westlake was no longer with the team?  I conclude this distinctive PM10 design, an encircled image of a player with names above and below the circle, originated with a pinmaking company in Pittsburgh.  I can think of no other reason why non-descript players (excluding Kiner) on non-descript teams would have pins made of them.    Pins of the Dodger and Giant players are highly plausible as desirable items to be purchased by fans as their teams visited Pittsburgh.  Making pins of Luke Easter and Bob Lemon, American League players, is difficult to fathom (other than Cleveland was the closest American League city to Pittsburgh).  Crafting a new (in 1951) pin of a deceased star is plausible, but the choice of Johnson who was born in Kansas and played in Washington, DC is less so.  Finally, the Cardinal version of the Westlake pin is an enigma.  Perhaps he was a popular player in Pittsburgh, and the pinmaker thought fans would buy his pin even though he was playing for an opponent.  We will never know.

Next up:  Any Ideas (Part I)?

Pins of the Athletics Featuring an Elephant

Pins of the Athletics Featuring an Elephant

 

How the Athletics came to have an elephant be the team logo is a story that dates back to the founding years of Major League Baseball.  Benjamin Shibe was owner of the Philadelphia Athletics and Connie Mack served as manager and general manager.  The Athletics were purchasing the contracts of National League players in creating the nascent American League.  In 1902 John McGraw, manager of the New York Giants, stated the Athletics (through the actions of Shibe and Mack) had become a “White Elephant,” a derogatory term for something whose value was less than its cost.  Rather than being dismissive of the term, Mack adopted the image of a white elephant as a symbol of his team.  This stunning 1.75” pin and ribbon may be the first tangible memento linking the Philadelphia Athletics and the iconic “White Elephant” moniker celebrating the 1902 American League pennant (pre-World Series).

1902 pa

I could find no references to indicate Mack ever gave a name to the elephant.  However, there was a fabled elephant in Philadelphia at the time.  In 1888 the Philadelphia Zoo was given an enormous male Asian elephant by the Adam Forepaugh Circus.  The name of the elephant was “Bolivar.”  Bolivar had become too dangerous for the circus, despite being billed as its star attraction.  It was reported Bolivar was ten feet tall and weighed 13,200 pounds.  The elephant died in 1908 at an estimated age in its late 40s.  Perhaps Philadelphia being the home of Bolivar for the last 20 years of its life contributed to Mack adopting the “White Elephant” as a symbol of his team.  The following year the Athletics added the elephant logo to the team sweater.

It was reported that McGraw presented Mack with a stuffed toy white elephant animal before the start of the Giants-Athletics World Series in 1905.  The Giants went on to win the World Series in five games with Mathewson pitching three complete game shut-outs.  Although there are four pins for the 1905 American League champions, none feature an elephant.  The elephant next appeared on a 1.75” pin celebrating the 1910 World Series champions.  The featured player is Harry Davis.

1910

In celebration of the 1911 World Series championship, head shots of the players (along with Mack) were presented against the image of an elephant in this 2.25” pin.

1911

The pin for the 1913 World Series champions was only 7/8”.  The tiny images are of Mack in the center, Davis on the right, and possibly Eddie Murphy on the left (although Murphy seems an unlikely candidate to represent a team with many star players).

1913

A 1.25” pin promoting a cigar references the champion Philadelphia Athletics from an unknown year.

cigar

An oval mirror from the World Series champion 1929 team is the first to show the elephant with the letter “A.”

1929

A plastic elephant began to be used as a dangle hanging beneath pins, this one from the 1931 World Series.

1931

Instead of the usual balls and bats serving as dangles on team pins, the elephant was a unique adornment for the pins of the Philadelphia Athletics.

athletics team el

ath little el

In later years the elephant appeared on pins now featuring the possessive “A’s” in red, on both lithograph and celluloid pins, and pins of different sizes.

little pa cel

little pa lith

ele ball

pa white border

pa

Before the start of the 1955 season the Athletics franchise moved to Kansas City.  The dominant color for the Philadelphia Athletics was blue, while for the Kansas City Athletics it was green.  Nevertheless, some pins for the Kansas City Athletics featuring the elephant were made in blue, as represented by this 3.50” pin.

kca blue

A series of baseball pins featuring both teams and individual players were made showing a small baseball at the 4:00 position.  I have been able to date these pins from 1959 to 1964.  A Kansas City Athletics pin with a blue background featuring an elephant and the small baseball reveals the team sold merchandise bearing the Philadelphia color long into its tenure in Kansas City.

Certified large WS121A 3.50” team pin in the color green, minus the “A” or “A’s” on the side of the elephant.

kca green

Before the start of the 1963 season, the elephant was retired as the team mascot and was replaced with a mule.  However, I can find no Kansas City Athletics pins featuring a mule.  Before the start of the 1968 season the Athletics moved to Oakland.  Although officially no longer the team mascot, a pin featuring the elephant was made welcoming the team to Oakland.

oa

The elephant made a re-appearance in Oakland in the mid-1980s, and was given the name “Harry Elephante.”  In 1998 the current incarnation of the elephant was introduced, and was named “Stomper.”  No longer a white elephant, Stomper wears the green and gold colors of the Oakland Athletics.  While this booster pin is from the Philadelphia years, it is emblematic of the enduring legacy of the elephant to the Athletics franchise.

Certified large WS126

Next up:  An Unusual Pair of PM10 Player Pins

1940s 6″ St. Louis Browns and Cardinals Pins

1940s 6” St. Louis Browns and Cardinals Pins

The decade of the 1940s in St. Louis, Missouri provided the intersection of several major pinback companies and two Major League teams.  The most notable pinback company was the St. Louis Button Company, makers of particularly high quality pins.  The St. Louis Cardinals won four National League pennants in that decade (1942, 1943, 1944, and 1946), and the St. Louis Browns won their only American League pennant in 1944.  I have identified ten large (6”) pins made in this era.  Five of them are dated and five undated.   The Cardinals appeared in the 1942 and 1943 World Series, but there are no known pins of this type from those years.  The Browns would never win another pennant, and the Cardinals would not win another pennant until 1964.  I have some evidence that all ten pins were made in a three year span, 1944 – 1946.  An undated pin has a hand-written date on the back of 1944.

The pins are very large, extremely well made, and feature iconic images.  Two of the pins present just the team logo: a cardinal perched on a bat for the Cardinals, and the namesake of the city for the Browns, Saint Louis.

no name cardinals

no name browns

Two pins present both the team logo and the team name.

named browns

named cardinals

One pin for the Browns features the team logo and a slogan.

browns sloganThe remaining five pins are World Series related.  Aside from New York teams, in the history of baseball only twice did two teams from the same city face each other in the World Series.  They were Chicago in 1906 and St. Louis in 1944.  The 1944 World Series produced four of these pins.  Two pins were made featuring the American League champion St. Louis Browns.

browns  44 ws1

browns 44 ws2

One pin was made featuring the National League champion Cardinals.

cards 44 nl

Another pin was made for the World Champion St. Louis Cardinals.

cards wc

Finally, a pin was made for the 1946 National League champion Cardinals.

1946 cards

It is possible there are more than these ten pins.  Among the candidates are a 1946 World Series champion Cardinals pin, and a pin for the Cardinals featuring a slogan, the mate to the Browns pin (as “Win With the Cardinals”).  Additionally, some of the ten known pins may have been made with a different font.  It is not known why there are two pins for the American League champion St. Louis Browns.  Perhaps there is a corresponding second pin for the 1944 National League champion St. Louis Cardinals.  However many pins there are, they are beautiful tributes to hometown baseball made by artisans of the pinmaking business.

The Browns would move to Baltimore in the early 1950s.  The great pinmaking companies in St. Louis have long gone out of business.  The Cardinals would go on to win many more National League pennants.  While pins were made of their championship teams, very few would have the stylistic grace of these pins from the 1940s.

Next up:  Pins of the Athletics Featuring Elephants

Overprints and Overlays

Overprints and Overlays

Overprints and overlays are two methods of modifying pinback buttons originally designed for a different purpose or occasion. I have only seen them used with celluloid pinbacks. The difference between overprints and overlays is in relation to the plastic (celluloid) cover over the paper image on the pinback.

Overprints involve printing new words on the paper image prior to lamination. There are two ways to identify an overprint. One is you happen to know of the original pin and can thus discern the modification. The second way requires high visual acuity: some of the new (overprinted) words may very slightly overlap the original image. This second method is the same approach useful in identifying baseballs that are actually hand-signed by the players versus baseballs that are machine-printed with faux signatures. In the latter case the signatures don’t overlap. In the former, it is not unusual to have certain letters in a person’s handwriting overlap a previously written signature.

With overlays the modification occurs following lamination. The surface of the pin is altered with either a paper overlay or a dab of paint (like nail polish). There is usually nothing subtle about the modification in an overlay. It is obvious the designer wanted to conceal some aspect of the original pin through use of the overlay. Overprints and overlays are used because they are cheaper than producing an entirely new pin.

Overprints

Most of the overprints I have seen are related to a team participating in the World Series. The original pin is a generic team pin that is in vogue. The team wins the pennant and then a new pin is created with the overprint proclaiming the team as league champion. It is important to note the overprint is applied to the original paper prior to the pin’s construction. So the pinmaker must have a supply of generic team paper images to modify prior to production; the overprint is not applied after the original pin has been crimped with a collett.

Shown are several pairs of pins from the 1960s that were modified with overprints to recognize the team playing in the World Series. Two Pittsburgh Pirates pins were modified for the 1960 World Series. A careful inspection of the fourth Pirate pin reveals the overprinted words slightly overlapped the original image.

60 bucco

60 bucco ws

60 pirates

60 pirate ws

The St. Louis Cardinals returned to the World Series in 1964, 18 years after their championship season of 1946.   A classic pin was overprinted to mark the event.

64 cards

cards 64 ws

The Yankees played in many World Series in this era, so it is not possible to pinpoint the year of the overprint.  I think it is from their 1960-1964 run of pennants.

yankees

yankees ws

The San Francisco Giants played in their first World Series in 1962.  A team pin was overprinted to create a World Series pin.

SF Giants

giants 62 ws

The Giants moved to San Francisco in 1958, and a pin was made celebrating their arrival. In creating the second pin the date on the pin was obscured with a rather crude overprint in the form of a baseball glove.

SF Welcome

SF Welcome mitt WS067

The 1926 St. Louis Cardinals World Series booster pin is a mystery. In 1926 the Cardinals won their first pennant. A dated pin was made celebrating the event. Another pin of the same design appears without a date. The Cardinals won their second pennant in 1928. In a reversal of the typical pattern for overprints, perhaps the undated version was created to distinguish it from its original 1926 counterpart by removing the date. This is speculation on my part, as seemingly it would be just as easy to change a date (to 1928) as it would be to delete a date.

cards datedWS070

Cardinals undated

Overlays

There are two types of paper overlays, partial and complete. A partial paper overlay is designed to conceal a particular portion of the original pinback. The partial paper overlay is applied by hand, and depending upon the size of the pin, the overlays can be very small requiring a high degree of finger dexterity in their application. The smallest size pinback I have seen with a partial paper overlay is 1.25”.

The Cincinnati Reds won the pennant in 1939 and 1940. A paper overlay was used to conceal the original 1939 date with the date of 1940.

Reds 39 large

reds 40 largeWS074

The Chicago Cubs won the pennant in 1938. A partial paper overlay was used to conceal the name of the Chicago Cubs, replacing it with St. Louis Cardinals four (or five) years later for the 1942 (or 1943) World Series.

 

Certified large WS084

cards 42 ws

The use of overlays can be potentially helpful in dating original pins. The Dodgers played in the World Series three times in the 1940s: 1941, 1947, and 1949. The St. Louis Cardinals played in four World Series in the 1940s: 1942, 1943, 1944, and 1946. I originally believed the Dodger pin was from the 1947 World Series.

41 dodgers ws

42 cards ws

It was subsequently modified with a partial paper overlay, concealing the Brooklyn Dodgers and replacing it with St. Louis Cardinals. Since the Cardinals next played in the World Series in 1964 (17 years after 1947), in all likelihood the Dodger pin is in fact from the 1941 World Series, not 1947, and the overlay was for the Cardinals appearing in the World Series the following year.

The 1¼” Cardinal pin (“St. Louis Cards N.L. Champs”) involves the overlay being placed perpendicular to the sweet spot on the ball instead of between the seams.

cards small partial

Some pinbacks were modified with paper overlays that completely covered the surface of the pin. It is thus impossible to know the identity of the original pin. In fact, the original pin may not have been baseball-related. Two such pins are shown, both involving the St. Louis Cardinals.

cards small complete

Certified large WS095

It is not a coincidence that most of the partial and complete paper overlays were from the WWII era. There were wartime restrictions on the use of metal, and metal for pinback buttons was a very low priority. The paper overlays, while not aesthetically appealing, served their purpose in an efficient manner.

Finally, shown is a 6” pin celebrating the St. Louis Cardinals being World Champions in 1964. As such, the overlay was applied after the World Series. The circumstances behind the 1964 National League pennant race played a role in this pin. The Cincinnati Reds and Philadelphia Phillies finished one game behind the Cardinals in the National League pennant race that year. I was told the original pin proclaimed the Reds as the 1964 National League champions. When the Reds didn’t win the pennant, an entire batch of pins was rendered useless, thus warranting a complete modification achieved through the complete paper overlay. Other pins have been made erroneously celebrating a team winning the pennant that were not subsequently modified. However, I believe what warranted this pin being modified was its size. A 6” pin is considerably more expensive to make than a 1.75” pin, so the only way the person who commissioned the making of this pin could recoup part of their expenses was to apply a complete paper overlay to the original pin. I have never seen a 6” pin celebrating the Reds winning the 1964 pennant. I would love to know what is beneath the overlay.

1964 cards ws

Instead of modifying a pin with a paper overlay, a more primitive modification is simply to apply a tab of paint to the surface of the pin. The Chicago Cubs won the National League pennant in 1929. A pin was made celebrating the event.

29 cubs

The Cubs won the pennant again three years later in 1932. The dated 1929 pin was modified by painting over the date.  [A ball attached to this pin has a hand-written date of 1932 on it, although it is possible other specimens of this pin could have been used yet again for the 1935 World Series.]

Certified large WS100

The Cincinnati Reds won the National League pennant in 1939 and 1940. A dated 1¼” pin was made celebrating the Reds in 1939.

reds small 39

A modified version of this pin was created by applying a small tab of paint that concealed the date. Presumably the painted version of the pin celebrated the 1940 National League pennant.

reds 40 ws

Perhaps the vendors sold out their painted modification of the pin, because there is also a dated 1940 version of the pin.

reds small 40

Given the advances in the modern technology of pin-making, overprints and overlays are no longer cost-efficient, and as such we are unlikely to witness their usage again.

Next up:  The 6″ 1940s Pins of the St. Louis Browns and Cardinals