Beginning today, we team up with Helmar Brewing Company, makers of some of the hobby’s most iconic art cards, for a “Card of the Week”. We’ll feature one of the original, unique creations–and the story behind it. Helmar’s incredible art work is designed to echo a time when collecting wasn’t about condition, but about the essence of the player, his team, the era that the card represents, the beauty of the card, and what it all means to the collector. Learn about the cards, the series, the history and how you can own them through these weekly tales from the diamond.
F.P. Adams’ famous 1910 poem, “Baseball’s Sad Lexicon”, will ensure that the flannelled double play trio of Joe Tinker, Johnny Evers, and Frank Chance will be forever remembered. Modern diamond fans, however, have a tendency to downplay the abilities of the three Cub infielders both individually and as a fielding unit. Their argument is that if it were not for the enduring popularity of the poem and especially Adams’ evocative refrain, “Tinker…to Evers…to Chance,” it is entirely possible that not even a single member of the crew may have been elected to the Hall of Fame. Indeed, the modern fan sniffs, the trio can safely be forgotten. Especially Joe Tinker.
A look at the record books, however, show that Joseph Bert Tinker, the maligned shortstop, thrived before, during, and after Adam’s poem helped make him a household name. Tinker’s first season in the big leagues came in 1902. At just 21 years of age, he outmaneuvered a dozen other prospects to win the starting shortstop position for the National League’s Chicago Orphans. While his batting average was a lively .263 that year, it was painfully obvious that he needed work in the field. He chalked up 74 errors, flubbing nearly ten percent of his fielding chances. By the following year, 1903, both Frank Chance and Johnny Evers joined Tinker as regular infielders.
Over the next few seasons the youngster’s collective confidence grew as a result of hours upon countless hours of fielding practice. As Tinker improved, so did the Chicago team. The hard work finally paid off during the 1906 season when Tinker, still just 25 years old, helped lead the Cubs to an astounding 116-36 record and a first place finish. It was the start of something big. Over the five year period of 1906 through 1910, the team won four pennants with a combined record of 525 wins against just 240 losses.
The trio may have split up after the 1912 season but Joe Tinker was hardly through. In 1913 he was named manager of a Cincinnati club in serious decline. Still, he enjoyed both his personal best batting and fielding averages since coming to the majors. The following year, 1914, he jumped at the chance to return to Chicago and manage the upstart Chi-Feds of the Federal League. At 33 years of age, it was also his last full season as a regular and productive player. He was a popular leader and a successful one; despite having only a fair club, the team came in second. The next season Tinker’s abilities as a leader made an even bigger difference when he pushed the team through a tough race to win the pennant.
The Helmar Oasis card of Joe Tinker shows him during his 1914 season with the Chi-Feds. It was painted by Sanjay Verma. The Oasis series is unique in that it is a thick card, with the player portrait inset within a die-cut border. Seven different vintage cigarette packages appear in the set, with every player available across all seven brands. Only three or four Joe Tinker cards with the Sweet Caporal brand, for example, will ever be produced. They are sold only at auction, with the Tinker card pictured being available this week on eBay.
To visit Helmar’s eBay storefront and read more about Joe Tinker and the Oasis series, click here.