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10 Baseball Hall-of-Famers Who Had Weird Off-Season Jobs

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In the days before it was routine to sign contracts worth the GDP of a small country, baseball players often had to put down their bat and gloves during the off-season and earn some extra scratch away from the diamond. Each of these Hall-of-Famers found unique ways to fill their pockets when they weren't filling box scores. 

1. John McGraw

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The temperamental McGraw is best known for his three-decade reign as manager for the New York Giants, during which time he earned the nickname “Little Napoleon” because of his diminutive size and fiery demeanor. His antics often left players scowling in the dugout, but the Truxton, NY native was capable of drawing smiles and laughs, too.

In 1912, McGraw went on a 15-week tour on the B.F. Keith vaudeville circuit, appearing alongside acts like “Odiva the Goldfish Lady.” He immediately became the highest paid performer in vaudeville at the time, but despite the pay, McGraw was lax about rehearsing. Bozeman Bulger of the New York Evening World, who wrote most of McGraw’s material, helped the manager memorize his lines by sticking the skipper in a taxicab and telling the chauffeur to drive around Central Park until McGraw put the lines to memory. Two nights later, McGraw made his debut and didn’t miss a line, with Bulger noting that McGraw “[became] a delightful speaker.”

Performing six days a week in New York, Boston, St. Louis, and Chicago, McGraw survived the experience, but in the end, he felt more comfortable in the dugout than the theater. “I’ll admit I cannot get used to this stress,” he said. “It’s a daily reminder that I have nerves.”

2. Honus Wagner

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One of the game's first great players was actually paid pretty well compared to some contemporaries and was constantly trying —and failing—to find successful investments for his earnings. After receiving one particularly big raise in 1908, the Pirates shortstop made what proved to be fruitless investments with Geyser Oil Co. and the Felcht Auto Co.

The most notable of his failed ventures that winter, though, was the Wagner Brothers Circus. Honus Wagner was to bankroll the operation, with brothers Al and Luke set to operate the show. Besides providing the startup money, Honus Wagner’s role with the circus was a little unclear.

Wrote The Sporting News, “His contract does not call for his personal presence with the company, but it has been pointed out to him that it would be a tremendous advertisement and do much to swell the box office receipts to have him lead the daily parades in his big white automobile, or better still, armed with a baseball bat, astride one of the huge elephants.”

Sadly, the Wager Brothers Circus venture collapsed before producing its first show, and The Flying Dutchman never got his elephant ride.

3. Christy Mathewson

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In the early days of pro baseball, players were often underpaid by their teams but presented with unique opportunities because of their fame. Among the first players to truly take advantage of his reputation for profit was Mathewson.

Hailing from Factoryville, Pa., the right-hander spent just about all of his 17-year career pitching for the New York Giants. Baseball grew into national interest during his career (1900-1916) and became a matter of the utmost importance in New York. Children impersonated Mathewson’s pitching motion in the streets, men talked of his greatness in pool halls, and thousands came out to see him pitch at the famed Polo Grounds each summer.

Mathewson became one of the first ballplayers to begin signing endorsement deals, using his name to help companies sell their products. Among the goods he shilled were Arrow shirts, collars, leg garters, undergarments, sweaters, and athletic equipment.

The hurler explored other opportunities, too, including the chance to put his name on a saloon, but was shot down by his mother, who asked, “Do you really want your name associated with a place like that?”

4. Babe Ruth

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During the 1920s, Ruth became a transcendent star, catapulting himself to become baseball’s most famous player. But before the Sultan of Swat earned his crown and the riches that came with it, he, like most other ballplayers of his time, spent his off-seasons looking for ways to turn his moderate fame into a quick buck.

In 1920, the Babe earned some extra cash and further vaulted himself into the national spotlight by starring in a movie titled Headin’ Home. Ruth, not exactly the most fleet of foot in the outfield, showed comparable range on the big screen. The Yankee slugger starred as a country bumpkin who makes it big time as a baseball player (not too deep of a reach for the star slugger who arrived for his first spring training a quiet country kid).

The film wasn’t quite award-winning material. Per Variety, “It couldn’t hold the interest of anyone for five seconds if it were not for the presence of [Ruth]." Or, as one IMDB reviewer puts it, “Babe Ruth was as wooden as one of his bats.”

5. Mordecai Brown

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The long-time Chicago Cubs right-handed pitcher is most remembered for his brutally honest moniker, “Three Finger” Brown. The Nyesville, Ind., native lost most of his pointer finger to a piece of farming equipment as a child, a curse-turned-blessing when Brown discovered his mangled hand allowed him to do unprecedented things while throwing a baseball.

“Three Finger” was only one of two nicknames Brown went by, the other being “Miner.” Indeed, Brown spent his teenage years working as a coal miner and playing on weekend teams against miners from other locations. It was while playing for the Coxville mining squad that Brown was discovered by an opponent from nearby Brazil. The skipper offered Brown more money than what he was making, so Brown jumped ship. The move jumpstarted his ascent to the majors, a journey completed when he debuted for the St. Louis Cardinals in 1903 at the age of 26.

6. Yogi Berra

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Berra became famous as a baseball player with a way for words, but he also had a gift for convincing people to take him at his. The Yankee catcher found tremendous success as a salesman throughout his career, a talent he’s maintained into the 21st century.

The backstop spend the early part of his baseball career working off-seasons in various odd jobs, including as a salesman in the hardware section of a Sears Roebuck and also as a head waiter. Then in 1951, he and teammate Phil Rizzuto found offseason work at the American Shops in Newark, N.J.

But in 1955, a stroke of fate—a golf shot, to be precise—helped make Berra the face of a budding U.S. institution. While playing 18 holes on a course in Haworth, N.J., Berra met two members of the Oliveri family, owners of the Yoo-Hoo chocolate drink company. Berra began appearing in ads for them soon after, and by February of 1956, he’d been named a vice president in the company.

Berra didn’t receive compensation for his ads, but instead took stock in the company. Berra convinced fellow Yankees like Mickey Mantle and Whitey Ford to do endorsement deals, helping Yoo-Hoo develop into one of the country’s fastest growing beverages.

7. Roy Campanella

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Another famous New York catcher, Campanella became one of the first black ball players to find success in the Major Leagues after following Jackie Robinson to the Brooklyn Dodgers in 1948.

Campanella penned his first Dodger contract in 1946, spending two seasons playing in the team’s minor league system. He took a hefty pay cut from his Negro League salary to do so, and was eager to find alternative sources of income.

While playing for Nashua in the Eastern League, Campanella came into some easy cash when a local poultry farmer offered a reward of 100 baby chickens for every Nashua homer. Campanella led the league with 14 round-trippers that year and used his 1,400-chicken reward to begin a farming business, which his father operated for him.

After he reached Brooklyn and found success, Campanella opened Roy Campanella Choice Wines and Liquors in Harlem, where he spent his offseason working daily. It was while leaving the liquor store one day in January of 1958 that Campanella was permanently disabled in an auto accident, effectively ending his career and forcing him to use a wheelchair for the rest of his life.

8. Lefty Gomez

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It didn’t take long for Gomez to earn his way to the major leagues, debuting with the Yankees as a 21-year-old in 1930 before embarking on a 14-year career as a left-handed pitcher. The path to earn that big league spot, though, was a messy one.

After the teenage Gomez was turned away by the San Francisco Seals Pacific Coast League team in 1923, he took a summer job with Union Oil, scraping sludge out of the refinery’s stills. His hope was to join up with the company’s baseball team, but Lefty and a group of coworkers were left off the squad by its manager, who referred to the group as a bunch of “screwbeanies.”

Lefty and the group formed their own team instead, adopting the “Screwbeanies” as a team name. The ‘Beanies went on to finish 15-5 and win their league title, while the Union Oil squad reportedly finished last in its own league.

A few years later, Gomez was given an invite to join the Yankees at spring training in St. Petersburg, Fla., but they didn’t give the hurler train fare for the cross-country trip. Instead, Gomez spent the offseason working as an assistant at Universal Studios in Hollywood, where he pitched on Sundays for the Hollywood Hills club team.

As his career wound down, Gomez found himself strapped for cash and worked as a recreational director for a defense company in lower Manhattan while playing semi-pro ball in Brooklyn. After he retired, he latched on as a top salesman with Wilson Sporting Goods, working for the company for over 30 years.

9. Lou Brock

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In the mid-1960s, Brock bloomed into one of the game’s most exciting players, leading the league in stolen bases eight times and earning his way into six All-Star Games.

"Larcenous Lou" may have become famous for his lightning-fast legs, but he also boasted something of a green thumb. As the Associated Press’ Charlie Barouh outlined in a 1969 article, one of Brock’s first off-field investments was a flower shop in St. Louis, which he owned and operated.

Brock entered the business without a floral background, but was unfazed by his inexperience—he asked one bemused reporter, “Did anybody ever ask Rockefeller why he went into the oil business?” While Brock’s flower shop never grew to the size of Standard Oil, it did very well, giving Brock a good chunk of alternative income.

10. Pie Traynor

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Traynor enjoyed a 17-year career as a third baseman with the Pirates, but was often concerned about his financial security. Prior to signing his first contract, Traynor played ball sparingly while working as a “car checker” in West Virginia during World War I. The future Hall of Famer rode on horseback 12 hours a day, checking arriving and departing railroad freighters for explosives.

After he turned pro, Traynor unwisely decided to invest alongside Wagner, his teammate in Pittsburgh. The pair opened a doomed sporting goods store together that lasted for less than two years, separating Traynor from some of the little money he’d earned playing ball.

Money problems plagued Traynor at the end of his career, but not long after retiring he launched a successful sports talk radio show, “The Pie Traynor Club,” which ran on KQV for 21 years until he was displaced by Howard Cosell’s syndicated sports show.

Honorable Mentions from Outside the Hall:

Don Rudolph

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Rudolph had a six-year career as a pitcher with the White Sox, Reds, Indians, and Senators, but he gained far more fame for what he did during his off-seasons.

In 1954, Rudolph and a few pals ventured into a burlesque show featuring Patti, a popular stripper known nationwide as the “Coed With the Educated Torso.” Rudolph sat through three of Patti’s shows before declaring it “love at third sight.” Patti—full name Patricia Brownell—initially rebuffed Rudolph’s advances, but eventually caved and wound up marrying him.

The pitcher spent his off-seasons working as Patti’s manager and publicist. Among his chief duties: catching Patti’s clothes when she flung them offstage, packing and unpacking the 6-foot-2 mannequin she used in a “Parisian number,” and ensuring her lipstick was the right color.

Richie Hebner

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Hebner spent most of his career as an infielder with Pittsburgh, belting 203 home runs and finishing 21st in the MVP voting in 1974. Good as he was at launching baseballs into the air, it was what Hebner put in the ground that caught the most attention.

Hebner, like his grandfather and father before him, spent a good chunk of his life digging graves at his family-owned cemetery in Massachusetts.

“My grandfather had it first, and then my father had it, and then my brother took it over,” Hebner told MLive in 2011. “I dug graves for 35 years with a pick and shovel.”

As MLive outlined in that story, the West Michigan Whitecaps honored Hebner’s second career with a “Grave Digger” Richie Hebner bobblehead, featuring Hebner in a Detroit Tigers uniform with a shovel in his hands.

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15 Things You Might Not Know About The Sandlot
20th Century Fox Home Entertainment
20th Century Fox Home Entertainment

What, you haven’t seen The Sandlot? You’re killing me, Smalls.

OK, now that we’ve gotten that out of the way, let’s get down to business. Roger Ebert got it right: The Sandlot is like the summer version of A Christmas Story. They’re not penned by the same screenwriter and they don’t share a director or even actors, but both make you feel nostalgic for a childhood you probably didn’t even have.

No matter how many times you’ve watched Squints execute his plan to get to first base with Wendy Peffercorn, there’s bound to be something you don’t know about this modern classic. On the 25th anniversary of the movie's release, here are 15 of our favorite The Sandlot secrets.

1. IT WAS ORIGINALLY CALLED THE BOYS OF SUMMER.

Originally called The Boys of Summer, the film's name had to be changed because there was already a famous baseball book by the same title.

2. IT WAS PARTLY AUTOBIOGRAPHICAL.

The movie was inspired in part by a childhood experience co-writer/director David Mickey Evans’s brother had. Some older boys wouldn’t let Evans play baseball with him. When they lost a ball over a brick wall, he thought he could get on their good side by retrieving it for them. When he hopped the wall, however, he found a giant dog named Hercules waiting for him—and he was bitten.

3. IT WAS A QUICK SHOOT.

It was shot in just 42 days.

4. THE KIDS WERE SUPPOSED TO BE MUCH YOUNGER.

Casting directors originally wanted the kids to be 9 to 10 years old, but as they began casting, "it became obvious real fast the kids were much too young," Evans told Sports Illustrated. "So I said, 'We've got to make them 12 or 13.' We knew it was the right decision instantly, because the first kid that we interviewed was Mike Vitar [who played Benny Rodriguez]."

5. THE GIANT OAK TREE THAT HOLDS THE TREEHOUSE WAS SALVAGED.

The cast of 'The Sandlot' (1993)
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The production crew had been agonizing over how they were going to pull off a tree that size—"We were looking at having to buy an oak tree, and a specimen that big, if you can even find one, is hundreds of thousands of dollars," Evans told Sports Illustrated—when they happened to notice one being chopped down not far from the production offices. The 100-year-old oak was interfering with the foundation of the house it was planted next to. The man removing it agreed to give it to the crew, and Salt Lake City’s utility companies took down power and telephone lines on certain streets so the tree could be hauled safely to the empty lot where filming was taking place. It was cemented into the ground there and became an iconic part of the movie.

6. YEAH-YEAH ORIGINALLY READ FOR BERTRAM.

Marty York, the actor who played Alan “Yeah-Yeah” McClennan, originally read for Bertram. Not only did York not get the Bertram role, he wasn’t the first choice for Yeah-Yeah, either. The kid cast for Yeah-Yeah got sick just as the movie was scheduled to start filming, and York replaced him.

7. THE CHEWING TOBACCO WAS MADE OF LICORICE AND BACON BITS.

The chewing tobacco from the carnival scene was really made out of licorice and bacon bits—and that, the actors later said, combined with riding the carnival rides for so many takes, made them as sick as their fictional counterparts got. (The vomit from that scene, by the way, was a mixture of split pea soup, baked beans, oatmeal, water, and gelatin.)

8. IT WAS DANGEROUSLY HOT.

It was so hot during the daytime shoots—upwards of 110 degrees—that the actor who played Scotty Smalls, Tom Guiry, got weak from running around in the heat and fell into one of the cameramen.

9. IT WAS ALSO REALLY COLD.

On the other hand, the famous pool scene was actually freezing. The day was overcast and the water was just 56 degrees. Evans says you can actually see Squints’s teeth chattering while he’s staring longingly at Wendy Peffercorn from the pool.

10. SQUINTS WAS GIVEN A STERN REMINDER.

Speaking of the Squints scam: Evans had to give actor Chauncey Leopardi a stern reminder before the scene was shot: “You keep your tongue in your mouth, you understand?”

11. WENDY PEFFERCORN WAS BASED ON A GIRL NAMED BUNNY.

Wendy was partly based on a girl Evans remembers from his childhood—a lifeguard in a red bathing suit named Bunny.

12. THE KIDS WERE EXCITED TO MEET DARTH VADER.

The kids were super impressed that Darth Vader was on set—James Earl Jones, of course, played junkyard owner Mr. Mertle. (They were almost as taken with Marley Shelton, who played Wendy.)

13. THE CAST SNUCK INTO A SCREENING OF BASIC INSTINCT.

When the young cast wasn’t acting, they were getting into the kind of shenanigans that their Sandlot alter egos surely would have been proud of—they snuck in to see Basic Instinct.

14. THE BEAST WAS PARTLY PUPPET.

The Beast—a.k.a. Hercules, an English Mastiff—was played, in part, by a puppet. It took two people to operate. If you don’t mind ruining the movie magic, you can see the behind-the-scenes photos on Evans’s blog.

Some scenes with the Beast called for a real dog (two, actually). When Smalls and Hercules make friends at the end, they got the dog to lick his face by smearing baby food on one half of Tom Guiry’s face. "That scene where I’m looking to the side, the other half of me is just slathered in this baby goo. That dog had a field day on my face," Guiry told Time. "I’m a dog-lover though, so it didn’t really bother me.”

15. THE MOVIE WAS AT THE CENTER OF A MAJOR LAWSUIT.

The Sandlot was at the center of a lawsuit that eventually had a major impact on Hollywood. A man named Michael Polydoros sued 20th Century Fox, claiming that his former classmate, David Mickey Evans, had based the character of Michael “Squints” Palledorous on him, and that it caused him embarrassment and humiliation. A judge decided that there wasn’t enough similarity to justify the lawsuit, meaning that movie studios could continue using characters inspired in part by real-life people.

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10 of the Most Valuable Baseball Cards in the World
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If baseball is America’s national pastime, then collecting baseball cards is a close second. Closets, crawl spaces, and attics across the country are full of cards from every era—from the days of Babe Ruth and Ted Williams to Derek Jeter and Albert Pujols. But not all of them are going to pay off your student loans or put you in a new house.

Baseball card values depend on many factors, like age, condition, scarcity, and the collectible market trends at the time. With all that in mind, we're taking a look at 10 of the most valuable baseball cards in the world.

1. HONUS WAGNER, 1909-1911 ATC T206 // $3.12 MILLION

If you know anything about baseball cards, it won't come as a shock that this Honus Wagner card sold for a staggering $3.12 million in 2016, besting its previous high of $2.8 million from 2007. Widely considered to be the "Holy Grail" of baseball collectibles, the card's value is forever tied to its backstory. It was originally produced by the American Tobacco Company and was included in packs of the company's cigarettes. But, for reasons that still aren't completely clear, Wagner made the company pull the card from the market, resulting in anywhere from only 25 to 200 ever being released—and more than 100 years later, the scarcity has made it a landmark in sports collectibles.

2. MICKEY MANTLE, 1952 TOPPS // $1.13 MILLION

Joining Wagner in the more-than-a-million-dollars card club is none other than Mickey Mantle. More specifically, it's his 1952 Topps Major League card that went for $1.13 million at auction in 2016. Its Professional Sports Authenticator (PSA) grade, which scores a card's condition, is an astounding 8.5 out of 10, making it one of the most attractive Mantle cards out there. But even copies with lower scores have gone for significant amounts, with grades of 6 and 7 regularly going for more than $100,000. But in a few weeks this list might need updating—another 1952 Topps Mickey Mantle card is up for auction in April, this time with a PSA grade of 9. Its pre-auction estimate is a mighty $3.5 million-plus.

3. BABE RUTH, 1916 SPORTING NEWS // $717,000

Babe Ruth’s Sporting News card from 1916 (his pre-Yankee days) sold for $717,000 in a 2016 auction. It was far from the only auction that featured this card of a young Bambino, though. In 2017, the same card with the same PSA grade fetched around $550,000. It's just another example of how selling at the right time and finding the right buyer can make a six-figure difference.

4. PETE ROSE/PEDRO GONZALEZ/KEN MCMULLEN/AL WEIS, 1963 TOPPS // $717,000

So how did a card like this wind up taking $717,000 at auction? It's not nearly as old as a Ruth card, yet it went for just as much money. Well, for one, it features Pete Rose on it, and anything with "The Hit King" is going to get some interest. Another reason is that it was graded a perfect 10 by the PSA, which is exceedingly rare for any card of its age. It's the only copy of this particular card ever to get that rating, and for collectors, that's a big deal. This one won't fetch nearly as much in any other condition, though, as a 9 grade might get around $70,000 at auction.

5. "SHOELESS" JOE JACKSON, 1909 AMERICAN CARAMEL // $667,149

"Shoeless" Joe Jackson was the most high-profile baseball name to be linked to the notorious Black Sox Scandal, but that hasn't hurt his worth on the collectible market. In 2016, a PSA grade 8 copy of what's considered to be Jackson's rookie card sold at auction for $667,149. In 2008, the same card with a lower grade went for $86,975, so it just goes to show that a card's condition can make all the difference.

6. NOLAN RYAN/JERRY KOOSMAN, 1968 TOPPS // $612,359

Like the Rose rookie card, this Nolan Ryan/Jerry Koosman combo piece was rated a perfect 10 and was rewarded with $612,359 at auction, far higher than it would have been otherwise. In fact, of the 8000 Ryan/Koosman rookie cards that have been submitted, it's the only one to receive a perfect score. And that pristine condition is exactly why it commanded that price—when you put a 9 grade on the same card, for example, its value goes down to around $20,000 to $30,000.

7. BABE RUTH, 1914 BALTIMORE NEWS // $575,000

It shouldn't come as a surprise that the Babe wound up on this list twice. This time, the Sultan of Swat is seen as a minor league pitcher for the Baltimore Orioles, well before his home run prowess was realized. In 2012, Robert Edwards Auctions sold a PSA 2 graded copy of the card for an impressive $575,000. And if you want a rare card, this is it: It's generally agreed upon that there are only around 10 in existence.

8. WILLIE MAYS, 1952 TOPPS // $478,000

In 2016, Heritage Auctions held a Sports Collectibles Auction that over three days sold $11 million of memorabilia. The single most valuable item sold was a $478,000 Willie Mays card. While not his rookie card, it was the first Topps card to feature the legendary centerfielder.

9. ROBERTO CLEMENTE, 1955 TOPPS // $478,000

All-time great Roberto Clemente, a member of the 3000-hit club and the Baseball Hall of Fame, died tragically in a plane crash en route to Nicaragua to contribute to earthquake relief in 1972. In 2012, his 1955 rookie card—graded a rare 10 by PSA—sold for $432,690. But four years later (showing that timing can be more important than grade), a 1955 Roberto Clemente card that was graded a 9 sold for $478,000 (however, the same card with a PSA grade of 8 is worth around $30,000). An interesting note about the 2012 sale is that the card was owned by former big leaguer Dmitri Young, who auctioned a large portion of his impressive collection in 2012 for $2.4 million.

10. JOE DOYLE, N.Y. NAT'L, 1909-1911 ATC T206 // $414,750

“Slow Joe” Doyle might not be the most famous player on this list, but he has one of the most notorious cards on the market. First off, this particular card is over 100 years old, so there are reported to be less than a dozen in circulation. But most importantly, there was a printing error on the card, listing Doyle as playing for New York's National League team, rather than the correct American League team (he was a member of the New York Highlanders, which would eventually become the Yankees; it’s thought the confusion was due to Larry Doyle being on New York’s National League team). The error was quickly fixed, so a majority of them hit the market with the correct wording. The card has come to auction only a few times in recent years, bringing in anywhere from $64,099 to a staggering $414,750. Not bad for a pitcher with a career record of 22-21.

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