More T206 Goodness

I’m a big fan of the 1909 T206 card set, and about 20 years ago — knowing full well that I would never get my hands on an actual set of these cards — I purchased a reprint set for about $30.

When I received the reprint set, all 500+ cards, they were almost destroyed before I even had a chance to look at them. I had a German Shepherd named Murcer at the time. (Yes he was named after Bobby Murcer) and this dog loved to chew on paper and cardboard. Leave a pair of sneakers on the floor, he wouldn’t touch them. Slippers….no interest, socks…nope. Leave a book, or a magazine, or the mail, or anything cardboard within reach of Murcer and it was kibbles and bits time. He would go to work on these things until there was nothing left but confetti. After a few book mishaps we learned not to leave any temptations around for Murcer to chew, so the problem essentially went away.

The mailman was not aware of Murcer’s love of all things paper. Since all mail went into our mailbox, Murcer wasn’t able to get to the gas bill, magazines, or credit card bills, although I sometimes wished he could. Unfortunately the T206 came in a cardboard box that wouldn’t fit in the mailbox, so the mailman placed it on the floor of my front porch. My wife let Murcer out to do his doggie duties, never noticing the cardboard box on the porch. Murcer, of course, noticed it right away and proceeded to feast on the cardboard delight. Luckily I got home from work just in time to see Murcer shaking the living shit out of a defenseless cardboard box in my front yard. “No…not the Monster!” I screamed as I ran toward Murcer. (My wife thought she heard a little girl screaming, but I assure you I have a very manly scream.) Lucky for me, Murcer had had only enough time to rip open the box that the T206 was shipped in, and he didn’t get the chance to chew any of the cards. Another 15 minutes of Murcer mastication would have been tragic.

Several years ago I put together this framed tribute of some of the greatest players represented in the set. 9 position players and a 1st and 3rd base coach, all positioned on a beautiful rendition of the Polo Grounds as it would have looked in 1911.

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It’s one of the few creative things I’ve ever managed to produce.

It’s prominently displayed on my computer room wall, right over my desk. It’s one of the coolest looking pieces of baseball card iconography that I own. I think Murcer would have liked it as well.

Absolutely Free! The players of the T206 Sporting Life ads.

In the summer of 1909 The American Tobacco Company placed some ads in the Sporting Life publication.  The ads were for cigarettes.  Sweet Caporal.  Piedmont.  Sovereign brand.  The packs featured cards of baseball players.

Sporting Life – September 18, 1909

The ad first ran in the July 3 edition and finished up in the September 18 edition of the paper.

In August the ad changed to the one shown above.  This second ad featured different players and slightly different text.  This text says:

Handsomely lithographed pictures in colors of famous professional baseball players in the major leagues.

Every baseball enthusiast in the United States should secure this superb series of pictures.  Start collecting today.

The images are drawing of the cards Jefferson Burdick designated as T206.  For a great read on that set, download Scot A. Reader’s Inside T206 – A Collector’s Guide to the Classic Baseball Card Set (Centennial Edition).

For this second ad, why these players?  Were they the stars of 1908 / 1909?  Let’s take a look.

I’ve placed letters to easier identify which card / player I’m discussing.  I’ll try to determine why, based on previous performance, they were part of the ad campaign.  Maybe some totally different reason.

Some say that you’re only good as your last at bat.  Part of the “what have you done lately” syndrome.  When this ad was published there were less than 20 games left in the 1909 season.

A. Orval Overall, Chicago, National.  A pitcher for the Cubs since 1906.  Led the National League in Shut Outs in 1907 (8) and 1909 (9).  Led the NL in Strike Outs in 1909 (205).  Orval finished the 1909 season with a 20-11 record with a 1.42 ERA.  The Cubs finished second in the NL standings, 6.5 games behind Pittsburgh in 1909.

B. Jim Pastorius, Brooklyn.  A pitcher for the Superbas since 1906.  In 1908 he posted a 4-20 record.  In 1909 it drooped to 1-9.  In 1909 Brooklyn finished sixth in the NL standings, 55.5 games behind Pittsburgh, his home town.  Brooklyn released him on August 28, 1909, just three weeks before this ad ran.

C. Honus Wagner, Pittsburgh.  We now know that he would enter the Hall of Fame in 1936.  Back then it wasn’t yet a destination.  He’d been playing with Pittsburgh since 1900, clearly an established player for his team, and in the majors.  Where to start on his accomplishments of 1908 and 1909? For 1908 he led the NL in Hits (201), Doubles (39), Triples (19), RBI (109), Stolen Bases (53), BA (.354), Total Bases (308), plus a few other categories.  He seemed to slow down a bit in 1909.  He led the NL in Doubles (39), RBI (100), BA (.339), Total Bases (242) and several other categories.  The World Series didn’t take place until October of 1909.  The Pirates won.

D. Kitty Bransfield, Philadelphia, National.  A first baseman for the Phillies since 1905.  His stats show nothing outstanding.  A solid player with a .303 BA in 1908 and .292 in 1909.  He was fifth in the NL with 160 Hits in 1908.  He had a .989 Fielding % as a first basemen in 1909, leading the NL.  The Phillies finished fifth in the NL standings, 36.5 games behind Pittsburgh in 1909.

E. Willie Keeler, New York, American.  An outfielder with the Highlanders since 1903.  He entered the Hall of Fame in 1939.  Again, it wasn’t yet a destination.  In 1908 his BA was .263.  In 1909 his BA was .264.  Most of best playing seasons were years before.  Born in 1872 he was the sixth oldest player in 1909.  He left the major leagues in 1910.  New York finished fifth in the AL standings, 23.5 games behind Detroit in 1909.

F. Ginger Beaumont, Boston, National.  Outfielder for the Doves since 1907.  He led the NL in hits in 1907 with 187.  His BA in 1908 was .267 and in 1909 it was .263.  Probably his best year in baseball was 1903 when he was with Pittsburgh.  Boston finished in the cellar of the 1909 NL, 65.5 games behind Pittsburgh in 1909.

G. Jim Delahanty, Washington.  One of the five Delahanty brothers.  Jim joined the Senators as an infielder in 1907, having been with five major league teams since 1901.  In 1908 Jim had a .317 BA and for his time in Washington for 1909 he had a .222 BA.  Nothing else those years scream out, “Jim was a great player.”  On August 13, 1909, he was traded to the Detroit Tigers.  Washington finished the 1909 season at the bottom of the AL, 56 games behind Detroit in 1909.

H. Harry Steinfeldt, Chicago, National.  Harry joined the Cubs playing third base in 1906, having been with Cincinnati for the previous eight seasons.  In 1906 Harry led the NL in hits (176) and RBI (83).  In 1908 his BA was .241 and he raised it to .252 in 1909.  The Cubs finished second in the NL standings, 6.5 games behind Pittsburgh in 1909.

I. Charley O’Leary, Detroit.  Charley joined the Tigers in 1904 as a short stop.  In  1908 he had a .251 BA and it fell to .203 in 1909.  Seemingly a solid player, but not a star player.  Detroit won the AL pennant in 1909 but fell to Pittsburgh in the World Series.

J. Hooks Wiltse, New York, National.  A pitcher for the Giants his whole career in the NL he started with them in 1904.  He led the NL in HR given up with 9 in 1909.  A reliable hurler, he went 23-14 in 1908 and 20-11 in 1909, his only 20+ win seasons.  The Giants finished in third place, just 18.5 games behind Pittsburgh.

What have I deduced from looking at these players?  Why were these ten chosen for this ad?

One solid star, Honus Wagner.  A few other above average pitchers, Overall and Wiltse.  A couple players that were probably household names, Delahanty and Keeler.

What about the league breakdown?  National League: 7 players (two Cubs).  American League: 3 players.

Position players vs. pitchers?  Position: 7.  Pitchers: 3.

What about the age of the players?  I’m taking their age from Baseball-Reference for the 1909 season.  The average age of the ten players is 31.6.  The youngest being Pastorius, 27 and the oldest, Beaumont, 37.  By league, the NL players are 30.9 and the AL players are 33.3.

I really don’t know why these players were chosen.  Aside from Wagner, I really don’t.  I should go back and look at the first ad in the Sporting Life to see if there’s any insight.  Future post, I guess.

Let’s not stop the fun with speculation.  Since the ad copy says “in colors” I thought I’d modify the original, inserting digital copies of the actual T206 cards.

Sources:

Collecting Goals for 2016

One year ago, as 2015 was approaching 2016, I was having a conversation on Twitter with some fellow collectors about our collecting goals for 2016. I had not made goals in previous years nor had I made any for the upcoming year. As a disciple of the Yoda-like collecting legend Eric, also known as @ThoseBackPages on Twitter, I have been trained in the ways of #FOCUS and buy the card not the holder so a list of goals was an idea I liked very much.

Following that conversation I scribbled six goals on a sticky note and stuck it on my above my computer screen where I could see it each day. The goals I set for 2016 are as follows.

  1. Acquire a 1967 Topps Brooks Robinson #600 graded in a PSA 7 NM.
  2. Acquire a 1966 Topps Jim Palmer #126, his rookie card.
  3. Reach 65% completion of my signed 1959 Topps set.
  4. Reach 70% completion of my signed 1981 Fleer set.
  5. Reach 55% completion of my signed 1984 Topps and Topps Traded sets.
  6. Reach 50% completion of my low grade 1934 Goudey set.

fullsizerender-5The first goal I was able to complete was the Palmer RC, I picked up a nice example of this card graded PSA 5.5 EX+ in early February. It is an excellent example of buying the card not the grade as the eye appeal is that of a much higher graded card at a much lower price.

The second, third and fifth goals completed were done rather easily as I underestimated the value of the Twitter collecting community in tracking down the people who have some of the tougher signed cards to find available. I reached 65% on the 1959 Topps set in early April with the purchase of signed Billy Consolo and Alex Kellner cards. Nearly two months later I crossed the 55% pole of the 1984 Topps sets with the addition of Gerald Perry and Ron Reed. The 1981 Fleer goal was reached sometime in August, and for the life of me I can’t find the details of which card pushed me over. Looking back as a whole these three goals were undershot by a significant amount as currently stand at roughly 72%, 81%, and 68% in ascending chronological order.

img_4796The fourth and from my view most difficult goal to reach was the 1967 Brooks Robinson in the PSA 7 grade. The card itself is both a high number and short print, and it is also prone to being off-center. Being a tougher card to find in excellent condition, I found it difficult to find one at a price I could live with. Finally after being snipped in several auctions I got a hold of the 67 Robinson in late July.

The often neglected and last completed goal was to reach the 50% mark of my low grade 1934 Goudey set. I completed this goal in late September with a flurry of eBay purchases from a seller I found who did not overvalue these well-loved cards solely because of their age.

Looking back on this journey I feel that it helped me focus and to keep from splurging on cards that didn’t necessarily fit my collections. I have a few goals already in mind for 2017 number one being a 1957 Brooks Robinson rookie card graded PSA 7.

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Unfinished (set) business

I’m a man of my word. I keep my promises and I achieve my goals. I don’t get distracted, I stay on task and I always finish what I start. Except…

My income and my passion for cards were at similar peaks throughout the ‘90’s. I finished some old sets I was close to finishing, started some older sets from scratch. There were four sets that I jumpstarted my way into with a series of well-priced, shrewdly purchased lots, and I had every intention of making my way to the end, the final check made in each one’s checklist. I don’t know what derailed me from my goals. Maybe it was the new century and big life changes (job switches, moving to Cooperstown, and so on), maybe it was the changes in the hobby (shifts to grading, disappearance of commons into slabs, moving to Cooperstown, far from big Chicago area card shows), maybe I simply lost interest in those sets. Let’s find out.

 

1933 Tattoo Orbit

tattoo-orbitThere’s something about this size, 2” X 2 ¼,” that grabs me. Tattoo Orbit (or R305, if you want to get technical) is a beautiful little set, 60 cards in all, hyper-stylized. The player photo is slightly colorized and is ensconced in a background that looks like it could have been drawn by a child. Check out Marty McManus here, swinging away, gigantic, in a setting of magnificent red and yellow. It’s a thing of beauty.

I have 16 of the 60, including two of the short prints. Did I ever think I’d really go the distance on this one? In retrospect, I’m not so sure. The set, even in VG, is around $4,000, probably more if I hunt and peck for individual cards. I don’t like spending a ton, so my guess is this one was a bit of a whim, a “yeah, sure, I’ll put this together over time.” Looking at what I’ve got, and how prices have gone up since I began, it’s even less likely I’ll get back to this one. But they are wonderful cards, magnificently simple in design.

 

1947 Bond Bread

bond-breadI’m halfway to the 44 card set of baseball players (though there are also 4 boxer cards). Not sure how these came into my field of vision, but it seems that in the 1980’s a large number of these black and white gems were found in a warehouse and released into the hobby. Maybe that’s why I got so many, definitely why the big time Hall of Famers (Musial, Williams, Jackie Robinson) are relatively inexpensive).

There’s a chance I’ll go back to this set. There are many wonders to be found in the photographs. Stan the Man here looks like he accidentally fielded a grounder during a photo shoot for the new 1947 Packard. Still, hunting down ungraded Joe DiMaggio and Jackie Robinson cards may be a tough task and, it seems like after 2000, a rash of illegally reprinted square cornered cards (some come rounded) made their way not only into the hobby but into grading.  That worries me, though I wonder where the money is in counterfeiting 70-year-old Del Ennis cards.

 

1949 Remar Bread Oakland Oaks

remar-breadWhat’s with the bread cards? Sure, it makes sense to package cards with gum, kids chewing away as they read about their favorite players, but the image of a kid wadding a piece of white bread in his cheek is one I can’t shake. The poor little Oaklander would choke!

There are 42 cards in this set, a strangely sized 2” X 3.” They’re thin stuff, very flexible, but sort of cool. There’s a Billy Martin card, which I don’t have, but is pretty inexpensive in EX, the general grade of the 11 cards I have.

I’ve been scouting out the balance of the set on EBay and it looks like there are ungraded examples at reasonable prices. Completing this set may be a reasonable endeavor, but it’s awfully hard to muster up a real enthusiasm for chasing down an EX example of Maurice Van Robays, whoever the hell he was. Still, I look at my Mel Duezabou card and know that, to someone, he was important. I’m not sure that that someone is me.

 

1952 Parkhurst

parkhurstThis may be the one that got away and that calls me back the most. Almost exactly the size of the 1949 Bowman cards that I love, this 100 card set of Canadian International Leaguers (Montreal Royals, Toronto Maple Leafs and Ottawa Athletics) is filled with unknowns and a healthy subset of drawings like “Gripping the Bat.” Look at this page – awesome, right?

Though I have half the set, I have none of the key cards, minor league appearances by Tommy Lasorda, Walter Alston and Johnny Podres. They won’t break the bank. I think if I fish around for these, I’m likely to find one or two sellers/dealers who would sell me a bunch at a reasonable price. What could the real demand for the no-names and sketches be? Then I’ll back myself into a corner and spring for the higher priced cards. That’s my methodology – go cheap for as long as I can and then force myself to pony up for the few costlier cards that stand between me and a complete set.

 

I’ve never been a type collector of random cards, never sought out having one from as many sets as possible, so having four partial sets drives me batty. Is it worth keeping what I have if I’m not going to get them all? I don’t know, I debate that a lot. What’s the point of having 51 of 100 1952 Parkhursts if I’m not going to end up with 100? It’s a small scale struggle, but a struggle nonetheless.