Unknown World Series Pinbacks

This column takes an inverted view of baseball pinback buttons.  It is about pinbacks of World Series teams that: a) were never made (or at least are unknown to the hobby) or b) there is no clear reference or attribution to a particular year.  I got the idea for this column by examining World Series press pins.  Each team that participated in the World Series in a given year issued a press pin.  There are only two teams for which no press pins were made (or have yet to be discovered): the 1911 National League champion New York Giants and the 1918 National League champion Chicago Cubs.  But the chronicle of press pins is clouded by several factors.  In 1921-1923 the two World Series participants were the Giants and the Yankees.  A joint press pin was issued for both teams.  There are teams that issued more than one press pin for a given year.  One of the press pins is assumed to be the “official” pin while the others are regarded as “prototypes” (a design that was eventually not chosen by officials of the team).  There are “phantom” press pins of teams; these teams commissioned the making of press pins because they were close to winning the pennant, but ultimately did not do so.  Finally, there are undated press pins (but to the best of my knowledge these undated pins have been attributed to a precise year).

This column is not about press pins.  But with some limitations, the press pins provide a parallel for discussing World Series pinback buttons.  Unlike press pins, there are no “official” World Series pinback buttons.  The pinback buttons were commissioned for production by vendors or concessionaires who would sell them to attending fans.  Furthermore, more than one design of a World Series pinback might have been commissioned for one of the two teams, and none for the other.

I am presenting this information as a general guide for the reader.  I do not claim it to be 100% accurate.  My classification system is simple: “none” means none known, “joint” means a single pinback that lists both teams, and “some” means at least one pin.  Consistent with the title of this column, I am more interested in identifying the years in which no known World Series pinbacks exist.


1900   no World Series played

1901   no World Series played

1902   no World Series played

1903   Red Sox (some) vs. Pirates (some)

1904   no World Series played

1905   Athletics (some) vs. Giants (none)

1906   White Sox (some) vs. Cubs (some)

1907   Tigers (some) vs. Cubs (some)

1908   Tigers (some) vs. Cubs (some)

1909   Tigers (some) vs. Pirates (some)

Given that both the Cubs and Tigers had three consecutive-year runs in the World Series, the exact year in question for some of their World Series items may be uncertain.


1910   Athletics (some) vs. Cubs (some)

1911   Athletics (some) vs. Giants (some)

1912   Red Sox (some) vs. Giants (none)

1913   Athletics (some) vs. Giants (none)

1914   Athletics (none) vs. Braves (some)

1915   Red Sox (some) vs. Phillies (some)

1916   Red Sox (some) vs. Dodgers (none)

1917   White Sox (some) vs. Giants (none)

1918   Red Sox (none) vs. Cubs (none)

1919   White Sox vs. Reds (joint)

At this point in history, the New York Giants played in the World Series five times.  Only one pin has emerged that references the Giants (1911).


1920   Cleveland (some) vs. Dodgers (none)

1921   Yankees (none) vs. Giants (none)

1922   Yankees (none) vs. Giants (none)

1923   Yankees (none) vs. Giants (none)

1924   Senators (some) vs. Giants (none)

1925   Senators (some) vs. Pirates (some)

1926   Yankees (none) vs. Cardinals (some)

1927   Yankees (none) vs. Pirates (some)

1928   Yankees (none) vs. Cardinals (some)

1929   Athletics (some) vs. Cubs (some)

This was the driest decade of World Series pinbacks for teams out of New York.  The Yankees, Giants, and Dodgers provided 11 of the 20 teams that played in the World Series in this decade, and there is not a single World Series pinback of any of those teams.  I have seen a pennant of the 1921-22 Giants, but no pinbacks.


1930   Athletics (some) vs. Cardinals (some)

1931   Athletics (some) vs. Cardinals (some)

1932   Yankees (some) vs. Cubs (some)

1933   Senators (some) vs. Giants (none)

1934   Tigers (some) vs. Cardinals (some)

1935   Tigers (some) vs. Cubs (some)

1936   Yankees (some) vs. Giants (some)

1937   Yankees (none) vs. Giants (none)

1938   Yankees (some) vs. Cubs (some)

1939   Yankees (some) vs. Reds (some)

There is an undated pin of the New York Yankees that some people attribute to 1937.  I believe it is from 1938 because it is a stylistic mate to a pin of the Cubs.  However, maybe the Cubs pin was modeled after the Yankee pin of the previous year.  There are undated player pins (PM10s) of both the Yankees and Giants.  Some were made with a dated ribbon.  First issued in 1936, they may have been sold again as souvenirs in the 1937 World Series without the ribbons.


1940   Tigers (some) vs. Reds (some)

1941   Yankees (some) vs. Dodgers (some)

1942   Yankees (none) vs. Cardinals (some)

1943   Yankees vs. Cardinals (joint)

1944   Browns (some) vs. Cardinals (some)

1945   Tigers (some) vs. Cubs (some)

1946   Red Sox (some) vs. Cardinals (some)

1947   Yankees (some) vs. Dodgers (some)

1948   Indians (some) vs. Braves (some)

1949   Yankees (none) vs. Dodgers (none)

Identifying the pins of two pairs of years in this decade is problematic.  The first pair is 1942-1943.  There was a wartime prohibition on the use of metal.  This is the decade when paper overlays were most frequently used (see a previous column I wrote on this topic).  There is a pin made by a St. Louis pinmaker that says “Beat the Yanks.”  It could be from either 1942 or 1943.  The other pair of years is 1947 & 1949.  The Yankees and Dodgers met in the World Series that year, and would do so again in 1952, 1953, 1955, and 1956.  There are two pairs of pins that probably began their run in one of these two years (I think 1947 is more likely).  One pair is 1.25” in diameter.  The first pin states “American League Champion Yankees.”  The second pin states “National League Champion Dodgers.”  The Yankee pin is in red and the Dodger pin has been seen in both red and blue.  The other pair is 1.75” in diameter.  They are of the classic “crossed bats” design (see a previous column I wrote on this topic).  The wording is the same as on the other pair of pins.  The Yankee version of this pin is in blue, and the Dodger version of this pin has been seen in both red and blue.  There is simply no way to date these undated pins, especially given the frequency that these two teams met in the World Series, six times in ten years.  If  these pins began in 1949 and not 1947, then “none” is incorrect for 1949.


1950   Yankees (none) vs. Phillies (some)

1951   Yankees (some) vs. Giants (some)

1952   Yankees (some) vs. Dodgers (some)

1953   Yankees (some) vs. Dodgers (some)

1954   Indians (some) vs. Giants (some)

1955   Yankees (none) vs. Dodgers (some)

1956   Yankees (none) vs. Dodgers (some)

1957   Yankees (some) vs. Braves (some)

1958   Yankees (none) vs. Braves (some)

1959   White Sox (some) vs. Dodgers (some)

There is a dated 1955 pin that jointly lists the Dodgers and Yankees.  It is notable by the spelling of “Ebbetts” (instead of “Ebbets”) Field.  As I stated in my book, I think it is a fantasy.  It is somewhat disingenuous to state that there are no New York Yankee World Series pinbacks from 1950, 1955, 1956, and 1958.  I am sure they were sold at Yankee Stadium and by street vendors, but they were most likely recycled or reissued inventory from a previous World Series.  As mentioned in my comments about the previous decade, the 1.75” crossed bats design “American League Champion New York Yankees” is a far more common pin than the exact same design without reference to the Yankees being American League Champions.  Since the Yankees were American League Champions eight times in this decade, that pin was most likely made in reference to one of the two years (1954 and 1959) when they were not in the World Series.


1960   Yankees (none) vs. Pirates (some)

1961   Yankees (some) vs. Reds (some)

1962   Yankees (some) vs. Giants (some)

1963   Yankees (none) vs. Dodgers (some)

1964   Yankees (none) vs.  Cardinals (some)

1965   Twins (some) vs. Dodgers (some)

1966   Orioles (some) vs. Dodgers (some)

1967   Red Sox (some) vs. Cardinals (some)

1968   Tigers (some) vs. Cardinals (some)

I ended this decade with 1968 since it was the final year before divisional playoffs and the final year before all World Series pinbacks became controlled by licensing laws (although some pins continued to be made in violation of them).  There was a popular pin of the Yankees featuring a top hat and a bat.  During the 1960s an overprint was made of the pin, adding “American League Champions” to it (this pin is shown in a previous column about overlays and overprints).  It was made sometime during the five year run of Yankee American League championships at the start of this decade, but I don’t know when.  The teams that rarely appeared in the World Series as the Pirates, Twins, Orioles, Red Sox and Tigers spawned the creation of many pinbacks.  For those teams that appeared in the World Series on a fairly regular basis, the local vendors probably assumed there would be diminished interest from fans who would be attending “yet another” World Series to warrant the creation of a distinctive (i.e., dated) pin.

As stated at the beginning of this column, I make no assurances that the classification system is 100% accurate.  I created it mostly from memory, plus a few references to my book.  The classification of “some” has the least validity because it represents at a minimum one known pin up to a large number.  For example, there were more pins made of the 1967 Red Sox than all the known World Series pinbacks of the 1920s combined.  Also as noted, there is disagreement in the hobby regarding the likely date of certain pins.  If a reader detects a confirmable error that I have made, I would be delighted to update this column.

When viewed from a more detached perspective, what are the most notable findings in this classification?  For me, there are two of them.  The first is the paucity of World Series pinbacks of the New York Giants.  It seems inconceivable that one team with a legendary pitcher in Christy Mathewson and a legendary manager in John McGraw would not have inspired many World Series pinbacks.  Even when the Athletics lost to the Giants in 1905, pins were made of the Athletics.  In fact, Connie Mack was featured at the center of many early pins of the Athletics.  But not one of John McGraw and the Giants?  It was McGraw who made the disparaging remark that the Athletics were a “white elephant,” yet it was Mack who ran with the image, ultimately placing the image of an elephant on the team sweater.  Because the Giants appeared in so many World Series (including four consecutive years in the early 1920s and another four times in the previous decade), the absence of their pinbacks is even more conspicuous.  If such pins exist, they have been extremely well concealed for over 100 years.

The second major finding pertains to the New York Yankees.  It is not the team that creates World Series pinbacks, but street vendors and concessionaires who order them to be made in the belief that fans will buy them.  From 1949 to 1964, the Yankees appeared in 14 World Series over those 16 years.  From 1936 to 1964, the Yankees appeared in 22 World Series over those 29 years.  Perhaps it was simply a case that the New York Yankees playing in the World Series was an expectation.  When they did so, it was nothing particularly noteworthy, and not special enough to design a dated pin.  Pins that are dated have little commercial appeal after the date has passed.  Thus an undated “New York Yankees American League Champions” pin would be a very safe pin to order from a re-sale perspective.  But what the New York Yankees accomplished had never been done before in the history of baseball (nor since), being World Champions for four consecutive years (1936-1939) and then five consecutive years (1949-1953).  Both times the string was broken by a year when they were not American League champions (as opposed to losing the World Series).  You would think that some enterprising vendor would have commissioned a pin proclaiming the Yankees to be “Four-Time” and/or “Five-Time” consecutive year World Champions.  Apparently not.  Only the vendors in St. Louis designed World Series pins of the Cardinals that honored the years of their past championships on a single pin.  Perhaps it is not a coincidence that St. Louis was also the home of some of the very finest pinmakers in the nation at that time in history.  Unlike World Series press pins that can be documented with precision, World Series pinbacks lack any reasonable measure of standardization.  They have no direct connection to the teams that played in the World Series, and are the product of what a third party (a concessionaire) thought would have commercial appeal to a fourth party (a fan).


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