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

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

  1. Paul,
    I always learn so much from this blog. One would never consider buying a baseball card with writing on it, but writing on a pin may very well answer unknown questions. Very interesting. I am really looking forward to the upcoming one on the Crossed Bats Pins. They are my favorite for many reasons.

    • Mike,

      You raise an interesting point about what collectibles are enhanced with writing and those not enhanced. I presume a scored scorecard from a famous game is better than an unscored scorecard. Not so with cards, nor a pennant. Not sure about photographs.

  2. Great blog Mike! I sell many old pins on E-Bay as Seaweed2270. I would lobe to see an article on Position Player pins from the 1890’s to the early 1900’s. I have many with advertising on them and I even have a complete set with the envelope and letter sent from a hat company. I would love to know the history and origin of these pins.

    Thx Erik

  3. Hi Paul,
    Thanks for referencing the back of my button. It was one of the first pinbacks that I purchased many years ago. It’s only had two owners since it was made in 1926. The lady I bought it from was working at her antique store and was opening a box from her sister in St. Louis and out of pure luck I was standing at the counter as she pulled it out. Along with this button, she also had two of the more common 26′ buttons, a “Beat St. Louis” pin as well as a 1926 Pennant Winners hat band. At that time I spent what was a lot of money for me but I’m sure glad I stepped up and bought the group!
    -Andy

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