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Old Baseball Card Backs Sometimes Reveal Uncommon Courage

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I was recently working on a project where we were discussing the incredible text detail on 1950 Bowman football cards.  We looked at one player and discovered that 1) he had a brother playing professional baseball  2) he was going to graduate school and 3) he was also a former Marine.

So many vintage sports cards really have a lot of tremendous information, much of it which has never been properly noted into any baseball card data base or a player’s history.

Going through some of these backs cards got me to thinking about a great piece of card trivia my good friend Mel Solomon told me about many years ago. The Philadelphia Athletics of the late 1940’s featured a pitching stable of World War II heroes including Lou Brissie who made a spectacular comeback from a severe leg injury. Brissie was always well regarded for not only his pitching ability but his courage during wartime and then in his comeback to pitch in the majors.

Phil Marchildon 1949 Bowman baseballHowever, another pitcher on that staff had an even more fascinating history noted on the back of his 1949 Bowman card.   Phil Marchildon was a prisoner of war.   He was held at Stalag Luft III, which is famed for its role in the film “The Great Escape”.   It’s all notated on the back of his card, which is in the second series. Marchildon back

Like a lot of prisoners, Marchildon had lost weight and suffered nightmares upon returning to the States.  He was talked into continuing his career by Connie Mack and made a couple of brief appearances during the 1945 season.  He got back into baseball shape and pitched a full season for the 1946 Philaelphia Athletics in which he went 13-16.  The next year, though, he turned in his career year when he went 19-9.  Marchildon slipped back a bit later in the decade and was out of the major leagues by early in the 1950 season.

Marchildon also has a 2007 Topps Distinguished Service Autographed Cut which was issued to a stated print run of 1 copy. That card was issued ten years after his passing at the age of 83.

Other players from the era were also captured and held prisoner before returning to big league duty including Mickey Grasso, Dixie Howell and Jim Blackburn and umpire Augie Donatelli.

Marchildon was Canadian and there was a book written about him which you can see here.

The 1949 Bowman card is somewhat rare in high grade and so prices vary from $20 to nearly $200.  There are some nice photos and a few autographs online as well.  You can see all of them here.

Do you have a card with a neat tale on the back that may have gone overlooked?  If so, we’d love to hear from you.

Rich Klein can be reached at [email protected]

About Rich Klein

Rich Klein has spent almost his entire life collecting baseball cards having begun at the tender age of seven. He has spent more than three decades in the organized hobby including editing the first 12 editions of the Beckett Almanac of Baseball Card and Collectibles. He lives in Plano, TX along with his wife Dena and their two dogs. You can reach him at [email protected].

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