The label on the ball reads "Old 97 League." Stamped on a sign panel is a facsimile of Tom Fairweather's signature, alluding to him as the commissioner or president of the Three I League.
The opposite panel is my favorite part of this obscure piece of baseball history. It reads "First Home Run Doris Ever Saw Me Hit." Below that inscription it continues, "June 10, 1942."and lastly, "Madison, Wis."
On an adjacent panel it reads, "First six games Had 7 doubles - 5 singles - 1 H.R. For 21 Times Up." Finally, he does the math for us and reports his batting average for that span of time to be ".619" The mixed use of upper and lower case letters was the choice of the inscriber.
The seller's research indicated that the ball had belonged to Whitey Platt. Taking the baton and continuing the research I learned that outfielder Mizell "Whitey" Platt debuted with the Chicago Cubs on September 16, 1942, a mere three months after Doris witnessed her first Platt home run. The actual home run occurred when Platt played for the Madison Blues in the aforementioned Three I League (Illinois, Indiana, Iowa).
Platt's prodigious efforts for Madison earned him a promotion to the Tulsa Oilers in the Texas League and soon after a September call-up to the Cubs.
Platt played sparingly for the Cubs in 1942 and 1943 and disappeared off the baseball radar screen until 1946, due a stint in the military.
He resurfaced with the Chicago White Sox in 1946 and then spent his final two years with the St. Louis Browns in 1948 and 1949. He lingered in the minors for another five years. The St. Louis Browns in this era was quite often a career cul-de-sac.
Discovering Whitey Platt's baseball history was relatively easy compared with probing his personal life. There are volumes upon volumes of information about the big stars of that era (Ted Williams, Lou Gehrig, etc.) But the Internet never ceases to amaze me. Even the obscure players leave a bread crumb trail on Google.
The biggest disappointment was learning that his wife's name was Edna. So whatever happened to Doris? Was she some hot Wisconsin babe enamored with the local baseball star? Did he leave Doris behind in his quest to reach the big leagues? Did she stay in Madison and become attached to another ballplayer? Maybe I'll find out someday.
The identity of Doris is not the only mystery. It is not clear who was intended to be the recipient of this baseball. Perhaps Platt hung onto this ball as memorabilia of his early career and his days (and nights?) with Doris.
I love this ball because it was not inscribed to impress Doris, but because it celebrated the relationship that allowed Whitey Platt to find additional meaning to his exploits. Platt allowed his personal life to spill over into the dugout. I doubt if anyone owns a ball that says "The First Home Run Madonna Ever Saw Me Hit."