Monday, January 4, 2016

Baseball Scorecard: 1939

THC recently came across a 1939 New York Giants baseball scorecard which he'd gotten from his dad many years ago.  Let's take a little trip back in time to see some of the changes in business and culture in America over the past 75 years as well as discussing two teams playing a three game series which included one thrilling contest (and in which we meander off into a disquisition on the third base travails of the Giants in those years). We'll go page by page through the program.

A couple of general observations from THC's look at the scorecard.  The first is the prevalence of ads for tobacco products which remained significant in our society until the 1970s but are no longer seen; the four cigarettes advertised in the scorecard accounted for about 90% of all cigarettes sold in the U.S. in the 1930s.  The second is that every hotel at which the Giants stayed while traveling to other National League cities has an ad in the scorecard.  Finally, you'll learn about the connection between the scorecard and the Teapot Dome Scandal.

1939 was the official centennial of baseball based on its supposed creation in 1839 in the quaint upstate New York village of Cooperstown, New York by Abner Doubleday, who went on to be a mediocre Union general during the Civil War.  The Cooperstown creation story is a complete myth.  The origins of baseball go back to other games played in the 18th century and in its form as baseball was primarily an urban game developed in Northeast cities, most importantly New York (for more read John Thorn's illuminating account, Baseball In The Garden Of Eden: The Secret History of the Early Game).  Nonetheless, in the early 20th century baseball team owners preferred an origin myth placing the game's creation in a more pastoral setting.  In the 1930s the Hall of Fame was established in Cooperstown, which is a lovely small town, and the first induction ceremony was held on June 12, 1939.

Shoes were a big deal back then, as they are today in sports  (see Nike, Adidas, etc).  The Regal Shoe Company incorporated in Maine in 1907 with manufacturing in Maine and Milford, Massachusetts.  It was acquired by Brown Shoe Company in 1953. 

What are "Little Cigars"?  Cigarette sized cigars in small flat tins, designed to be smoked quickly.  Between The Acts Little Cigars, made by Lorillard, were still produced into the 1950s.

Another Lorillard product, Muriel Cigars was a very popular 10 cent cigar that is still being made today.   Mild and aromatic taste.  THC remembers the brand from its commercials in the 1960s & 70s featuring Edie Adams and using the theme "Hey Big Spender".
The publisher of the scorecard is Harry M Stevens.  Stevens (1856-1934) became the leading food concessionaire in major league baseball and is considered by some to be the inventor of the hot dog.  The business he started in 1887 remained family owned until sold to Aramark in 1994.

Camel, the first packaged cigarette brand, was brought to market by RJ Reynolds in 1913.  Its name is derived from its use of Turkish paper and its slogan, "I'd walk a mile for a Camel" was employed for decades.  In its first century more than four trillion Camel cigarettes were sold worldwide.  One of the 3 most popular brands in 1939; the others also have ads in the scorecard.

Jacob Ruppert, born in 1867, purchased the New York Yankees in 1915 and died earlier in 1939.  It was under Ruppert's ownership that the Yankees became THE YANKEES.  He was the man who brought Babe Ruth to New York and built Yankee Stadium.  Ruppert was born into a family of brewers and the Ruppert brewery, producing Jacob Ruppert Beer and Ale, was located in Manhattan's heavily German, Yorkville neighborhood.  After his death, the family mismanaged the brewery and in the mid-1940s sold Knickerbocker, its biggest brand, to its main competitor Rheingold.

Ward Baking Company, located in New York City, founded in 1849 and renamed Continental Baking Company in 1925, was the largest bakery in the country in 1939.  Along with Tip-Top Bread it, more importantly for those of us who grew up in the 50s and 60s, also made Twinkies (invented in 1930) and Wonder Bread!  Continental was purchased by ITT in 1968, Ralston Purina in 1984, Interstate Bakeries in 1995, renamed as Hostess Brands in 2009 and shut down in 2012.  However, the following year a new New Hostess Brands was launched (headquartered in Kansas) and it is still manufacturing Twinkies, though Tip-Top Bread is long gone.

Canada Dry Ginger Ale was invented in 1904 by John McLaughlin, a Canadian pharmacist.  The term "dry" is used because it is not sweetened.  In 1919 Canada Dry began to be sold in New York quickly becoming so popular that the company soon opened a manufacturing plant in Manhattan.  Its popularity soared during Prohibition when its utility as a mixer helped disguise the taste of home brewed liquor.  Today it is owned by the Dr Pepper Snapple Group.

The Congress Hotel in Chicago opened in 1893 across from Grant Park on South Michigan Avenue.  Known today as the Congress Plaza Hotel.

Designed by the same architect who did the famous Peabody Hotel in Memphis, the Netherland Plaza in Cincinnati opened in 1931 with 800 rooms.  It still operates and is now the Hilton Cincinnati Netherlands Plaza.

Opened in 1898, the Hotel Schenley was known as the "Waldorf" of Pittsburgh.  After Forbes Field opened down the street in 1909 it became the place where visiting teams stayed.  Sold to University of Pittsburgh in 1956 it now serves as the student union building and is known as the William Pitt Union building.

Founded in 1871 in Wisconsin, White Rock Beverages bottled and distributed natural spring water, seltzer water and sodas.  In the 1930s it was one of biggest beverage companies in the U.S. though it is a fairly small business today.  An image of Psyche has served as the company logo since its inception and is still used today.  The image of Santa Claus that we are familiar with today, cheery, chubby with that red suit, was actually introduced first in White Rock advertisements.
This image of Psyche is used on all of White Rock's beverages. In the late 1800s when White Rock started up, the image wasn't considered lewd or suggestive, the company's president says.

The Ben Franklin Hotel opened in 1923.  It gained notoriety when in 1947 it refused to accommodate Dodgers rookie Jackie Robinson (an incident depicted in the movie 42).  In response, Dodgers GM Branch Rickey moved the residence of the entire team to the Warwick Hotel.  During the 1980s the Franklin was converted to apartments (412 units) and offices (120,000 square feet).

When it opened in 1930 the Hotel Chase in St Louis was the city's premier hotel.  It still exists today as The Chase.

Boston's Fenway Park opened in 1912 and so did the Copley Plaza Hotel.  Within walking distance of Fenway, in February 1935 it hosted a dinner to celebrate the return of Babe Ruth to Boston (for the sad story see Babe Hits Three and Says Goodbye).  The climax of Robert Parker's first Spenser novel, The Godwulf Manuscript, (which THC recommends you read) takes place in Room 411.

Located at 481 8th Avenue, the Hotel New Yorker was built in 1929.  A 43 story Art Deco designed hotel with 2,500 rooms, it remained one of the city's most fashionable hotels through the 1950s.  Purchased by Hilton in 1953, it closed in 1972.  Reopened in 1999 with about 1,000 rooms it's currently owned by the Wyndham chain.

Before looking at the ads on the next two pages, let's examine the teams.

The Giants played the Pittsburgh Pirates that day.  Neither team would have a memorable season in 1939, the Giants finishing 4th with a record of 77-74 and the Pirates a mediocre 5th, winning only 68 and losing 85 games.  But when did this specific game take place?  Each team hosted each of its rivals eleven times in four series over the course of a season.  In 1939, the Pirates visited the Giants on May 10-11, June 10-12, July 19-21 and August 24-26. The scorecard was not filled out, so the next step was to consult

In those days, the Giants scorecard was printed in several editions during the season, with each one showing the anticipated lineups for each team based on changes during the course of the season.  THC looked for players on both rosters who only appeared in a limited number of games that year and through a process of elimination determined that the scorecard was from a game during the three day series between the Giants and Pirates on July 19, 20 and 21 which saw the Pirates sweep a Giants team in the midst of a nine-game losing streak by scores of 10-3, 8-4 and 4-3.  The games, played on a Wednesday, Thursday and Friday drew small crowds of 5,331, 4,310 and 5,355 respectively.   There were ten Hall of Famers on the field, along the baselines or in the dugout during the series. oddly shaped Polo Grounds, located near West 155th Street in Upper Manhattan along the Harlem River)

If you know your baseball history, you might notice that Carl Hubbell is not listed as one of the Giant starters.  After winning 20 games in five consecutive seasons, Hubbell began having arm trouble the prior year.  In 1939 he was a regular starter at the beginning of the season, but was removed after facing only three batters in a start on June 4 and did not make another start until July 18, the day before the Pirate series began.  Manny Salvo, listed in the program as a starter, was doing so regularly throughout the month of June, making his last regular turn on July 4, indicating that this edition of the scorecard was probably published in late June or early July of 1939.

Along with Hubbell, the Giants featured another future Hall of Famer, Mel Ott and their manager, Bill Terry also ended up in the Hall, along with coach Travis Jackson, who was admitted by the Veterans Committee in a move that made no sense at the time and even less today.

Pirates manager Pie Traynor was also a future Hall member as was coach Honus Wagner, the greatest shortstop of the 20th century.  The Pirates started three players who would later have plaques in Cooperstown.  Arky Vaughn was probably the best shortstop of the 1930s.  Vaughn, who went 5 for 5 in the opening game of the series, had his career shortened by service during WWII and then retired because he couldn't stand playing for Leo Durocher.

Chuck Klein's best days were already behind him.  His first five seasons (1929-33) with the Philadelphia Phillies were statistically phenomenal, leading the league in homers four times, RBIs and doubles twice, slugging three times and capped by winning the Triple Crown in 1933.  Chuck was substantially helped by playing in a high scoring era and being a left-handed hitter in the friendly confines of his home stadium, the Baker Bowl, with its 280 foot right field wall.  Klein hit .356, .386, .337, .348 and .368 during those years but his home field averages were .391, .439, .401, 423 and .467.  Traded to the Cubs before the 1934 season, Klein batting statistics returned to earth and after two disappointing seasons the Cubs returned him to the Phillies in 1936 but he couldn't recover the earlier magic becoming a decent but no longer outstanding ballplayer.  The crowning blow came on June 30, 1938 when the decrepit Baker Bowl closed (if you want to know how bad the Bowl was go to this link and scroll down to a 1937 article from the Chicago Tribune that claims there are at least a dozen Single A minor league parks better than it and also makes some comments about Klein).  Chuck was hitting .290 on the day the park closed but his final average was only .247.  When he began the 1939 season hitting .191 (9 for 47) with no power, he was traded to the Pirates.   After starting 6 for 30, Klein embarked on a twenty seven game surge, which included the Giants series, during which he hit .400 (44 for 110) with power - 9 doubles, 2 triples and five homers and driving in 26 runs.  It was to be the last hot streak of his career - playing part time over the next five seasons he hit less than .200.

The third player was center fielder Lloyd Waner, a very marginal member of the Hall, who'd hit .300 for the final time in his career the prior year.  Lloyd's older brother and teammate, Paul, was a legitimate Hall of Famer but after going 0 for 4 on June 27 he only made pinch hitting appearances until August 2 and missed the entire Giants series.

The first two games of the series were easy wins for the Pirates, but the finale, won by the Pirates 4-3, was a tight and exciting contest.

The Pirates scored first, when first baseman Elbie Fletcher stole home as part of a double steal in the top of the second inning (he only stole four bases all year).  Elbie had skills that were unrecognized in that era, drawing lots of walks and leading the National League in on-base percentage three years in a row from 1940 through 1942. Fletcher)

The 1-0 lead for the Pirates held up until the bottom of the 6th, when Mel Ott doubled and Zeke Bonura singled placing runners on second and third for Tom Hafey.  Hafey, cousin of Hall of Famer Chick Hafey, was playing third base in his first major league game. Manager Bill Terry had moved Mel Ott from third base back to his usual position in right field, moving Frank Demaree from right to center.

Ott, who reached the majors at age 17 in 1926, started to play some at third in 1937 (60 games), a position the club had trouble filling adequately, and even more so the following year (113 games).  In 1939 it looked like the Giants had solved their problem at third with George Myatt who'd hit .306 in 170 at bats in his 1938 rookie year and showed good range in the field.  However, Myatt started off slowly in '39, hitting .189 and was optioned to Jersey City in mid-May (he later resurfaced with the Washington Senators during the war years and went on to a long career as a coach with the Senators, White Sox, Milwaukee, Detroit and the Phillies, retiring in 1972) and Ott was inserted at third for several games.  The Giants then picked up former New York Yankees star Tony Lazzeri.  Tony played 13 games, hitting .295 but with little range in the field and was released on June 7 (and never again played in the majors) to be replaced by Lou Chiozza.  Chiozza, who entered the big leagues with the Phillies in 1934 and led the league in errors by third basemen in his first two years, played 40 games at third for the Giants and hit .268.  On July 17 he was playing shortstop during a game with the Cardinals when he collided with outfielder Jo Jo Moore while chasing a pop fly and fractured his leg and ending his big league career, which is why Ott was back at third for the first two games of the Pirate series until Hafey was called up from the minors.

                                                                                                                       (Tom Hafey)
Photo of Tom Hafey
Hafey stepped to the plate and launched a three run homer giving the Giants the lead.  He remained the starting third baseman for the rest of the season, slugging six homers and batting .242 but by the next year was back in the minors as the Giants moved shortstop Burgess Whitehead to third for the 1940 season.  Hafey briefly made it back to the majors in 1944, playing eight games for the St Louis Browns.

Entering the top of the 9th, the Giants still led 3-1 and pitcher Cliff Melton was going strong giving up only three hits in the first eight innings.  Pinch hitter Bill Brubaker led off with a single but Fern Bell flied to right and then Arky Vaughn forced Brubaker at second, making it two outs with a runner at first.  But Melton walked Johnny Rizzo and then Chuck Klein, in the midst of his hot streak, smashed a three run homer putting the Pirates ahead 4-3.

The Giants didn't go quietly in the bottom of the inning.  Pinch hitter Johnny Ripple lined out and Jo Jo Moore and Frank Demaree singled, wrapped around an out by Bob Seeds, bringing the dangerous Ott to the plate with two runners on base but reliever Bill Swift got him to pop up in foul territory near first base preserving the win for the Pirates.

One of the top three cigarette brands (and still popular in Europe today), Chesterfield was launched in 1871 and saw the peak of its U.S. popularity from the 1920s to the 1960s.  During 1939 it was sponsoring a top rated radio show, The Chesterfield Hour featuring big bands like Paul Whiteman, Fred Waring and Glen Miller. 

Old Gold was a cigarette brand of Lorillard Tobacco Company, heavily promoted in the 1920s and 30s.  In 1939 it was sponsoring the Artie Shaw hour on CBS Radio.

With a factory located in the Bushwick section of Brooklyn, GGG Clothes was a leading clothing manufacturer.  The former GGG factory is now operated by Martin Greenfield Clothiers, a hand tailored clothing business.  Martin Greenfield, a survivor of Auschwitz where the rest of his family died, started as a "floor boy" at GGG in 1947 and purchased the factory in 1977.  Greenfield is now 87 and you can read more about him here.

Born Bernard Anzelevitz, Ben Bernie (1891-1943) was a well known violinist and bandleader, largely forgotten today.  In the 1920s he led an orchestra featuring Oscar Levant (who went on to achieve success in Hollywood as an actor, pianist and comedian in films like An American In Paris with Gene Kelly) and toured with Maurice Chevalier in Europe.  Bernie co-wrote and was the first to record Sweet Georgia Brown which later became the theme song of Harlem Globetrotters.  He had a top ten radio show at the time and, to create publicity, staged a fake feud with Walter Winchell, the most famous newspaper and radio commentator of the era.  Here's the Ben Bernie Orchestra recorded in June 1939.
(Hat check from Astor Roof autographed by Ben Bernie show in 1939 from eBay)

Bernie and his band were playing at the Hotel Astor's Roof Garden.  Opened in 1904, the Hotel Astor operated until 1967 at Broadway between 44th and 45 Streets.  It's now the site of a 54 story office tower.  (Below, the Astor in 1908)
(The famous Roof Garden in 1931)

Knothe Bros Co, Inc., at 1372 Broadway, is now the Knothe Apparel Group, Inc which, according to Bloomberg Business, "manufactures and distributes men's robes, pajamas, sleepwear, leisure wear, shorts, underwear, and loungewear in the United States and internationally. It also provides women's and men's clothing and sportswear lines. Knothe Apparel Group, Inc. offers its products through specialty stores, and catalog and Internet resellers, as well as Websites."  And here's an Expanso Belt (from eBay):

Patented in 1898, by the early 1900s Gem Blades was the best selling safety razor in America.  It was part of the American Safety Razor Company which makes Personna, Treet and Pal blades as well as Gem and as of September 2015 became part of Accutek Blades.

Lucky Strike was the top selling cigarette brand during the 1930s.  Introduced in 1871, Americans were purchasing 40 billion Luckies a year by 1930.  In 1939 it was the radio sponsor of Your Hit Parade and the Jack Benny Show.

Regarded as one of the finest pitchers of the 1870s, Albert Spalding founded AG Spalding & Bros. in Chicago in 1876, the same year he pitched and managed the Chicago White Stockings during the inaugural season of the National League.  Spalding went on to dominate the market for baseball equipment, standardizing much of it over the years.

Horton's Ice Cream is a brand originated by the JM Horton Ice Cream Company, founded in the mid-19th century in NYC and acquired by Borden in the 1920s.  In 1900 Horton supplied more than half of the ice cream in the city. Ad for Horton's)

The Corn Exchange Bank was founded in 1853 and in 1929 changed its name to the Corn Exchange Bank Trust Company.  The bank merged with Chemical Bank in 1954 and Chemical Bank merged with Chase Manhattan in 1995 to create the entity now known as JP Morgan Chase, the largest bank in the U.S. and sixth largest in the world.

Schraffts was founded in Boston in 1861 by William Schrafft and grew to operate restaurants and candy stores throughout New England and New York.  It was very popular in New York City, operating 50 restaurants by the 1960s.  (Below, on Broadway between 74th and 75th Streets in 1930.)
schraffts5The company closed its doors in the 1980s.

The Beech-Nut Packing Company was incorporated in 1899 and began selling Beech-Nut Gum in 1910.  By the 1930s its big rival was Wrigley's Chewing Gum.  Beech-Nut gum is no longer produced but you can buy an unopened pack from the 1950s for $15 on eBay:

Under Information For Patrons we are informed that "Ladies Retiring Rooms may be found in the center of the grand stand at the rear of lower and upper stands, and at front ends of lower and upper stands".  We are also told that "Patrons will confer a favor upon the management by reporting to the office the slightest inattention or incivility on the part of any employee".

The oldest continuing mustard brand in the US is Gulden's which is now owned by ConAgra Foods.  Charles Gulden opened his mustard company in lower Manhattan in 1862.  The mustard a Giant fan would have used in 1939 looked and tasted differently than Gulden's today.  In the 1970s Gulden added turmeric to its formula which lightened the brown mustard and made it more yellowish.  In 1881, Jacob Gulden, Charles' father, received a patent on a mustard dispensing bottle with a plunger which is still in use today.
  The Gulden family owned the company until 1962 when they sold it to American Home Products.

There is a dearth of information about Dyke Cigars other than a reference to a business address at 264 Canal St. in New York City, an area today known variously as Tribeca or Chinatown.  THC has found no other information on the address other than references in the mid-19th century to several book publishers located there.  Here's what the property looks like today:
Property photo for 264 Canal Street, New York, NY 10013
 This link will take you to a photo of a container of Dyke Cigars.

At the time one of the biggest U.S. corporations, Sinclair Oil was incorporated by Harry Sinclair in 1916.  Acquired by ARCO in 1969, some of its assets were spun back out in 1976 and it is now a privately owned business with about 2,600 filling stations in 24 states and two refineries in Wyoming.  The company's well known association with dinosaurs began in 1930 when Sinclair decided to promote the now discredited theory that oil deposits were derived from the remains of dinosaurs and other earlier creatures.  At the Chicago World's Fair of 1933-4, Sinclair sponsored a dinosaur exhibit and it was after this that the dinosaur became the official logo of the company.
At the beginning of the Great Depression, Harry Sinclair astutely began building a huge cash reserve and was able during the 1930s to buy the assets of quite a number of other companies and expand the company.  Sinclair was an interesting character.  Born in West Virginia in 1876, he grew up in Kansas, was trained as a pharmacist and in the early 1900s saw opportunity in the burgeoning oil and gas business rapidly becoming a millionaire.  Harry was also one of the main financiers behind the Federal League, the failed attempt to create a third major league in 1914-5, though it is reported Sinclair still made $2 million from his investment in the settlement with major league baseball.  He was also a central figure in the Teapot Dome Scandal during President Harding's administration and ended up serving six months in jail.  He died in Pasadena, California in 1956.

1 comment:

  1. Great read...plenty of interesting and nostalgic info, very entertaining! dm