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 Clean Sox
Most of the talk about the 1919 Black Sox scandal is about the eight banned players. But what isn’t discussed as much are the other players that weren’t involved.
Several of the players not included in the fix were noteworthy and many were very good players. In fact, three of them would go on to the Baseball Hall of Fame — Eddie Collins, Ray Schalk, and Red Faber. This group of players not associated with the scandal were sometimes referred to as the Clean Sox.
An interesting fact about this group surrounds the value of their baseball cards. While the cards of players directly involved has skyrocketed in value, by comparison, there’s far less demand for the players that did nothing wrong.
The Hall of Famers
Note that I did not say the cards of the clean players are not valuable — that isn’t true even by a long shot. In particular, prices for the Hall of Fame players are, as you would expect, on the level with other Cooperstown Inductees.
Cards of Collins, Schalk, and Faber are generally at the top of the list when it comes to prices for cards of the clean players. Collins and Schalk cards, in particular, can be pricey and, aside from things like strip cards and game cards, it’s difficult to find their stuff much under $100, even in lesser grade.
Of the three, your best bet for affordable cards is going to be Faber. He pitched in 1919 but did not pitch in the World Series as he was ill. His absence has sometimes been cited as a reason the fix was able to occur as he may have taken starts from Eddie Cicotte and Lefty Williams, pitchers that were part of the fix and performed poorly. But even that is somewhat unclear as Cicotte and Williams both won more games and had a significantly lower ERA. Faber likely would have at least started over rookie Dickie Kerr, but Kerr was fantastic in the series, going 2-0 with a 1.42 ERA. Thus, even if Faber played well in place of Kerr, it wouldn’t have mattered.
Regardless, Faber’s cards are typically the least expensive of the Hall of Fame group. One of the best bets for collectors looking for a cheap candy or tobacco card of the three is Faber’s 1933 Goudey issue. In low-grade, that can be bought for as low as $25 or so.
While many of the other cards of these players can be expensive, that is more because of their Hall of Fame status and less because of their ties to the team with the scandal. And we can accurately deduce that for a couple of reasons.
First, their cards are not obscenely priced as compared to other Hall of Fame players. For the most part, they are in line with those of similar players not associated with the White Sox team. Second, the cards of other teammates that were not part of the scandal similarly have not seen big increases in value.
While cards of the lesser banned players are quite expensive, prices for the clean players have seen no such jump in value.
The majority of players on the roster fit into this category and, courtesy of Baseball Reference, would include:
- Joe Benz
- Shano Collins
- Dave Danforth
- Bill James
- Joe Jenkins
- Dickie Kerr
- Nemo Leibold
- Grover Lowdermilk
- Byrd Lynn
- Erskine Mayer
- Harvey McClellan
- Tom McGuire
- Eddie Murphy
- Win Noyes
- Pat Ragan
- Charlie Robertson
- Reb Russell
- Frank Shellenback
- John Sullivan
- Roy Wilkinson
The noticeable thing about that list, of course, is that there aren’t many noticeable names. I mean, you may know some of their players but their cards are not typically held in high regard in most sets with few exceptions. Joe Benz and Pat Ragan have tough cards in the T207 set, for example, and those can sell for $100-$200, even in low-grade condition. But that is because the cards are part of the rarer Broadleaf/Cycle series and are tough to find — not because of their presence on the 1919 White Sox team.
Beyond those exceptions, none of these players are generally considered as expensive ‘gets’ in terms of cards. Most would be considered commons and it’s easy to see that the scandal hasn’t driven those prices up.
An Exception — Dickie Kerr
One player, however, has drawn a little more interest directly from the scandal and that’s pitcher Dickie Kerr.
Kerr was one of the reasons the White Sox were even remotely competitive in the series as he won both of his starts. He didn’t only win but dominated the Reds in both games, pitching two complete games, including a shutout. His 1.42 ERA kept the White Sox afloat and while Kerr did great in the series, he didn’t last long in the majors. He did win 40 games over the next two seasons but even that included a mixed level of success. In 1921, he won 19 games but also lost 17 and gave up a league high 162 runs.
Interestingly enough, while Kerr was not banned like the other players, he did eventually get suspended by Commissioner Kennesaw Mountain Landis. Kerr held out for more money from the White Sox and did not play for a few seasons. He played some exhibition games and that earned him a suspension from Landis. He returned for one final year with the White Sox in 1925 but had a 5.15 ERA in 12 games, and that was the end of his major league career.
Kerr’s cards aren’t outrageous by any means and they aren’t anywhere nearly as valuable as even the common banned players like Swede Risberg, Fred McMullin, or Hap Felsch. But they are collected a bit more than the other aforementioned commons above because of his role in the series. As a result, his cards will sometimes sell for more than common prices.