A journey to the seedier side of the world's greatest sports ephemera collection.
I could sense that my visit to the vast and mysterious ephemera archive was nearly over. The curators kept looking at their watches as I pored over the items they brought me; that is, between their bouts of boyish tittering. The last batch was not as thematically coherent as those previous. In fact, the items came from an archival chamber that bore a sign reading "Sex, Drugs and Freaks." I didn't know what to make of this designation until I saw the items for myself, as will you...
Earth Foods Barry Bonds Card
This is from a series of A's and Giants cards presented by the now-defunct Bay Area natural supermarket chain, Earth Foods.
Tudor Electric Football Box
This is what was available to the young, would-be football simulator in the days before video games.
Giraffe Jones Card
Jones was just another of the countless thousands of young men who trod the diamond in search of glory without ever getting a shot at The Show.
The Acme Cards ‘Diamond Beaus' Series
With the Great Depression at its height, the Acme Card Company was desperate for new revenue streams. Realizing that only young boys bought their baseball cards, the Acme braintrust decided to launch a series aimed at adult women with the thinking that they would be attracted to brawny ballplayers. Unfortunately for the Acme scheme, no self-respecting pro was willing to assign them rights to his image at the puny rates being offered. The few who did were obscure and, to be diplomatic, not what we could call traditionally attractive.
Ace Sports Monthly
Another pulp title filled with thousands of words dedicated to sport. What boy wouldn't want to read "Naked Knight of the Mat," a gripping tale of a grappler who intimidates his opponents by entering the ring in the altogether and getting them in "special, secret clinches?"
Crack Box Art
I was not aware that crack was a thing in the 19th Century, but the proof is in the packaging. Another product hitching its advertising wagon to that new rage of the era: base ball.
Drugs Coloring Book
The 1980s - what a time! This coloring book, featuring Keith Hernandez, Lonnie Smith, Dale Berra, Dave Parker, Steve Howe and Tim Raines, could be the product of no other decade.
This blotter is part of a shameless and subversive campaign by the margarine industry to discredit butter.The margarine people hired an artist to alter a Blue Valley Butter blotter to demonstrate that eating the product would make circus-freak-like blimps of the nation's youth.
The original art:
The nefarious alteration perpetrated by "Big Margarine":
"Hey chums, let's take a butter break!"
All Football Stories
In a bit of irony, the market for magazines jam-packed with football fiction died out just before the pro game made its great leap forward in popularity.
Supreme Love Oil Blotter
This baseball-themed advertising piece, dating from the 1930s, comes from the Engulf Refining Company. When the authorities discovered the true intent of this product, they forced Engulf to take it off store shelves and cease mail-order deliveries.
Looking at a warehouse full of suppressed product, Engulf responded by putting a strategically placed, rubber-stamped ‘G' on every can and advertisement of the stuff in the hopes that it could be repurposed for treating baseball mitts.
Fred Merkle Card
Nobody seems to know the provenance of this card, which, as you can see, is in pretty rough shape. Of course, those up on their baseball history will know that Merkle's infamous mental lapse occurred in 1908 when he was a member of the Giants, and that he didn't join the Cubs until nearly a decade later.