So I’ve been working on my Seals type collection a bit this year. Most of these are cheap Zeenuts off of Ebay. There have been a ton available and I’ve made some serious progress.
The oldest ones come from 1913. Harry Hughes is in great shape—so great that I was able to discover that these are printed on textured paper. He was a Seal for two seasons and looks to have only pitched maybe a dozen games. I really like the uniform details on his card though. The contrast placket is particularly great as an old-school look and the old English S is a very different logo than the usual San Francisco logos.
Charles Fanning is more of the typical Zeenut look and condition. He was a workhorse starting pitcher for 6 seasons as a Seal and appeared in over 50 games (winning well over 20 games) each year from 1913–1915.
I’ve mentioned Johnny Couch before on this blog but I never linked to his actual Baseball-Ref page. Couch played in the Majors in 1917 as well as 1922–25. Where my other card is from 1916 and predates his MLB debut, this one is from 1920 and comes between his two stints.
Since Couch is both a Stanford guy and a Seal, I like to jump on his cards when they surface. This was also my first exposure to the fantastic 1920 Zeenut design. Most of Zeenut’s run of cards feature either players cut out against a plain background or black and white photos. 1920 though is unique and has a wonderful artsy stadium background behind everyone.
The 1922 design is a cool pseudo-color look which distinguishes it from most other Zeenut releases (1915 is the only other one like this). Lyle Wells though doesn’t look like he played for the Seals in 1922 and instead made it onto the 1922–23 Oakland Oaks teams. His uniform does look Sealsish though and perhaps he tried out for San Francisco, didn’t make the team, and then ended up across the bay instead.
1923 is the last of the cut-out photos designs. While I enjoy the 1924–1931 run of full-bleed black and white photos taken on location, there’s something about the cut-outs which appeals to me in part due to the first Zeenuts I ever saw.
Eddie Mulligan was not a great Major League player but spent 17 seasons in the Pacific Coast League. “Noack” meanwhile isn’t a name that even shows up on any Seals roster and the only hit on Baseball Reference for that period is a Gus Noack who was playing in the Nebraska League in 1923. This got Marc interested and he was able to pull up some newspapers from 1923 which showed that Gus Noack was at least in the Seals training camp. I’m assuming this means he tried out but didn’t make the team.
I grabbed both of these for the uniform details with Mulligan in the classic Seals logotype and Noack in an interlocking SF design which appears to have been on the way out in 1923 (looks to be the same that Couch is wearing in 1920) since the 1923 cards are a mix of uniforms and the interlocking design doesn’t show up in 1924. Noack is also one of the few batting poses I have in the collection.
1923 was both a good year and a bad year for the Seals as they won the PCL with a 124–77 record but their manager died of tuberculosis.
A pair of 1925 cards which are very similar to the 1923 pair. Archie Yelle played for Detroit from 1917–19 but spent eight years of his 20-year baseball career in the PCL. “Haughy” meanwhile is another player who doesn’t show up on that year’s roster. I grabbed his card though because I love the background details of the park and how the stands are right on top of the dugout.
The 1925 Seals team is recognized as one of the best Minor League and PCL teams ever and Yelle was their starting catcher. Marc’s research meanwhile turned up an Earl Haughy who was in the Seals training camp as a pitcher in February 1925 and evidently didn’t make the team since Marc found another article mentioning him among the cuts from the 1926 Missions training camp.
Discovering that at least two of the Zeenut photos were taken during the Seals training camp in Fresno also suggests that the stadium in the background of a lot of the 1924–1931 photos may be the training facility.
A 1927 card of Orville McMurtry who only had a four-year professional career and pitched in just a handful of games for the Seals. This is another one where I find myself looking at the stadium details in the background since I can see the box seating as well as the dugout under the stands.
A pair from 1929 including a great career capper card for Walter Schmidt. Schmidt played in the Majors for a decade including nine seasons with the Pirates as the starting catcher. I really like the guy in the hat in the stands behind him. Lonny Baker meanwhile had a nine-year career in the Minors and is another of the few batting images in the collection.
In 1932 Zeenut reverted to their 1910s design of cutting the player out against a blank background. One key difference though is that they kept a circle of field in the design for the player to stand on. Jerry Donovan played in the PCL for 13 seasons and in 1932 appeared in 182 games for the Seals.
That the PCL was all Sun Belt teams meant they could play long seasons of over 200 games. Looking at the stats of some of the starters is kind of amazing. Eddie Mulligan has six seasons where he played over 180 games with one season of 199 games and another of 201. Jerry Donovan meanwhile has a 188 game season to go with his 182 game one.*
*Digging around Baseball Reference meanwhile shows guys playing in over 220 games in one season and a couple Seals seasons where four or five players play over 200 games.
This haul of Zeenuts takes my type collection to having cards from fifteen of the 28 sets including at least one from every year 1922–1932. Which is very cool. The 1920s cards definitely seem to be the easier ones to come across (which makes sense to me considering World War 1 and the Depression) but who knows what the future will bring. I’d love to get a red-bordered 1918 or a pseudo-color 1915 and the 1911 and 1914 ones have interesting dark studio backgrounds.
It wasn’t just Zeenuts that I added though. I also found a 1949 Bromide of Steve Nagy. Nagy played in MLB in 1947 and 1950 and spent nine seasons in the PCL. He was with the Seals in 1949 when they toured Japan and this card is from that trip. I really like the portrait and something about the text (which just says Steve Nagy and Pitcher) really brings it all together.
I’ve been trying to wrap my head around the Menko/Bromide distinction. It initially reflected the difference between mechanically-printed colorful artwork on cardstock and photographically-printed black and white photos on Bromide paper. For a long time it was easy to see the distinctions but from the late 1940s to late 1950s everything got muddied up. Bromides started being printed mechanically on thicker paper. Menkos started being printed color photos.
Many times it seems that the distinction is now just color vs black and white (although there’s also the form factor difference where menkos are still designed to be slammed down). In any case, even though my black and white Cliff Melton is also categorized as a bromide I’m very happy to have a proper photographic print one as well.
Finally, I grabbed a 1948 Signal Oil card of Will Hafey. Signal Oil didn’t make Seals cards but they’re one of (and possibly THE) first baseball card sets to feature color photography like was appearing on postcards. The photo is great and you can really see the details of both the Oaks uniforms and the Oaks Park (located where the Pixar campus is now).
I’m including a scan of the back of the Hafey since it mentions three Hafey relatives who all played ball. Those three all played in Major League Baseball though (Chick is even a Hall of Famer) while the PCL was the best that Will could do.
My Seals (and Oaks) page is looking really nice now. I feel like I might have to start organizing it more than having everything in one large gallery. Though it is nice to be able to just swipe through the gallery view.