The 1911 T205 baseball card set is one of the most famous and popular pre-war issues around. The set is known not only for the fronts, but also for the backs. The cards were one of the first (if not the first) to include both statistics and biographies on the backs.
It’s the backs that I’ve gotten a little interested in lately and, even though I have a complete set, I have to admit I’d never taken the time to read all of the bios. But I took a look at them recently and these popped out as some of the more interesting ones.
Chase has three different cards in the set counting his printing error on the front of some where the baseline in the diamond extends beyond his shoulders. But his bio provides an interesting note that Chase actually was a pitcher. When his major league career began, though, he became a first baseman and that was where he achieved fame. Chase did pitch briefly in one major league game, pitching 1/3 of a contest in 1908.
Chase was regarded by some to be the best first baseman of his era and, had it not been for his role in gambling, could have become a Hall of Famer.
Cobb is generally regarded as one of the best players in baseball history and, at the time the T205 set was produced, was probably seen by some as the best player of all time.
But while Cobb is known for his outstanding hitting and hard play, his T205 card actually focused on a different aspect of his game – his speed. His card calls him ‘one of the fastest ball players that ever stepped on a diamond.’
And while it does mention his .385 batting average in 1910, it goes on to say he is ‘lightning on the bases’ with only perfect throws stopping him and that his incredible speed aids him on defense as well.
As I wrote in another T205 article on the minor league players featured in the set, Collins’ card was actually printed after his major league career had concluded. At the time, Collins was playing in the minors at Providence and his bio is unique because it is a nod to his major league career, calling him one of the greatest third basemen at the time.
The biography of Joss is certainly the most memorable in the set. Joss tragically died of tuberculosis before the set was distributed but his card was included anyway as a tribute. In part, it calls his death a great loss and says he was a faithful player that had thousands attend his funeral.
The Joss tribute card is one that has really spiked in value and it’s one of the more expensive cards in the set excluding the rare error cards.
Playing in only 15 games over three major league seasons, Merritt did not have much of a major league career as a player. But he is featured as a minor league player in the T205 set and his bio shows he was an incredibly diverse player.
During a 15-year minor league career, Merritt saw time as a pitcher, infielder, and outfielder. His T205 bio mentions that, in 1909, he saw time at first base, third base, and pitcher, for example.
He was an adequate pitcher, too, going 41-46 in his career (including a 3-0 record as a major leaguer) and even a half-decent hitter for a pitcher. His full career hitting stats aren’t available, but he batted .301 as a 24-year old over 92 games in 1904 in the minors.
Moran’s bio is nothing special, really. The statistical highlight is that he led all catchers in fielding percentage in 1910 at .989. The intriguing part of his bio, however, is that some rare versions include a stray line of miscellaneous text (below his statistics) due to a printing error.
The extra line of text, interestingly enough, is actually the final line of the bio of Al Mattern. Today, the card is quite rare and very valuable. Even in low-grade condition, it’s usually above $500.
Jake Stahl was another player included in the T205 set despite the fact that he was actually out of baseball at the time.
Stahl was actually a successful player (leading the league in home runs with ten in 1910) but, as his bio indicates, left the game to become a banker. That’s right — baseball’s home run king in the previous season was retiring to join the world of finance. His SABR biography indicates he became the vice president of Washington Park National Bank in Chicago. It wasn’t his first foray into banking as he previously had worked there a few years earlier.
Stahl eventually missed baseball enough to return in to play in 1912 and 1913 before retiring for good and eventually becoming president of the bank in 1919.
A few interesting things are featured on the back of White’s card. First, the closing line in an excessively long bio mentions that in addition to being a good baseball player, he had achieved ‘considerable fame’ as a singer and songwriter. White’s SABR bio confirms this, stating that he was a leader in his church choir, collaborated with a newspaper writer for a few songs, and even had a short vaudeville tour featuring music.
The other part of White’s bio that is notable is that his Polar Bear-backed cards sport a minor error. White’s biography begins with “Doc” White and at least some of his Polar Bear cards do not have the first set of quotation marks printed.
Like the Moran error card, Wilhelm gets a spot here less because his biography is interesting and more because it is an error card.
Both an error and correction exist with the correction being more valuable. Wilhelm’s error card is missing the ‘r’ in the word ‘suffered’ and the card today is referred to as the ‘suffeed’ version. The corrected card has the proper spelling and is much harder to find.