What you see here is a 1976 TCMA oddball, part of a larger set which honored the 1938 National League pennant winning Chicago Cubs. Of course, you know how that season ultimately ended up for the world's most lovable losers, but let's not talk about that loss to the Tigers. Oh and yes, that is, in fact, an authentic John Hancock scribbled along the bottom there.
A little more than a week ago, a seller on Ebay put up a rather large lot of JSA certified, signed TCMA Cubs for individual auction with basement level starting bids and free shipping. Ummm, hell yes! I put in small bids on pretty much all of them, hoping I could steal one with a cheap price tag, and this is the (only) one I came out on top with. Nifty.
I mean, these vintage, off-brand pieces don't turn up to often, let alone with the signature of someone who died fifteen years ago. I had to jump on this chance.
Newell Kimball was a need for my Cubs All-Time Roster Collection, so I was uber-pleased to end up with this oddity. As a short-term Cub from the late-30's, he doesn't have much of a cardboard presence and I don't know too much about him either. Let's flip this baby over and do us some learnin':
Oh - that's right - these TCMA cards are exceptionally bare-boned. The oddball Gods released several sets honoring specific teams (like the '38 Cubs or the '41 Dodgers or '60 Pirates, etc.) and they all featured basic, type-written stats, isolated to the player's performance in that particular season.
As you can see above, the company really did their homework, seeing as Newt only played in one game for the varsity squad that year. Good on TCMA for being inclusive.
So, until I lucked into this card, all I knew about "Newt" was that he was a Cub on my want list. In order to learn more about the newest addition to my CATRC, it looks like I'm going to have to turn to the internet.
Uh oh - they're onto me
Newt was a prospect signed out of the Santa Monica High School in California. Being that he was from the area, it was almost inevitable that he would have a natural affinity towards the Pacific Coast League and the Wrigley-owned LA Angels. Kimball won 20 games at the C level in 1934, his first year in pro ball, earning a late-season call up to his beloved Angels.
After a couple of seasons yo-yo'ing up and down the Cubs chain, Newt finally got the call up to the Show in 1937, despite struggling through most of the minor league season with an ERA over seven. His action was limited to two relief appearances where he gave up 6 ERs - it wasn't pretty.
After again bombing out during a trial in 1938 and posting a 9-18 record in AA the next season, the Cubs gave up and traded him to the Dodgers, along with Gus Mancuso for veteran backstop Al Todd. For the Dodgers, Newt hung on in the back of the bullpen for the next several seasons, with a brief layover in St. Louis in 1940, never seeing much more than mop-up duty or spot starts. Nevertheless, he still was seen on screens all across the country.
You see, Kimball was one of the featured Dodger players who made an appearance in the comedic Hollywood motion picture Whistling in Brooklyn, starring Red Skelton and Ann Rutherford, in 1943. Skelton, as a radio crime show host known as "the Fox," finds himself on the trail of a real-life serial killer while becoming a suspect himself.
At one point during his time on the lamb, Skelton disguises himself as a bearded pitcher and ends up facing Newt's Brooklyn Dodgers. Future Cubs manager and Munsters/Mr. Ed guest star Leo Durocher makes a credited, speaking appearance in his film debut while Newt is relegated to the background. However, how many people can say that they were in a Hollywood motion picture? He even has a page on IMDB.com and everything.
Unfortunately, his MLB career fizzled out soon after his career in the movies biz did. After being purchased from the Dodgers by the Phillies in May of 1943, Newt continued to be hittable, with a 1-6 record and a 4.12 ERA in 89 innings, earning himself a ticket back to the PCL, this time with the Hollywood Stars; from the Hollywood screen to the Hollywood diamond. By 1947, he was done as a player and spent the next few seasons managing in the Braves system before quitting baseball for good in 1951.
God bless TCMA and other vintage oddballers such as Larry Fritsch and Renata Galasso. Without their collector's and niche issues, obscure subjects such as Newt Kimball would never have had a baseball card with their likeness on it and my CATRC would be that much more impossible to finish. Not to mention, I'm sure Kimball had a smile on his face when someone remembered his brief and long-ago baseball career and presented him with a card - we all dream of having our faces on our own baseball card, after all. Simple though the card may be.
Newt in his days as a Cubs moundsman.
Image courtesy of baseball-birthdays.net
I'm thrilled to be able to add Newt Kimball to my Cubs All-Time Roster Collection binder, with extra happy points for the autograph. It definitely would have been nice to walk away with a few more of them; however, Newt's auction seemed to go unnoticed among the rest and I really shouldn't get greedy anyway.
If I gt greedy and unappreciative, some witch might turn me into a newt: