Sunday, August 27, 2017

Here's something you don't see every day

Summer is flying by, and I've spent very little time here on the blog. Best laid plans, I guess.

Now that I'm sitting down to post something, I figured I could play off of my own scarcity, and show you something else you don't see every day: 1972 Classic Cards.

This set consists of four series, each of 30 cards. They are catalogued as a 1972 issue. The cards themselves, are on a thin, cream coloured cardboard, and were issued by a company out of Flint, MI. And honestly, that's nearly everything I know about them. You can find a checklist online easily enough -- the set contains a lot of pre-war hall-of-famers.

And of course, the set contains George Gibson.

I added this one to my collection sometime back before 2008 -- back when Yahoo had an auction site (I'm assuming they no longer do). Cost me $15 to buy the entire series and I couldn't have been happier at the time. This series came with Wagner, Lajoie and a few others. I kept Gibson and Bill O'Hara (another Canadian), and sold/traded/gave every other card away.

And that was the last time I saw a 1972 Classic Cards Gibson for sale. Actually, that's the only time I've ever seen this card for sale. At times I have seen other cards from the set for sale, but not often. I'm sure this card isn't that rare -- I'm sure it's just one of those sets that nobody figures anyone wants, and they don't bother to try to sell them. But honestly, I don't know.

If you have any of these cards, or know more about the set, drop a line in the comments. I'd love to learn more.

Saturday, July 22, 2017

On this day...

Today is July 22, 1917.

One hundred and thirty-seven years ago, today, George Gibson was born in London, Ontario (or at least that's the most commonly accepted place; there are some that disagree, claiming he was born in one of the surrounding towns).

He would remain in that area, working construction, and playing baseball on various town and picked teams. In his early twenties, he ventured off to Buffalo, and played the end of the 1903 season in the Eastern League for George Stallings' Bisons. In 1904, he was acquired by Montreal, where he played for the Royals of the Eastern League until mid-1905. That's when Barney Dreyfuss bought his contract and made him a Pirate.

George made his major league debut on July 2, 1905, in Cincinnati. The Pirates lost that game, 4-1. Gibson would go on to play 44 games, but bat only 0.178 in his rookie season. Dreyfuss and Pirates Manager Fred Clarke had seen enough to know they had something, though.

From 1907-1910, Gibson caught more games than any other NL catcher (from 1907-12, Gibson averaged 124 games).

In 1909, Gibson set career highs in hits (135), doubles (25), triples (9), RBIs (52) and stolen bases (9). His 150 games caught was a record, and lead the National League in fielding percentage (0.983) and caught stealing percentage (52.9). In the World Series that year, Gibson backstopped the Pirates to a title in over Ty Cobb's Detroit Tigers. For the first time in World Series history, it took the full seven games to decide the winner. Gibson caught every inning for the Pirates without a single error. He held Ty Cobb to only 2 stolen bases, and stole just as many himself.

Gibson remained among the elite defensive catchers, again leading the National League in fielding percentage in 1910 (0.984) and 1912 (0.990). Gibson was second in 1911 (0.979).

In 1913, Gibson suffered a broken ankle and only played in 48 games (his lowest by far since his rookie year). Gibson was back in 1914 and 1915 playing 101 and 118 games respectively, but his fielding percentages dropped off. Part way through 1916, Gibson was released, and his contract was purchased by John McGraw, of the New York Giants. Gibson refused to report, and instead went back home to his farm in London.

By the time the 1917 season rolled around, McGraw and Gibson had worked things out, George was re-instated (he had been banned from baseball for not honouring the 1916 release purchase), and he joined the Giants. There he remained for two seasons, helping manage the pitchers and play the odd game (Gibson appeared in a total of 39 games in 1917 and 1918). When the Giants played the Chicago White Sox in the 1918 World Series, Gibson coached but was not part of the playing roster.

At the end of the 1918 season, McGraw released Gibson so that he could manage the Toronto Maple Leafs of the International League for the 1919 season. The team finished with a 93-57 record, good enough for second place, but still 8 games behind the powerful Baltimore Orioles.

In the Winter of 1919,  Barney Dreyfuss came calling. He was in need of a Manager. Gibson ended up joining the Pirates, and from 1920-1922, he managed the big league club. In the middle of the 1922 season, Gibson resigned his position, handing the reigns over to future Hall-of-Famer, Bill McKechnie.

In 1923, when Donie Bush joined the Washington Senators as their manager, he hired George Gibson to be one of his coaches. Gibson was fired before the end of the season. In 1925, Gibson joined the Chicago Cubs as a coach. When Cubs Manager Rabbit Maranville was fired near the end of the season, Gibson took over as Manager. He did not return in 1926.

Gibson remained largely out of baseball until 1931, when Dreyfuss again came calling. From 1932-34 George served his second tenure as Pirates coach, until he was fired mid-season. Another future hall-of-famer took over for him again, this time it was Pie Traynor.

George returned home to London, and remained active in baseball locally.

In 1948, Fred Lieb, in his book, "The Pittsburgh Pirates", labelled Gibson as, "Pittsburgh's greatest all-time catcher."

In 1958, Gibson was named Canada's baseball player of the half century, and was the first baseball player elected into Canada's Sports Hall of Fame.

George Gibson died on January 25, 1967 and is buried at Campbell Cemetery in Komoka, Ontario.

In 1987, he was posthumously inducted into the Canadian Baseball Hall of Fame.
In 2001, The Bill James Historical Baseball Abstract ranked Gibson 95th all-time among catchers.
In 2002, he was posthumously inducted into the London Sports Hall of Fame.

When David Finoli and Bill Ranier released the second edition of "The Pittsburgh Pirates Encyclopedia", George Gibson was still ranked 78th all-time in Pirates history.

The entrance to the main grandstand at Labatt Park in London, prominently displays a commemorative plaque in Gibson's honour.

Happy Birthday, George.

Sources: Wikipedia, Baseball-Reference, and years of reading about George Gibson and the Pittsburgh Pirates.

Tuesday, July 18, 2017

Maybe as close as I'll get to owning a W600

Every now and again (read: late at night when the house is quiet, and I'm too tired to do anything productive, but too stubborn to just admit that it's time to go to bed), I'll end up on eBay or Google searching things that are only peripherally related to Gibson in hopes of finding something unique.

More times than not, I come up very empty. And even if I do, I'm okay with it, because I feel like I've accomplished something by confirming there is positively nothing Gibson out there that I can add to my collection. But every once in a while, I find something.

Two weeks ago was that once in a while.
While searching for just anything and everything Pittsburgh Pirates related, I happened upon an issue of Sporting Life Magazine, and on the cover, was a composite of the 1905 Pittsburgh Pirates. The actual issue was dated November 5, 1905. Since Gibson made his major league debut in 1905, I guess that technically would make it a rookie year issue. It ended up going for nearly $150, far more than it's worth to me, so I didn't get it. I did, however, grab an image of it to share:

Gibson, in case you can't see him, is located in the second row from the top, third from the left.
The seller claims to be selling thousands of issues of Sporting Life over the next little while (The Hall of Fame in Cooperstown digitized their copies, let the "digitizer" keep them, and now, through, they are selling them all). This was enough to pique my interest. I started looking through their other auctions, and low and behold, if I didn't find this beauty:

The best part? No mention of Gibson anywhere in the auction listing! But, it wasn't a BIN, so I had to wait for about 4 days for the auction to end. When it did, I came out victorious -- with an opening bid of $19.97! And while it's not a 1905, it is from August of 1906, and features *just* Gibby on the cover! The magazine, if I can call it that, is very brittle, so I'm afraid to even try to scan it (took this image from the auction listing), but I'm very excited to have this in my collection. This page is about 11x14, so pretty giant compared to my usual pick-ups, but man is it awesome.

Adding this magazine/newspaper to my collection is probably as close as I'm going to get to ever owning a W600 Gibson. It's the same image, the same issuer, and almost the same issue date. I don't even know what a W600 Gibson would cost if one came up, but I imagine it's north of $1000. So to get this as an alternative, for 1/50th of the price, suffice it to say I'm happy. This is probably as close as I'll get to owning a W600.

Friday, June 23, 2017

Ever heard of a U1?

In my last post, I talked about B18 Felt Blankets. It's an issue I had not seriously considered collection previously, but ended up picking up because I could on the cheap.

Today, I want to show you an other fairly obscure issue. 1934 U1 Diamond Matchbooks. Diamond Matchbooks were issued in 5 distinct sets over a 4-year period (1934-1937). The subsequent years are catalogued as U2, U3 and U4, but it's not a one-to-one match between the year and the "U-number". The matchbooks were issued in 4 different colours: red, green, blue and orange, but not all colours are available for all years. I would classify Diamond Matchbooks as one of those sets where it's easy to find an example, but not necessarily easy to find a particular player/colour combination. If you search eBay, you'll find plenty of these Matchbooks on any given day, and you can easily get an example of one for under $20, but a particular player/colour combination isn't so easy.

For George Gibson specifically, he's only available in the 1934 U1 set. In theory, you can get matchbooks of Gibson in red, blue, green and orange. In practice, orange seems to be the most common, in my experience. After orange, is green, which shows up, but not quite as often. Then there is a sharp drop-off. I've seen exactly one blue matchbook cover, and I've never ever seen a red.

Here are a examples of the two Gibson matchbooks in my collection. Just like the felts, these are not something I had really considered adding to my collection, but when the well runs dry, you gotta drink something, right? For the right price (I paid under $20 for each of these), I'll happily add these to my collection. Truth be told, now that I have them, I hope to find the blue and red, and preferably with the striker still on them.


Saturday, June 10, 2017

So. B18s. Are these things cards?

Had a friend over last weekend to catch a local ball game. Given that he is also a Gibson enthusiast, it was a perfect opportunity to bust out my George Gibson collection to show off. Most people don't even know I collect baseball cards, so showing old cards to people isn't something I do often. Ever, really.

One thing we ended up talking about briefly was B18s. I figured it might be a good "card / non-card" item to post about. Until recently, they weren't even a part of my collection. I consider myself a card collector...and I don't really see B18s as cards. They're made of felt after all, so they can't be cards, right? The things is, it's been increasingly difficult to add Gibson items to my collection as of late, so when I was able to grab the "purple pennant" variation for less than $30 a few months back, I jumped at the chance. And I didn't really know what to expect when I got it in the mail. I was pleasantly surprised.

As somebody who always targets "cardboard", it was neat to see and be able to actually handle this issue. Compared to tobacco cards, these things are huge. They measure just over 5 inches by 5 inches. They are a really thin fabric. If you look closely at them, you can see the individual stitching that makes up the image, borders, etc.

B18s, according to, were issued in 1914 by the Egyptienne Straight Cigarettes company. I believe they were folded in half and inserted into the packs. There are 90 players in the set (9 players from each of 10 ten major league teams), but there are variations.

Not more than a few weeks after I picked up the "purple pennant" version, a "red pennant" version showed up on eBay as well. Again, normally I don't go after this kind of stuff -- but after the first one, I was kinda intent on completing the pair. I got this for a minimum bid of like $25, I think. As you can see, there is a bit of fraying on the "third base corner" of it, but it doesn't take away from the overall aesthetic if you ask me. The only real difference between the two is the replacing of purple with red. I'm not actually sure if any of the players in this set have more than two variations -- but now that I've got this pairing, I wish there were more than just two Gibsons in the set.

Even if they're not cards ;)

Sunday, May 28, 2017

Never judge a card by its corners

In a perfect world, every card in my collection is flawless.
Sharp corners, no creases, no writing, crisp images. Of course, in that perfect world, I already have every George Gibson card, because I also have unlimited funds, and a time machine. And right now we're talking about how awesome my seats were at the 1909 World Series.

Alas, this is the real world.
In the real world, I collect cards that are over 100 years old. And in that world, there are cards that I just don't expect to be able to add to my collection, either because they are too rare or too expensive (often both). In the real world, though, there are collectors that are just as interested as helping a fellow collector add a card to their collection as they are in adding cards to their own.

Such is the case with this card. A long-time collector over on the Net54 Baseball Forum, had this card as a type in his collection. He and I have traded in the past. It's not uncommon for a collector to offer of a specific type in their collection to a collector wanting that specific player. It usually just comes down to finding a comparable card from that set to trade (ie. same issue, comparable calibre player, comparable condition). Truthfully, I've had many collectors make me this offer. But many times the issue is just too tough, or expensive, that making the trade work is difficult. That's why this deal was unique. Realizing the difficulty of making that trade, but understanding how well this card would fit into my collection, he was willing to sell me the card (at a very fair price), realizing it would put a hole in his type collection, but allow me to fill one in my Gibson collection.

So what card is this? The ACC designation is T216 Peoples Tobacco. The cards feature white borders and tobacco ads on the backs like T206 White Borders, but were issued later. The SGC slab that this card sits in attributes it as a 1911-16 issue. Other sources say 1911-14. I do not know which range is correct. Some things I do know: This set features three different ad backs: Kotton Cigarettes, Mino and Virgina Extra. The set also features Federal League players in addition to American and National League players. Oh, and this issue is very tough! Finding them at all is a challenge.

So to add this card to my collection, in any condition, is awesome. I'm thrilled with it, to say the least! I realize there are some creases, and the top right corner is missing, but really, the creases don't take too much away from the image and the ad on the back is complete even with a partially missing corner. Considering I never ever thought I'd own a T216, to add this to my collection at all is a miracle, but the details on how that miracle came about make this card the leading contender for pick-up of the year!

Sunday, April 30, 2017

Strike a pose

One thing about a prewar player collection that I've noticed: Eventually you'll run out of cards or you'll run out of money. George Gibson, thankfully, has quite a few cards, many of which, are affordable. But if you collect him long enough, you'll eventually pick up most of the common/inexpensive stuff. That can lead to long gaps in between pickups.

And if you're a collector, then you understand what that's like.
In order to keep adding to the collection you might find yourself expanding the definition of "card".
In my case, I started to collect felts, which I had never really been that interested in. I find myself looking at pins and discs and chips a little more often now, too.
Postcards have always been on my radar, but they are rather expensive and show up rarely.

And then there are photos.

Photos can be an interesting way to expand the player collection, and can be affordable. In the case of Gibson, that doesn't really apply to photos of his playing days, but if you're willing to collect photos from his managing days, then you might be surprised what you can find.

Below is the photo that I most recently added to my Gibson collection. I found it on a photo dealer's site while searching Google for...I don't even remember what ;)

This is, hands down, my favourite Gibson photo of my collection. The back has a Central News Photo Service stamp and the caption that was included with the photo says:
Specially posed picture of Gibson, manager, taken in the "dug-out" at the Polo Grounds, Ny., Aug 25.
Oddly, it doesn't have a year. Gibson managed the Pirates from 1920-22 and again from 1932-34. At some point I'll go hunting through some New York papers to try to put a year on this. It shouldn't be too difficult, but for now I'm willing to let it remain a mystery.