Pins of the Dempsey-Tunney Heavyweight Title Fights

Jack Dempsey became the heavyweight champion in 1919 by defeating Jess Willard. Dempsey is regarded as boxing’s exemplar in the 1920’s Golden Age of sports, taking his place along side Babe Ruth in baseball, Red Grange in football, Bill Tilden in tennis, and Bobby Jones in golf. Dempsey was a savage fighter, a brawler, who got the nickname “Tiger” for his ferocity in the ring. On September 23, 1926 in Philadelphia’s Sesquicentennial Stadium he faced the challenger Gene Tunney, in a title bout. Tunney was a skilled tactician who used the entire ring in fighting his opponents instead of Dempsey’s preferred style of a toe-to-toe slugfest. In front of 0ver 120,000 spectators in a heavy rain, Tunney defeated the champion in a unanimous decision. The heavily promoted fight produced several wonderful souvenirs.
The first resembles a metal trivet, approximately 3 inches in diameter. It comes in both gold and silver paint. I believe its purpose is primarily decorative.
metal trivet front

metal trivet back

A 2.5” ribbon states “Dempsey Tunney Fight Philadelphia September 23, 1926” with a hanging medallion featuring the signers of the Declaration of Independence.

ribbon medal
A numbered 1.75” badge suggests many officials were used to help stage the fight.

An iconic matched pair of 1.25” black-and-white pins were made of each fighter, along with a small ribbon attesting to the location of the fight.

Certified large WS178

bw tunney
Utilizing an unusual design, a matched pair of 1.75” pins was made of the fighters using the images of the smaller matched pair, but encircling their images in red, white, and blue rings. I believe these pins were sold as souvenirs at a higher price than their smaller counterparts.


Certified large WS179
Almost a year to the day the rematch between these two great fighters was held at Soldier Field in Chicago on September 22, 1927. The two fights are denoted in boxing history with Roman numerals, Dempsey-Tunney I and Dempsey-Tunney II. As in the first fight, several souvenirs were made to promote the fight.
A 1.75” pin incorrectly spells the fight venue: it is “Soldier Field” not “Soldiers Field.”

Soldier Field
A pocket mirror shows both fighters and Soldier Field in the background.

An unusual pin was made featuring three ribbons listing Dempsey (now the challenger), Tunney (now the champion), and Tex Rickard (the promoter of the fight). I believe this pin was used in association with fight officials and vendors, and was not made available to the public for sale at the fight venue.

There are a few pins that could be from either Dempsey-Tunney I or Dempsey-Tunney II. There are two pairs of head-shot pins, one 1” and the other 1.25”. Given the two pairs of pins for the first fight, I think these are probably from their first fight.

Dempsey pair

Tunney pair

The remaining two are beautiful 1.25” pins in rich color. One was made by a pinmaker in Washington, DC, and the other has an unknown maker. They could be from either fight.

rwb pair

Next up: Some Unusual Baseball Pinback Dangles

Pins of The 1941 World Series

Pins of the 1941 World Series

1941 was a special year in baseball.  Joe DiMaggio had a 56-game hitting streak.  Ted Williams batted over .400, the last player to do so.  The New York Yankees and the Brooklyn Dodgers would meet for their first of seven World Series contests.  In October 1941 World War II was being fought in Europe.  It would be another two months before the United States entered the war.  The pins from the 1941 World Series are most distinctive.

Two 1.75” pins were made with an unusual shade of light purple.  One pin may be the first to refer to the opponent Dodgers as the “bums.”

Beat the Bums

The second pin is a historical time capsule.  The Yankees are referred to as “city.”  The Dodgers were in Brooklyn, the Yankees in the Bronx, and the Giants were in Manhattan.  While there was inter-borough rivalry, it seems rather cheeky to suggest all of New York City be enjoined to root against the team from Brooklyn.   1941 was long before the concept of political correctness, but not before the concept of poor taste.  The pin states “Blitzkrieg Brooklyn,” an obvious reference to what Germany was doing to England at this time in the war.  The German blitzkrieg (“lightning war”) bombardment resulted in the deaths of thousands, mostly civilians.


The next two 1.75” pins are a matched pair with a simple and elegant design.  As I described in a previous column on overprints and overlays, I initially thought these pins were from 1947, but I now believe they are from 1941.

1941 Brook pennant

yankees pennant

The next two pins are a most bizarre matched pair.  These 1.25” pins can be thought of as a “before and after.”  Typographical errors in pins are not extremely rare, but omitting the final letter in a word is a strange mistake.  In fact, this particular form of typographical error may be unique to this pin.


The second pin spells the word “champion” correctly.

champion fox

Another 1.25” pin refers to the Dodgers as “Champions,” their first National League championship since 1920.


This 3.50” pin is a larger version of its 1.25” counterpart, but with a graceful blue border.

Big bums

Finally, this tiny pin is still on its original card.  The clasp-back pin has ”New York Yankees” around the edge, with the word “Official” in the center, made of what appears to be enamel or plastic.  Attached by a thin chain is a metal “41.”  I don’t know the meaning of “Official.”  It may be World Series related, or perhaps not.


Next up:  Pins of the Dempsey-Tunney Heavyweight Title Fights

Farewell Franchise Pins

Farewell Franchise Pins

In my book Baseball Pinback Buttons there is a section on pins welcoming new franchises to their cities.  Those pins include, among others, pins welcoming the Athletics to Kansas City from Philadelphia, the Giants to San Francisco from New York, and the Braves to Milwaukee from Boston.  It is understandable how fans in a city who are about to get a Major League franchise would produce pins welcoming their new team.  It is less understandable how fans would be inspired to produce pins bidding farewell to their (old) team.  However, a few pins have been made doing just that.

The first one isn’t really a farewell pin, but a harbinger of what was soon to happen.  In 1957 there was a rally showing support for keeping the Dodgers in Brooklyn.  There was speculation the Dodgers might move out of Brooklyn but remain in New York, as well as the possibility the team would move to the West Coast.  A few months after the rally where this 1.5” pin was distributed, the team moved to Los Angeles.


At the same time the Dodgers moved to Los Angeles, the Giants moved to San Francisco.  This large 4.0” pin not only bids the Giants farewell but graciously wishes them good luck.  There is glue residue on the back of the pin indicating a ribbon was once attached to it.  Perhaps the ribbon identified who issued the pin.


The Braves were greeted with much fanfare when they arrived in Milwaukee in 1953.  The team experienced a great run of success in Milwaukee, having a winning season in each of their thirteen seasons in the history of the franchise.  There were popular expressions in Milwaukee for the fans to “Back Your Braves” and “Back The Braves.”

Braves 1

Braves 2

The franchise moved to Atlanta after the 1965 season.  A 1.75” pin was made showing support for the team following their departure.

Braves 3

Next up:  Pins of the 1941 World Series