Calling All Sam Spades of Baseball History

"I'll be glad to help you find out about the mysterious post card, Mr. Blair, but just remember, I get fifty dollars a day, plus expenses."

“I’ll be glad to help you find out about the mysterious post card, Mr. Blair, but just remember, I get fifty dollars a day, plus expenses.”

“The manila envelope from some stranger in California named ‘A Goheen’ arrived at the home of Houston Babies vintage baseball pitcher Robert Blair on a Tuesday in early January 2015 – or maybe it was late December of 2014. The arrival time doesn’t matter. – Mystery No. One in this case was simple. Mr. Blair didn’t know know anyone named A. Goheen, nor did he believe in the existence of a goheen, or any family pack of a (‘a’ for ‘any’)  goheen species that might be capable of addressing or mailing a letter or package of any kind. Mr. Blair wanted my help.

“We met in my office, pretty close to Joe DiMaggio’s old neighborhood last Friday, January 2nd. ‘Mr. Blair,’ I said, ‘this is all well and good, but I think you need to know up front. I get fifty dollars a day, plus expenses, for my work.’ He didn’t bat an eye. He just slapped a c-note on my desk for starters and I was immediately all ears.

“Mystery No. One was pretty weak as a reason for paying a guy like me the big bucks, but Mystery No. Two smelled as bad as we always think it does when we are so inclined to even think of #2. Mystery No. Two was an old post card from 1911. It had a picture on one side of a bunch of men playing baseball in what appears to be a small town lot  or country field – and a message from some guy to a girl on the other:


“The card was ‘posted’ in Winters, California on July 7, 1911 and it was addressed to Miss Lelia Hollingsworth in Woodland, California. It read, errors and all, as follows: ‘Dearf friend – did you get home all right dance was to much crowd – yours truly Eddie’

“Who were these people? Did simple small town Eddie ever find the stones to make a stronger rush on Lelia? And where did he ever get the idea that asking a dame by post card if she got home all right from a dance that he attended too was a good strategy for getting to first base with her? Then it occurred to me that he may have tried to pick her up at the dance and been turned down – and that the stupid post card was just a lame try for a second chance that he probably didn’t deserve in the first place.



“Then Mr. Blair informed me that he didn’t give a damn about Lelia and Eddie. – All he wanted to know was – is there any way to find out where this photo was taken – and by whom?

“Blair also filled me in yesterday that he solved the ‘A Goheen’ part of this mystery. Goheen turned out to be some kind of antique pop culture materials dealer. Blair’s brother Daryl had bought the post card for his brother, Robert, and then had Goheen send it to Blair on the Q.T. as some kind of surprise gift. Daryl Blair had not figured on it causing enough mystery stir to chase his brother all the way to San Francisco to seek my help.

{Addendum: “As it turns out, we do  know where the photo was taken. Mr. Goheen has written the following: ‘Real photo postcard cancelled July 7, 1911 of baseball game.  Several of the players are wearing suits (not uniforms), the rest more casual clothing including bib overalls.  Photo taken in Winters, CA as evidenced by signs painted on surrounding warehouses.  Post mark is also Winters, CA.  The postcard is in very good condition although the photo has darkened edges which don’t affect the photo.  Winters, CA is a small agricultural community in Northern CA specializing in producing.’}

“I’m asking you readers here, as a guest columnist for The Pecan Park Eagle, to help me out, if you know anything – or if you have any bright ideas about the baseball game picture itself – or its photographer! Please help a guy out by leaving your tips or ideas as comments on my column as you also try to keep in mind a big reason for helping me and Mr. Blair out of what’s left of the unsolved mystery. Remember, I get fifty dollars a day, plus expenses. –  We could both strike it rich.

“Why, I haven’t had this much fun since a good looking woman, a fat man, and a little guy that smelled like a bottle of cheap perfume all came at me at one time to help them find a mysterious statue of a black bird. That one turned out to be the the stuff that dreams are made of and – who knows – with your help – maybe this one could too.”

By Sam Spayed, Private Detective, San Francisco, California and Special Correspondent to The Pecan Park Eagle


Jan. 12, 2015: Further explanation now comes in via an alleged letter to Sam Spayed and an actual letter to Robert “Shirtless Bob” Blair, both from a man named Andy Goheen, the supplier of the mysterious baseball game post card from 1911. – Remarkably, Sam Spayed received this welcome help without having to divvy up the c-note that he had received from Robert Blair to gumshoe the matter. What a coincidence. Tuesday is Sam’s drinking night out with Iva Archer, the widow of his late partner, Miles Archer, down at the Blue Parrot, near Fisherman’s Wharf. I guess we know who’ll be buying the booze tonight. – Editor, The Pecan Park Eagle.


Alleged Letter from Andy Goheen to Sam Spayed

Dear Mr. Spayed,

My name is Andy Goheen. I only know your client, Robert Blair, as “Shirtless Bob”, the brother of an E-Bay customer of mine named Daryl Blair. Here’s a copy of the letter I wrote to “Shirtless Bob” shortly after the New Year – or, perhaps, it was just short of Christmas. I’m no longer sure. I’m now only certain of one thing – his name was “Shirtless Bob”. Be sure of that.

Respectfully, Andy Goheen


Actual Letter from Andy Goheen to Robert “Shirtless Bob” Blair

Good Afternoon, Shirtless Bob

I received your letter of a few days past expressing some confusion about the vintage baseball game postcard which I recently sent to you. To demystify the event; I put this card on an e-bay auction several weeks ago and it was purchased by one Daryl Blair. The winning request was for me to send it directly to you with no receipt or invoice which would tip you off to the purchaser. He was positive that you would enjoy the card as, according to his description, you are a baseball FANATIC.

Your letter included interest in my knowledge of the card’s history. I will attempt to answer your questions; I have had the card since about 1980.  I grew up in Winters, CA (where the card is from) and lived there for about 28 years (1955 – 1982). I am a postal history buff originally more interested in the postmark on the card than the photo although it is of interest to me. I purchased the card from a postal history dealer in Sacramento, CA. I was looking through his inventory, noticed the card was from Winters, looked the photo over and was surprised to see that I could identify the actual location where the baseball game was being played. Winters is still and has always been a small town. When I lived there it was about 1600 people in size and likely much smaller in 1911. The photo was taken in the Warehouse District of Winters on the east side of a major street named Railroad Ave. The location of the game when I lived in that town is still very much like the original location in 1911, only a lot more run down as a lot of the warehouses fell into disrepair in later years. I wish I knew more about the guys playing but, unfortunately, do not. It appears to be the epitome of a Saturday pick-up game, but I do know that the town of Winters had a town club at that time as did all of the other small towns around there. They played amateur league ball with a vengeance locally and took it pretty seriously although this card doesn’t seem to be of that team. The players would have had uniforms on if it were that team.

I have recently been down-sizing some of the many things I have collected over the years. This card was one of those down-sizes. I figured that someone more into baseball might like it more than I. It turns out that that’s you. I hope you enjoy it. If you have any further questions, I would be glad to try and answer.

Regards, Andy Goheen



6 Responses to “Calling All Sam Spades of Baseball History”

  1. Sumner Hunnewell Says:

    Look, gumshoe. I think you need to know the facts, the bird’s eye lowdown on this caper. I suggest you look for Lelia (yeah, sort of like Gildersleeve’s dame) Woodbridge. Take that C-note and start here.

    Looks like she came to an early end, hopefully not at the big house, but you know how things go, sweetheart.

    Dick House

  2. shinerbock80 Says:

    First, what an AWESOME photo! The big visible clue is the Guggenhime & Co Dried Fruit. Turns out that was a San Francisco based firm that operated smaller plants all over CA starting in 1893 and ending in 1946. Since the card was mailed in 1911, there’s no worry about the later years. Aside from San Francisco, which would not fit the small town location, they had plants in San Jose, Santa Ana, Fresno, Colusa, College City, Hanford, Rucker and Selma, CA. The town of Winters, CA where the card was postmarked is west of Sacramento, near Vacaville and Davis.

    It’s what’s called a “real picture postcard” which usually ran in smaller batches, so it’s a good bet that the game was played somewhere near Winters. I found pictures of the plants in San Jose, Fresno and Santa Ana and they don’t look similar, though the Santa Ana photo is a couple of decades later based on the cars. The Fresno plant had multiple buildings and was the same color, but was MUCH larger. Of the towns listed online, which may very well not be complete, Colusa and Sacramento look closest by distance. The thing to pin it down is to find the city directories and see if you can match the partial name of the canning company behind Guggenhime & Co.

    The postmark and the car should narrow it down to about 1907-1911. Again, great image!

  3. shinerbock80 Says:

    Forgot to mention that Woodland, CA is one town over from Winters where our potential loser Ed lived.

    Leila Hollingsworth was about 19 or 20 years old in 1911 and living on her parents’ farm in Woodland Township, Yolo County, CA. She did not have a job as of 1910.

  4. shinerbock80 Says:

    Couldn’t resist a little more. Lila Esther Hollingsworth got engaged to Joseph Joseph Adolph Kergel and was scheduled to be married in August 1913. Sorry Ed. You snooze, you lose.

  5. Bill McCurdy Says:

    Thanks for all the great info that’s rolling in, Sumner and Shinerbock!

    Here’s more from Darrell Pittman, who sent his stuff by e-mail rather than this comment section:

    According to the writing on one of the buildings, it was near a facility of Guggenhime & Co. Dried Fruits:

    There’s a picture of another of their facilities here:

    Looks like the company had facilities in a number of California locations, so unfortunately that doesn’t pin down the location.

    Another company building just past Guggenhime only has a partially-visible name, “…teas or …tehs Canning Co., …e House No. 1.)

    Might be a company game on a Saturday… there’s a goodly number of folks (looks like some are families) gathered around spectating. There’s a few ties in the crowd, and one guy walking off the picture to the right is wearing a full suit.

  6. Bill McCurdy Says:

    As it turns out, we do know where the photo was taken. Mr. Goheen, the dealer who sold the card to Daryl Blair, has written the following:

    “Real photo postcard cancelled July 7, 1911 of baseball game. Several of the players are wearing suits (not uniforms), the rest more casual clothing including bib overalls. Photo taken in Winters, CA as evidenced by signs painted on surrounding warehouses. Post mark is also Winters, CA. The postcard is in very good condition although the photo has darkened edges which don’t affect the photo. Winters, CA is a small agricultural community in Northern CA specializing in producing.”

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