Orioles Card "O" the Day

An intersection of two of my passions: baseball cards and the Baltimore Orioles. Updated daily?

Friday, December 5, 2008

Vintage Fridays: Fred Marsh, 1955 Topps #13

I normally don't scan the card backs for this blog, but if I let today pass by without showing you the other side of this fifty-three year old slab of cardboard, you might think that this was just a nifty throwback to the early days of Orioles baseball. A big, pleasant smile from Fred Marsh, who seems nice enough for a career .239 hitter whose Baltimore career lasted 109 games over two seasons. He's got some really awesome stirrups, and the logo with the bizarre blob of blood-red covering the cartoon Bird's face is certainly a conversation piece. But all of these elements mask the macabre attempt at humor that lurks behind. Let's flip this one over, shall we?
As you can see, Fred's middle name is Francis. Maybe he was named after the animal-loving saint from Assisi, Italy. The big black card number inside the baseball is an eye-catcher. I'm not sure where Corry is in Pennsylvania. Let's consult Google...okay, it's way Northwest, practically in New York. The closest city of any note is Erie. We've got some stats down the bottom showing that Fred hit .306 in a pinch for the 1954 White Sox. Oh, look at the charming little cartoon about "Merkle's Boner"...

Holy crap, is that morbid! Fred Marsh's poor namesake is actually shown wearing a decent mock-up of the 1907 Giants uniform, not the 1908 ensemble. But then, the '07 duds are more visually striking. Anyway, the unfortunate 19-year-old Merkle is apparently so distraught over his pennant-losing gaffe that he has chosen to take his own life. Just to make sure he doesn't screw this up as well, he's gone to the trouble of fitting himself with a noose, ingesting poison, and putting a gun to his own temple. His teammates, including one burly fellow with a luxurious handlebar mustache, are rushing to Fred's side to stop him. I assume they were successful, as he went on to hit .273 in a 16-year career and died in 1956 at age 67. So in fact, he was still alive when this card was made! I wonder if he ever saw it, and what he might have thought of it. In all seriousness, my jaw dropped when I first took it in, but after a moment of disbelief, I had a good laugh. To think that adults today worry about movies and video games desensitizing children to violence!

Of course, being linked with this suicide-glorifying sketch seemed to put the whammy on Fred Marsh. In 1955, the year of the card's release, he missed nearly half the season with a broken elbow and a leg injury. The following year, he went 3-for-24 at the plate and by the end of May he was finished as a player. At least there was life after baseball for Fred; he apparently returned home to Pennsylvania and spent many years as a postal carrier. He just passed away two years ago, at age 82.


White Sox Cards said...

That cartoon on the back is insane!

Jeffrey Wolfe said...

That might be the coolest cartoon Topps has ever done.

zman40 said...

That is absolutley hilarious. Ol' Merkle wasn't taking any chances. In case the gun misfired, he had the noose. If the rope broke, he had the poison. It's like the rock/paper/scissors of death. WOW!

Kevin said...

zman - I like that...if the poison takes too long, he has the gun. That would bring it full circle.