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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
Next up: Baseball Pinback Buttons of Questionable Taste