Former major league pitcher Al Demaree had a pretty uneventful career in baseball. He spent a total of eight seasons pitching in the National League and while that would typically be the hallmark of a person’s life, Demaree is arguably remembered more these days for his work as an cartoontist.
Al Demaree the Player
Demaree wasn’t a star in the major leagues but was plenty successful. In a career that spanned eight seasons from 1912-19, he pitched for the New York Giants, Philadelphia Phillies, Chicago Cubs, and Boston Braves. With an 80-72 record and a career 2.77 ERA, he was an above average hurler. He won a career-best 19 games in 1916 with the Cubs and his 13-4 / 2.21 ERA tally in his first full year in the majors in 1913 probably represented his best overall season.
Demaree was primarily a starting pitcher but served as a reliever as well in an era where not much emphasis was placed on that as starters often completed games. His three saves in his final season in 1919, for example, were good enough for second in the entire league. After that 1919 season, he would go on to pitch for five more seasons in the minor league in Seattle, Portland, and Columbus.
Suffice to say, Demaree was a solid pitcher in the big leagues. Had it not been for a late start (he didn’t enter the big leagues until the age of 27), he could have had an even longer career.
Demaree actually began preparing for his next career while he was still playing baseball. As this SABR article points out, he got his start as a cartoonist for newspapers during his career and by 1922, had a regular feature in The Sporting News. Demaree’s comics stuck to the one thing he knew best: baseball. Over the years, his cartoons would feature depictions of real players.
That work gained him notoriety and Demaree would later be retained as an artist on a few baseball card sets in the 1930s after his career had ended.
Demaree seemed to need the work, too. He was reportedly arrested and jailed for failing to pay a $50 bill and, according to that SABR article, had spent all of the $50,000 he had saved from his playing days.
Al Demaree Sets
Demaree got his big break in the card market in 1934. That year, the Al Demaree Die-Cut set was born. The issue, cataloged by Jefferson Burdick as R304, was a curious set of die-cut cards featuring cartoon images of players that Demaree drew for the Dietz Gum Company. The cards featured tabs with the bottom, which could be folded so the players could stand up. Each of the 16 teams had ten players (one for each position as well as a batter) and with eight umpire cards, there were a total of 168 in the entire set.
His work was well received by at least one company has he got a shot at another card set in 1935. This time, Demaree’s artwork was featured in the 1935 Schutter-Johnson (R72) set. These cards feature black and white images drawn by Demaree against bold red backgrounds. The set is sometimes heralded as the ‘Major League Secrets’ set since the backs contained tips for playing the game.
Demaree had his hand in at least one more vintage set before his death in 1962. His images were used as the artwork in the 1947 Signal Oil gasoline set, which featured Pacific Coast League (PCL) teams and cartoons. Demaree himself played in the PCL so that could have been a reason to commission him.
Demaree’s name lives on and appears in written form on all of these issues with the pictures drawn.
All three sets are somewhat rare but you can usually find some on eBay.