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.

Friday, April 21, 2017

Almost got rained out ... but didn't

Wednesday was a particularly gloomy day here. It was overcast all day. And given that it's rained off-and-on all week, it wasn't a big deal -- or a big surprise -- that the forecast was predicting an 80% chance of rain.

But I work inside, so as long as I don't have to shovel snow or worry about road conditions to drive to work, I don't pay much attention to the weather. I only really noticed the weather yesterday three times. The first two times were when it was raining so hard that you could hear it banging on the roof of the building that I work in.

Otherwise, I was pretty much oblivious. See, I won a new Gibson card at auction at the beginning of the month, and got the email that it had shipped a few days ago. By yesterday, it was close enough that it could arrive "any day", so really, that's where my attention was. I probably checked the USPS site 8 times waiting for an update. Finally, after work just before heading home, I got the status update I wanted: "Package delivered."

As I pulled into my driveway, I was scanning the mailbox and front porch for signs of my new acquisition. All I could see was some flyers hanging out of the mailbox, and they were soaked. It wasn't until I actually walked on to the porch that I noticed a small white parcel sitting out in the open. It wasn't in the door; wasn't in the mailbox; wasn't under the overhang of my roof. It was just sitting there. And that was the third time I noticed the weather yesterday.

Instant panic turned into instant relief though, as somehow, the parcel was totally dry. Not so much as a raindrop had touched it. I have no idea how the mail carrier timed it to get it there in between rainfalls -- and truthfully, the card was well packaged and protected inside anyway -- but the box was fine. Reusable, even. Until I failed so miserably at opening it.

Wanna know what was inside?


Might not look like much, but I'm thrilled to have it. That is a 1909 E92 Croft's Candy George Gibson. The pose is referred to as the "back pose", as there are some candy issues that contain 2 Gibson cards, the other being the "front pose".

I'm particularly happy to acquire this card as I've never owned a Croft's Candy back before. I currently have a Dockman back, and once upon a time owned a Croft's Cocoa back (the toughest of the four by far). But this is the first time I've owned a Crofts Candy. The black ink on the back is probably the more common variation. Some Croft's Candy backs can be found in blue and red ink though I don't believe the red ink variation has been confirmed for Gibson.

This exact image can be found on Gibson's E101, E105 and T216 cards as well. I have an E101 in my collection and used to have an E105. I'd like to get one again, but they don't come up often and when they do, they are anything but cheap. And the T216s? A whole other level of tough!

But that's part of the fun. If I already had them all what would be left to collect?

Saturday, April 15, 2017

Bison or Bisons?

Last weekend, a friend was heading to a Buffalo Bisons game, and allowed me to tag along (and thank you for that, Marty, I had a blast). Going to a baseball game is always a welcome adventure in my world. Having only ever driven past Coca-Cola Field, I was excited to get to step inside and see the facility. I was also excited to watch the Blue Jays farm team, and having recently learned about the Sports Museum inside the stadium, I was curious to check it out on the off chance there might be something Gibson in there.

I'll spare you the suspense. There was no Gibson to be found on this day. It was a long shot at best as Gibson is but a minor footnote in Buffalo Bisons history. He played in 6 games near the end of the 1903 season and that was it. Nonetheless, it was still worth checking. The museum had more than just baseball too. Much more, actually. Football, hockey, boxing, concerts that have taken place at the assorted sports venues, etc. Just no Gibson.

And the game? It was great. What should have been the third game of the series ended up being the season & home opener for Buffalo on account of weather conditions the previous two days. The forecast was cold, but the sun was not to be outdone. I still managed to get a mild sunburn. It was well worth it, though, to watch the Junior Jays topple the Junior Yankees by a score of 4-2, which included Rowdy Tellez hitting home runs in each of his first two at bats of the season.

The stadium is nice. I'm horrendous when it comes to picture taking; I took none. But our seats were up behind the 3B dugout, and the view was great. For a home opener, I'm surprised the crowd wasn't larger, but that just meant shorter lineups for the beef on weck ;)

In the week that has passed since that game, the Bisons have won another 6 games against 2 losses and find themselves first in the International League with a 7-2 record.

But I'm left pondering two things: Is there anything out there besides newspaper accounts documenting Gibson's time with Buffalo -- like a cool RPPC or something? And second, are they really the Buffalo Bisons or should they be the Buffalo Bison?

Saturday, April 1, 2017

Blog bat Around: T205 Gibson Back Run

A few weeks ago, Chris over at the blog Nachos Grande, tossed out a suggestion for a 'Blog Bat Around' topic: In this case, the hardest set you/we/I have tried to complete, am trying to complete, etc. Seemed liked a cool idea, so I figured I'd use it as a chance to show off my quest to complete a T205 back run of George Gibson. Here is my post about the T206 back run, if you're interested.

First, a bit about the T205 set.
The set was issued in 1911 by the American Tobacco Company (same company behind T206s).
The card are about the same size, and do feature assorted tobacco brands on the back, but unlike the T206s, they have gold, instead of white, borders, and the logos on the back are much smaller. Filling that extra space is a brief bio of the player, and a few years of stats.
And though the T205 set does have some short prints that can be difficult, the set is less than half of the size of the T206 set. A couple of great sites for info about T205s can be found here:


 So, Mr. Gibson.
As far as I can tell, there are 8 backs available for Gibson in this set.
They are:

American Beauty
Honest Long Cut
Piedmont (Factory 25 and 42)
Polar Bear
Sweet Caporal

When I first started assembling this back set (about 10 years ago), nobody that I talked to (including some advanced T205 collectors) had any record of their being a Piedmont 42 or American Beauty of Gibson. The Hassan or Honest Long Cut was unknown, too, but I can't remember which.

The five cards shown above are the five I have, so far. Actually, I have an Honest Long Cut too, but don't have a scan handy. That leaves me needing three: Sweet Caporal, the American Beauty and the Polar Bear.

Neither the Sweet Caporal nor the Polar Bear are particularly though, though the Polar Bear seems to be susceptible to staining, so finding a decent one for a fair price can be tough. With a bit of luck, and some timing, I am confident I can grab a Sweet Caporal and a Polar Bear this year.

The American Beauty, on the other hand, is a whole other level of tough. I have seen two or three in over 10 years. The first one I saw was on eBay when the AB was not a confirmed Gibson back. It was listed at a price that I was uncomfortable taking a risk at, at the time. It got re-listed multiple times before finally selling. I'd gladly buy the card today at any of those eBay prices I saw. A chance late last year to get one slipped through my fingers by a matter of a day; I'm not optimistic I'll see another chance anytime soon.

But that's part of the fun! I'm in no rush to complete this back run, but that's a good thing, because it may not matter if I am ;)

Saturday, March 25, 2017

A look at the B-R Homer Log

George Gibson was known for being a defensive catcher. He was known for his ability to develop and handle pitchers. He was not known for being a home run hitter.

In his brief minor league career, there was some thought that he might be able to be a very successful major league batter. But it didn't pan out. In 1905 and 1906 he batted an identical, and unflattering, .178. In his next 10 seasons in Pittsburgh, Gibson would remain north of .200, but in his first season in New York, in 1917, he batted only .171. He'd end his career with a .236 average for his 16 seasons. Gibson clearly remained in the league for is other skills.

But back to home runs.

I was perusing Baseball-Reference recently (I spend more time on that site that I am willing to admit), and while there was reminded of the homer log.

I thought it might be interesting to look at some of Gibson's homers.
I won't talk about all of them, but here are some things that stood out to me:

According to the homer log, Gibson's first career homer came off of none other than Christy Mathewson. It was inside the park homer at the Polo Grounds on July 18, 1905. That's not even 3 weeks into Gibson's big league career; 4 days before his 25th birthday.

His next one came just about a month later, August 24, 1905. This time, it left the yard, and the victim was future teammate Vic Willis.

Gibson went homerless for all of 1906, and then hit 3 inside-the-park in 1907 within about six weeks: May 2nd, June 6th and June 10th. Gibson also hit 3 home runs in 1910, after hitting 2 in each of 1908 and 1909.

In 1913, Gibson hit his 13th career home run off of Rube Marquard.
George hit one other home run in 1913, and then his last career home run on August 19, 1915.

When it was all said and done, Gibson his 15 career home runs off of 15 different pitchers.
Seven of the fifteen were of the inside-the-park variety.
Six of the eight that left the park were hit in Boston.
Only one was hit at home (at Forbes, in 1909).

And maybe the most fun, is that 3 of the 15 home runs were hit off of pitchers that would eventually join the ranks of the hall of fame. In other words, 20% of Gibson's career home runs were off of hall-of-fame pitchers.

Sunday, March 19, 2017

For the rookie card collectors ...

Image courtesy of
In my last post, I touched on the end of George Gibson's career, in a way. The culmination of years of playing, managing, teaching and treating wounded fingers was his induction into the Canadian Baseball Hall of Fame. This week, let's go back to the beginning. Or at least, closer to the beginning.

If you collected baseball cards in the 80's and 90's, then you almost certainly remember the rookie card craze: The hoarding of thousands of Donruss Rated Rookies or Topps Traded cards of a certain player and just waiting to cash in and retire to a life of luxury. Of course we know now it didn't play out that way. At least not for the majority; I'm sure somebody made some pretty good money off of those cards, though I'm guessing they cashed out like 30 years ago. My guess is that most people that invested in 1000 Gregg Jefferies or 500 Kevin Maas cards are still waiting for the right time to cash out.

Now, if you're like me, then even though you aren't looking to hoard and retire on rookie cards, you do still have some appreciation for them.

When it comes to pre-war baseball cards, labeling a rookie card becomes a bit of an challenge. For starters, what defines a card? Is it the dimensions? The material? Does it have to be available nationally? How is it packaged? Can it be round? What if it's mounted on something? Can it be a team photo? And once those questions have answers, we have to ask about the league. Can a rookie card be from the player's minor league team or does it have to be their major league? And what defines a major league? What if the player's major league debut was in that awkward 1901-03 era when the American League was forming? Or what if it was during the Federal League era between 1913-15?

To re-iterate the point: defining the rookie card for prewar players is tough. What card that I currently consider to be George Gibson's major league rookie card is the 1902-11 W600 Sporting Life Cabinet. It seems to be generally accepted that this card was issued in 1905. These cards could be ordered directly from Sporting Life Magazine; I assume researchers have noted that Gibson shows up as early as 1905 in the list of players that could be ordered. That's pretty good reaction time by Sporting Life, considering Gibson didn't debut with the Pirates until July 2, 1905.

Without knowing the first date Gibson's W600 became available, there might be one other contending issue for Gibson's rookie card as well. A 1901-17 Police Gazette Supplement was issued on August 12, 1905 of the Pittsburgh Pirates team. So it's possible that Gibson's rookie card was issued less than 6 weeks after he made his debut -- BUT -- that's only if Gibson is in the picture. I have yet to see a good, clear, scan of this issue to even confirm if Gibson is in it.

And again, all of this is really dependent on how you define a rookie card.
There are a few, extremely rare,  issues that feature George Gibson while he was still playing with the Montreal Royals in the Eastern League. If you're definition of rookie card includes minor league cards, then all of what I've just written is moot.

If you know of another issue featuring George Gibson that you would classify as his rookie card, share your thoughts, I'd love to hear them!

Saturday, March 11, 2017

1987: The year the ball hall called

When he was at his best, George Gibson was the best. From 1908-1912, Moon was among the premier catchers of the league -- a who's who of National League catchers with the likes of Kling, Meyers and Bresnahan.

Of the four men, Gibson yields the lowest career batting average and RBI total; anecdotally, it is said that Gibson could be counted on for hits when they counted, however. It was, of course, Gibson's defense and ability to handle pitchers that kept him in the conversation. From 1907-10, Gibson led the NL in games played by catcher. In 1909, 1910 and 1912 he was tops in the NL in fielding percentage. In 1909 and 1910 he caught the most base stealers in the NL (while also allowing the most base stealers in 1910). For his career, he's 10th for base stealers caught and 33rd among catchers in double plays turned.

Interestingly, from 1905-1913, one of these four men backstopped the National League representative in the World Series.

Of the four, only Roger Bresnahan has been elected to the Baseball Hall of Fame in Cooperstown (a quick read on Wikipedia has a quote from Bill James suggesting that his election was a mistake).

But the Canadian Baseball Hall of Fame wasn't about to forget about George Gibson. He was inducted post-humously, in 1987, along with Fergie Jenkins, Rockey Nelson and Russ Ford. The image included in this post is the cover of the program from Gibson's induction. I picked it up recently and it's in very good condition. I was hesitant to scan any of this inside because I didn't want to crack the spine -- the contents are mostly ads, with a one-page bio of each player. Gibson's page contains the same information that is on his plaque at the hall...which you can see if you're ever in St. Mary's. Seriously, it's not a huge museum, but if you're ever in the area it's worth the visit. If you have some time right now, actually, it's worth visiting their site to check out what they've got going on, including their plans for a new, bigger, museum.