Baseball Before You Were Born

Yes, even before you old folks, who are, you know, over 40 and stuff. Baseball is a lot older than all of us (those of us who are living that is), and a lot of the things that we consider common practices weren’t always what we first think them to have been.

First of all, baseball players didn’t look like this…

In fact, they looked more like this…

Kellettville, PA baseball squad. Year: unknown

There was no polyester, and there were no clubhouse managers. Your jersey had to last you all season, and that was that. Oh, and you had to wash it yourself as well. But that’s not all…

Take for instance, World Series rings. It seems to be commonly agreed upon that up until the NY Giants won the Series in 1922, that teams didn’t even receive rings.

What did they get instead you ask? All sorts of things. Medals, pocket watches, watch fobs, and pins seem to be the most common. What actually brought me to this topic was a conversation with my wife’s great aunt (the daughter of the Dutch Schneider that I have been searching for). She revealed to me that her father used to have a solid gold baseball watch fob that carried on it some sort of engraving. It makes me even more curious to find out just who Dutch was, and what team and league he played for.

Not that his watch fob would have looked anything like this one, but here is an example of what World Champions were given in 1923.

As you can see, it has “Yankees” on the front. Need a closer look? Fret not.

And on the back…

It has the year, and what appear to be initials, RJC. Who is RJC?

A quick Google search for “R.J. Connery Yankees” comes up empty, and most results relate specifically to this fob itself. You can see some additional pics at Hunt Auctions, if you’re interested in that sort of thing.

What good would a watch fob be without a decent pocket watch to accompany it? Naturally, along with the fobs, some teams and leagues gave out actual pocket watches; either in light of, or in addition to the fob that helped keep it in your pocket.

Here is the gorgeous pocket watch that Ty Cobb received as a member of the 1908 1908 Detroit Tigers, who incidentally lost that years series to the Cubbies.

If that wasn’t impressive enough, below is another example of a gorgeous timepiece given out to the 1915 Philadelphia Phillies, who also came out on the short end of the World Series in the particular year that this award was presented.

It seems as though even the watch and fob was a natural evolution of an even older prize handed down to league and world champions, the medal. I’m not sure how these would have been worn back in the day. Men don’t really wear necklaces even now, in this modern and sissified age, so it seems even more doubtful to me that these would have been worn around the neck. I guess that explains the changeover to watch & fob.

The year before they changed over to rings, each one of the Giants received this beauty of a pendant as their award. The font used on the medal reminds me of Allen & Ginter meets Smashing Pumkins’ “Mellon Collie and the Infinite Sadness”.

Below you will see the earliest example that I managed to drum up in an entire 10 minutes of Google searching. My dedication must really make the rest of you feel lazy. As you can see, it was given to the1887 American Association St. Louis Browns, who you guessed, lost the World Series to the Detroit Wolverines. No worries though, since they received this nifty little medal. Or is that a watch fob? Is it possible that men found the concept of wearing medals around their necks just a tad effeminate, and jury-rigged them into watch fobs? I have no earthly idea, but it certainly seems probable at least.

I mentioned the Cubs earlier, and I think there are quite a few bitter Cubs fans out there who would be upset with me if I didn’t show off their wares. After sweeping the Tigers right out of the 1907 Series, the Cubs received the shiny medal you see below, complete with a sparkly diamond being regurgitated from the bowels of a bear.

What’s even more curious, is right around the same time that teams were awarding fobs, watches, and medals to their players, I also found a few examples of pins being distributed to players, including the one seen below, which was given to members of the 1908 Cubs. It says 1909 on it since they were still technically champions for the majority of that year, but they would not repeat as either NL or World Champions in 1909.

So far, all of the examples I’ve shown you have been of the Major League variety, and while fun and informative, it doesn’t really give us any indication as to what Dutch Schneider’s engraved fob may have looked like. It’s not easy to come by information about what amateur leagues and teams were even in existence back in the early part of the 20th century, let alone what the individual teams were awarded for performance. I did manage to come up with one example, from Westmont, NJ in 1918. Based on the description I was given, this is pretty much what Dutch’s fob would have looked like as well.

If you ask me, all of these are cooler than a gaudy ring covered in shiny baubles. Who knows, maybe Dutch’s fob is still lying around somewhere, packed up in a box in someone’s attic, or sitting in a dusty jewelry box, just waiting to be discovered. Maybe then I’d be able to figure out what team he played for, and where. Regardless, I had a blast looking this stuff up, and I hope you had just as much of a blast reading about it.

Oh, and Topps, instead of giving away expensive things that have nothing to do with baseball (wedding rings), how about picking up something with a little more meaning to sports collectors. It looks like these medals/fobs/pins are auctioned off fairly regularly, and from the looks of the completed listings, they sell for a lot less than diamonds do.

Shout out to the crew over at baseball-fever.com for always having the best vintage baseball photos I can find.

-b

6 responses to “Baseball Before You Were Born

  1. Dude, this post was awesome. Had no idea that rings weren’t always the prize for winning it all.

  2. Incredible post. Thanks for this.

  3. I like the pocket watch, they should go back to that. Let football have the rings.

  4. I like rings, a lot easier to show off. Can’t imagine Jeter walking around with a pocket full of pocket watches. I know they don’t wear them all the time, only to events and interviews, but still. How about a baseball covered in diamonds with team logo and year? Now that sounds BA (not easy to show off either).

  5. R.J. Connery was a scout for the Yankees and other teams. He’s known as the scout that ‘found’ Rogers Hornsby.

    Fobs and pins are nice, but how about some silver balls?

    Nice job on the post.

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