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

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