Saturday, April 20, 2019

Enough To Drive You Battey

Oh, the wonderful items keep rolling in to the Topps Archives Research Complex! Today's bounty is the payment ledger cards for Earl Battey, who was a pretty fair catcher back in the 60's for the Twins.  A few of these cards covering disparate players were available and I chose Mr. Battey due to the fabulous variety of entries that reveal much of how Topps operated in the 50's and 60's.

The first thing that jumps out is that he originally signed with Bowman and that they had him locked up for ten years!  I have to wonder if deals like this were being made by their biggest competitor and with just a handful of exclusive contracts being signed with Topps, had Bowman's 1955 offerings sold well would the history of the hobby be vastly different?

Well, the Bowman cards sold poorly enough in 1955 and after Bowman's parent company's (Connelly Containers) CEO (John Connelly) decided he wanted buy buy Crown Cork & Seal instead of selling bubble gum, Topps jumped on their athletic contracts and confectionery assets and ended up with exactly what they needed to become the kings of bubble gum and baseball cards.

Meanwhile, Topps had to keep records of all the payments and merchandise selections made by their roster of players and came up with a typical pre-digital solution: index cards, in this case 5" x 8" purpose printed cards:

I like how they showed the series and card number for each season!

Color Televisions and Stereo Equipment were popular with a lot of ballplayers from what I have seen of these cards. Sy Berger even mentions in The Great American Flipping, Trading and Bubble Gum Book (from 1973) that "We get this stuff wholesale from RCA and General Electric.  It's got everything in it but replacement pitching arms."

Breaking this down, the upper left corner had the player's option and team statuses. Battey had been with the White Sox for 5 games in 1955 as a September call up following three years in the minors and then for only 4 games the following year.  Since that was Bowman's contract, his call-ups and demotions aren't dealt with until after he was a Topps signee (March 5, 1957). You can see he spent most of 1957 with the big league club but got sent down in August for a month.  After another September call up he finally managed to stick for good and while I'm note sure what the "F-check 8-3-59" notation in red fully means, he got his first card with either Topps or Bowman in 1957:

His trade to the Senators in 1960 (with Don Mincher and $150K for Roy Seivers) is noted as is their expansion related move to Minnesota the following year. What intrigues me though is the notation in 1961 that he was a Sporting News All Star.  He didn't make the actual AL All Star Squad for 1960, despite some MVP votes and his first (of two ) Gold Gloves but SN thought quite highly of him. I just can't figure out if he got anything extra for that honor. He was, as noted, a Senator for 1960 but since they moved and became the Twins that offseason, the expansion Senators would not have been his team in '61.  Kudos to Topps for getting his new duds pictured in the high number AS cards though:

I can't see that his multiplayer card from 1963, his various inserts, or his Bazooka appearances were memorialized, so the contracts must have been pretty broad.

In the upper right corner you can see his contract with Topps commenced March 5, 1957 after he received his "steak money" payment of $5 a month earlier, which bound him to the company contractually. His extensions (which allowed him more purchasing power) started in 1958.  It's worth noting that the first Topps merchandise catalog dates to 1957-58 so the extensions were inextricably tied to it from this point forward.

Here is a sampling of the 1973-74 catalog (contemporaneous with Sy's comments actually); you can see how the extension got you a star!:

Let's take a look at the merchandise!

Item "b" is the first time I've ever seen a steam cabinet outside of a Three Stooges short!  That pool table looks sweet though.....

Continuing on to card #2 for Mr. Battey, Topps used a sticker to track his contractual status into the 60's. I guess most players flamed out quickly, so it was easier to just print up stickers for those who lasted more than year or two. Battey took merchandise most years but sometimes opted for extension checks. As is often seen on these cards, he paid Topps sometimes for more expensive items.  You can see on the prior card he must have been outfitting his den as he got "credit" toward a color TV and sleeper sofa in '62.  Nice dealio there Topps!

More color TV's for the Battey's!

Battey was a solid and productive catcher for a half dozen years and his last year in the bigs was 1967, even though he made the 1966 AL All Star team (his fourth election):

He was a tough dude (read up on him here) but it looks like an illness finally did his career in. Hopefully his plethora of Color TV's kept him in good stead during retirement-too bad he never made it on to a 1955 Bowman "TV" card, it would have been ideal!

1 comment:

Jim from Downingtown said...

Good reference on the Stooges' steam cabinet!

There was one in the movie "Thunderball" where James Bond extracts payback on a n'er -do-well henchman.