A blog about baseball cards... and the Padres

Sunday, July 7, 2013

Big Chief

Reading different baseball card blogs, it's interesting to see what kinds of cards different people are "chasing".  Some have the goal of collecting every card ever made for the team of their choice.  Others try to track down specific players or sets.  I suppose the number and types of things that people are interested in is what makes this such an eclectic hobby.

Setting the goal to obtain every Padre card in existence would take more time, energy, and money than I have (there enough Tony Gwynn cards alone to keep me busy enough).  '91 Fleer cards aren't hard to track down at all, and Archi Cianfrocco and Chris Denorfia don't really have many "high end" cards on the market.  So what do I try to track down?

The "hard to find cards" for me would have to be the vintage Padre cards from the '52 and '53 Mother's Cookies set.  Here's the latest one I've been able to snag.

John Davis!  Those aren't strange shadows on the card, those are stains of some sort, in all but the very center of the card.  Kind of hard to tell here, but it looks like this version of Padre uniform has a solitary red "S" on a blue cap, whereas later on, they'd incorporate the "D".  Aside from the aging on the photo, the corners are more intact than any of the other cards from these sets that I have.

The back, however, definitely looks like it's been through some stuff.  Looks like it was (maybe?) glued or taped onto something, and everything that wasn't touching the adhesive got yellowed.

The main thing that I found interesting on the back is the inclusion of Davis' nickname, "Chief".  This would come in handy when trying to find out more about a ball player with a generic name such as his.

There are 18 players by the name of "John Davis" on baseball-reference.com, only two of which made it to the majors.  Of course, in 1952, the Padres were still with the Pacific Coast League, so that doesn't help us out much.  After going through all 18 players' pages, I found out that... none of them was him.  

Turns out that he goes by "Johnny Davis" on the website.  The big tipoff (besides scrolling down to the minor league stats and finding out that he spent one year in San Diego in '52) was that beside his full name (John Howard Davis) it had the word "Cherokee" in parenthesis.  Guess we found out how he got his nickname!  

In '52, Davis was 35 years old, and no spring chicken.  He batted .263 with 6 homers and 36 RBI, though only getting into 61 of the 180 games.  He spent the majority of his baseball career playing for the Newark Eagles of the Negro Leagues ('41-'48) where he batted a very respectable .314 in his 563 at bats.  With the Eagles, he had some pretty impressive teammates, including Monte Irvin, Larry Doby, and Don Newcombe.

After leaving San Diego, Davis would play two more seasons, one for the Fort Lauderdale Lions and another for the Montgomery Rebels.  On the back of this card, where it says "Prior Experience", it should say "Drummondville", where he played for the Drummondville Cubs of the Provincial League.

Here are the other three cards from this set that I've been able to track down...

Whitey Wietelmann from the 1952 Mother's Cookies set, and 

Tom Alston and Walt Pocekay from the 1953 Mother's Cookies set.

I should probably add that while these are difficult to find, they are even harder to find in my price range.  Only one cost more than ten bucks, while the rest cost seven and change.  Not too shabby for sixty year old pieces of cardboard, but definitely the most expensive cards I've ever bought on eBay - I usually stick to the cheap stuff.


  1. Had no idea Mother's Cookies cards went back that far.

  2. Very nice.
    And then there are fools like me who try to collect as much as they possibly can.

  3. These are awesome! I always thought that Mother's Cookies cards came out in the 80's. Guess we learn something new every day. Thanks for sharing.

  4. Big Chief was the name of an awesome grunge band from Michigan.