Thursday, July 16, 2015

A Pickle Strip

While I may be making this post around lunch time and I could really go for a good sandwich right now, this post has nothing to do with condiments one might find one such a meal.  In fact, it has everything to do with my latest "super vintage" baseball card acquisition:

Meet "Pickles" Dillhoefer - misspelled and listed here as a catcher for the Philadelphia Quakers (aka the Phillies) and one-time backup catcher for the Chicago Cubs.

As you can see, the backs are blank and the fronts feature a basic drawing of the subject at hand - we're far from the days of Topps Stadium Club here.

This is my second "strip" card from the first half of the 20th century - the first featuring a player with an equally awesome nickname.  If you are unfamiliar, back in the day, one could purchase a strip of cards from the local candy or corner store and then individually cut off the individual pictures to create a stack of baseball cards.

Obviously, the young lad who cut this strip up wasn't particularly skilled in the means of cutting.  but, that's what allowed me to add this gem from 1919 into my CATRC for less than I might pay for a well-made sandwich.

For frame of reference, here's my card compared to an example in much better condition:

Image on the left courtesy of

We can see that the child from 1919 lopped off nearly all of the white borders that were intended to frame the painting of "Pickles" and there are a few small spots of paper loss.  All that being said, this matters little to me.

I can't find what specific company was behind the release of these tiny oddities (1-3/8" by 2½"); but, they are cataloged as part of the W514 Strip Series, which was released in several waves from 1919 to 1921 featuring a multitude of baseball subjects.

Speaking of the subject, "Pickles" has long been a specified target for my collection due to his colorful name; the first time I perused the Cubs' All-Time Roster, this name jumped out at me.  As one might assume, William Martin Dillhoefer earned the nickname "Pickles" as a play on the "Dill" in his last name.

However, his playing career was not nearly as colorful.  The backstop came up to the Cubs in 1917 at the age of 23 as the third string catcher, behind Art Wilson and Rowdy Elliott.  Even so, he managed to get into 42 games and make 104 PAs; but, he could only muster a .126 average - weak even for the Deadball era.

William popping a squat at Wrigley (then known as Weeghman Park)
Image courtesy of Chicago Daily News.

It was here that "Pickles" gained his most notoriety.  After that audition in 1917, he was packaged with Mike Prendergast and sent to Philly in exchange for future manager Bill Killefer and HOFer Grover Cleveland Alexander.  Yikes.

I know that trade looks lopsided on the surface, but when you consider that "Pickles" only played in 8 games for the Quakers, Prendergast was out of baseball by 1920 and "Old Pete" had 183 more wins in him for the Cubs and Cardinals.... we have a deal that Philly might like to "Phorget."

Grover came to Chicago in a deal that actually worked out well for the Cubs!

In the winter before the 1919 season, Dillhoefer was again sent packing - this time to the Cardinals - where he moved up to the second-string catcher.  It was in St. Louis that he was able to get his hitting abilities up to snuff, batting .245 in his 3 years in town.  Despite his barely adequate bat, he endeared himself to the Cardinal faithful with his hustle and high spirits.

Sadly, it was then that tragedy struck.  In the winter between the 1921-22 seasons, "Pickles" married his school teacher sweetheart and he immediately contract typhoid fever during the honeymoon.  Just as he appeared to be coming out of the illness, Dillhoefer took a sudden turn for the worse and died after a three-week battle at the age of 28.

William's obituary
Courtesy of

That sad note concludes the story of William Martin Dillhoefer, better known as "Pickles."  It's a shame that a young man with such a fun nickname had to go out in such sad way.

But, he is now properly remembered in my Cubs All-Time Roster Collection (CATRC), courtesy of this excellent, antique strip card from way way back in 1918; a fact that makes this cardboard rectangle the fourth oldest card in my collection.  You can find the firstsecond, and third by clicking on those links.

Any day I can add a card older than my grandfather to my collection is a great day - even more so when it is a subject that I targeted back when I first started my CATRC circa 2003.  On that note, let's wrap up this post on a high.

Maybe I should finally make that sandwich too.


  1. I have a similarly seasoned strip card of Gavvy 'Cactus' Cravath - He was also with the Quakers on his Strip Card. Pretty cool vintage!

    1. Gavvy is another one of my favorite names in baseball history. I wish we had nicknames like Pickles or Cactus today!

    2. There's still hope for Rock Shoulders to make the bigs!

    3. And if so, he'll probably punish the Cubs, Justin Bour style, for doubting him.

    4. Wait-- there was a player named Gavvy? Oh man, I need to include him in my "Greatest Gavins" minicollection. ok, he's not exactly a Gavin, but close enough, I think.