Tuesday, January 22, 2013

1947 Bonds Bread Tommy Holmes

As a child, we would sometimes visit my dad's parents house. I never enjoyed going out there- wasn't much to do (unless the cousins were out there, in which case we might run around the large back yard), and I never had much of a relationship with either of them. It was an old, small farmhouse that always had a cold feel to it- even in the summertime.

The one thing I came away with from those visits was an appreciation for history- for things that were old. You see, my grandmother collected antiques (an interest she passed on down to my dad) and was also a local historian of sorts. So there was a great sense of history of the community I grew up in, as well as family history, all around me.

And though I claim to have an appreciation for that history- I still have never been particularly compelled to thoroughly research either the history of our community, nor of our family.

Despite my ignorance, I do know that accused axe-murderer Lizzie Borden is in our family tree. She was tried in the death of her father and stepmother, but was acquitted by a jury. You know, they say that every family has that crazy aunt or uncle...

I've recently taken a greater interest in family history. Well, not my genealogical line- rather, the history of the Braves organization. I've grown up on Atlanta Brave baseball- it feels like a part of me, a part of who I am. I've also been learning the history of the Milwaukee Braves for a few years, but have never taken time to read up on the Boston years- until now. Recent purchases of three books dealing with the years in Boston, as well as a few vintage cards should serve well in discovering more of that lineage.

1947 Bond Bread Tommy Holmes

Tommy Holmes began his career with the Yankees and spent his first four professional seasons in the minors. With no position available in New York (he was stuck behind a pretty good outfield which featured a guy named DiMaggio), the Yankees sent the talented outfielder to Boston just two days after the Pearl Harbor attack. And for the next decade, Holmes proved to be not only a steal for the Braves, but one of the best hitters in the game.

While Holmes had two very productive seasons to begin his major league career, he really took his game to another level during the 1944 season, his third in the majors. It was his fourth season, though, that stands out as his finest. In that '45 season, Holmes led the league in hits (224), doubles (47), homers (28), slugging % (.577), OPS (.997), OPS+ (175), and Total Bases (367). He also finished second in average (.352) and RBI (117), while striking out only 9 times in 714 plate appearances (he walked 70 times that season). There was also that hitting streak he had that season: setting a (then) modern day NL record with a 37-game hitting streak. Despite such a remarkable season, Holmes finished second in the MVP voting that year- as the Cubs' Phil Cavarretta won the award. Playing on a sixth-place team hurt Holmes; Cavarretta's Cubs won the pennant that year- which clearly influenced the voters.

Just how good a hitter was Holmes? Well, during his 11 year career, the hitter only struck out 122 times in 4992 official at bats. Let me repeat that: 122 Ks in 4992 ABs. Twenty was the most he ever had in one season, and Tommy had nearly 4x as many walks as strikeouts for his career.

My relative Lizzie Borden may not have been a very popular figure in the state of Massachusetts, but Tommy Holmes was. She was acquitted by a jury, but had been ostracized by those in her community. Tommy's fans sat in a section of Braves Field known as "The Jury Box" and they adored him.

The Jury Box section of Braves Field

Other Braves in the 1947 Bond Bread Set:
Bob Elliot
John Sain

A Brief History of Bond Bread 
Incorporated in New York City in 1911, the General Baking Company sold its bread under the brand name "Bond Bread." By 1930, the bread accounted for 90% of General's sales as the company was producing nearly 1.5 million loaves per day. With the depression came a sharp decrease in earnings, and it would be twenty years before any major expansion would take place. By the mid-sixties, competition had grown strong, profits were down, and fifteen unprofitable plants and distribution centers were closed. Restructuring took place shortly thereafter, and the company soon became involved in multiple legal disputes. Next up for the company was a cutting of losses by selling off subsidiaries which had been losing money. Also taking place around  this time was General Host (which it was now know as) acquiring Hickory Farms and Frank's Nursery and Craft- which by the 90's became its core business.

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