Saturday, September 30, 2017

Perfectly Suited

Grrrrr!  I forgot to set a snipe on a very interesting eBay auction the other day and missed out on a document that not only relates to the legal battles between Bowman Gum and Topps in the early 1950's but is also cool in its own right.  Not a huge deal since I nabbed scans, natch, but still I'd like to have added it to the archive. First, the short backstory.....

As we all know, Bowman asserted they had many baseball players under contract (340 as it turned out, vs 283 for Topps) when Topps issued their 1951 Baseball Candy sets (comprised of five subsets: Red Backs, Blue Backs, Connie Mack All Stars, Major League All Stars and Team Cards). Bowman tried a variety of legal tactics, one of which alleged they had exclusive rights to the term "baseball" when selling confectionery products with picture cards of baseball players and sued Topps in the Eastern District of the State of New York for trademark infringement.

On March 31, 1952 Topps received a favorable ruling in the case, although they would be embroiled in appeals, suits and counter-suits for at least another eighteen months, losing most of them and really only getting the rights they coveted because the final owner of Bowman's parent company was selling most of his concerns  to buy a larger firm unrelated to cards or gum. As you can imagine, the case hinged on testimony of witnesses, affidavits of same and the results of discovery and deposition.  In addition to executives of both firms, player agents--who were third parties used to secure the contracts for Topps and Bowman and not the type of agents we think of today-- also figured.  The agents who obtained signatures on most of the Bowman contracts were Joan Crosby and Jack Tanzer, who were employees of a firm call Art Flynn Associates; Topps used what looks like a wholly owned subsidiary called Player Enterprises for this purpose by the way.

So when this Whitey Lockman Bowman check popped up on eBay, I took notice but alas did not snipe. As you can plainly see, this check was a legal exhibit used in the depositions of Ms. Crosby and Mr. Tanzer:

Interestingly, at least to me, the check in question was issued in 1949, a year before Bowman inserted the word "confections" into their player contracts.  I'm not sure what that means but maybe that was the point of this particular deposition, i.e. to show Bowman did not intend to specifically sell a combination of confections (gum) and baseball cards.  

I also find it interesting that Whitey, a starting outfielder for the New York Giants, cashed his check at a gas station in North Carolina during the winter of 1949!

Whitey was a heckuva player for a time, take a gander

I wonder if more exhibits from the trial will pop up-it's possible a law firm book is being broken up and sold so we'll see but right now we have this fascinating bit of Topps (and Bowman) history.

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