Large PM10 Pins (Part One): A Speculative Theory

 

Large PM10 pins come in two sizes: either 2 & 1/8” or 2 & 3/16”.  The slightly larger size features players exclusively from the Philadelphia Phillies of the early 1960s.  The slightly smaller size features players from the three New York teams of the early 1950s to the late 1950s, with five very notable exceptions.  They are: Hank Aaron, Warren Spahn, Del Crandall (Milwaukee Braves), Ted Williams (Boston Red Sox), and Rocky Colavito (Detroit Tigers).  There is also a pin of Willie Mays with a “SF” on his cap, but it was an airbrushed version of an original photo of Mays wearing “NY” on his cap that first appeared on a large PM10 pin.  I strongly believe the pins of the three players on the Braves were made for the 1957 and/or 1958 World Series featuring the Braves and Yankees.  The Williams and Colavito pins were made because both were very popular American League players.  In total, there are less than 100 known large PM10 pins.  Their most distinctive feature is not just their larger size compared to the 1.75” PM10 pin, but their absolute starkness.  There is no color at all in any of them.  There is no background imagery.  Just a black-and-white head shot against a pale white background.   A few of these pins have a slightly different font than the rest.  These large PM10 pins are so devoid of artistry that they could well be regarded as the equivalent of a mug shot of the players.  I think these pins are beautiful in their raw simple elegance.

Now comes the part of this column where I engage in speculation.  In particular, I am speculating about who made these pins.  The slightly larger PM10 pins were most likely made by a metal works company in or near Philadelphia.  For an unknown reason, this company used a die that was 1/16ths of an inch larger.  The only sports-related pins I have ever seen with this 2 & 3/16” diameter are of these Philadelphia Phillies players.  Vendors ordered these pins to be made, and sold them in and around Connie Mack Stadium on game days.

I believe the smaller of the large PM10 pins were all made in the New York or northern New Jersey area.  Some people in the hobby speculate that the five non-NY player pins are evidence that these pins were made and sold in different cities around the nation.  I don’t think so.  The vendors who ordered the manufacturing of these pins did so simply because they thought the pins would sell.  All five of these pins were of popular players who were on teams visiting the New York Yankees.  It is no coincidence that these five pins are extremely scarce.  Furthermore, all of the large PM10 pins lack the style and grace of pins made by the major pinmakers of the day, such as Whitehead & Hoag and Bastian Brothers.  These famous companies made pinbacks that manifested superior artistry and craftsmanship.  With their simplistic fonts and stark white backgrounds, the large PM10 pins are at the opposite end of the continuum of pinmaking artistry.  These pins are just incredibly simple, almost primitive, in design.  As such, I believe it is more likely that the maker of the large PM10 pins was a metal works company that did not specialize in making pinbacks.

The large PM10 pins would not have met the quality standards of Whitehead & Hoag.  Unlike Whitehead & Hoag et al., a metal works shop could produce pins quickly because there were no elaborate design issues to address.  It probably could offer much smaller minimum production runs, and also charged less for its products.  These would be three very desirable features for street vendors.  These street vendors had low overhead, worked on tight budgets, probably did not even purchase a peddler’s license from the city, and needed a supplier that offered a low-cost product.  The vendors would sell their pins outside of Yankee Stadium, Ebbets Field, and the Polo Grounds before the crowd started to arrive.  At least one game was played in NYC every day.  For the vendors, it became a question of where they would sell their wares.  The pins were mounted on a large piece of cardboard as a display to entice buyers.  Unlike the small PM10 (1.75”) pins, the large PM10 pins were seldom adorned with ribbons and dangles (e.g.,a plastic ball, glove, or bat).  If you see a large PM10 pin with a ribbon and dangle, it likely has been altered by a third party (a seller of baseball memorabilia) to enhance the visual appeal of the pin to a prospective buyer.

So who might the unknown metal works company be that made these very simple large PM10 pins?  Was there more than one?  We will never know.  But here is a theory I have come to believe may be true.  Maybe it wasn’t a company at all.  Perhaps it was an individual, as a retired sheet metal worker who knew the craft of pinmaking.  Maybe he was a former employee of Whitehead & Hoag, a company located just 11 miles away from NYC in Newark, NJ.  He purchased a die and a press for crimping the component parts.  Perhaps the seller was a metal works company that had an older model press that got replaced.  Very few pins in general are 2 & 1/8” in diameter.  Maybe he got a good deal on an unpopular die.  He bought celluloid, sheet metal, colletts, paper, and spring pins from suppliers, or even as surplus stock from a metal works company.   He developed a relatively crude but effective way of creating the paper image of the player from some other paper images (as a team photograph or baseball card).  He probably ran the entire operation out of his apartment or garage.  He then wholesaled the pins to the street vendors.  Sounds crazy?  Maybe.

What is the range of dates of these large PM10 pins?  I believe there is a precise beginning date for them.  Excluding the pins of Dodger and Giant players, and using just Yankee players featured on the pins, the “early” years of these pins featured Rizzuto, Mize, Coleman, Woodling, Lopat, and Reynolds (among others).  Guess who never appeared on a large PM10 pin?  DiMaggio.  You would think that a pin of DiMaggio would sell out every day from the vendor’s display board.  Not if he were retired (which he did after the 1951 season).  So I believe the start date for the large PM10 pins was 1952 (for an additional reason to be discussed shortly).

The pins ran through the decade of the 1950s.  The “late” years included pins of Maris, Lopez, Richardson, Boyer, Kubek, and Arroyo (among others).  I believe the end date of the large PM10 pins was 1959.  Then the large PM10 pins mysteriously stopped.  Maybe there was nothing mysterious at all about their demise, because two-thirds of the market was lost after the 1958 season.   Their production was not halted because of MLB merchandise licensing laws, since they did not begin until 1969.  The Yankee fans alone could not generate enough demand to warrant continuing the making of these pins.  What Yankee players did not have a large PM10 pin made of them?  Joe Pepitone, Tom Tresh (ROY), Bill Stafford, Jim Bouton, Al Downing, Phil Linz, Norm Siebern, and Ralph Terry.  These players were members of the 1960, 1961, 1962, 1963, or 1964 American League champion Yankees.  Terry was a member of all five.

As a counter-argument, it can reasonably be stated that these players were all in the formative years of their careers.  In their early 20s at the time, they were not as popular with the fans as the premier players such as Berra, Mantle, and Ford.  Thus, quite appropriately, no pins were made of these emerging players.  Fair enough.

But now the argument gets switched around.  What players did have pins made of them?  Certainly the starters on the team.   But also two players only the most knowledgeable New York Yankee fans would recognize: Maury McDermott and Bill Miller.  McDermott played for the Yankees for one year, 1956.  He was used as a reliever and spot starter.  His record that year was 2-6.  He played in 23 games, starting 9 of them.  He pitched 87 innings giving up 85 hits (including 10 home runs) and 47 walks.  Why on earth would a pin have been made of him?  Because for one brief shining moment early in the season, he looked like he had great potential.  On May 5, 1956 McDermott started for the Yankees at home against the Senators.  He pitched a fine game, went 7 innings, giving up 2 runs, 5 hits, 3 walks, and no home runs.  He not only got the win, he stopped a two-game team losing streak.  Furthermore, his victory was the start of a five game winning streak for the Yankees.  McDermott seemed hot, as did the team.  He would next pitch five days later on May 10, again at Yankee Stadium. He lasted five innings and took the loss.  He would win only one more game for the Yankees during the rest of the season.  I bet that pin of Maury McDermott was made right after the game of May 5.  Even seldom-used Phil Linz contributed more to the Yankees than Maury McDermott.

What does this game and the McDermott pin have to do with who made the large PM10 pins?  Who else but a solo operator could produce a batch of pins on such short notice?  His business model would have been just like that of McDonalds today: very rapid service, low cost, and acceptable quality.  The pinmaker had four days to make a batch of McDermott pins before his next start.   Production companies take orders that are placed in a queue.  The McDermott pin would have to wait for its turn in the queue.  The only way the McDermott pin could get expedited would be if a street vendor paid a premium to bump it up in the production queue.  Adding to the cost defeats the purpose of vendors buying from this supplier.  Since McDermott got real cold real fast for the rest of the season, the vendors probably got stuck with a batch of pins of a player who no longer had fan appeal.  After he was released by the Yankees, his pin was virtually unsellable. Such is the risk of counting on unproven players, even for street vendors.

Bill Miller had a three-year career with the Yankees.  He was 4-6 in 1952, 2-1 in 1953, and 0-1 in 1954.  He was out of baseball by the end of 1955.  The pin of Miller is undoubtedly from his rookie year in 1952 (which is why I believe 1952 was the start date of the large PM10 pins). Despite a losing record that year, he pitched very well.  He started 13 games and completed 5 of them, including two shut-outs.  All of his victories were complete games.  On June 22 he pitched a complete game in a 3-1 loss.  His final complete-game victory was on September 10, a 7-0 shut-out where he only gave up only 3 hits and 2 walks.  [Can you imagine a rookie pitcher today getting two complete-game shut-outs, plus pitching three more complete games?]  This promising rookie deserved to have a pin made of him.  But how about Ralph Terry?  Terry is often remembered for giving up the home run to Mazeroski in the 9th inning of the 7th game of the 1960 World Series against the Pirates.  Terry is less remembered for winning the 7th game of the 1962 World Series against the Giants.  He pitched the complete game that ended when McCovey hit a screaming line drive to Richardson with two runners in scoring position.  Terry won 78 games for the Yankees in his career.  There is a pin of Bill Miller but not of Ralph Terry.  If only Terry had started his career about five years earlier, when the pinmaker was in his prime.

Late in the 1956 season the Yankees acquired 40-year old Enos Slaughter from the Kansas City Athletics.  A large PM10 pin was made of him.  However, Slaughter is featured on the pin not in a Yankee uniform, and not wearing a Yankee cap.  A crude “NY” was superimposed on his cap.  It is in the wrong place (too close to the bill), and out of proportion in relation to the size of the cap.  The person who doctored the cap knew more about making pinback buttons than altering photographic images.  Maybe the needed equipment was lacking.  The metal works industry is heavily unionized.  Such companies do not typically produce sub-standard products.   Products made by a unionized workforce often cost more because of the relatively higher cost of union labor associated with higher quality workmanship.  The small PM10 pins (1.75”) often have a union bug pressed into the metal.  I cannot recall ever seeing a union bug on a large PM10 pin.  And if a few exist, it may well be because the enterprising pinmaker purchased scrap sheet metal already imprinted with a union bug.  Why would a unionized metal works company make 1.75” pins but not 2 & 1/8” pins?  Maybe it is because the large PM10 pins were not made by a company.

The large PM10 pins had a run of just under 10 years.  But not exactly.  More precisely, the large PM10 baseball pins had such a run.  In Part II of this column I will discuss large PM10 sports pins that many hobbyists probably don’t even know exist.  In their own way they tell a story even more intriguing than their baseball counterparts.  These pins neither definitively corroborate nor disconfirm my theory of who made them.  You can draw your own conclusion.  Such is the agonizing fun of being a pin collector.

 

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