My fifth 1935 Goudey: Dazzy Vance

My fifth 1935 Goudey: Dazzy Vance

As I mentioned before, four of my cards came in a single visit to a local baseball card shop. The nicest card in terms of condition that I bought in that four-card batch featured Hall of Fame pitcher Dazzy Vance, so overall it was probably the best card out of the batch as well.

Vance is the only Hall of Famer on this card, but the other three players certainly had interesting careers, even though 1935 wasn’t necessarily a highlight year for any of them.

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My first 1935 Goudey card: Joe Vosmik

My first 1935 Goudey card: Joe Vosmik

Dad and I were at the late, lamented World of Baseball Cards on Lemay Ferry Road in south St. Louis County sometime in the late 1980s, flipping through vintage cards. Among the old cards in the pile was a 1935 Goudey 4-in-1 featuring Cleveland Indians players. The most noteworthy was Joe Vosmik, an All-Star left fielder who batted .348 that year.

I was debating whether to buy the card or not when Dad glanced over. “Get that one,” he said. “My dad knew Joe Vosmik.”

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Attention St. Louis: Two shock jocks don’t speak for Kansas City, or for the Royals

I noticed a lot of St. Louisans were rooting for the Royals, then, suddenly, they turned into die-hard Orioles fans. That’s odd, especially considering the Orioles used to be the St. Louis Browns, who left town in 1953. That’s like Kansas City rooting for the Oakland Athletics or Sacramento Kings.

Then I found out two Kansas City shock jocks, Danny Parkins and Carrington Harrison, ranted and raved about St. Louis for about an hour one day, and a bunch of St. Louisans took it seriously.

Whatever.

OK, so Kansas City has a couple of guys with no class on the radio. So does St. Louis. What town big enough to have more than one radio station doesn’t? But let’s talk about class for a minute. Read more

Before they were Cardinals…

I just finished reading Before They Were Cardinals, a history of the American Association St. Louis Browns, by Jon David Cash.

I have mixed feelings about the book.Most people know the Cardinals are one of the oldest baseball franchises. What most don’t know is that the Cardinals didn’t start out in the National League, were formerly known as the Browns (not to be confused with the later St. Louis Browns of the American League that moved to Baltimore in 1954), and that the tradition of the World Series originated here in St. Louis,

This book gives a nice overview of the early history of the St. Louis franchise and the American Association, the league in which the team had its first early successes.

The upside of the book is that it is very academic. It cites everything and the old maps and photographs prove the author spent hours at the Missouri Historical Society unearthing treasures.

The downside is that the book is academic. While I certainly understand the desire to rise above the sensationalist, opinionated late 19th-century journalism that serves as most of the book’s primary sources, a lot of the color that makes the early history of this team interesting isn’t in the book. The colorful and eccentric owner, Christian Frederick Wilhem von der Ahe, is presented as a German immigrant who bought a bar, noticed one day that his patrons all left in a rush for a few hours on Sunday, then returned to spend a leisurely rest of the day. After asking where everyone went and hearing about baseball, he invested in the team and made (and later lost) a fortune doing so.

That’s all fine and good, but it’s a one-dimensional picture of Chris Von der Ahe. Yes, he was an astute and successful self-made immigrant businessman–the embodiment of the American Dream if there ever was one. While some mention of his nouveau riche excesses is in the book, much of what made him so despised outside of St. Louis isn’t mentioned.

My personal favorite Von der Ahe story, the larger-than-life statue of himself erected outside of Sportsman’s Park to celebrate the successful 1885 season, gets no mention in the book. There is mention that Von der Ahe is buried underneath a large statue of himself, but no mention of where the statue came from.

I did find it very interesting that Von der Ahe, convinced there was no money left to be made in St. Louis, plotted to win the 1887 World Series and then move his world championship team to New York where he could draw bigger crowds, more beer sales, and bigger profits. The team never won another World Series under his ownership, however, so Von der Ahe never put that plan into motion.

Unfortunately, the book ends abruptly with the American Association’s merger with the National League, with only a brief epilogue at the end talking about the slow fall of Von der Ahe and his loss of the franchise.

In the book’s defense, Von der Ahe gets more treatment elsewhere while the American Association is little more than a footnote today, so I can see why the author chose to focus on the more neglected subject. It makes for better scholarship. Since this book is published by the University of Missouri Press and not Random House, I can see why the book was written the way it was.

If you want good history, particularly of what it was that made the American Association what it was–and this is fair, because the St. Louis club was the dominant team of that league and era–then this is a great book. If you’re looking for colorful stories about a guy who was like Ted Turner and George Steinbrenner and Charlie Finley and Bill Veeck all wrapped up into one with a dash of Jay Gatsby thrown in, look elsewhere.

Myths about the 1904 World’s Fair

I just spent some time over at Wikipedia attempting to demolish the myths that the ice cream cone, hot dog, and hamburger were invented in St. Louis at the 1904 World’s Fair. Hey, one does lots of things when there’s a big pile of stuff needing to be done that one would rather neglect.
The ice cream cone was independently invented in England in the 1880s and New York City in 1896 (the NYC inventor even held a patent on it, dating from December 1903). Perhaps the stories about a vendor running out of bowls and grabbing a Syrian waffle-like pastry and wrapping it up to put ice cream in, and the story of an ice cream sandwich vendor watching someone take the top off an ice cream sandwich and wrap it into a cone, and about a baker imitating with bread the paper and metal cones used in France are all true. Maybe three or four St. Louisans did independently invent the ice cream cone. (I heard today that all myths are true.) But even if they did, they weren’t the first.

The first example of prior art on the hot dog dates back to 64 A.D. The first example of prior art on the hot dog bun dates back to New York City around 1860. A St. Louisan supposedly invented the hot dog bun in the early 1880s (the story goes that a vendor, selling red hots, would loan white gloves to his customers, who then all too often walked off with the gloves. So his brother-in-law, a baker, baked him long dinner rolls to put the red hots in). And in another example of prior art in St. Louis itself, by 1893, the eccentric Christian Frederick Wilhelm Von der Ahe, owner of the St. Louis Browns, was selling hot dogs at Sportsman’s Park. (Whether his intent was to make his patrons thirsty and drink more beer, or to give them something else to keep them from thinking about the horrendous team he was putting on the field is open to speculation.)

The case for the hamburger on a bun is just as weak. But Wikipedia’s response times are down. Examples of prior art: 1885 in Wisconsin, 1885 in Hamburg, New York, and 1891 in Hamburg, Germany.

I don’t doubt that the 1904 World’s Fair made all three of these things much more popular. But it’s an awfully big stretch to say any of them were invented here.

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