The (Somewhat) Unlikely Subject with the Most T206 Cards

The player with the most number of T206 cards seems to be an odd choice

With a total of 524 cards, the T206 set is flat out massive. But while there are more than 500 cards in it, there aren’t that many players featured. That’s because many players in the set have more than one card.

To create such a large set, its creators needed to fill in the gaps with minor leaguers and Southern League players. But 524 is still a lot and one tactic they used to produce that many cards was duplicating players and even poses.

It wasn’t only the stars that got more than one card. Some of the commons are featured on more than one card, too. Some players have two cards. A few have three. A handful, such as Hall of Famers Ty Cobb, Joe Tinker, and John McGraw have four. But a single, solitary player has five and, if you’re unfamiliar with the set, it’s not the player you’d probably expect.

Hal Chase.

Chase was a star with the New York Highlanders, which later became the New York Yankees. He is sometimes called one of the Yankees’ first true superstars, even if his offensive statistics don’t give off that vibe. Chase was a .291 hitter and only hit over .300 one time in his first five seasons through 1909 when this set was first created. He would later win a batting title in the National League with the Cincinnati Reds and also once led the Federal League in home runs with the Buffalo Blues. But those seasons didn’t come until well after the set was created.

Instead, Chase was known as a defensive player. That will sound a little odd to some collectors since he led the league in errors at first base an astonishing seven times. That is sometimes explained away by the allegations of fixing games that effectively ended his career prematurely. Chase also was in on a ton of plays, often finishing near the top of the league in putouts, assists, double plays turned. And as SABR notes, he was often cited as the best first baseman of all time by players, including Babe Ruth and Cy Young.

Still, while a great player, he was not Honus Wagner or Ty Cobb. We already know about Wagner’s exclusion in the set as his card was only printed early in production. But Cobb is featured — and on many cards. So why did Chase outdo even him in terms of the pure volume of cards?

Tough to say, but one has to first keep in mind that, while Chase has five cards, he only has three different poses. One of this is a portrait, another is an action shot with him fielding, and a third is him pictured with The Loving Cup.

All five are shown here.

 

I’ve always been a dark cap throwing (the last card) kinda guy myself.

Two of the cards are merely different artist renditions of the same picture, which is pretty easy to tell. Why were those repeated? Who knows. Perhaps one was created and the American Tobacco Company wanted a different rendition to use instead if the first one didn’t come out as well as desired. Could have been a bunch of things, really. So while Chase ended up with five cards, that may not have been the original intent.

Another thing to note here is the Loving Cup card. As I’ve written before, Chase received the Cup from teammates as he was recovering from a serious illness. What does that have to do with the number of cards he has? Well, it’s quite possible that the Loving Cup card was a late addition to the set and, as his illness was unexpected, the card may have been, too. Even if Chase was supposed to have four cards like Cobb, McGraw, and Tinker, the fifth may have been a late addition.

Finally, keep in mind that the number of cards a player received didn’t always correlate to his playing ability. A great example of that is Hall of Famer Ed Walsh, who was one of the most dominant pitchers in the game at the time of the set’s production, yet has only one card in the set. Conversely, several lesser known players than him or other Hall of Famers have two, or even three, cards. What’s the reason for that? Your guess is as good as anybody’s.

Sometimes, the reason for that happening was understandable. Walter Johnson was one of the greatest pitchers of all time but is only featured twice. But that is easy to understand considering Johnson’s career had just begun in 1907 and, at the time the first T206 cards were printed, he was a sub .500 pitcher in the midst of a 13-25 season (despite personally performing pretty well). But in the case of a guy like Walsh, his small presence is more of a head scratcher.

Also look at Joe Tinker. While Tinker was a Hall of Fame player, getting four cards in the set also seems like a reach for him with so many great players included in the set. In short, there were probably other reasons at play here for why some guys had more cards than others.

Whatever the case, considering the first class talent included Chase was not a likely candidate to have the most cards in the entire set.

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