Tag Archives: Reach Sporting Goods Company

Lost Advertisements: Designed by Babe Ruth

16 Nov

ruthglove

“Here they are for you fellows,” a 1927 ad for “The Babe Ruth Home Run Specials” from Reach:

“At Last–every fellow who plays ball can have the kind of mitt or glove he’s always wanted.  Not small size, shoddy gloves.  Not the cheap-looking, cheap-wearing kids that go to pieces in a single season.  But Full-sized Big League gloves.”

The Babe Ruth Specials retailed from $3.50 to $5.00  The catcher’s mitt was $8.

Al Reach

12 Dec

Alfred James “Al” Reach opened his first sporting goods store in Philadelphia in 1874 while playing for the Athletics in the National Association.  Within a decade he had built a hugely successfully business, began publishing “Reach’s Official Baseball Guide,” and established a National league franchise in Philadelphia.

In May of 1886 Reach talked to The Philadelphia Times about “one of the great industries of Philadelphia in the sporting line.”

“Men, women and children are employed in making base balls.  The cheaper ones are made by a press with leather shavings on the inside.  The body is wrapped with cotton and covered with leather.  The covering is done by hand.  The best balls—the ones in use by the American Base Ball Association—are a solid piece of Para rubber on the inside, covered with worsted yarn and then with an outside covering of horse-hide.  Men do this covering.  They are mostly harness-makers, yet they have to broken into the work, for even a good harness-maker may be a poor hand at covering and sewing a ball properly.”

Al Reach

Al Reach

Reach said the company had orders for “five hundred dozen, or six million, balls already for this season,” and the company was “two hundred thousand dozen behind” filling the orders:

“We have had the factory running until ten o’clock at night all winter.  Base balls sell from 5 cents to $1.25 apiece…Three-fifths of all the balls used in the country are made in Philadelphia.”

—–

“Base ball bats are made of willow, spruce and first and second-growth ash.  The latter wood makes the best bet.  They are sold at fifty, sixty and seventy-five cents each.  There are about sixty thousand bats used every season.  Our orders already indicate that we will dispose of at least fifteen thousand of the best quality.”

Reach said the company employed “upwards of five hundred persons.”

Reach's main factory in 1886 at Frankford Avenue and Wildey Street in Philadelphia---The Martin Landenberger Hosiery Mill Complex/Morse Elevator Works Building

Reach’s main factory in 1886 at Frankford Avenue and Wildey Street in Philadelphia–The Martin Landenberger Hosiery Mill Complex/Morse Elevator Works Building

By the end of the decade Reach’s company was purchased by A.G. Spalding, with Reach staying on as an executive and the company continued to produce equipment with the Reach name, including the official American League baseball, which was used through the 1976 season.

Reach maintained controlling interest in the Phillies until 1899 and died in 1928.  He left an estate worth more than $1 million.

Reach Official American League ball 1920s

Reach Official American League ball 1920s

“Mique” Fisher 2

7 May

On October 12, 1906, with the World Series between the Chicago White Sox and Chicago Cubs deadlocked at two games apiece, August “Garry” Herrmann, President of the National Commission, received a telegram from Fresno, California:

“Fresno will give $25,000 guarantee; guarantee 40,000 fans and sunshine for deciding game of World Series.

–Mike Fisher”

Fisher said the offer to bring the series and Fresno native Frank Chance to town was backed by “the businessmen here.”

It is doubtful Herrmann took the offer seriously, and it’s probably just as doubtful that Fisher took it seriously, but it was picked up by newspapers across the country, and Fisher enjoyed the publicity.

It was a last bit of publicity before his career in organized baseball ended.  Later in the month he was dismissed as manager of the Fresno Raisin Eaters, and the team was dropped from the Pacific Coast League (PCL) the following spring.

Within weeks Fisher had moved on to a new project; he announced that he was in the process of forming a team to travel to Hawaii.  The San Francisco Call said “It will be the first American ball team to make the trip across the Pacific in a little over nineteen years,” since Spalding’s world tour.

In conjunction with Jesse Woods, a Honolulu promoter, Fisher organized a tour of the Hawaiian Islands with a team of PCL stars.

Mike Fisher

Mike Fisher

Upon his return, Fisher got more ink on the West Coast, when he headed to Nevada with Charlie Irwin of the San Francisco Seals; the two met with businessmen in the mining towns of Goldfield and Tonopah to discuss forming a professional league—Fisher told The San Jose Mercury News that he was now “against organized baseball,” and if he got involved in the league “it will be an outlaw organization.”

Fisher chose not to get involved in the new league, but immediately went to work on an even more ambitious tour than the 1907 Honolulu trip.

With the sponsorship of the Reach Sporting Goods Company, Fisher would accompany a group of stars to China, Japan and the Philippines.  Early publicity promised the travelers would include Ty Cobb, Hal Chase, and Frank Chance.

When the ship set sail in November of 1908 those three stars were not on board, but “several hundred fans and friends” were present when the steamer China left the port in San Francisco to see the group off.  The team was substantially the same as the one that toured Hawaii the previous year—an aggregation of PCL stars and a few National and American League players– and consisted of: Jim Delahanty, George Hildebrand, Bill Burns, Pat Flaherty, Jack Bliss, Babe Danzig, Harry McArdle, Nick Williams, Joe Curtis, Heine Heitmuller, Jack Graney and Bill “Brick” Devereaux.

Despite the failure to land Cobb, Chase or Chance for the tour, the West Coast press applauded Fisher for even attempting the trip, The Call said:

“The undertaking which he has fathered and which is so successfully underway at the present time is a big proposition.  With the single exception of the around-the-world trip of the A.G. Spaldings years ago, nothing on as big a scale as this has ever been attempted.  To take a team of American baseball players over a journey that will total 10,000 miles before they return, to play games in China, Japan, Manila and Honolulu is something that two or three years ago would have been laughed at as an impossibility.”

The tour lasted more than three months, with the team barnstorming through Japan, China, the Philippines and Hawaii, playing local and US Service member teams.  Though reports varied, the team played between twenty and thirty games, and lost no more than four.

While they drew large crowds throughout the trip, the newspapers back home reported that the tour was a financial disaster; when the players arrived back in San Francisco on February 15, 1909 aboard the Tenyo Maru, Fisher responded to the reports:

“I hear that it has been said that the trip was a financial frost.  Well, anybody who says that is a liar.  We broke even in Japan and made money in Manila and Honolulu.  I am satisfied with the trip.”

Fisher didn’t mention the financial results in China; likely because that leg of the tour was a disaster financially.  Years later he would tell a story about the team’s experience there, complete with his usual exaggerations:

“In one game we played in Canton we had 150,000 people inside, and as the gatemen had been instructed to accept Chinese money it required the combined efforts of the entire team to tote the money up to the hotel.  A special staff of accountants was busy all night totaling it up and in the morning we discovered we had $46.15.”

Fisher promised to take a team to Australia the following year.  The trip never took place; instead Fisher purchased a Seattle dance hall called the Dreamland, and quickly became the target of the pious women of the city.  Early in 1910 Fisher was indicted by “The King County grand jury, as a direct result of the activity of the Women’s Clubs,” for violating liquor laws, allowing “unescorted women” into his dance hall, and other assorted charges.  A special prosecutor, Justice William Henry White, one of the most respected jurists in Washington State, was appointed to prosecute Fisher and other club owners targeted by the women.

Ever the promoter, Fisher used the indictment to promote his dance hall and rally public support.  After the indictment was handed down Fisher sponsored a “Sermon in the Dreamland rink.”  According to The Seattle Times, Fisher engaged Reverend Frank Herthum, who “has liberal ideas about amusements.”

Mike Fisher's Dreamland Dancehall, Seattle

Mike Fisher’s Dreamland Dance Hall, Seattle

Herthum preached, and Fisher presented a free vaudeville show.  The paper said Fisher had stirred up a “protest against the effort to close the dance hall without having provided a substitute where clerks, servant girls and employees in the shops may pass an evening to their liking.”  At the same time The Times noted that the prosecutor was becoming impatient with the women who brought the charges because they continually promised to provide evidence that “has not yet come to light.”  The charges were quietly dismissed within weeks.

Fisher left Seattle sometime in 1911 and began operating the Arcadia Dance Hall in San Francisco.

Advertisement for Fisher's Arcadia Dancing Pavilion.

Advertisement for Fisher’s Arcadia Dancing Pavilion.

In January of 1917 Fisher made headlines in California when he announced that he was directing an effort to restart the California State League, which had folded after the 1915 season.  He said he would have clubs in Sacramento, Fresno, Stockton and San Jose.  Within two weeks Fisher abandoned the plan.  The San Jose Mercury News was not surprised:

“Mr. Fisher, the wonderful getter of publicity, has his publicity and is through.  Probably he has done wonders for his dance emporium or whatever it is he runs.”

The following year the San Francisco Seals of the Pacific Coast League came on the market; the first name reported as a potential buyer was Mike Fisher.  Fisher again got his headlines, but it was his old friend Charlie Graham who got the team.  Graham, and a group of investors purchased the Seals and the former catcher was installed as manager.

Charlie Graham, left, Mique Fisher, right, with World Middleweight Champion and actor Freddie Steele.

Charlie Graham, left, Mique Fisher, right, with World Middleweight Champion and actor Freddie Steele.

With his friend in charge The Mercury News said Fisher became a fixture “around the San Francisco ballpark ever since Graham bought in on the Seals in 1918,” he would remain a fixture at Recreation Park, and later at Seals Stadium for more than 20 years , and continued to provide copy for West Coast s sports writer

As a result of his friendship with Graham, who recommended he get the honor, 77-year-old Fisher was selected to travel to Cooperstown to represent the PCL at baseball’s centennial celebration in 1939.  The man who so loved seeing his name in the paper  received headlines one more time, when he died in San Francisco on June 6, 1943.

Lost Advertisements–A Message to Every Ballplayer from Babe Ruth

26 Feb

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“You’ve got to hand it to this Reach crowd.  When I told them what I figured was needed in major league mitts and gloves–I knew they’d do a good job of making them.  But I didn’t know how good till I saw the gloves they turned out.

“I stuck my hand in the different models. And they are great.  Big and roomy, like you need, yet fitting just right.  I bent and twisted my hand and fingers, and these gloves moved as natural and easy as an old shoe.  When a new glove does that–you can take it from me, it’s a real glove.

“And how these gloves snare the ball.  A specially formed pocket does the trick, Reach tells me.  Whatever it is, any ball that smacks into one of these gloves sure does stick.

“I’m ready to recommend them to any fellow who plays ball–in the field, on the bases, or back of the bat.  They got a pretty low price on them, too, for major league glove.”

Babe Ruth