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The cover of Baseball Comics #1

When Will Eisner started up his American Visuals commercial art company in the late 1940s, one of the first projects published was 'Baseball Comics'.

The star of Baseball Comics was 'Rube Rooky', a character who resembled 'Fireball Bambino', a minor character who appeared in the unpublished Nubbin strip (for further information about Nubbin, goto the John Law page).

Rube Rooky

"Rube Rooky was created to be in the same vein as Ham Fisher's Joe Palooka," Eisner tells Dave Schreiner in a reprint of the first issue. "Rube was a big, dumb or naive kid who comes out of nowhere and becomes a champion."

Some panels from the first Rube Rooky story

The artwork on this main feature was by Eisner and Tex Blaisdell - both men were emulating the style of sports cartoonist Willard Mullin - however Eisner's distinctive style is prevalent in the strip.

The second comics feature appearing in that first issue was The Sunday Ride of Babe Herman - written by Jules Feiffer and drawn by Jerry Grandenetti. The story is based on the true events of the Brooklyn Dodgers game in which three of their runners wound up on third base.

The remainder of Baseball Comics #1 had text pieces by sportswriter Hy Turkin; New York Giants baseman Sid Gordon; Newark Bears manager Buddy Hassett and Yankees trainer Gus Manch.

Eisner had high hopes for the title: "Baseball Comics was a specialized comic book, a book devoted to one topic. Such books sold well in the pulp magazine field, and I didn't think there was any reason it couldn't work in comics."

Unfortunately Eisner was incorrect in this case as when the first issue appeared in 1948 the second issue would not appear until some 44 years later!

As Eisner was so confident about the title, material for a second issue was produced before the premiere number hit the newsstands. Writer Jules Feiffer and artist Tex Blaisdell created a six page strip intended as the back up for the next issue. The story tells the true events of a match between the Detroit Tigers and the Philadelphia A's in September 1907.

This story would later be used by Eisner in the 28 May 1950 Spirit section called "The Good Old Days" - Eisner added a framing sequence with The Spirit, Sammy and Commissioner Dolan.

A page from 'The Good Old Days' Spirit story

In 1991, Kitchen Sink reprinted the first issue of Baseball Comics (in colour too!), and followed this up a few months later with a second issue - this featured The Good Old Days Spirit section as well as a reprint of an excellent story from KSPs Death Rattle comic by writers John Wooley and Jim Millaway with art by Rand Holmes. Called "Slide, Sinner, Slide" this tale used softball (rather than baseball) as a backdrop.

Baseball Comics was created by Eisner to fill a niche in the market in the late 40s - unfortunately it did not succeed. Whether this was due to the title being swamped by the many other comic books appearing during that time, or the subject matter not appealing enough to its target audience is unknown.

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Trivia Answer: Sam J. Jones (for more information on the movie, click here)