Ball Players Are Motor Enthusiasts

Early promotional stunts in the automobile industry were often quite inventive, involving things like a “master of endurance” driving for days on end without sleep, driving cars back and forth on a huge teeter-totter and conquering the Grand Canyon. A more conventional method involves the use of athletes as spokesmen, and Velie used this option in 1914 when they hired Major League ball players to drive their cars across the country.

Velie’s story is an interesting one that I have written about before. Its founder, Willard Lamb Velie, was a grandson of John Deere and the Velie automobile was even sold through John Deere dealerships. In November of 1914, Velie hired a few “prominent ball tossers” to engage in some transcontinental touring in order to draw attention to their brand. All stopped off at the Velie plant in Moline before taking various routes to the Panama-Pacific International Exposition in San Francisco. They included Ivy Olson and Fred Carisch of the Cleveland American League Team and Walter Leverenz of the St. Louis Browns.

The ball players were driving 1915 models, and those were available in a Big Four, a Big Six and the Biltwel with a higher (40) horsepower 6-cylinder Continental engine.

Carisch is the best-known of these players. In 1923, he was coaching for Detroit alongside the legendary Ty Cobb and ended up playing in a game against Cleveland. Cobb had to resort to using the 41-year old Carisch as catcher after the third and last Detroit catcher was ejected from the game. Unfortunately, Detroit still lost to Cleveland, 10-7.

1923 Velie Touring, Model 58

A Beast of a Bumper-Grille

When Buick restyled the beautiful ’49 Buick for 1950, it made a change that continues to inspire strong emotion, both positive and negative. Buick replaced this beautiful grille . . .

. . . with this toothy beast:

The sales brochure referred to the new design as a “bumper-grille”, and it consisted of heavy-duty vertical bars that were attached to the bumper so that they both formed the grille and served as bumper guards. The bars, according to Buick advertisements, were heavy enough to absorb “normal impact” and individually replaceable to save money in the “unlikely event of damage” (now note the damage to the grille shown above).

Unfortunately, the bars each had a different part number and were not at all interchangeable, and that made stocking and replacing them relatively expensive. This diagram showing the part numbers and prices was found in the 1958 edition of Motor’s Flat Rate & Parts Manual:

Buick had advertised the bumper grille as “something that makes so much sense that it’s safe to say that it will start a new trend in styling,” but no such trend materialized and even Buick abandoned the idea for 1951.

1950 Buick Roadmaster Convertible
1950 Buick Jetback Sedans