100 Years Later: A five-part review of cards associated with the Chicago Black Sox Scandal of 1919
With the 100-year anniversary of the infamous Chicago Black Sox scandal of 1919 here, I thought a look back at the cards surrounding those involved was appropriate. The Black Sox scandal is one that has gotten so much coverage that it can’t adequately be covered in one part. Thus, I’ll be offering a five-part look at the players and cards surrounding the event with a new part being issued each weekday this week.
Part I: The 1919 Chicago Black Sox Remain Popular with Collectors
Part II: Interesting Cards of Cincinnati Reds Players in the 1919 Series
Part III: Cards of Others Associated with the Black Sox Scandal Have Drawn Interest
Part IV: Despite Ties to Scandal, Interest for Clean White Sox Players has been Tepid
Part V: Following Bans, Black Sox Players were Largely Forgotten in the Gum Card Era
The ‘Other’ Team
All of the hoopla surrounding the 1919 World Series typically revolves around the Chicago White Sox as that was the team with players in on the plan to fix games. But a lot of collectors forget (or, frankly, might not even know about) their opponent that year — the Cincinnati Reds.
While most indications point to what should have been a White Sox series win, the Reds were no slouches. In fact, the Reds actually won more games that season, 96 to Chicago’s 88. But while the White Sox, were star-studded, only one Reds player would be inducted into the Baseball Hall of Fame in Edd Roush. Cincinnati had some very good players but certainly came up short in the star department compared to the White Sox.
However, because of the scandal involving the White Sox, there are some notable Reds issues, sought in part because of the players’ connection to the series.
Interesting Cards of 1919 Reds Players
Morrie Rath is a player not commonly discussed. However, he was involved in the play that helped kick off the World Series fix.
Eddie Cicotte was pitching for the White Sox in the opener against the Reds. To signal that the fix would be on, he was to hit the first batter of the game, which happened to be Rath. Cicotte did just that on his second pitch, which signaled to the gamblers that he would be proceeding as planned.
Rath himself was a pretty inconsequential player. He hit only .264 that season and had a meager .254 career batting average in six seasons. Rath played sparingly in his first two years and since he really played only the bulk of four seasons, he has few cards to show for it.
Perhaps his most famous is his T207 card, which is one found in the rarer Broadleaf/Cycle series. One of the lesser known facts about it is that Rath is actually pictured as a member of the White Sox and not the Reds. That’s because he played for the White Sox in 1912 and 1913 before joining the Reds in 1919. It’s one of the tougher ones in that set, as signified by the fact that there are only a total of exactly 50 currently graded by PSA and SGC. In lower-grade condition, it usually starts around $150 but actually used to be significantly more expensive.
Another interesting player is Greasy Neale.
If you’re a football fan, Neale’s name might sound familiar to you as he was a Hall of Famer in that sport. But he was really a jack of all trades.
Neale played professional baseball with the Reds while also playing professional football. During that time, he also served as a collegiate and professional football coach. As if that wasn’t enough, he also served as a college basketball coach and a college baseball coach during his playing career.
After coaching at various stops after his playing days ended, he became the head coach of the Philadelphia Eagles in 1941 and stayed there until 1950, winning NFL championships in 1948 and 1949. While Neale is more known for his football coaching, he had a solid baseball career as well, playing primarily with the Reds over an 8-year career.
As a player, he would typically be considered a common. However, because of his football career, his cards usually sell for more than that. They’re still very affordable and one of his nicer ones is his E120 American Caramel card, which starts around $40-$50.
Now, while the White Sox players typically have the more expensive cards, one of the pricier cards actually comes from Reds player, Sherry Magee.
Magee was certainly one of the bigger stars on the Reds team, even though by 1919, he was winding down his career. The World Series, in fact, would be his final games as a major leaguer. But earlier in his career, Magee was a big name player. His 1910 season was one of his finest. That year, he led the league in runs, RBI, batting average, on base percentage, slugging percentage, OPS, and total bases. His 331 batting average was the highest of his career and he was a career .291 hitter. Magee’s 1914 season was similarly good, as he led the league with 171 hits, 39 doubles, and 103 RBI while coming in seventh in the Most Valuable Player race.
With a 16-year career, Magee appeared on plenty of cards. But a rare error in the T206 set is by far his most iconic.
The ‘Magie’ error card in the T206 issue, in fact, is one of the most popular pre-war cards of all time. His last name is spelled as ‘Magie’ instead of Magee and while the error was corrected, there aren’t a ton of the Magie cards and it is considered one of the Big Four cards in the set. As the cards were issued from 1909-11, Magee’s T206 cards picture him as a member of the Philadelphia Phillies.
If you’re looking to get your hand on a Magie, good luck. There are more expensive cards but even in low-grade it will cost you several thousand dollars.
A fourth card of a Reds player that is worth mentioning is one for infielder Heinie Groh. Groh wasn’t a superstar, per se, but he was a very good player that led the league in multiple categories over his career, including runs, hits, doubles, walks, on base percentage, and even OPS. He performed badly in the 1919 World Series with a .172 batting average, which was far below his .310 average that season, but was still one of the Reds’ key players.
Like Magee, Groh also played 16 years in the majors and has several cards. But one of his less common ones is a rare issue from the 1921 C. Schulz set. Even that is a bad way of putting it as Groh is actually featured on every card in the release.
How is that possible? Well, this was a game card set. As shown here, on one side, a specific series of actions were printed, which were used to dictate play in a virtual baseball game. On the other side is an unnamed player, which actually happens to be Groh. If you’re a caramel card fan, you might recognize the picture as it was the same one used for Groh’s E120 American Caramel card.
The card is not all that expensive when found, simply because Groh wasn’t a big name player and also because it is a game card. The problem, though, is finding it and these cards are not all that common.
Finally, it would be impossible to mention key cards of the Reds players without Edd Roush, the team’s lone Hall of Famer.
Roush was brilliant for the Reds in 1919, leading the league with a .321 batting average, the second of two batting titles he would win. He had a poor series, hitting only .214, but was a Hall of Fame player, which has driven up prices on his cards.
Roush’s 18-year career was mostly with the Cincinnati Reds, though he had stops with a few other teams including, you guessed it, the Chicago White Sox. Roush actually broke into the majors with the Sox, lasting there only a year before joining the Federal League and, ultimately, Cincinnati in the National League.
While he has many cards, one of his better ones is in a relatively common set. The card, which happens to be his rookie issue, is found in the popular 1915 Cracker Jack release. Because it is his rookie card, it’s sought after not only by pre-war and Reds fans, but also by rookie collectors, making it a tough one to find. The interesting thing here is that Roush’s name is misspelled on the front. His first name with the unusual spelling of ‘Edd’ was often misspelled. However, this one botches his last name as it calls him ‘Rousch.’
Be prepared to pay at least a few hundred dollars for it, even in lower grade.