Friday, August 20, 2010

Tony & Bernie's "Big Apple" Stash - August 2010

In an effort to avoid being bested by their pal Leela, Tony and Bernie (the lovable twins from Mike DeNero’s Neighborhood) allow me to present Tony and Bernie’s “Big Apple” Stash. As the lads are twins, and are usually forced to share, why stop at toys, snacks, and sportscards? They will also take turns authoring this column, a monthly ode to their favorite vintage sportscards picturing New York legends. This month, Tony takes a stab at waxing poetic about one of his all-time favorite players. Unlike Bernie, Tony’s spelling skills are well honed, especially for a 5-year-old. Enjoy!

T206 Fred Merkle (Portrait)

by Tony

Hello everyone; Tony here. Glad to be back writing the current installment of my column, which Mike DeNero wants me to write every other month (my twin brother, Bernie, writes it on the months I get a break). My card of the month is the T206 Fred Merkle (portrait), who is pictured as one of the newest members of John "Muggsy" McGraw's New York Giants.

I absolutely love this card for a few reasons. First, it passes with, flying colors, two of the tests I give to all cards: is it visually appealing? The bright red background enhances the detailed portrait of a presumably 20-year-old rookie (the card was released in 1909 or 1910, so the portrait was likely taken in 1908 – I assume the card’s image is derived from a Carl Horner portrait). Which brings us to my second reason for loving this card and test number two: does the card picture an athlete early in his career? Certainly.

Third, and most importantly, through this card, Merkle tells me a story. He tells me that he is barely two years out of high school during the summer of 1908 and that New York City is quite far from his home in Toledo, Ohio – and while he relishes the opportunity to play for the greatest club in the game, he misses his family and the sweet comforts of home, especially during the long train rides to St. Louis and Chicago. He reveals that he was scared to death to meet his new manager, John “Muggsy” McGraw, when he arrived at the Polo Grounds in late September of the previous year, after the Gants purchased him from Tecumseh in the Southern Michigan League. He reveals that he is quite in awe of some of his new teammates – Christy Mathewson (even though he’s known as the “Christian Gentleman”), Rube Marquard, “Iron” Joe McGinnity, “Turkey” Mike Donlin, Roger Bresnahan, and Fred Snodgrass, to name a few – especially since he’s the youngest member of the team. He admits that he’s a bit scared of the filth and the hustle and bustle of New York City. He explains that while he’s aware that he’s a green rookie, he knows he can play ball with the best the league has to offer and he is frustrated that he has yet to crack the club’s starting lineup, even for one game. He tells me that he’s excited to have his portrait taken in the Carl Horner Studios in Boston today (September 1, 1908), so that he can send a copy to his family back home, and that he hopes to be in the starting lineup versus the Boston Doves (soon to be known as the Boston Braves) later today at the South End Grounds. He knows that if Mr. McGraw will just give him a chance to crack the starting lineup, he’ll give a good account of himself and earn a starting spot … for good.

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