Not the usual title for an article and one that if you not already familiar with would seen like a trick question but this is precisely one of the views expressed on a memorabilia chat room with regards to a pennant sold on EBay last week. The item in question is a pennant with simply the word Tacoma and winding his way through the lettering is a ferocious looking feline. No baseball theme, no pitcher, catcher or runner, no stadium, no crossed bats, no team name, really no nothing. The eBay number was 220179174555 and it was won by yours truly for the grand sum of $996.88 There were a total of 13 bids three of which were mine, 2 by another bidder (5) and another 7 bidders, three of which, including myself, bid above $800. Immediately following the auction, people began to question why I would pay so much money for a pennant that had no affiliation with baseball at least in theme or letter. Apparently , two others felt the same way as I did as this is one of , if not, the earliest minor league baseball pennants that I had ever seen. But the question was raised as to what proof I had that this pennant was a baseball pennant and not simply a souvenir pennant from the Tacoma Zoo which does exist as the Point Defiance Zoo on Pearl Street. This is not a ridiculous question given the nature of the pennant having no baseball motif of any kind. And while we are at the questioning point and the forthcoming answer to this question, why not a college, a high school, whatever?
First, lets examine the history of the Tacoma Tigers as a baseball team to at least narrow down the first and most obvious reason for the attribution of this pennant as a baseball pennant. From 1902 through 1905, the Tacoma Tigers were members of the old Pacific Coast League and the Champions of the 1904 season. In 1906 through 1917, they were members of the Northwestern League. From 1918-21, they were with the Pacific Coast International League except for 1919 when they were part of the Northwest International League. In 1922, they became the Tacoma Tigers of the Western International League where they remained until 1951. Subsequent history of the team is irrelevant for this article in that we are dealing with a pre war pennant and most like, a pre WW1 pennant.
The first doubt that was raised was that the pennant, given its size and lack of sewn letters or insignia indicated a pennant that could not be from the era of 1902-05 when they (Tigers) were members of the PCL and on this note, I concur. If you look at the pennants on the MEARS for sale sight, there are four circa 1910 -1911 era Athletics pennants and three of them are less than 24” in length and the 33” example has sewn letters. It is my belief, based on dated pennants from the pre 1910 era, that most are either what are referred to as ¾ size pennants of a length less than 25” or will be found with sewn on appliqués. This pennant (Tacoma) is 33.5” from stem to stern not counting the tassels. This size pennant with the silk screened graphics tends to be found on pennants dating from the mid-late teens. The 1914-15 Chicago Whales Johnny Evers Federal League pennant on our sight is approximately 35” long and exhibits the same style of screening, nap of material and construction. Other pennants from this era of the same vain are the Charles Comisky White Sox Pennant and the 32” dated Iowa minor league baseball picture pennant. If you examine the majority of pennants from the post 1920 era, you will find that they again went back to the ¾ size (26” ) or the current standard full size (29”) This is evidenced by the myriad of pennants sold in various auctions that could be dated such as the 24” 1925 Pirates pennant or the 23” 1935 Cubs pennant on our sight as well. Therefore, it is my conclusion, given the known dated examples, that the 33-34” silk screened pennants can be dated to the 1914-1920 era predominately. This therefore is most likely a pennant sold while the Tacoma Tigers were members of the Northwestern League but possibly from the Pacific Coast International League (1919).
Next, let’s examine the use of the city name on the pennant with the team logo/mascot sans any baseball motif and compare it to other pennants of the era. If you examine the early Detroit Tigers pennant recently offered on EBay, (auction ended early and this pennant along with a killer White Sox over size pennant with sewn appliqués were sent to an auction house) number 200178434826, is a prime example of a typical pre 1920 pennant in that only the name of the city (Detroit) appears on the body of the pennant with the team logo( a Tiger)is found on the large portion of the pennant. It is 38” and has a sewn leather like Tiger head but not the team name “Tigers” If you examine the pre 1920’s pennants on the MEARS FOR SALE sight, you will see a pre 1920 New York Giants Pennant. Again, the city (New York) appears on the pennant with the team logo represented by a Giant with a club (not a baseball bat). In fact, if you look at most known pre 1920 pennants, you will almost never seen a combination of the city and the team name, rather it will be one or the other with the logo or team representation. The first eight pennants on our sight, all pre 1920, have one thing in common, they either have the city name or team name but not both with the exception of the Johnny Evers pennant which states “ChiFeds” but again, this represents the city (Chicago) and the League but does not mention the team name Whales. EBay item 170173301481 was a pennant that featured the head shots of the 1922 Giants, one of the most valuable of all known baseball pennant and although this example was severely trimmed and cut up, it still listed the team name Giants and not the city (although this pennant does have National League Pennant Winners and the players have NY on their caps) Therefore, the Tacoma pennant is consistent with all the other known baseball pennants from that era in that the city name is printed and a representation of the clubs name is presented in image form only.
Next, the possibility that it represented a Zoo instead of the baseball club. I searched the internet for ended auctions of tourist attraction pennants. Unlike a baseball club pennant which was sold at the stadium to root on the team and show support, tourist pennants were an advertisement for the place. To simply put a city name on a pennant along with an animal image would not draw the specific advertising purpose of the pennant. A search of zoo pennants each showed the word “zoo” in the main printing, some with the city underneath in a secondary manner such as the Franklin Park Zoo in Boston (#370003316942), the Highland Park Zoo in Pittsburgh (#370003318552) or in the case of the Detroit Zoo or Philadelphia Zoo, the word “zoo” immediately follows the city name. You will find that most tourist pennants have the attraction printed with the city name. I have in inventory of over 50 pre 1940 tourist attraction, city, town or college pennants and each one has something other than a city such as the Shenandoah National Park, S. Jersey Council, Yale, Virginia Beach, VA. United Nations, Howe Caverns, Port Norris Fire Company, Ft. Raleigh NC, SS Princess Anne, Ocean City Maryland, Old Fort Niagara, the Hickole Museum in Port Elizabeth, Savin Rock Conn., etc. etc.
Colleges often used the school name along with the mascot in the production of their pennants, again, these were to show support at a game and almost never have the city, only the college name and logo/mascot. I checked Tacoma and there is a junior college with the team name Aggies and a branch of the Washington University with no baseball team. Even if there was a long defunct college, it would have the school name on the pennant and the team logo of which there is not a single shred of evidence that there was ever a college called Tacoma with a team logo of a Tiger.
You will often find city pennants with nothing but a city name but again, these are souvenir pennants that represent a city and never have a logo with a team mascot but will simply say Chicago such as EBay #110199980841. If there were to be a logo, it would most likely be a state seal, flower or will be found with notable sights within the city such as my Philadelphia pennant with four images of the most visited sights in that city.
Lastly, if you take the dated pennants known, post 1920, the majority currently listed on our sight, and that number is at 157 different pennants, have both the city name and the team name printed on the pennant unlike the early versions, which are found with one or the other. So what can one make of this or what is my conclusion as it pertains to the Tacoma pennant now in my possession? Simply, it is a circa 1914-20 pennant sold at the stadium of the minor league Tacoma Tigers. It is probably not any earlier due to the size and construction. It is not a souvenir tourist pennant as it does not advertise an event or place. It does not represent a college as one bearing this name/logo did not exist. Therefore, this is the only logical conclusion I can come to given all the exemplars and that is why I purchased what may be one of the earliest known minor league pennants from a west coast team and an on again, off again member of the PCL and irrefutably, one of the most handsome pennants ever produced. One last concern for a few bloggers was the fact that a fairly well known PCL collector didn’t bid, or so they think. I’m only glad he didn’t, for whatever his reason, and that is presuming he was watching at all, so that I had a chance to personally inspect such a rare and beautiful pennant. One thing nobody can argue, pre 1920 pennants are like works of art, both rare and beautiful and if you have never had the chance to see one in person, you are missing the boat, or zoo, or whatever.
Until next time, David Bushing