Tobacco and candy companies dominated the baseball scene in the early 1900s. But as the century went on, other types of businesses began to recognize the popularity of baseball cards. One of those was the gasoline industry, which began a push with baseball issues in the 1930s and 1940s. Here are some of the more well-known issues that came out of the partnership between the sport and gasoline companies.
1930s Dizzy Dean’s Service Station Photo
Hall of Famer Dizzy Dean was one of baseball’s top pitchers in the 1930s. At some point, Dean invested into a gas station in Bradenton, Florida and it was called the Dizzy Dean Service Station. If you’re looking for a connection of Dean to the city, he was surely familiar with it as his former team, the St. Louis Cardinals, had spent 1930-36 in Bradenton for spring training.
The station distributed 4X6-inch photos of Dean as a member of the Cardinals’ team. It is sometimes listed as a 1938 issue, although it could have been produced earlier. Dean’s last year as a member of the Cardinals was in 1937 as he joined the Cubs in 1938. The photos are rare (at the time of this writing, PSA has graded only one) and don’t appear at auction too often. One sold for nearly $125 in 2013.
Because Dean likely made appearances at the station from time to time, you can also find autographed copies of these as well. Typically, they are found signed with a blue ink pen. It is also possible that a large number were signed at once at an appearance where the same pen would have been used.
1934 Doyle-Texaco Rochester Red Wings Card
This pre-war advertising card was printed in the design of a baseball. One side included a picture of a baseball serving as the background along with a plea to ask for ‘Baseball Gas’ at a neighborhood gas station, Doyle-Texaco, which was located in Rochester, New York. The other side of the card was the real attraction for collectors, since it featured a team picture of the 1934 Rochester Red Wings minor league baseball team. Most of the players would not become stars but one, Johnny Mize, would go on to become a Hall of Famer.
The card is not an easy one to find and, more than 80 years old, that is understandable. It also wasn’t a traditional baseball card and most were likely discarded instead of collected. They do surface occasionally, however. One trimmed version that included autographs from most of the team sold for $160 at auction in 2013.
1947 and 1948 Signal Gasoline Minor League Card Sets
Signal Gasoline easily had the most trading cards of any gasoline company in the 1930s and 1940s. But while they had other sets, 1947 marked the apex for the company in terms of baseball cards. That year, Signal produced a whopping six sets of minor league cards for west coast entities, including the Hollywood Stars, Los Angeles Angels, Oakland Oaks, Sacramento Solons, and the Seattle Rainiers.
These cards were printed in black and white and featured a close up sketch of various players. The backgrounds included small comics and facts of the particular player as well as advertisements for Signal Gasoline. These aren’t too difficult to find and commons can often be found for as little as $15 or $20. Casey Stengel and Vince DiMaggio are two of the highlights in the set and command a premium.
In 1948, Signal Gasoline scaled back greatly, only producing a set for the Oakland Oaks team. That issue, however, was a strong one, including Stengel, DiMaggio, a young Billy Martin, All-Star Cookie Lavagetto, and Hall of Famer Ernie Lombardi, who spent the entire year (his last in baseball) in AAA with the Oaks and Solons. Contrasted with the 1947 issue, these featured color photos of actual players. Commons in the set start around $15 and in decent shape, the stars can sell for $50 and up, depending on condition.
1949 Schumacher Service Station Set
This unique issue featured black and white pictures of random baseball players. The cards are somewhat mysterious as some are found with blank backs and others have an ad printed or stamped in red ink for Schumacher’s Service Station.
According to Old Cardboard, nine cards are known in the set, including Babe Ruth, Red Schoendienst, Joe Garagiola, and more. They are very hard to find and rarely come up for auction.