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Hall of Fame Writer Murray Chass

Murray Chass
Murray Chass. Photo courtesy
of MurrayChass.com.
Jewish baseball enthusiasts have the opportunity to add a limited edition card autographed by sportswriter Murray Chass to their collections.

A member of the Jewish Community Center of Greater Pittsburgh's Jewish Sports Hall of Fame and the International Jewish Sports Hall of Fame, Chass is the 2003 winner of the National Baseball Hall of Fame's J.G. Taylor Spink Award for "meritorious contributions to baseball writing."

[Author's note: Among the other Jewish winners of the prestigious honor are writers Shirley PovichDick Young, Milton Richman, Jerome Holtzman, Hal Lebovitz and Ross Newhan.]

Chass has covered baseball since 1956. He previously served as the chairman of the New York Chapter of The Baseball Writers Association of America and the New York Time's national baseball correspondent, according to his Wikipedia biography.

He pioneered coverage of the business of sports, including contracts and labor negotiations.

Chass has written several online columns ("Hall Of Fame Puts Its Shame On The Line" and "Players Line Up To Salute Miller," among others) advocating the election of Marvin Miller, former executive director of the Major League Baseball Players Association, to the Baseball Hall of Fame, and has been outspoken on the subject in a wide array of media (search Google for a variety of Chass's thoughts on Miller).

Chass is the author of several books, available on Amazon, on both baseball and football. These include The Yankees: The Four Fabulous Eras of Baseball's Most Famous Team, Power Football and Pittsburgh Steelers: The Long Climb.

Murray Chass Panini
Murray Chass 2012 Panini. Photo courtesy of JSC.
I had tried several times, unsuccessfully, to obtain Chass's autograph for my Jewish baseball collection.

So, it was with great delight that I read his April 25 online column (Chass insists his site is not a blog!), "Honus And His Buddy," in which Chass discusses the existence of his baseball card, in the context of reporting on Goldin Auctions' recent sale for $2.1 million of the "Jumbo" T206 Honus Wagner card.

Chass is the subject of card #JSA-MUR in the 2012 Panini Cooperstown Signatures (pictured at left).

The serial numbered, limited edition card -- only 500 were produced --features a black and white image of the Hall of Fame writer along with a bold, clean autograph. 

In his column, Chass makes it clear he doesn't understand why collectors would want his card, and cares little for the "unimportant subject of baseball cards."

Chass's column reads, in part:

"... I wouldn’t have spent $9 for my card.

Let’s be honest here. The Wagner card is probably the most famous baseball card in existence. Nobody knew mine existed. Why it exists I don’t know.

Last year Panini America, Inc. decided to publish a set of cards of Hall of Fame players, Wagner, who was among the first five players elected to the Hall in 1936 among them. But the Panini people decided to include broadcasters and writers, too.

Peter Gammons and I were the two writers selected, and our autographed cards were distributed among the packs otherwise filled with Hall of Fame players. It was unusual enough that the cards existed. But then things got even more bizarre.

One of the recipients of the cards had no use for the Murray Chass card – hey, I don’t have a problem with that – but why he took the next step defies reality. He posted the card for sale on eBay. Why, I asked myself, did he think anybody would bid for the card?

... I am not a collector and have never understood the ravenous thirst memorabilia collectors have for sports items.

I suppose that lack of interest in collecting adds to my reaction to people bidding for my card. However, I will refrain from making any additional comment because the buyer might be a reader and I don’t want to antagonize a reader on the unimportant subject of baseball cards."

I don't want to, nor will I, engage Chass in an argument about sports memorabilia or collectors' passions. I do, however, think Chass should examine sports cards and memorabilia in some context before simply dismissing them as the cardboard idols of crazed collectors. 

Consider the following: Major League Baseball teams' 2013 Opening Day payrolls totalled an estimated $3.156 billion, according to Yahoo Sports. Annually, the global market total of sports collectibles sales is $2-4 billion, according to CNN and ESPN. In this light, alone, sports collectibles can hardly be dismissed as "unimportant."

The size of the sports cards and collectibles markets and collectors' unbridled passion for memorabilia aside, Jewish baseball enthusiasts may be limited to the Panini card if they want to add a Chass item to their memorabilia collections, given Chass' thoughts.

Two Beckett Marketplace sellers were offering Chass's card, at the time of this posting, for $10-$12. 

A search of eBay found several listings of the Panini cards, with prices ranging from $8-$25. eBay sellers were also offering Chass' books and a signed first day cover for bid, at the time of this posting.

Amazon sellers were offering the Panini card and a signed first day cover (the same available on eBay) autographed by Chass, but little else.

I purchased a Chass card last week on eBay for a Buy It Now price of $11, and consider it money well spent to add the Hall of Fame writer's autograph to my Jewish baseball collection. What are your thoughts?

Do you have any Chass memorabilia in your collection? Do you know of other Chass collectibles? Have you had a chance to meet Chass?

Share your thoughts with other JewishSportsCollectibles.com readers by commenting below.


Jewish Women of the AAGPBL



A League of Their Own
A League of Their Own Blu-ray.
Photo courtesy of Amazon.com.

October 16 marks the release of the 20th anniversary, Blu-Ray edition of A League of Their Own, the 1992 Penny Marshall comedy about the All-American Girls Professional Baseball League (AAGPBL), the WWII women's baseball league that existed fron 1943-1954.

As league alumnae Nancy Mudge Cato wrote me in a 2002 letter, the AAGPBL was "a unique wrinkle in time." Conceived as a distraction from the war, when many Major League players went off to fight, the League and its players made dramatic impacts on the history of baseball, women's rights, Title IX and the viability of modern day women's sports.

Despite this, the AAGPBL and its more than 600 alumnae were a little known, often overlooked, piece of history. As two-time all-star Lou Erickson Sauer wrote to me in a 2002 letter, "If it wasn't for the movie, we would be the best kept secret of World War II." 

A League of Their Own propelled the women of the AAGPBL to stardom. Best known for Tom Hank's line, "There's no crying in baseball," the movie -- which starred Hanks, Geena Davis, Madonna, Rosie O'Donnell, Lori Petty, Jon Lovitz, Garry Marshall and others in the all-star cast -- grossed more than $100 million, according to IMDB.com, was nominated for two Golden Globe Awards, and has proved a main stay on cable for nearly 20 years. 

Three Jewish women -- Thelma "Tiby" Eisen, Anita Foss, and Blanche Schachter -- played in the AAGPBL. A fourth alumnae -- Margaret Wigiser -- is the child of an Orthodox Jewish father, although she doesn't self-identify as Jewish.

Of the group, Eisen is by far the biggest star, and the only member of the group inducted into the National Jewish Sports Hall of Fame. A 5'4" speedster, Eisen led-off for much of her nine year career. An All-Star in 1946, Eisen won championships with Milwaukee Chicks and won a pennant in 1952 with the Fort Wayne Daisies. She finished with a career 3,706 at-bats, a .224 batting average and 674 stolen bases, second best in League history. Eisen ranks third all-time for career runs scored, with 591. 

Foss played 28 games at second base in 1948, and pitched three games in 1949. She finished her career with just five hits and five stolen bases.

Schachter played nine games at catcher for the Kenosha Comets in 1948 before a knee injury ended her career.

Wigiser, a utility outfielder, played 203 career games, over three seasons with the Minneapolis Millerettes (1944) and Rockford Peaches (1944, 1945, 1946). She won a championship with the Peaches in 1945. Wigiser blew out a knee in 1946 and finished her career with four home runs, 65 stolen bases and 88 RBI.

All of the Jewish women of the AAGPBL have baseball cards available to Jewish baseball collectors, and a host of other AAGPBL memorabilia exists.

In 1984, Sharon Roepke created a limited edition series of AAGBL ("All American Girls Baseball League") cards, issuing Red, Blue, Yellow and Green editions.

Tiby Eisen Roepke Card
Tiby Eisen Sharon Roepke Red Card. Photo courtesy of JewishSportsCollectibles.com.
Eisen's card is #7 in the Roepke Red AAGBL series, which contains just 20 cards. None of the other Jewish alumnae appear in the Blue (39 cards), the Yellow (26 cards) or the Green (20 cards) editions. Special Thanks to Tim Wiles at The National Baseball Hall of Fame & Museum for his assistance in confirming this.

The Roepke AAGBL cards are, by far, the rarest of the AAGPBL pasteboard. My email to Ropeke about the specific number of cards printed has gone unreturned, as of this posting, but I assume the total print run was fairly limited by the fact that individual Roepke cards appear on eBay only sporadically.

I have seen several Red and Blue complete sets listed and sold over the years, but only one or two of the Green and Yellow complete issues. Expect to pay $30-$40 per set, or $3-$5 for unsigned cards and $8-$15 for signed singles.  

Wisconsin card dealer Larry Fritsch created a four-series, 421-card issue of AAGPBL cards in 1995-1996. All of the women are featured in Series 1 (#1-234) or Series 2 (#235-340) of the sets. Eisen is #57, Foss is #262, Schachter is #174 and Wigiser is #330.

Fristch sells the AAGPBL sets on the company's web site and through its catalogue. Series 1 sells for $39.95, Series 2 for $12.95. Individual cards can be found on Amazon.com, the Becket Marketplace and eBay (see below for specific links). 

Tiby Eisen Larry Fritsch Card   Anita Foss Larry Fritsch Card  Blanche Schachter Larry Fristch Card   Margaret Wigiser Larry Fritsch Card

The four women are also included in the 2006 Jewish Major Leaguers card set. The cards feature the JML "wrapper" and use the Fritsch card images." Single cards sell for $4-8 each, depending on where you find them.

The Eisen (#28), Foss (#29) and Schachter (#30) JML cards are easy finds. One of the two Wigiser cards (#31/31A) is much rarer than the other, however, and the story behind Wigiser's inclusion in the set, at all, is fascinating.

Wigiser is the daughter an Orthodox Jewish father and Roman Catholic mother, according to her Wikipedia entry, and was identified as one of the League's Jewish players by Eisen in an article published by the Jewish Women's Archive.

Wigiser JML Card 31
Margaret Wigiser JML Card #31. Photo courtesy of JewishSportsCollectibles.com.
On the basis of three different scholarly sources indicating that Wigiser was Jewish, JML printed a card of Wigiser in the series (#31). Ms. Wigiser contacted JML soon after, told publisher Martin Abramwitz that she is, in fact, Catholic, and asked for her card to be removed from the set.

JML honored the request and issued an "Error Card" (#31A) explaining the situation. The back of Wigiser's "Error" card reads:

"How is this baseball card different from all other baseball cards [An obvious reference to the Passover sedar]?
 
You're probably wondering what happened to Card 31.
Wigiser Error Card 31A
Margaret Wigiser JML #31A. Photo courtesy of JewishSportsCollectibles.com.
Part of the history of baseball cards in America is that from time to time individual cards were removed late in the production or distribution process because of a serious error or a request by a player. The most famous reported instance of this is when all-time-great Honus Wagner, a non-smoker, demanded his image be removed from a card published by a tobacco company.

It's our turn to inadvertently honor this tradition.

Our card #31 was intended to honor Margaret Wigiser, the centerfielder [sic] on the Rockford Peaches of the All-American Girls Professional Baseball League. Our three scholarly sources all listed her as Jewish. As the set went to press and out to the public, we heard from Ms. Wigiser, who informed us that she is in fact a Catholic, and appropriately asked that we remove her card. We apologize for the error.

We believe this is the first time in the history of baseball cards in America that there has been a card explaining the absence of a card ... so who knows, it could become a collector's item!"

I have been collecting AAGPBL autographs and memorabilia since 2000, and know of only one collector who has the original issue Wigiser JML card. I took a picture of the card at the 2007 AAGPBL Reunion in Rockford, Illinois.

Other copies of the errant card must, certainly, exist, though I've never seen them. In response to a query by email two years ago, Abramawitz told me that he had none available for sale, and I have not seen any listed on eBay, despite having a saved search for Margaret Wigiser for several years.

The women's cards are all available online through a variety of sources.

Eisen's Fristch and JML cards can be found in the Beckett Marketplace and Amazon.com, while shoppers will find only the Fristch cards eBay. Beyond her cards, an eBay search for Eisen items shows a signed first day cover and an autographed photo.

Anita Foss Custom Print Card
Anita Foss custom print card. Photo courtesy of Beckett Marketplace.
The Beckett Marketplace offers collectors the chance to buy Foss's Fristch and JML cards, along with a seemingly a custom printed Foss card, similar in design to the Roepke cards. eBay has the Fristch cards, the custom print card and several autographed photos. Amazon.com sellers offer Foss's JML and Fristch cards.

Schachter's Fristch cards can be purchased from the Beckett Marketplace. Her Fristch and JML cards can also be found on Amazon. I could find no other Schachter cards or memorabilia on eBay at the time of this posting, but patient collectors will find items listed periodically.

Amazon sells Wigiser's Fristch card. eBay sellers had Wigiser items listed at the time of this posting, but I have seen them offered for bid before.

Collectors who prefer to keep their memorabilia on the book shelf have access to dozens of books about the AAGPBL. These include The Women of the All-American Girls Professional Baseball League: A Biographical Dictionary, The Origins And History of the All-american Girls Professional Baseball League, When Women Played Hardball, and the children's books A Whole New Ball Game: The Story of the All-American Girls Professional Baseball League and Players In Pigtails, all of which are available on Amazon.com.

Tiby Eisen is featured in Dottie Wiltse Collins: Strikeout Queen of the All-American Girls Professional Baseball League, the Encyclopedia of Women and Baseball, and the children's book Mickey & Me: A Baseball Card Adventure.

Other League of Their Own and AAGPBL memorabilia on eBay and Amazon.com. Popular search terms include "AAGPBL" (eBay, Amazon), the "All American Girls Professional Baseball League" (eBay, Amazon), and "A League of Their Own" (eBay, Amazon).

Of the four players, Eisen, Foss and Wigiser survive. Like many of the AAGPBL's players, all are generous in-person and through the mail signers. All of the former AAGPBL players are, however, of advanced age. They all signed for me via through-the-mail requests between 2001-2003, and again in 2009. I do not know what their inclinations are now, however.

Schachter died March 31, 2010, according to her obituary in the New York Times. Autographed Schachter cards can be found on eBay, if a collectors is patient and willing to spent $15-20.

Do you have any AAGPBL memorabilia in your Jewish baseball collection? Let JSC readers know by commenting below.


Recapping Garry Kasparov's St. Louis Appearance

A follow-up to JewishSportsCollectibles.com's March 29 posting on Jewish chess champion Garry Kasparov's appearance at Washington University in St. Louis.

Garry Kasparov WUSTLAccording to the university's media web site, Kasparov's spent April 2 on campus for a variety of appearances.

"[Kasparov's] day started in Graham Chapel, where he gave advice on outmaneuvering opponents in politics and business. After the talk, Kasparov participated in a reception with the first 50 people to line up in the Women’s Building, where he signed autographs and posed for pictures. First-year law student Mustafa Ali was selected to play chess with Kasparov. To teach strategy, Kasparov let two children finish the game for him."

For another photo, a video of Kasparov playing chess, and more details on the grand master's day in St. Louis, check out this Student Life (Washington University's student newspaper) article about his visit.

Did any JSC readers in the St. Louis area get to see Kasparov speak? 

Do you have any the grand master's books or memorabilia in your collection? Wondering what's available? Check out this review of Kasparov's memorabilia and books published by Jewish Sports Collectibles in 2010.

Photo by Sid Hasting, courtesy Washington University in St. Louis.




Chess Champ Garry Kasparov to Speak in St. Louis

Garry KasparovJewish chess champ Garry Kasparov is scheduled to speak at Washington University in St. Louis at 4:30 p.m. (Central) on April 2.

According to a press release from the University:

"Garry Kasparov, considered the best chess player of all time, a champion of democracy in Russia and a world-renowned financial expert, will offer advice on outmaneuvering opponents in politics and business at 4:30 p.m. Monday, April 2, in Graham Chapel at Washington University in St. Louis.

Following his talk, there will be a 30-minute question-and-answer session, also in Graham Chapel, and a 45-minute reception and chess demonstration
in the Women’s Building Formal Lounge. 

His talk, “Making Use of Strategic Thinking in Business and Politics,” will focus on strategic interactions of economic and political interests in the tumultuous global economy.

Kasparov, the founder of the democratic political party “The Other Russia” and a 2007 candidate for the presidency of Russia, also will address the current instability in Russia.

Following his talk, there will be a 30-minute question-and-answer session, also in Graham Chapel, and a 45-minute reception and chess demonstration in the Women’s Building Formal Lounge. 

His talk, “Making Use of Strategic Thinking in Business and Politics,” will focus on strategic interactions of economic and political interests in the tumultuous global economy."

For more details about Kasparov's speaking engagement, email washuchess@gmail.com

In 2010, Jewish Sports Collectibles posted a review of Kasparov's memorabilia and books.

Do  any JSC readers have the grand master's memorabilia in your collection? Anyone in the St. Louis area planning to see Kasparov speak?

The University's web site states that no video taping of Kasparov's speech is allowed, but if you're planning to go and take pictures, please consider sharing them with JSC!
 


Jewish World Series MVP Profile: Larry Sherry

As mentioned in a previous posting on JewishSportsCollectibles.com, two Jewish players -- Larry Sherry (1959) and Hall of Famer Sandy Koufax (1963 and 1965) -- and a player who converted to Judaism after his career -- Steve Yeager -- won a total of four MVP trophies during the 55-year history of the World Series Most Valuable Player Award (which started in 1955). Interestingly, all three played for the Los Angeles Dodger when they captured the honors.

Today, JSC.com offers a look at some of the Larry Sherry's collectibles. We'll examine the collectibles of Koufax and Yeager in other entries to be posted during the World Series.

Larry Sherry 1960 Topps Brother BatterySherry's cards include Topps issues each year from 1960 through 1968. The vintage cards almost all have beautiful designs, as is typical with the early Topps issues.

Particularly interesting to me are Sherry's 1960 Topps rookie (featuring a wonderful horizontal design, to which I'm extremely partial) and his 1961 "Brother Battery" card, which includes Larry and his brother/catcher, Norm Sherry.

The Sherry brothers were the only Jewish brother battery in baseball history, according to The Big Book of Jewish Baseball, and one of six pairs of Jewish brothers to make the Major Leagues. The other five, according to information found in the Jewish Major Leaguers baseball card set, are: Andy and Syd Cohen, Harry and Ike Danning, Erskine and Sam Mayer, and Jacob and Lipman Pike, and Lou and Harry Rosenberg.

Larry Sherry 1967 Bottle Cap Larry Sherry 1961 Topps Baseball StampsSherry is also featured on a number of regional and special issue cards and memorabilia. These include: the 1961 Bell Brand and 1961 Nu-Card Scoops Dodgers cards; 1961 Topps Stamps; 1962 Post Cereal LA Dodgers cards;  a 1965 Topps gold foil "embossed" card; a 1967 Detroit Tigers Coke and Fanta Orange soda bottle caps; and the 1980 TCMA 1959 Dodger commemorative card. Sherry is also featured in the Jewish Major Leaguers card set (2003, #88).

A 2008 TriStar card includes Sherry's clipped signature. This appears to be his only autograph card. Beckett.com offers a more complete checklist of Sherry's cardboard; the site lists 58 cards for the pitcher.

Sherry's standard issue cards sell for between $1-$15 in the Beckett.com Marketplace and on eBay, depending on condition. The TriStar autographed card sells for $10-25, and the regional and special issues vary in price widely. They tend to be reasonably priced, however, available for $30-$75 depending on the seller and condition.

Larry Sherry Wire PhotoCollectors can find a variety of autographed Larry Sherry memorabilia on eBay. This includes signed baseball and index cards, photos, baseballs and programs. Prices range from $10 to $250, depending on the item and condition. As always, buyer beware!

eBay is also chock full of vintage photographs of Sherry, including this wonderful wire photo of the pitcher celebrating his World Series win.

Several vintage Larry Sherry model (consumer) baseball gloves also appear on the auction giant.

Collectors looking to add Sherry memorabilia to their bookshelf have several options to choose from. Sherry is profiled in The Big Book of Jewish Baseball, Day by Day in Jewish Sports History, The Baseball Talmud: The Definitive Position-by-Position Ranking of Baseball's Chosen Players and Jews and Baseball: Volume 2, The Post-Greenberg Years, 1949-2008.

What Larry Sherry memorabilia do you have in your collection? Have I forgotten and important Sherry collectibles?

Did you ever have the chance to meet or correspond with Larry Sherry before his death in 2006? Do you own any Sherry autographed collectibles? What's your favorite piece?