The former boxer has ties to baseball through the 1919 White Sox Scandal
Former boxing champion Abe Attell had ties to baseball for decades to die-hard collectors of Chicago Black Sox items. But it probably wasn’t until the release of the popular movie featuring the 1919 team, Eight Men Out, that Attell started popping onto the radar of many.
As a fighter, Attell was pretty good. He’s credited with a 125-9 record to go along with several draws and no contests. Attell would go on to become a longtime featherweight champion.
Fans started to learn more about his involvement in the infamous World Series fix from the 1988 film. That movie detailed the story of how eight members of the Chicago White Sox team conspired to throw the championship by losing to the Cincinnati Reds.
Most collectors know the general outline of the Black Sox tale. Players, including the legendary Shoeless Joe Jackson, were given money, and to various degrees of effort, cost the White Sox the World Series. The players were eventually acquitted due to a lack of evidence and returned to play in 1920. But they were ultimately banned from the sport by commissioner Kennesaw Mountain Landis and were forced out of the majors.
What not all baseball fans knew, though, was how Attell was involved. Attell is largely identified as a money man in the middle as bets were placed against the White Sox and money was distributed to players. Because of that, his cards are desired by some baseball collectors even though he was a boxer.
While they are getting a little more attention these days, Attell cards are generally not too expensive. At least not in the context of values of pre-war baseball cards. The boxing market is not nearly as strong as the market for baseball issues, making Attell’s cards cheap by comparison.
Attell’s first fight came in 1900 but his rookie card didn’t come until much later. Attell’s first card is generally cited to be found in the 1908 Ogden Pugilists and Wrestlers set. An international issue from the UK, a young Attell is pictured on the front (shown left here). Surprisingly, you can get this card starting around $10 and that’s probably the best Attell bargain to be had.
While that’s his rookie issue, Attell has several other cards that were produced shortly after that one. If you’re looking for other, similarly inexpensive Attell cards, try the T218 Champions set for starters. Those cards are in about the same price range and are similar in look/design to the 1933 Goudey set.
Other Attell cards are a little pricier, though.
For example, his card from the rarer E75 and E79 caramel card sets can be significantly more, depending on condition. Caramel cards are generally much rarer than tobacco issues and that is the case here. You can still probably get them in lower grade for under $50, though.
One of Attell’s most expensive cards is found in the T227 issue, a rare multi-sport set. You can expect to pay around $150 for that card in even low-grade condition.
An annoying trait to Attell’s cards, as is found on others, is that many of them utilize the same pose. Some cards do feature slight variations of the same image. But they appear to be taken from the same photograph.
For example, Attell’s T225 card (left), T218 card (center), and E79 issue (right) shown here clearly all picture him in the same stance. The artist renditions are different as are some minor things, such as the color of the trunks he is wearing. But in general, they are virtually the same picture. This pose was also on common on other Attell cards.
This isn’t uncommon, of course. But for a boxer with a fairly limited number of cards, some different poses on his issues would be nice.
Overall, though, Attell cards are really nice collectibles for pre-war baseball fans. Many will be very affordable and can be bought in low-grade condition for $25 or less. If you’re looking for inexpensive collectibles related to the 1919 Black Sox scandal, Attell cards are a pretty good place to start.