In the early 60's, I had a friend whose dad was a minor league baseball umpire. I remember the plastic figurines he had in his bedroom of baseball heroes of the day and thinking they were pretty neat. They always stayed with me and a couple of years back I found out that they were made by the Hartland Corporation near Milwaukie, Wisconsin. I also discovered that they were remembered by other collectors, because the cost per figure was $300-$500. Way too expensive for my budget! Fortunately, there was a lower cost alternative. In 1988, Hartland reissued figures from Their original series that ended in 1963, as the 25th Anniversary editions. Almost identical to the originals, except they has a special logo stamped on them to tell them apart, but much cheaper at $20-$50 per figure. I began to collect the set and here they are (click any image to enlarge):
|EDDIE MATHEWS - Milwaukee Braves||HANK AARON - Milwaukee Braves||WARREN SPAHN - Milwaukee Braves|
|MICKEY MANTLE - New York Yankees||BABE RUTH - New York Yankees|
Hartland was famous for its molded plastic horses and figures of Western heroes such as the Lone Ranger, Wyatt Earp, Davy Crockett, Roy Rogers, etc. and their peak production time was summer in a run up to the Christmas season. In a meeting in 1957, they were looking for ways to keep production going during the slow winter months. The idea of baseball players was decided upon and these figures could be sold at the major league ballparks during the summer months. In 1958, Hartland introduced a series of five baseball players and they proved to be extremely good sellers at the average selling price of $1.98. Made from a hard plastic that would stand up to "kid" play, the figures were approximately 8" high and were painted with acetate based paint. The first group of players introduced were: Eddie Mathews, Hank Aaron, Warren Spahn, Mickey Mantle and Babe Ruth.
|ERNIE BANKS - Chicago Cubs||LUIS APARICIO - Chicago Wite Sox||NELLIE FOX - Chicago White Sox|
One interesting thing to note, is that Hartland made these figures at a time when sports photography as we know it today did not exist. In order to get realistic poses and "game action", Hartland artists actually sketched players at the Milwaukie or Chicago ballparks in action (with the exception of Ruth who was done with photos.) In 1960, Hartland began to sign other baseball players to contracts. Hartland introduced Cub's star Ernie Banks and White Sox stars Luis Aparicio and Nellie Fox. Right behind this came another 10 players; Duke Snider, Don Drysdale, Yogi Berra, Stan Musial, Willie Mays, Ted Williams, Roger Maris, Harmon Killebrew, Rocky Colavito and Dick Groat. Virtually the entire group is in the Hall of Fame.
|DUKE SNYDER - Los Angeles Dodgers||DON DRYSDALE - Los Angeles Dodgers||YOGI BERRA - New York Yankees|
|STAN MUSIAL - St. Louis Cardinals||WILLIE MAYS - San Francisco Giants||TED WILLIAMS - Boston Red Sox|
|ROGER MARRIS - New York Yankees||HARMON KILLEBREW - Minnesota Twins||ROCKY CALAVITO - Detroit Tigers|
|DICK GROAT - Pittsburg Pirates||ROBERTO CLEMENTE - Pittsburg Pirates|
In 1963, Hartland was sold to Revlon Cosmetics and the production of figures stopped to make way for production of plastic cosmetic compact cases, probably before other players could be made as there are some real gaps in great players missing from the series (Kofax, Robinson, Marichal, Clemente, Ford, Cepeda, Roberts, etc.). In 1987, the rights to remake the original 18 baseball figures were granted to a Hartland collector and enthusiast and production of less than 10,000 each began on the 25th Anniversary commemorative editions. In 1990, they introduced six new figures of which Clemente above is one. The others were Lou Gehrig, Whitey Ford, Dizzy Dean, Bob Feller and Ty Cobb. The complete Hartland story is available at Steve Blankenships page and is an interesting one to be sure.
As a kid Willie Mays was my baseball idol. There wasn't much baseball on the three channels of TV we had, but the San Francisco Giants were on the radio. Being the closest big league baseball team, they became "my team". The fact that Willie was a Giant, nuff said. Even though they broke my heart by losing Game 7 of the 1962 World Series to the Yankees, almost 50 years later, I still love the Giants. After all, they did beat LA to win the pennant. Did I mention I hate the Dodgers? Here is my Willie Mays & Giants collection.
|Mays Autographed baseball||Willie Mays 8x10||WM and windy old Candlestick Park|
|Hall of Fame inductee 1979||Willie Mays HOF bobblehead||Willie Mays 5x7 - NY Giants|
Other Giants Hall of Fame inductees from the Giants San Francisco era:
|ORLANDO CEPEDA - 1999||JUAN MARICHAL - 1983||GAYLORD PERRY - 1991|
|WILLIE McCOVEY - 1986|
More Giants Memorabilia:
|Clasic Giants Bobblehead||A SF cap of course. I also have t-shirts and sweatshirts and...||The back of the cup says "Beat LA"|
|Barry Bonds - HOF 2013?|
The Dodgers were a single A short season farm team for the LA Dodgers (boo, hiss!), playing in the Northwest League. Being the hometown team, we loved them despite the Dodgers name. Salem played in a great old wooden shrine to the national past time on the corner of 25th and Misson named George E. Waters Field. In the summers of 1963, 1964 and 1965, my Dad had season tickets and my friend Dick Johnson and I went to almost every home game with Dick's grandmother, who was probably one of the greatest baseball fans I have ever known. Dad went to a few games, but after working all day at the dairy and the early mornings, evening baseball was best left to listening on the radio and good old KSLM. Prior to becoming affiliated with LA in 1961, since 1940 they were known as the Senators. Some notable Salem Dodgers from 1963-65 that went on to play in the big leagues: Bill Kelso, Jim Lefebvre, Jim Campanis, Jim Strickland and Bobby Cox.
Tragedy struck in 1966, as the old wooden Waters Field caught fire and burned to the ground. That was the end of my Salem Dodgers and their demise left a hole in summer nothing else quite seemed to fill (well until I got older anyway.) I still have my glove with the autographs of the 1965 Dodgers and putting it on still takes me back to the sights and smells of the ballpark on a still July night, the sound of a cracking bat breaking the silence, followed closely by the erupting cheers of the crowd as the Dodgers score another run.
Besides the Giants, my Dad was also a fan of Nolan Ryan. Something about Ryan's work ethic, determination, dedication and moral character, struck a cord with dad and before he passed away, he had amassed a small collection of Nolan Ryan memorabilia. I kept an autographed baseball, and added the bobblehead on one of my many trips to Texas. They remind me of my father, because although he wasn't a baseball star, he was an awful lot like Nolan Ryan. I have to confess, I have now also become a Rangers fan.
This site is dedicated to the memory of my father Don, who gave me an appreciation for baseball and a love of the Giants.
He is the D.O. in D.O. Giants. How are the hotdogs in heaven Pop?
For copies of images, questions or comments about the collection to: OLD IRISH RACING
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