There was a time when postcards were a cool way to communicate with friends. Lush, exotic photographs of landmarks and hotels, or stunning views of nature were common on the front, with some space on the backs to jot a note — “having a wonderful time, wish you were here,” or something like that.
Celebrities and athletic heroes found their way onto postcards too, particularly in the 1920s and ’30s. And SCP Auctions is selling three lots of exceptionally rare 1935 Pebble Beach Clothiers postcards during its Winter Premier Auction that runs through Jan. 21. The four autographed cards on the block, which were recently discovered as part of a northern California estate, include a gem mint signature of a young outfielder named Joe DiMaggio.
Some history. Pebble Beach Clothiers was a retailer in the San Francisco area. The company sold different kinds of clothing; an April 1936 advertisement in the Petaluma Argus-Courier, for example, offered “New Easter Neckwear” ranging in price from 55 cents to $1.50. In 1935, postcards featuring seven baseball players and a few Bay Area athletic personalities were released, “compliments of Pebble Beach.”
Pebble Beach is more famous for the golf course on the Monterey Peninsula that overlooks the Pacific Ocean and has played host to several major events, starting with the 1929 U.S. Amateur. It has hosted nine USGA major events, and professionally, five U.S. Opens and a PGA Championship. The 2019 U.S. Open is also scheduled to coincide with the centennial of the Pebble Beach course.
1935 Pebble Beach Clothiers Checklist
The 1935 postcards featured players from three of the San Francisco-area teams that played in the Pacific Coast League — the San Francisco Seals, Oakland Oaks and San Francisco Mission Reds. DiMaggio was a 20-year-old with the Seals during the 1935 season, and he is part of the seven-card set along with teammates Lefty O’Doul and Walter Mails. The Missions featured a card of manager Gabby Street, while the Oaks cards included manager Oscar Vitt, Leroy Anton and Wee Ludolph.
The SCP Auctions sale is offering the DiMaggio and O’Doul postcards in separate auctions, while the third auction combines postcards of Mails and Maurice “Clipper” Smith, who was the football coach at Santa Clara University.
The cards measured 3½ inches-by-5½ inches and featured a black-and-white sepia-toned image of a photograph on the front and a back that was typical for postcards — blank areas for writing on left side, and a place to pen the address of the person who was to receive the card. A letter that accompanied the cards was written by San Francisco sportscaster Ernie Smith, the longtime radio voice of the Seals. The May 4, 1935, note describes a redemption offer for “personally signed pictures” in exchange for a band from a Pebble Beach necktie…sort of an early autograph redemption.
These postcard fronts were personally autographed by the players, and having such a pristine DiMaggio autograph in clear blue ink is certain to draw a lot of interest. With less than two weeks to go in the auction, bidding for the postcard already has more than doubled its $3,000 starting price. According to SCP Auctions, a DiMaggio card in lesser condition sold for $7,539 in 2010.
DiMaggio was one season away from beginning his major-league career with the New York Yankees, and the image on the card was taken in 1933, the year he hit safely in 61 consecutive games. DiMaggio would earn even more fame when he hit safely in 56 straight games during the 1941 season.
The signature on the O’Doul postcard is graded PSA 9. O’Doul played 11 years in the majors and had a career .349 average. O’Doul also averaged .352 during 16 minor-league seasons. He won the National League batting title twice, hitting .398 in 1929 with Philadelphia and .368 in 1932 with Brooklyn. He is not, however, in the Hall of Fame.
Sports fans know plenty about DiMaggio and O’Doul. Mails and Smith, on the other hand, are interesting in their own right.
Mails, a left-handed pitcher nicknamed “The Great,” has his signature (it reads “Great Mails”) authenticated by PSA/DNA. The Smith signature received a “no opinion” assessment from PSA/DNA due to a lack of known autograph examples.
Mails also known as “Duster,” for his habit of throwing brushback pitches, was 40 in 1935. He played seven seasons in the majors, debuting in 1915 with Brooklyn and finishing with the Cardinals in early 1926. He did his best major-league work in Cleveland, going 7-0 in 1920 and pitched 6 2/3 innings of scoreless relief in Game 3 of the World Series. He added a three-hit, complete-game shutout victory in Game 6.
Mails added “The Great” nickname after that season and followed it up with a 14-8 mark in 1921. While he only had a 32-25 record in the majors, Mails owned a 225-210 record in 18 minor-league seasons. He pitched 14 seasons in the PCL, fashioning three 20-win years while compiling a 173-171 mark in the circuit. He went 3-1 in 1935.
He was quite a character. According to the Sacramento Bee, Mails once asked an umpire to throw him out of a game so he could meet his date. The umpire refused.
During his career, Mails had 23 different baseball cards issued, plus the post card. He debuted with a 1919 Zeenut card and also was featured in this product in 1920, 1923, 1924, 1927, 1928, 1929, 1930 and 1933. Interestingly, a 56-card Walter Mails Card Game was produced by the pitcher in 1924, which assigned batting results to different players; George Sisler had a home run, for example. The set had a WG7 designation, included six future Hall of Famers and was an ancestor to the 1968 Topps game set.
After his career, Mails would appear in the 1990 Target All-Time Dodger Series and in the Conlon Collection five years later.
Smith, who played at Notre Dame under Knute Rockne, was in his final stint at Santa Clara in 1935, coming off a 7-2-1 year and six consecutive winning seasons. The Broncos did not fare well in 1935, going 3-6, and Smith would move on to an even more illustrious career at Villanova, going 41-17-3 in six seasons including back-to-back 8-0-1 campaigns in 1937 and ’38.
Bidding for the Winter Premier Auction is open only to registered buyers and will be conducted online. For more information on how to participate, visit the SCP Auctions website or call (949) 831-3700.