[Editor’s Note: Today we have a guest entry from Dan Cichalski, who’s found a huge stash of interesting ephemera. Enjoy — PL]
By Dan Cichalski
While researching a blog post of my own on a former Notre Dame ballplayer and Major Leaguer in the 1930s and ’40s named Billy Sullivan Jr., I came across an outstanding online archive of Sullivan’s personal files found in an estate sale after he passed away in 1994. The collection can be found at Crosley-Field.com, a site not unfamiliar to Uni Watch [among other things, it features an excellent photo gallery of old Reds uniforms — PL], and includes Sullivan’s personal ID cards, Major League contracts, various stationery and correspondence (much of it with Hank Greenberg, one of Sullivan’s former Tigers teammates), and other ephemera, much of which will be of interest to Uni Watch readers.
Before we look at this trove, here’s some quick background on Sullivan: He played 12 seasons with seven teams but surpassed 100 games in a season only twice. In 962 career games, he hit 29 home runs and drove in 388 runners — eight homers and 10 more RBIs than his father had in nearly 200 more games from 1899-1916, mostly with the White Sox. It had been said that if you could combine the father’s fielding prowess with the son’s hitting ability, you’d have had one of the better catchers of the early 20th Century. When Billy Jr. played in the 1940 World Series with the Tigers, he cemented the Sullivans as the first father-son duo to appear in a Fall Classic, following Billy Sr.’s 1906 appearance with the White Sox.
Now then, let’s take a look at some of the more notable items from the archive:
• Here’s a shot of a young Sullivan, shown in his Reds uniform.
• Here are pages 1 and 2 of Sullivan’s Reds contract. More contracts and correspondence from his time with the the Dodgers are on this page. [Note that one letter suggests that Branch Rickey apparently tried to stiff Sullivan to the tune of $2500 in 1943. — PL]
• Don’t see too many players posing with their cars on the field anymore. That’s Sullivan with his Pierce Arrow (one of the top luxury cars of the time) in the Comiskey Park outfield. Based on the scoreboard — with the A’s in town, the Red Sox due in for the weekend, and the other A.L. match-ups lining up that way — that shot was taken in May or June of 1933. I wonder if Sullivan’s Notre Dame ties had anything to do with the car, because in 1928, Buffalo-based Pierce Arrow was bought by Studebaker, which was headquartered in South Bend.
• Some of the strongest material in the collection is the great variety of letterhead designs. Among the highlights: White Sox, 1930; Hank Greenberg’s simple design; The Hotel Auditorium in Cleveland (another letter from Greenberg); Indians, 1940s; Indians, 1949, after winning the Series in ’48; Indians, 1950s; White Sox, 1960s (and the envelope); Browns, late ’30s; New York’s Hotel Commodore, Hotel Roosevelt, and Hotel Piccadilly; the New Moody Hotel and Bath House, Hot Springs, Ark.; the Chase Hotel in St. Louis; the Santa Rita Hotel in Tucson; Southwest Hotels, Inc.; Society Brand Clothes of Chicago (wonderful images in the margins); American League, 1960s; and a very detailed Victorian Baseball Association letter addressed to “Mr. Billy Sullivan, Catcher Chicago White Sox Club, Comiskey Park, Chicago, U.S.A.”
• I also like how this letter from Commissioner Kenesaw Mountain Landis simply says “BASEBALL” at the top and also seems to be in response to Sullivan asking if his wife could stay with him during spring training.
• A neat page of Tigers autographs.
• Sullivan held on to several pocket schedules, including a Browns spring training schedule and roster from 1938; the Tigers’ spring schedule and roster from ’42; the 1948 National Girls Baseball League schedule; and the 1960 White Sox schedule.
• In 1934, Sullivan’s contract was sold to Milwaukee of the American Association. That November, he was assigned to Indianapolis. He kept many of these release or transfer cards, often with the letters from the club, including the release that ended his career (on great Pirates letterhead, no less).
• As far as equipment goes, here is a receipt for “baseball shoes” with “spec. eyelets,” one for a catcher’s mitt, and an interesting note from John Hillerich (of Hillerich & Bradsby Co.) about stamping on the knob of players’ bats.
• A drawing, apparently by Sullivan, of “Pinching the rubber ball.”
• And, finally, a pamphlet entitled “Baseball Tips” written by Sullivan. It’s a simple text-only handout, with a Gimbels ad on the back cover. All pages appear to be scanned and begin about a third of the way down this page and continue to the end.
Want to see more? If you’d like to do your own browsing, the bulk of the archive begins here.
ESPN reminder: Paul here. In case you missed it yesterday, my annual Super Bowl preview column is up now on ESPN.
And speaking of ESPN: Page 2 has package today on the Puppy Bowl. It includes a piece I’ve written about the kitten halftime show. Enjoy.
Uni Watch News Ticker: Here’s a better look at that new WKU helmet (with thanks to Brian Ditmer). … Reprinted from yesterday’s comments: Nike has come out with a line of really great MLB T-shirts — except for the completely annoying Nike logo, which ruins the whole thing. … Umbro has come out with some really nice kits for several Peruvian soccer teams. Look here, here, and here (with thanks to T. Faust). … Yesterday’s ESPN column included a shot of the end zones from Super Bowl XL. That prompted this note from Rob Weber: “The Seahawks’ end zone for that game didn’t just say ‘Seahawks’ — it included ‘Seattle’ above it. That is not how the Seahawks have ever treated their home end zone, ever (although it is used occasionally in logos). Bottom line, it looked horrible, and was an embarrassment. Any idea why they would have done that? They did it again two years ago with the Cardinals. Why?” Anyone..? … Here’s an interesting story: The Jamaican track and field uniforms for the 2012 Olympics will be designed by Bob Marley’s daughter (with thanks to Cody Dannen). … Another Super Bowl, another article about groundskeeper George Toma (with thanks to Rob McDonald). … I’ve mentioned before that Gilbert Arenas is currently a sneaker free agent, so to speak, so he’s been wearing a different pair of footwear for each game. Now he has a web page that tracks his sneakers on a game-by-game basis (with thanks to Brian Johnson). … Good piece on Fab Five-era Michigan hoops uniforms here. … Oh baby, here’s a major find: Check out these awesome matchbooks from Pete Rose’s restaurant. And for ten bucks, I bet he’ll autograph them for you. … Everyone loves stories about the team seamstress — like, say, the one for the Phoenix Suns (with thanks to Darrell Bragdon). … Sharp-eyed observation from Drew VanNess, who writes: “During Thursday night’s Portland/Gonzaga game, I noticed that only one player for Portland (Jared Stohl) had a swoosh on his jersey. They’re not wearing the NCAA certification patch, so it makes sense that no one would have this, but I’m not sure why he did. Also, something looked off with his swoosh, like the tip of the tail was missing or peeling up.” … Here’s another Super Bowl-themed Pepsi display, only this time it’s for an old Super Bowl, not this year’s. Only problem is that they got the Roman numeral wrong — should be XIV, not XIII. “Sad that the Pepsi vendor did all that work only to screw up that one detail,” says John Beare.