1915 Cracker Jack

The 1915 Cracker Jack Baseball set consists of 176 subjects, each card measuring 2-1/4" by 3". The issue (designated E145-2 in The American Card Catalog) was printed on thinner-than-usual cardstock, which revealed a textured surface showcasing the cards' color-tint likenesses, and inserted in boxes of the molasses-covered popcorn snack. A highly sought-after factory set was also available, by mail, in exchange for coupons. Cardbacks devoted half the area to a short player biography and the rest to text promoting the set and the product. American, National and Federal League heroes include expected Hall of Famers Ty Cobb, Walter Johnson, Tris Speaker and Honus Wagner, plus Miller Huggins, Max Carey, Branch Rickey, Zach Wheat, Edd Roush and Clark Griffith. Three eventual members of the 1919 "Black Sox" squad are present in the form of Chick Gandil, Ed Cicotte, and the scarce "Shoeless Joe" Jackson.

The majority of Cracker Jack's 1915 cards reused the enticing illustrations that had originally graced those players' 1914 entries, with the exception of Christy Mathewson – who in 1915 was portrayed via a dignified portrait likeness, not his familiar pitching pose. Though not known for any production rarities, given the availability of a complete factory set, the cards still qualify for demand and condition scarcity. Furthermore, as the 1915 issue's final group of cards - those numbered from 145 through 176 - have no direct counterparts in the prior year's abbreviated production – they are in somewhat stronger demand than many of the first group, as all of the collectors who seek to obtain a Cracker Jack card of each player and who are willing to settle for a suitable example from either year are compelled to compete with conventional set-builders for those final 32 pieces.

"... Buy Me Some Peanuts and Cracker Jack..." Baseball's cooperative relationship with the molasses-covered popcorn snack has been a long and comfortable one, predating the 1908 composition of the familiar song, "Take Me Out to the Ballgame." Culturally, consumption of the two national favorites is seen as an ideal pairing of indulgences - one for the spirit, one for the palate.

In 1914, Cracker Jack took the natural mutualism one step further. During that season - two years after Cracker Jack first introduced the gimmick of placing "a surprise" in each of its packages - the company inserted a brand new type of baseball card in its boxes. In comparison to the physically smaller, artistically restrained tobacco and candy cards already circulating during that era, the 1914 Cracker Jack cards were "dazzlers" in every sense of the word. They were creatively inspired, "delicious" collectibles, and a departure in style. The cards' visual demeanor was reflective of their association with a different sort of product - one that had a palpable "ballpark" orientation.

The Cracker Jack cards came out of their boxes boasting generous 2 ¼" by 3" proportions - substantially larger than a typical tobacco card. Putting the expanded dimensions to good use, the cards featured beautifully detailed, color-tint photo likenesses of the 144 individual players and employed a brilliant red background hue for the finest, eye-catching effect. Cardbacks performed two roles, with approximately one half devoted to a short player biography and the other to text advertising both the set and the product. The items were printed on thinner-than-usual card stock, which revealed a textured surface that favorably showcased the cards' brightly inked attributes.

Baseball cards and Cracker Jack - the perfect match! That is with the exception of one aspect. The Cracker Jack snack had been formulated so that each bit of coated popcorn would resist adhering to its neighbors in the box. This worked fine, in the sense that people could enjoy the confection piece-by-piece, without risk of the product clumping. Less successful, by far as it turned out, was the premise of placing a delicate trading card into close proximity with syrupy Cracker Jack, and expecting it to emerge in credible shape. Almost all of 1914's Cracker Jack cards, as a result of this lapse in judgment on the part of its maker, display stains and darkening associated with sweet-tasting "goo," as well as dents, dings and creases incurred while the piece bounced around "raw" and unprotected within the container. The hobby loves its 1914 Cracker Jacks, but enthusiasts are generally required to compromise exacting condition standards in the effort to collect them.

It's gratifying to a commodity's buyers of any era when a manufacturer listens to their concerns and subsequently addresses them. Cracker Jack improved its product in its subsequent 1915 issue, in highly meaningful ways. Most importantly, a buyer could have his Cracker Jack and his high-grade cards, too! In 1915, a customer found a card inside when he purchased a box of Cracker Jack ... and it was stained, just like the 1914s had been. But now, the company offered the option to obtain the whole set pristine and unsullied throughout, by mail in exchange for coupons. (A specially made album to house the cards was also furnished upon request and for additional coupons.) A collector's dream, these early "factory sets" - likely the first of their kind seen in the industry - held a full span of the series' cards that were not only unblemished, but which had been spared the rigors of packing, too.

For 1915, Cracker Jack expanded its offering to a grand total of 176 subjects. The issue (designated E145-2 in The American Card Catalog) was identical in appearance and theme to its 1914 counterpart. In other words, it kept intact all of the facets that had made its predecessor so appealing, and it shed all of the earlier version's liabilities. Cracker Jack is a phenomenal set, particularly in the second 1915 incarnation that allowed fans to view their favorite American, National and Federal League heroes in glorious, uninterrupted splendor!

Composition - The 1915 Cracker Jack set of 176 cards constitute a gallery that many enthusiasts of the Dead Ball Era regard as fundamentally unimprovable. The expected Hall of Famers (Ty Cobb, Honus Wagner, Tris Speaker, Walter Johnson and others of that caliber) are present, as well as Miller Huggins, Max Carey, Branch Rickey, Zach Wheat and more. Unlike the foregoing stars who were among 1914's collection of 144 pieces, Edd Roush and Clark Griffith are found only in Cracker Jack's 1915 edition.

Three players are featured who would, just a few years later, make history as highly visible members of Chicago's 1919 "Black Sox" squad. Most prominent among this trio (which also included Chick Gandil and Ed Cicotte) is the card of "Shoeless Joe" Jackson. The latter piece is easily one of the most vigorously sought after and proudly held relics in the modern collecting hobby.

The majority of Cracker Jack's 1915 cards reused the enticing illustrations that had originally graced those players' 1914 entries. The most conspicuous exception is the depiction of Christy Mathewson. Shown for 1914 in a pitching pose on a horizontally oriented cardfront Matty's 1915 card reverts to a dignified portrait likeness. Needless to say, both Mathewson portrayals are highly prized on the basis of their own, respective levels of grandeur.

Key Features and Rarities - Collectors of today are certainly thankful; there are no actual rarities in 1915 Cracker Jack. (It should be kept in mind that the manufacturer's willingness to dispense complete factory sets ensured some degree of evenness in production numbers.)

The predictable effects of demand scarcity and condition scarcity apply, however, and this is fully understandable given the impressive nature of the Cracker Jack cards, and their elevated properties of aesthetic allure when seen in the highest grades.

As mentioned, the 1915 issue's final group of cards - those numbered from 145 through 176, inclusive - have no direct counterparts in prior year's abbreviated production. For this reason, they're in somewhat stronger demand than many of the first group, as all of the collectors who seek to obtain a Cracker Jack card of each player and who are willing to settle for a suitable example from either year are compelled to compete with conventional set-builders for those final 32 pieces.

Bottom Line - Just like the snack they accompanied, 1915's Cracker Jack cards left consumers hungry for more. Regrettably, the onset of World War I, perhaps combined with a shift in Cracker Jack's marketing strategies, brought a close to the company's two-yearold baseball card venture. While they lasted, the productions revealed a cardmaker's art at its finest, and the second, mostrefined of Cracker Jack's vaunted pair - the 1915 edition - has been revered ever since as a classic release holding undisputed "all-time" status.

SET LIST

# CARD NAME
1 Otto Knabe
2 Home Run Baker
3 Joseph B. Tinker
4 Larry Doyle
5 Ward Miller
6 Eddie Plank
7 Edward Collins
8 Rube Oldring
9 Arthur Hoffman
10 John McInnis
11 George Stovall
12 Connie Mack
13 Arthur E. Wilson
14 Samuel Crawford
15 Ewell Russell
16 Howie Camnitz
17 Roger Bresnahan
18 Johnny Evers
19 Chief Bender
20 Cy Falkenberg
21 Heinie Zimmerman
22 Smoky Joe Wood
23 Charles Comiskey
24 George Mullen (Mullin)
25 Michael Simon
26 James Scott
27 William Carrigan
28 Jack Barry
29 Vean Gregg
30 Ty Cobb
31 Charles Wagner
32 Mordecai Brown
33 Amos Strunk
34 Ira Thomas
35 Harry Hooper
36 Ed Walsh
37 Grover Alexander
38 Red Dooin
39 Chick Gandil
40 Jimmy Austin
41 Thomas Leach
42 Al Bridwell
43 Rube Marquard
44 Charles Tesreau
45 Fred Luderus
46 Bob Groom
47 Josh Devore
48 Stephen O'Neill
49 Dots Miller
50 John Hummell (Hummel)
51 Nap Rucker
52 Zach Wheat
53 Otto Miller
54 Marty O'Toole
55 Dick Hoblitzel (Hoblitzell)
56 Clyde Milan
57 Walter Johnson
58 Wally Schang
59 Doc Gessler
60 Oscar Dugey
61 Ray Schalk
62 Willie Mitchell
63 Charles Adams
64 Jimmy Archer
65 Tris Speaker
66 Nap Lajoie
67 Doc Crandall
68 Honus Wagner
69 John McGraw
70 Fred Clarke
71 Chief Meyers
72 Joe Boehling
73 Max Carey
74 Frank Owens
75 Miller Huggins
76 Claude Hendrix
77 Hughie Jennings
78 Frederick Merkle
79 Ping Bodie
80 Ed Reulbach
81 Jim Delehanty (Delahanty)
82 Gavvy Cravath
83 Russ Ford
84 Elmer Knetzer
85 Charles Herzog
86 Burt Shotten
87 Forest Cady
88 Christy Mathewson
89 Larry Cheney
90 Frank Smith
91 Roger Peckinpaugh
92 Al Demaree
93 Del Pratt
94 Edward V. Cicotte
95 Ray Keating
96 Beals Becker
97 Rube Benton
98 Frank LaPorte (LaPorte)
99 Hal Chase
100 Tom Seaton
101 Wildfire Schulte
102 Ray Fisher
103 Joe Jackson
104 Vic Saier
105 Jimmy Lavender
106 Joseph Birmingham
107 Tom Downey
108 Sherwood R. Magee
109 Fred Blanding
110 Bob Bescher
111 Herbie Moran
112 Edward F. Sweeney
113 George Suggs
114 George Moriarity (Moriarty)
115 Ad Brennan
116 Rollie Zeider
117 Ted Easterly
118 Ed Konetchy
119 George Perring
120 Mickey Doolan
121 Hub Perdue
122 Owen Bush
123 Slim Sallee
124 Earle Moore (Earl)
125 Bert Niehoff
126 Walter Blair
127 Butch Schmidt
128 Louis Evans
129 Ray Caldwell
130 Ivy Wingo
131 Elmer Baumgardner
132 Les Nunamaker
133 Branch Rickey
134 Armando Marsans
135 Bill Killifer (Killefer)
136 Rabbit Maranville
137 Bill Rariden
138 Hank Gowdy
139 Ernest T. Oakes
140 Daniel F. Murphy
141 Cy Barger
142 Gene Packard
143 Jake Daubert
144 Jimmy Walsh
145 Ted Cather
146 Lefty Tyler
147 Lee Magee
148 Owen Wilson
149 Hal Janvrin
150 Doc Johnston
151 Possum Whitted
152 George McQuillen
153 Bill James
154 Dick Rudolph
155 Joe Connolly
156 Jean Dubuc
157 George Kaiserling
158 Fritz Maisel
159 Heinie Groh
160 Benny Kauff
161 Ed Rousch (Roush)
162 George Stallings
163 Bert Whaling
164 Bob Shawkey
165 Eddie Murphy
166 Leslie Bush
167 Clark Griffith
168 Vin Campbell
169 Ray Collins
170 Hans Lobert
171 Earl Hamilton
172 Erskine Mayer
173 Tilly Walker
174 Robert Veach
175 Joseph Benz
176 James L. Vaughn