St. Louis Cardinals Knot Hole Gang

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St. Louis Cardinals Knot Hole Gang

Postby mikesglove » June 12th, 2014, 12:22 am

Branch Rickey developed the "Knot Hole Gang" membership in 1917 to encourage more fans to the Cardinals games. This was a kids free pass to attend a game and promote family attendance. It was highly successful. Many other teams soon adopted the practice. Below is a membership card from the 1930's.

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Jack Ryan was a former Cardinal player and long time scout for the Cardinals. He was enlisted as an endorser for the "Knot Hole Gang" and "Ryan's Knot Hole Gang" trademark was patented in 1929. Special promotional baseballs, bats and gloves were stamped with this trademark. Below is an example of a "Ryan's Knot Hole Gang" glove.

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Below is a different variation. This one is stamped "Jack Ryan Special" "Scout St. Louis Cardinals" it is pretty cool, not a cheap throwaway but large and well constructed. It was distributed by National Sporting Goods of St. Louis. I couldn't find much information on National although the glove has some characteristics of a Rawlings glove with the grommet web.

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mikesglove
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Re: St. Louis Cardinals Knot Hole Gang

Postby gashouse_34 » June 12th, 2014, 4:26 pm

Really neat knothole gloves....I had thought that the real reason the knothole gang was created was because either Rickey or Sam Breadon (cant remember which one) couldn't afford to go to games when they were a child, and wanted to make it possible for the youth to come to games. I find it interesting that kids that were members of the knothole gang, at least in St. Louis and their minor league affiliates, were allowed to sit with each other whether they were black or white etc...In other words there wasn't any segregation in the stands. Mr. Rickey was a huge part of that and at the time it was one of the only non-segregated areas in my town. Cool since it was many years before Jackie Robinson came into the picture.
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Re: St. Louis Cardinals Knot Hole Gang

Postby mikesglove » June 12th, 2014, 8:41 pm

The "Knot Hole Gang" idea first came about as an investment incentive when the Cardinals were sold to a group of local businessmen in 1917. The group had a hard time coming up with the $75,000 down payment and offered a free kids seat in the bleachers to any other investor willing to spend at least $50 for shares in the in the Cardinals stock. The group eventually sold enough shares to purchase the Cardinals but not many kids attended the games at first. Club president Branch Rickey took this idea of the knot hole gang membership and expanded it to include disadvantaged youth through the YMCA and other Social Service organizations. At this point the "Knot Hole Gang" really took off with 10,00-15,000 kids in the bleacher seats.

The Cardinals were woefully under financed after the purchase and did not have an effective minor league system. Scouts like Jack Ryan were essential to the Cardinals in finding raw talent. Ryan toured the industrial and independent leagues, constantly updating the club of new prospects.
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