A long time ago, Duke, Sons, and Company produced all sorts of trading cards to go along with their tobacco products. In general, their cards aren’t as heralded or desirable Allen & Ginter and Old Judge issues because, aside from sticking the heads of presidential candidates onto the bodies of female baseball players, most of their stuff featured generic baseball subjects that weren’t real people. Occasionally they used actual pictures of real players (see the 1893 Duke Cabinets) but for the most part, they did not.
One of the more unique Duke sets was mostly a non-sports issue. The 1889 N125 Puzzles cards were advertisements for Duke’s Honest Long Cut product. These were cards with an assortment of puzzles on them and you could only confirm the answer by finding a corresponding card that had the solution. There were only 15 in the set so maybe that wasn’t real hard. But today, the cards are extremely hard to find, calling into question just how many were produced.
All of the cards are rare and, to a degree, desirable. But the baseball card in the mostly non-sports set is generally the most popular.
The baseball puzzle, on Card No. 15 in the set, was a word game of sorts. The card, shown here, was colorful and included an assortment of letters.
Looking at the card, it’s pretty easy to see that this is some sort of cryptic puzzle. The only clear words on it, after all, are Base Ball Puzzle (as well as the instructions telling you the answer is found on Card No. 10).
So how do you go about solving it? The back explains that.
The reverse is pictured here but, in short, the names spelled out the names of baseball personalities. Each collection of letters has a large red letter, which is the first letter of the last name of a player. You take that letter then unscramble the rest of the black letters with it to get a last name. Most are players but there are two exceptions and those are with the two bats off to the right. I’ll get to that in a minute.
In all, there are seven names scrambled – here’s the breakdown.
The names on the two bats shown to the left are popular players from a team of that era. That’s also the case for the three names in the middle. Those names correspond to a particular position. From top to bottom, you have a second baseman, a pitcher, and a catcher. If you look, at the layout, it’s sort of like a baseball diamond.
So, as I mentioned, the two names on the bats to the right are a little different. Those are the last and first name (moving left to right) of a baseball executive.
Even when you get all of the names there’s still one more piece to figure out. See those big red letters? They, too, are scrambled and unscrambled, they form the name of a team.
Can you solve the puzzle? If you’re familiar with pre-war baseball, some of the names may jump out at you without much effort. But the placement of the letters makes it a little challenging. And even if the last names stand out to you, coming up with the first names might make it more difficult.