Thursday, April 16, 2015

The Mad Russian & Stringer

To me, that sounds like it could be the title to a bad buddy cup TV show from the 70's or a low budget stoner comedy from the late 90's.

However, it's much better than that.

In fact, it is a pair of ultra-vintage baseball cards of two long-time teammates that I was able to swipe on the cheap from Ebay!

I told you it was ultra-vintage; that's a WWII era strip card right there!

This is a card I've been monitoring for many moons because it is the only card of "The Mad Russian" that depicts him on the Cubs from his playing days.  Even in rough shape, I've seen this beauty usually go for around $15, $30-40 if it's in good shape; I paid $7.

The set was produced by M.P. & Co.,  a NYC novelty and carnival supply firm, in 1943 and was sold in strips of three at local candy shops.  It's one of the very few baseball card sets produced during the war.

Meanwhile, the artwork is fairly crude, but I find it to be endearing at the same time.  After all, this is when cards were supposed to appeal to kids and what kids don't love cartoons?

Between the wear on the edges and the back being off-center, it finally fell into my lap for a reasonable price.

Fittingly, Lou was quite the cartoon during his time with the Cubs.  Already a mediocre defender (I don't know why the back states otherwise), he was known to be quite fearful of the ivy because he thought it was of the poison variety.  This really limited his fielding abilities.

When the trainer took a bunch of the leaves and rubbed them all over himself to demonstrate their safety, Lou just smiled and asked if they were good for smoking.

He was also known to end up in piano bars during the wee hours, where he would lay on top the instrument and serenade the audience.

Oh boy.

On the diamond, the outfielder swatted 41 homers in the PCL in 1940, leading to a call to Chicago.

Unfortunately, his power never materialized on the grand stage - hitting just 15 taters total from 1941-1945.  He hung on for a few more games in Philly after the boys came home in '46 before going back to the PCL.

Moving on, let's take a look at Lou's teammate - another Lou:

This Lou Stringer card from the 1950 edition of Bowman is a little bit more beat up.  It looks like it might have been stapled to something at some point and there is some heavy creasing going on.

But, when I can add a card as old as this from a set as iconic as this for less than I'd spend at McDonald's, I can live with that.

Stringer came up with the Cubs at the same time as Novikoff and was immediately installed as their starting second baseman, a position which he held through the next season before going to war.  He was a light-hitting sort (career .242 average) as you'd expect from a MI of the era, but he also wasn't a great fielder 34 and 29 errors in 1941-42 respectively).

He came back to the Cubs after the war, but found his spot taken by Don Johnson.  Lou was relegated to the bench and then to the minors.  Eventually, he found his way back up to Boston by 1948, where he held a utility role through the 1950 season.

So, we're looking at Mr. Stringer's sunset card here.

Novikoff & Stringer as teammates on the Los Angeles Angels, PCL affiliate of the Cubs
Photo courtesy of the Bilko Athletic Club

These kind of finds are my absolute favorite.  Cards as old as these not only attract my interest as a baseball fan, but they also pique my curiosities as a history buff and antique hoarder.

It tickles me know that I, in 2015, have cards that someone of my grandfather's generation could have had in a rubber-banded stack in his pocket as a kid playing sandlot ball.  The fact that they're a little beat up really only adds to that mystique.

Thus, I will continue to scour the internet for cheap ultra-vintage to add to my CATRC and hopefully I can continue to get lucky, as I did in these cases.

Who doesn't love this sort of stuff?


  1. That Lou Novikoff card is really cool! What is the size of the card? Is it small like late 40's / early 50's Bowman? I wonder if there are still any full three card strips still in existence...

  2. As for size, its somewhere in between - larger than the Bowmans, but still smaller than a standard card. If I had a ruler around, I could give a concrete answer.

    If there are any uncut strips, I bet they cost a pretty penny, especially if they include the Dimaggio or Foxx - its not a very large set either.

  3. Wow! that strip is in amazing shape. I wouldn't want to sell it, so I guess I understand the asking price.