Contest Update

Guy in the middleWe have gotten a lot of feedback on who the “guy in the middle” of our Wagner/Clarke postcard is – some from way out in left field, some seem reasonable.  Unfortunately at this point, we’re not confident in any of the guesses thus far.

A few people suggested that the person we’re looking for might be Lew Ritter.  Ritter was a catcher with the Brooklyn Dodgers between 1902 and 1908, who pulled together a .219 lifetime batting average in mostly part-time play.

Of the many suggestions we’re received, there are commonalities between the facial features of Ritter and the gentleman in the center of the postcard photo.  Some pictures of Ritter:


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The problem, of course, is the uniform.

Here’s what’s misleading about the photo in the postcard: the only identifying markings visible on the uniform is on the player’s left sleeve.  It looks like the left side of the letter “B.”  Given that Honus Wagner is wearing what is quite obviously a Pirates uniform, and it’s impossible to tell what jersey Clarke is wearing because it’s underneath his Pirates sweater, the logical conclusion is that the player in the center is with a different team.  It doesn’t take much research to know that Brooklyn and Boston both trained in Hot Springs during the early 1900s – there are plenty of photos documenting that fact.  So if you can find a physical resemblance, it must be that player, no?

Here’s the thing: the player in the center is not wearing a Brooklyn uniform.  He’s also not wearing a Boston uniform.  It appears that what he’s wearing is a Pittsburgh Pirates uniform.

The outstanding “Dressed to the Nines” online exhibit from the Baseball Hall of Fame illustrates each team’s home and away uniforms for each season.  It only takes a quick look to realize that neither Brooklyn nor Boston’s uniforms had anything embroidered on the left sleeve.

The Pirates, however, did.

Screen Shot 2015-02-28 at 9.11.50 AMIn the postcard image, Wagner is clearly wearing a uniform consistent with the Pirates’ 1907 uniforms.  Borrowing an image from “Dressed to the Nines,” you can see that clearly.  It appears as if perhaps he’s wearing the team’s road grays, right up to the cap (light cap with dark bill).






Screen Shot 2015-02-28 at 9.12.08 AMIn 1908, however, Pittsburgh modified their home and away uniform jerseys and caps (the pants and socks look identical).  They removed the “P” patch from the pocket – in fact, they removed the pocket altogether – and, on the upper left sleeve, added the “PBC” patch, for “Pittsburgh Baseball Club.”  They wore similar uniforms in 1909.

You can see what that patch looks like in this team picture.  Not all the players’ jerseys are visible, but if you look closely at the upper sleeves of those wearing jerseys, those “PBC” patches look an awful lot like a plain “B” when the player is facing the camera directly.  You can see it on Wagner himself.

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So why is Wagner wearing a 1907 uniform and the guy in the middle wearing a 1908 uniform?  No idea.

However, we are beginning to take the side of a Net54 poster who suggested that perhaps the player was not a major leaguer at all.

The contest, of course, is still on.


c. 1908 Jim Thorpe Postcard pair

Before beginning today’s blog entry, a quick update on the “Name That Player” contest: Keep the guesses coming (but please, try and include photographic proof).  We’ve gotten a lot of suggestions, but thus far just one or two that we think might be possibilities.  And perhaps one guess of our own, that hasn’t been suggested yet.

Now, on to the next featured piece.

Thrope RPPC FrontIn 1907, a young Jim Thorpe tried out for the football team at the Carlisle Indian School in Carlisle, PA.  Thorpe had enrolled at the school in 1904 but was too small to play on the varsity team.  In 1907, Thorpe tried out for the team whose coach, Glenn “Pop” Warner, was impressed with Thorpe’s running ability and the rest was history, as Thorpe graduated and became an Olympic athlete and professional multi-sport superstar.  

Already a star athlete at the school, these two photographs were taken of the young Thorpe and some of his friends at the Carlisle Indian School in 1908.  One of them, Joe Charley (eventually Chief Joe Charley of the Yakama Indian tribe), mailed these two postcards to his sisters Fannie and Bessie, each former students of the Carlisle Indian School, on June 4, 1908.  

The photos depict four well-dressed young men, posing smartly for the camera (it is our belief based on future photos of Joe Charley available online in full Native American regalia, that Charley is the smallest of thre four men, with the dark necktie).  The unmistakeable Thorpe wears a pinstripe suit and straw hat.  Most interesting about the photos is that, under magnification, Thorpe has some sort of medal pinned to his tie, and a ribbon of some sort on his jacket pocket.  Could these be some early athletic awards?  Perhaps.  In the spring of 1908 Thorpe won a gold medal in the Penn Relays for a 6’1″ high jump, and won several other track and field awards during that spring.

The images in both postcards are sharp with beautiful contrast, with some edge and corner wear to both.  One of the two postcards exhibits some surface indentation along the edges consistent with once having been framed, and obviously, both have been postally used.  Additionally, both have remnants on the reverse of having once been mounted in some sort of album.  Still, these are two spectacular images of a young Jim Thorpe, likely both unique, at the very start of what would become a legendary athetic career.

CONTEST: Name The Player

Wagner PC

Time for a contest.

In our upcoming auction, we’ll be featuring this absolutely spectacular postcard.  It depicts three players, horsing around on the baseball field during Spring Training, an image we feel truly illustrates the ideas behind “Love of the Game.”

The postcard came from Honus Wagner’s estate.  There are handwritten notes underneath the three players – underneath Wagner, it looks to read “Hans.”  Underneath Hall of Fame manager Fred Clarke, it reads “Clark.”

Underneath the guy in the middle, it appears to read “Alpean.”

Some have concluded that the guy in the middle is Dodgers infielder Whitey Alperman.  We struggle with that, because A) the player looks nothing like Whitey Alperman to us, and B) Whitey Alperman was with the Dodgers.  Though the player does have a “B” on his sleeve, and the Brooklyn Dodgers also trained in Hot Springs, Arkansas, where the Pirates trained, we think there’s a good chance he’s wearing a Pirates uniform (the Pirates had a “PBC” logo on their sleeves, for “Pittsburgh Baseball Club.”).

The player looks awfully familiar.  Can you name him?

If you can name him, and provide us with photographic proof, we will give you a TWO HUNDRED DOLLAR credit for spending in our Spring auction.  The rules?  Simple.  A) We have to agree with you.  B) You have to win something in the auction, and we’ll discount your price by $200.  C) You need to be a registered bidder in order to play.  Send your answers with photographic proof to info at loveofthegameauctions dot com. First correct answer wins.

Meanwhile, check out this awesome postcard.

Between 1901 and 1913, the Pittsburgh Pirates spent their spring training weeks in Hot Springs, Arkansas, preparing for each upcoming season.  The team trained and played its exhibition games at Whittington Park, springtime home to several other teams including the Brooklyn Dodgers.

This postcard, featuring Pittsburgh Hall of Famers Honus Wagner and Fred Clarke, flanking an unknown third player, exemplifies all the excitement of spring training.  The happiness in their faces as they horse around for the cameras is a stark contrast the the majority of photos depicting the two Hall of Famers.  Perhaps that’s why this postcard was initially auctioned as part of Honus Wagner’s personal belongings when parts of his estate were sold several years ago.

The medicine ball in the background tipped us off that the photo was likely taken during spring training but it was our stadium expert Tom Daley who was able to quickly identify the ballpark as Whittington Park based on the grandstand behind home plate and the trees on the hill beyond the third base line. The postcard, which is postally unused and displays wonderfully, appears in EX condition save for handwriting on the bottom of the image, identifying the players.

Despite this handwriting, we are unable to identify the player in the center (we are fairly certain he is not Whitey Alperman, as some have speculated).  The uniform could be a Brooklyn or Pittsburgh uniform (the Pirates players had uniforms with a “PBC” logo on the left sleeve).  Regardless, the photo is easily our favorite item in this auction – a picture of three pro ballplayers (including one of the greatest ever), hamming it up for the camera, smiling in anticipation of the upcoming season, truly demonstrating their Love of the Game.

1935 National Chicle Nagurski

1935 Chicle Nagurski FrontThe 1935 National Chicle football set is undoubtedly one of the most popular and certainly one of the most important football sets ever manufactured.  The set contains some of the game’s bigest names, and includes the first card of virtually every key subject in the set.  The issue’s colorful art deco design was typical of the day’s contemporary art, and the popular design was repeated by National Chicle in their “Diamond Stars” baseball set of 1934-36 as well as their Sky Birds cards of 1933.

What makes the 1935 Chicle football set so important, however, is the inclusion of the card we present here: the first card of Hall of Famer Bronko Nagurski.

The 1935 National Chicle Bronko Naguski has been widely established as the most valuable and important football card in the hobby.  Clearly the key to this set, the card achieved this notoriety because it is the first card of the well-known Hall of Famer and famous pro wrestler, and also because it comes from the set’s ultra-scarce high number series.  There is no question that this is the most important and highly sought-after football card in existence.

Presented here is a clean, midgrade example of the card, boasting strong color and image clarity.  Slightly off-center from left to right, with pronounced corner wear, the card is accurately graded at this level, yet presents very strongly for the assessed condition.

A 1935 National Chicle Nagurski is an iconic card that transcends the football hobby altogether, taking its place among the most iconic cards in any sport.  One of the most difficult to obtain football cards, mid and high-grade Nagurskis do not frequently change hands; they are very scarce and desirable and the hobby’s best examples are locked up in elite collections.  Rarely does even a midgrade specimen make itself available to the hobby.  One of the most important sports cards this great hobby has to offer.

The Most Valuable Postwar Football Card

1952 Bowman Large Lansford FrontOne of football card collecting’s most desirable rarities, the 1952 Bowman Large Jim Lansford serves as both the player’s rookie card, a short print, and the last card in the set.  The 1952 set was rife with short-printed cards, a result of printing larger cards on standard-sized press sheets.  Coupled with the tale of large quantities of the Lansford card being destroyed during production, the resulting scarcity and legend have made this the hobby’s most valuable postwar football card.

Just six examples have been graded NM-MT 8 by PSA, with only two higher.  This specimen boasts crisp color and wide borders, centered just a hair off from top to bottom but otherwise pristine.  With three of the known 8s residing in the top three all-time registry sets, the likelihood of another example in this grade appearing at public auction in the near future is slim.  A cursory internet search will reveal very few examples of this card sold in any grade, PSA 7s reaching into the thousands and no “straight” PSA 8 example having sold in years.  A wonderful example of the hobby’s most valuable postwar football card.

The “Miracle Weaver!”

1912 T207 Weaver FrontIn the spring of 1965, a young Pennsylvania boy was playing outside with his friends in the suburbs of Philadelphia, aimlessly wandering about.  They came upon the parking lot of a diner which was, evidently, a frequent place where the boys played.  On this particular day, the boy noticed that a desk had been discarded in the dumpster behind the restaurant.  Curious, he opened the desk drawers – and found a small stack of tobacco cards which had been thrown away with the desk.

The boy – a non collector – took the cards home with him and tucked them away in a small box.

Fifty years later, now with young grandchildren, the boy called us at Love of the Game, and asked us to take a look at the cards.  The astonishing collection included about 30 tobacco-era baseball cards – all T205s and T207s, mostly with Cycle backs.  Included in the pile was this card of hobby favorite George “Buck” Weaver, with a blank “anonymous” reverse.  We submitted the card – which we knew boasted outstanding eye appeal – to SGC, who assigned it a grade of EX 60 – the highest grade of any T207 anonymous Weaver SGC has graded, and the second-highest of any of the Weaver back varieties.

1912 T207 Waver BackThis card is a miracle!  One of the most sought-after cards in the T207 set, with one of the issue’s most difficult backs, discarded into a dumpster 50 years ago, along with another group of cards, which at the time had very little value.  The cards were brought home by a young boy who had the presence of mind to tuck them away where they would not be damaged or destroyed (or forgotten) for 50 years, until they were rediscovered and consigned to auction, where it sits as the highest-graded SGC anonymous Weaver known.  That this card still exists is simply amazing.

Auction houses frequently get into the habit of naming their “finds” for publicity value: the “jumbo” this, the “Connecticut” that.  We decided that this card needed a similar name, but the “Dumpster Weaver” didn’t seem to fit the bill.  As such, we hereby christen this “The Miracle Weaver”: the card that survived being tossed into a dumpster, lived 50 years in the collection of a young man who grew, had children and then grandchildren, and was never damaged or destroyed in 50 years of storage.  A true beauty with a vivid, brown background and a clean, anonymous back.

Impossibly Rare 1888 Joseph Hall Cabinet Hall Of Famer Quartet – Coming Soon!

jhc copyThe Brooklyn photography studio of Joseph Hall produced a number of different baseball-related photographs, among which were a group of individual player cabinets featuring members of the 1888-89 New York Giants.  Very little is known about these cards, though the majority of the known player images were used for the very rare and valuable N338-2 S.F. Hess issue of 1888 (which contains 16 known members of the Giants).  The cards measure approximately 4″ x 6 1/4″, and feature beautiful, black-and-white portrait photos, with the player’s name lettered below the image (in some cases in script writing).  The Joseph Hall cards are very rare.

Presented here is a collection of four Hall of Famers from the Joseph Hall set: John Ward, Mickey Welch, Jim O’Rourke, and Roger Connor.  Each of these four cards originated from a large group of 18 different cabinets that were sold at auction in 2006 for more than $70,000.  After that initial sale, the cards were broken up and were scattered throughout the hobby.

These cards represent four of the five Hall of Famers in that initial group (the fifth being Tim Keefe, not part of this collection), and the largest single group of cards from that issue to be sold publicly in one place since.  The cards are among the most rare of all 19th Century cards; despite the aforementioned sale of 18 cabinets in 2006, just four of those 18 have made it as far as the Standard Catalog.  Over the years since the discovery of the initial group, several individual examples (including Hall of Famers) have exchanged hands both privately and at public auction, with this group of four pieced together individually by a private collector who has held them for some time.

Included in the group are the following:

1888 Jos Hall Orourke Front1) Jim O’Rourke (HOF) – Graded FAIR 20 by SGC, the card has been clipped at all four corners, as is the case with a great number of the cabinets from the initial find.  The image quality is strong, with excellent contrast, and some wear on the surface that is restricted largely to the area outside the oval where the photo appears.  The number 2 is written in ink on the otherwise clean and ornate reverse. O’Rourke is currently not catalogued as part of the N338-2 S.F. Hess set, though the existence of this cabinet would make it likely that an O’Rourke was produced for that issue as well.

2) Roger Connor (HOF) – Graded A by SGC, this card has also been clipped at the corners and exhibits surface wear similar to that seen on the O’Rourke.  The image quality and contrast is similarly strong, and the reverse is largely clean with some minor staining at the bottom.  This particular example boasts the identical image to the N338-2 card of Connor.

3) Mickey Welch (HOF) – Graded A by SGC, the card of “Smiling” Mickey has the same four corner clips as the others, along with some staining and wrinkling on the surface.  Welch’s name is written in ink under the oval photo, and the number 4 is written in ink on the reverse.  Of the known Joseph Hall Giants Cabinets, the image of Welch is one of just three known player images that were not used in the N338-2 S.F. Hess issue (the others being O’Rourke, Mike Tiernan, and Hall of Famer Tim Keefe).  As of this writing, the image of Welch used in this cabinet is unique and unknown to any other of Welch’s card issues.

1888 Jos Hall Welch Back4) John Ward (HOF) – Graded A by SGC, the card of Hall of Famer John Montgomery Ward appears to have been slightly hand cut along the edges, along with the four corners being clipped.  The card exhibits considerable wear that is manifested in some tears to the photo itself; the SGC holder lends itself to a strong appearance and excellent protection for the card.  Ward’s name is written in ink in the lower border, and above it again in pencil, and the number 3 is written in ink on the reverse.  The image of Ward used in this cabinet is identical to that of his S338-2 S.F. Hess issue, and also to that of a recently discovered Police Gazette cabinet that sold for nearly $10,000 earlier this year.

These cards are extraordinarily rare, so much so as despite the fact that the advertisement on the reverse clearly indicates that duplicates could be purchased from the studio, these cards are thought to be unique.  The existence of the initial 18 cards sold at aucton in 2006 was a hobby miracle; that four of the five Hall of Famers known to exist have been reassembled by a dedicated collector despite the overwhelming demand for (and cost of) 19th Century material is simply astonishing.  It is entirely unlikely that a group of Hall of Famers from such a rare issue will be offered together in this way again.