‘Mid Summer Classic’ Collectibles

By Robert Reed
 One of major league baseball’s grandest events, the All Star game, had been generating treasured memorabilia since the early 1930s.
 Today fans of what has long been billed as “the Mid Summer Classic” still cheer for programs, photographs, ticket stubs, pennants and whatever else has endured the decades.
 Comiskey Park in Chicago was the site of the first all-star baseball game involve the major leagues. To insure its success the event was scheduled to coincide with the 1933 version of the World’s Fair. More than 47,000 devoted followers filled the stands on that hot summer afternoon. Thousands more swarmed the nearby Century of Progress Exposition.
 The American League defeated the National League by a score of 4 to 2 that first year in 1933. More importantly the immortal George Herman “Babe” Ruth blasted the All-Star Game’s first home run ever smacked into the right field stands in the bottom of the third inning.
 Programs and related score cards of the first All Star Game currently are valued at thousands of dollars. The 1933 program features Comiskey Park, the “baseball palace of the world,” and the main attraction Babe Ruth himself. It sold for ten cents. One accompanying 1933 score card featuring the likes of Ruth and Lou Gehrig in the lineup and included an advertisement for Blue Valley Butter on the cover.
 While any program from the first All Star Game is treasured, many experts suggest a program from 1934 event is somehow even rarer. That year the event was staged at the Polo Grounds in New York and featured the stadium on the cover. Various score cards were issued for the 1934 All Star game including one which advertised Regal Shoes and Muriel Cigars on the cover.
Another highly treasured All Star Game program is the one issued in 1937 with President Franklin Roosevelt illustrated on the cover.  FDR threw out the first pitch for this fifth annual All Star game. The richly illustrated program included photographs of the year’s finest players including Lou Gehrig once again, and pitcher Dizzy Dean.
 Generally speaking the serious collector, given enough time and enough money could acquire a program for every All Star Game from 1933 to the present. Beware however of anyone trying to sell you a 1945 program as that was the only year such a game was not held since inception 12 year earlier.
 One thing adding to the value of All Star Game programs, other than the scarcity of a particular year, is the autograph of one or more players or other participants. It is always a good idea to carefully examine surviving programs to see if the cover and inside pages are filled with just a fan’s comments or actually the signatures of baseball legends.
 As a general rule the better condition of a given year’s All Star Game program the more it will be valued. The less writing on it, (unless it can really be attributed to someone like Babe Ruth), the more it will be prized by a sports collector.
 In the grand game of sports memorabilia, the All Star Game program ranks just behind the World Series program in collectibility. It usually has higher regard than those baseball programs from playoff games or the regular season, unless some extraordinary record setting event occurred at a particular game.
 Tickets to All Star Games of the past can inspire collectors, as can even surviving newspapers and magazines which provided significant coverage of the game.
 The price of a ticket to the 1933 All Star game at Chicago’s Comiskey Park was $1.10 if you wanted to sit in the lower deck. Doubtless your ‘investment’ would now be worth hundreds of time more if you had just stayed at home and kept the ticket ‘in a safe place.
 Whole tickets, by the way, are quite rare when it comes to early All Star Games. They typically bring more than twice as much as the ticket stub – which was what was left of the full ticket after it was torn apart by an attendant at the baseball park.
 “Tickets to the Midsummer Classic usually have a different look than those form the regular season games,” note the editors of Tuff  Stuff’s Baseball Memorabilia Price Guide. A 1936 ticket from Braces Field in Boston, for example, features a Picture of each member of the advisory council, while the 1948 All Star tickets take on the color of the host team, the St. Louis Browns. Meanwhile a 1954 All Star ticket featured the mascot of the Cleveland Indians Chief Wahoo, and the price of a lower box seat had risen to S6.
Probably no other publication in the country devoted more space and coverage to the early All Star Games than The Sporting News,  Typically the newspaper published individual photographs in the game’s stars. A headline regarding the first event in 1933 proclaimed, “Fans’ Dream of Greatest Game Comes True At Chicago On July 6.”
 Major newspapers gave the early All Star Games considerable emphasis as well. Few were as dramatic as the Chicago Daily News which splashed a photograph of Babe Ruth hitting the home run that won the game for the American League. “Quit Arguin’ or Start  Over: Babe’s to Blame,” read the News headline.
 Over the years Sports Illustrated magazine has devoted their cover and some inside pages to details of the All Star Games. In 1956 their cover featured Willie Mays and Mickey Mantle. Two years later in 1958 the cover ‘sported’ Willie Mays, Mickey Mantle and Stan  Musial. Some collectors specialize in only Sports Illustrated issues which included All Stars on their covers.
 Press pins are another major collectible involving All Star Games. The first ever press pin for members of the news media covering the games was issued for Crosley Field in Cincinnati in 1938. The striking enameled Pin bore the red and blue Cincinnati insignia with a white background. On the reverse of the pin was the paper backing identifying it as a product of the Bastian Brothers Company,  Ribbon Metal and Celluloid Novelties, Rochester, New York.
 There were no All Star Games press pins issued in 1939 or during most of the years of World War 11. Press pin production resumed in 1946 and has continued ever since. Experts maintain there have been fewer press pins issued for the All Star Games than for the World Series simply because media interest was also greater for the season ending championship.
 For many years in the late 1940s, 1950s and even the 1960s and beyond the press pins were made by the Balfour company. Unlike the  Bastian Brothers product which had a safety pin back, most of Balfour issues were held in place by a pin with threaded posts.
 From time to time there have been lots of felt pennants to wave during and after All Star Games. Some of the pennants issued in the 1950s and 1960s were quite colorful and quite collectible currently. In 1951 such a pennant depicted Briggs Stadium and a scroll listing the team roster for both leagues.
 As with most items, condition is important regarding All Star Game pennants. Those most desired have sharp edges and tips, no holes from being tacked up on a youngster’s wall, and strong screen printing.
 Other All Star Game souvenirs can be rather unusual. For example, a silver presentation box inscribed, “All Star Game, Brooklyn, July 12, 1949” was recently sold by Leland’s Sports Auction in New York. Presented to participants in the Ebbets Field Game, the boxes were divided into four compartments for storage of jewelry or other small items.
 There have also been playing cards, board games, soft drinks (cans of Coca Cola saluting the games in 1993 and 1994), and various signed and unsigned photographs. The list of treasures, like the All Star Games themselves, continues on for generations.

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