Jackie Mitchell strikes out Babe Ruth and Lou Gehrig

Her story has been told for over 80 years but not everyone knows the whole story. There are bits and pieces that have been passed down and meshed into the story you think you know.

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He curves were too much for them is based on the true story of Jackie Mitchell, the 18 year-old woman that signed a professional baseball contract in 1931. Her first and only appearance on the mound for the Chattanooga Lookouts was against the feared New York Yankees. On April 2nd, 1931 (the game was scheduled for April Fools Day) Jackie and the Lookouts went to battle again the Yankees in Engel Stadium. Jackie went in during the first inning. The first batter she faced was the Mighty Babe Ruth.

Jackie went on to not only strike out Babe Ruth but also Lou Gehrig. A story quickly spread that baseball commissioner Kennesaw Mountain Landis got word about this unbelievable feat and voided Jackie’s contract immediately and banned all women from organized baseball.  The truth is, it simply did not happen.

Landis knew all about Jackie before April 2nd and women weren’t banned from baseball until many years later.

April 2nd, 1931 wasn’t the end of Jackie’s story, nor was it the beginning. What did happen that led up to this extraordinary and historic baseball event? Was it all a gimmick orchestrated by Lookouts president and the “P.T. Barnum of the Bush Leagues” Joe Engel?

Read Her curves were too much for them to find out more about Jackie and her story.

Available now in select stores and on Amazon.com

Merry Christmas and a baseball pillow

A very merry Christmas to some and a happy Thursday to everyone else.

I’m impossible to buy for and I really hate getting gifts. I love to give but always feel awkward getting gifts.  When family persists, I request commodities such as cologne or something homemade.

I get plenty of things throughout the year and really do not need more things. I think giving to someone in need or to a charity instead of to me is a much better thing to do.

But sometimes I am surprised.

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The origin of this particular gift goes back to late 1950’s minor league baseball.

Farm teams were, depending on the direction you were headed, either one step away or one step down from the big leagues.

The towns were smaller, the crowds were smaller and the money was smaller. The parent big league team would send used uniforms to the farm teams to be recycled. And by recycled, I mean squeeze every bit of life left in some already used and abused uniforms. Sometimes the major league teams letters and emblems would be removed and replaced with the minor league names and logos. Sometimes it was just easier to sew logos right over the existing logos.

Such as the case here. It appears that a Washington Senators uniform had been sent to Chattanooga circa 1956-57 to be reused. A possibly ruined Chattanooga Lookouts uniform had the “CHATTANOOGA” cut from the front flannel and sewed over “WASHINGTON” on the hand me down jersey.

Flash forward decades later and someone buys the the jersey. The new owner carefully removes the two scrap pieces of flannel and are left with 2 items now, a vintage Washington jersey and a couple of scraps of flannel that spell Chattanooga.

I acquired the 2 flaps of flannel because well, Lookouts baseball history, but I had no idea what I would do with them. They were oddly cut and really not usable for anything I could think of at the time. I held onto them until the next time I visited my mother. I figured my mother was the Queen of Crafts and maybe she could figure something out.

I had all but forgotten about the 2 pieces of felt until today, Christmas morning. After watching the kids open gifts, my mother handed me a bag with my name on it. I pulled the tissue paper out and found a pillow. A grey flannel pillow with the 2 scraps of jersey flannel incorporated into the design. My mother had found a way to purpose these partial pieces of history and give them life once again.

I did get the cologne, too.

A 1925 game-used bat that traveled from the hardware store to the Southern Association

I am probably one of the largest collectors of  all things vintage Chattanooga Lookouts. There may be others out there as big but I know one great collector that owned a collection of all things Chattanooga baseball that would rival my small personal museum.

While I was in Chattanooga for the week of Thanksgiving, this collector was holding a sale of his collection. I knew of a few pieces he had that I wanted and I contacted him for some pre-sale negotiations.

One of the items I purchased was previously unknown to me.  It was a side-written bat. I find side-written bats particularly interesting, especially if they are related to former Lookouts players.

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A side-written bat is simply a bat that was sent to Hillerich & Bradsby (aka Louisville Slugger) to be used as the model for the making of bats. When the bats were received, they would be written on with a black grease pencil with the players name and date received. Sometimes the team would be noted as well. These bats were used on the lathe to make an identical copy and the original would be stored in the warehouse for future orders by that player.

The story of this bat begins in the small north Georgia town of Chickamauga, GA and with a player named Clarence “Cap” Crossley.

Only 60 years before this bat was turned, Chickamauga was the site of one of the largest battles of the American Civil War, or as we call it in the South, the war between the states, as there was nothing civil about it. The town hasn’t changed much since the early 20th century and I can imagine the building that was the birthplace of this bat is still standing.

This bat must have been a special bat to Clarence. It isn’t your typical Louisville Slugger bat. In fact it isn’t a Lousiville Slugger at all. Upon first glance, it appears to be a vintage pre-war bat that was taken care of. Its clean and without major damage. It has a rich dark patina that you hope  to find on every vintage game-used bat. It features a “Hornsby” style knob that isn’t seen much in baseball today. I believe they also call this type of flared knob a “Clemente” style knob, too.

While it may look like a typical bat from this era, It was specially made for a hardware store under the name of “R. Stogsdill of Chickamauga GA” The bat brand is in a similar oval style to Louisville Slugger. It carries a “HY POWER TRADE MARK” designation.

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Adding to the evidence of it being a game-used bat is the batboy repair. It is a clean and professional repair to a crack in the handle, complete with nails.

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By June of 1925, the bat must have seen enough action and Clarence thought it was time to get himself his own model bat from Hillerich & Bradsby. Above the bat brand is the remnants of a mailing label. The bat was simply labeled with address and postage and dropped in the mail.

Once the bat reached the Hillerich & Bradsby factory, it was side written with Clarence’s name and a date of June 1925 and placed in the warehouse to wait for Crossley to order bats. It is assumed that this was his bat during the 1924 and ’25 seasons with the Lookouts. The fact that it was turned only a few miles south of Chattanooga backs this thought.

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Not much is remembered about the career Minor Leaguer Clarence Crossley other than his baseball record. We know he was born in 1902 and played in the bush leagues for 18 seasons. After his playing days he was a manager and even spent a few years later in life as a scout for the Reds and the White Sox.

Side-written bats can provide not only important reference information when dealing with valuable bats such as those used by Babe Ruth and Ty Cobb but also determine value of a bat that could have historical significance. A bat that belonged to a Black Sox member that is side-written after 1920 would be worth less than one with a date before their banishment from baseball. Sometimes the date can determine the value.

Side-written bats can also add to the story.

Every bat tells a story. From ball marks and cleat marks to nails and cracks, every bat is a part of baseball history. And so many stories are lost to the ages. Even players can be largely forgotten. Sometimes all we have today is what they left behind in the vaults of Hillerich & Bradsby.

 

 

Everyone’s Wagner is real, right? We all want to find treasure.

If I had a dollar every time I have heard this at a show…

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I know everyone wants to find treasure. I do too.
But we can get blinded by “what could be” and forget about facts.
What got me into wanting to learn more about fakes and alterations in the first place was buying a small stack of reprints at a flea market in the late 80s. I really thought I had found treasure according to the price guide values. When I figured out they were not real, I decided that I would not let that happen to me again. I learned a great deal over the years but it did happen again. Each time I have learned from it.
I have learned plenty about cards and I’m still learning. There will always be new types of fake cards and alterations coming in.
Are there still cards like T206 Wagners out there waiting to be discovered? You bet. In fact, we graded one in 2008 that literally came out from under someones bed. It had been in the family for many years.
One thing that makes such big finds special is that they are few and far between. Like the Black Swamp find, it’s a once in a lifetime find, but it was right there in an attic all those years just waiting for someone to find.
The thought of unearthing treasure can also blind us from the obvious. There are hundreds of “cards” listed on ebay stating they are reprints because ebay requires them to do so. If someone has a potential six-figure card in their hands, do they get it authenticated or do they dump it on ebay as a reprint? If a seller is savy enough to use ebay, they are generally savy enough to figure out exactly what they have. They have given the buyer all the info they need.
It’s that potential of getting rich quick that blinds some to make bad purchases.