Anchor Brewing historian Dave Burkhart on the story of Anchor Brewing’s
How many employees can say that the owner of their company was keeping track of their EBay purchases? And how many of those employees can say that the owner was concerned that they might not be buying enough old baseball cards with their company credit card? Well, if you guessed “one,” that one was probably me.
Not long after PacBell (now AT&T) Park opened in San Francisco, a fellow Anchorite, Dan Mitchell, approached Fritz Maytag, owner of Anchor Brewing since 1965, with a concern. One of the restaurants pouring Anchor Steam® Beer at the new ballpark was struggling, not because of the beer or the food but because their restaurant’s decor didn’t have anything to do with baseball.
Dan wisely suggested life-size San Francisco baseball cards. The only problem was that San Francisco Giants cards were subject to the rules and regulations of Major League Baseball and the San Francisco Seals baseball cards from the great DiMaggio era were still in copyright. So I had a crazy idea, which I was crazy enough to propose to Fritz. What if we looked all the way back to San Francisco’s legendary championship ball club (bear in mind that the Giants hadn’t yet won their first World Series in San Francisco), the 1909 San Francisco Seals?
“Let’s go for it,” said Fritz. “But how will we be able to collect dozens of rare, 100-year-old baseball cards?”
“EBay,” I replied.
“Have fun,” said Fritz. And I did. Imagine it: One mission, no budget: Collect the coolest original Seals baseball cards you can find, featuring the players that brought San Francisco its first Pacific Coast League championship. I was suddenly a 12-year-old kid again—with a credit card!
Within a few months we’d collected some amazing cards, all from Obak, a nineteenth-century cigarette company, which put baseball cards in packs of cigarettes. Not as politically correct as the cards that came with gum, but every bit as collectible!
Fritz and I picked our favorite nine (how’d we think of that?) cards based on the look and condition of the cards, the player’s positions, and their stats. We scanned them and created, thanks to designer extraordinaire and Giants fan Jack Martin, life-size, Anchor-logo’d, cards for the PacBell Park restaurant and, ultimately, coasters, postcards, metal tackers, etc. for the Brewery.
Below are the cards and the stories of these amazing players. Thanks Dan. Thanks Fritz. Thanks Jack. Thanks SF Brews & Baseball!
On March 26, 1903—seven years after Anchor Brewing began making beer near San Francisco’s Russian Hill—the team that would become known as the San Francisco Seals played its first Pacific Coast League game. Paid attendance at Recreation Park, south of Market Street, was 5,235. Ladies were admitted free. San Francisco defeated Portland 7–3, in a 90-minute, 9-inning contest. Six years later, the Seals won their first pennant, with a 132–80 record. By that time, Anchor had moved south of Market, near where it continues to brew San Francisco’s original Anchor Steam® Beer today.
Many of the Seals players were immortalized on baseball cards. Some, like the Obak cards from 1910 and 1911 in the Anchor Brewing Collection, were quite small because they needed to fit inside a pack of Obak Cigarettes. The cards featured the player on the front and sometimes a few stats on the back. None, however, tells the full story of the phenomenal players who played for the Seals in those early days of organized SF baseball. A little digging into the past and future of these athletes revealed their almost-forgotten stories. Here are those stories and the coasters we created using some of the Seals baseball cards in the Anchor Brewing Collection: