It’s every minor leaguer’s dream: a trip to “The Show.” Throughout the turn of the century, countless minor league, town, factory, and other amateur teams dotted the landscape, filled with players with the same dream. Some made it; some didn’t.
Our “Opening Day” auction recognizes that the minors are as much a part of baseball as The Show, a colorful and timeless piece of Americana that is a huge component of baseball history. A few highlights:
This beautiful Type 1 photo features one of New Jersey’s earliest minor league teams, the Jersey City Skeeters. The team joined the Eastern League in 1902, the first season they moved to the brand-new West Side Park, an 8,500-seat ballpark near the Jersey City train station. The team became immensely popular very quickly, and the team won the Eastern League championship in 1903.
Pictured here is the 1902 team, a team that featured multiple future major leaguers (and eventual subjects in the T206 set). Though a kind former owner took the liberty of identifying the players depicted, not much additional research is required to identify the members of the team. Using the pencil markings at the top as a guideline, players are as follows:
FRONT ROW (L-R): John Barnett, John Butler, Stephen Griffin, George Pfanmiller, Jocko Halligan, and Gene McCann. BACK ROW (L-R): Billy Shindle, Frank McManus, Edward Fertsch, Charlie Carr, Walt Woods, George Schoch, Wally Clement, and Mickey Doolin.
Also from 1902, this cabinet photo of the Little Rock Travelers identifies Jim Delehanty, one of five baseball-playing brothers, who had a 13-year major league career. While Delehanty is identified on the grading label, this team composite cabinet photo includes many other players who got a trip to The Show, including:
- Frank Martin (top left), who played 20 major league games with three teams between 1897-99 including the 1897 Louisville Colonels, Honus Wagner’s team.
- Jack Gilbert (top center), who played in 3 games with the Senators and Giants in 1898, and 25 more with the 1904 Pirates.
- Whitey Guese (bottom center), who pitched in 6 games with the 1901 Reds.
- John Skopec (bottom row, second from right), who went 6-3 with the 1901 White Sox, and 2-2 with the 1903 Tigers.
- Connie Murphy (top right), who pitched 7 games with the 1893 and 94 Reds.
- Pat Wright (middle right), who played one game at second base and had three at bats with the 1890 Chicago Colts.
- Charlie Moran, who played four games with the 1903 Cardinals, and 21 more with the 1908 team.
In several cases, it is our opinion that the player images depicted on this cabinet may be the cleanest existing photographs of the players depicted. For those counting, that’s 14 players depicted and eight major leaguers. This Southern Association team competed several rungs below The Show, talent-wise, so such a high percentage of players making it to the majors is certainly unique.
Of course, occasionally we find a postcard that contains a minor league photo of a baseball Hall of Famer, like this composite photo postcard of the Lancaster Red Roses of 1909, featuring Stan Coveleski. Coveleski was also one of five baseball playing brothers, who broke in with his brother John in Lancaster of the Tri-State League in 1908. He won 127 games against a 2.48 ERA in seven minor league seasons, but it was his 14-year major league career that attracted more attention. Winning 20 games five times with four teams and posting a 2.89 lifetime ERA, he was known for his control, once throwing seven innings of a game where every pitch was a hit or a strike. He was elected to the Hall of Fame by the Veterans’ Committee in 1969.
The 1909 Red Roses included a number of others who would eventually make the majors. Team Captain Snake Deal played one season with the 1906 Reds. Ed Fitzpatrick was a utility player for three seasons with the Boston Braves. Butch Rementer played one game behind the plate with the 1904 Phillies. Shortstop Roxey Roach played parts of four seasons with the Highlanders, Senators, and Buffalo Blues of the Federal League. Manager Marty Hogan played two seasons in the majors, with the 1894 Reds and the 1894-95 Browns. But it was Coveleski that had the longest and most successful career.
Of course we can’t resist writing one last time about our favorite item in the auction, this small pin featuring the 1912 Lawrence Barristers team, from their first championship season of 1912. The Barristers featured four major leaguers: Swede Carlstrom, Ray Keating, Alex Pearson, and Red Hoff. Hoff can be seen in the front row, second from left. As we’ve stated before, Hoff is the longest-lived professional athlete ever. He was the last surviving player to have played in the dead ball era. You can read his fascinating New York Times obituary here. No major leaguer lived longer than Red Hoff, and aside from this pin, the only other collectible of Hoff that we’re aware of is his 1912 T207 card (featured elsewhere in our auction).
We remain fascinated by deadball era minor league ball, and we’re proud to offer such a great assortment of history in our auction. We hope that the winning bidders on all four items recognize that they are, in some cases, in possession of the only available collectibles featuring these players that, a Century ago, had big dreams of making The Show. Most went on to work in factories, offices, farms, or elsewhere – but a hundred years later, in your hands, they are baseball players.