What is the Trophy on the Hal Chase T206 Card?
It’s often been a widely discussed topic among T206 collectors. New York Highlanders/Yankees star Hal Chase has five cards in the iconic set, the most of any player. One of them features Chase holding some sort of trophy.
But what is it?
Chase was one of the New York Highlanders’ (later the Yankees) first true stars. Known for his defensive prowess at first base (recent statistics actually show him to be below average in that regard these days), he was also above average offensively. Chase was a career .291 hitter, led the league in home runs in 1915, and led the league in hits and batting average a year later.
The real issue dogging Chase was his involvement in gambling. That led to him being blackballed from the game, which was a real shame. Otherwise, he’s a player that would have garnered Hall of Fame consideration from some voters.
Chase was one of the game’s emerging young stars when the T206 set was released. That likely helped him in landing on a record five cards in the set. Even the immortal Ty Cobb, after all, was only featured on four.
In all, Chase played a total of 15 seasons, primarily with the New York Highlanders. He would last with the team until 1913, when the team was renamed the Yankees. After that, he bounced around quite a bit.
Chase joined the White Sox for part of the 1914 season before he went to Buffalo in the Federal League for the rest of that year and through 1915. He played for the Cincinnati Reds from 1916 through 1918 and finished his career with the New York Giants in 1919.
If that 1919 season sounds familiar, it should. That was the year the Chicago White Sox threw the World Series and while Chase wasn’t a member of that team, that act played a part in his career. Kenesaw Mountain Landis was hired on as baseball’s commissioner and he declared any player gambling on baseball would never play again. Chase was effectively forced out of the game and did not return on a professional level.
Two of Chase’s cards were portraits and two were field poses. But a fifth showed him holding a curious trophy. A stadium is in the background but the real focal point is the cup that Chase is holding.
Now, what Chase was doing with four cards in the set was anybody’s guess. The two biggest stars at the time were Honus Wagner and Ty Cobb. Cobb appeared on four cards and, as everyone knows, Wagner’s card is ultra rare, having been pulled shortly after production, likely because he did not have an agreement with the American Tobacco Company to use his likeness.
But while Chase did have five cards, it’s important to remember that he really had only three poses. The portrait cards were the same picture, just with different background colors and likely rendered by two different artists. The picture of Chase throwing was also the same pose used twice – again, probably by two different artists. The only real difference other than the quality of the artwork, is that one shows him with a dark cap and the other, with a white cap. The third one is the trophy card. While it’s still difficult to understand why Chase had five cards, they weren’t entirely different pictures, really.
So, back to the trophy.
The first inclination might me to think of it as a Most Valuable Player award or something but Chase never won one. Turns out the cup was for a much more personal thing instead of something given for his play on the field.
As I wrote here, the trophy was actually called ‘The Loving Cup.’ Chase received the cup from teammates following a bout with smallpox in 1909. Chase is said to have come down with the illness during spring training as the team was traveling around the U.S. He missed the start of the season and was even forced to remain behind in Georgia where he fell ill.
This article states that Chase eventually recovered and joined the team in May after the season was underway. He was then given the cup during his first game back and presented here is a picture of that occasion from the Detroit Public Library.