Fred McMullin Makes Black Sox Collecting Difficult
While there are biggest names from the infamous Black Sox team, Fred McMullin’s cards are the toughest to find
The baseball cards for the banned players from the infamous 1919 Chicago White Sox team are hot commodities. But while cards of Shoeless Joe Jackson, Chick Gandil, Eddie Cicotte, and Buck Weaver can be expensive, they can at least be found.
Not so much in the case of Fred McMullin.
Unless you’re very familiar with the Black Sox tale to throw the 1919 World Series, you likely have never heard of McMullin. McMullin did play six years in the majors but one of those seasons included playing in only a single game with the Detroit Tigers. He is mostly known as a middling player with the White Sox, despite the fact that he nearly hit .300 in that famed 1919 season as a part-timer.
Despite that strong year, McMullin was not much of a factor in the World Series. He got only two at bats, recording one hit for a tidy .500 average. So how did such a player with such little influence work his way into the fix? After all, if he wasn’t going to play, what influence could he possibly have in the outcome?
Rumor has it that he overheard discussions of the fix, though, as SABR says here, that may not be entirely true. McMullin was also said to be an advance scout for the team as a player and could have provided some faulty reports. Regardless, he was a relatively inconsequential cog when it came down to having actual influence by playing in a game.
Now, cards of Shoeless Joe Jackson can be very expensive. And cards for Gandil, Weaver, and Cicotte aren’t all that cheap, either. But they are more readily available than cards of McMullin.
McMullin is generally reported to have a single card that only features him (not a team issue) — his 1915 Zee-Nut minor league card. McMullin’s name is misspelled on it as ‘McMullen’ but it is the same player.
To a collector unfamiliar with Zee-Nut cards, this would appear to be a common just like the thousands of others. But anyone familiar with McMullin’s card can tell you that it is one of the most important Zee-Nut cards in the entire series, which spanned nearly three decades.
So the card is rare, but is it valuable? Why, yes it is.
You can thank the numerous Black Sox collectors out there for its value. Many collectors try to assemble a Black Sox collection of at least one card from each of the eight banned players. While that can be done for the other seven, it is hard to do for McMullin because this is, essentially, his only card as an individual player. All seven of the other Black Sox players are found in the popular W514 strip card set. However, McMullin is MIA in that issue and that has led to a ton of interest for this one with little to go around.
A low-grade McMullin card shown here was graded an SGC 1.5 and has been sold a few times. In 2018, REA sold it for $5,100 — not bad for a minor league card of a player that few could recognize.
The larger issue for those wanting a McMullin is actually not even tied to pricing. Rather, it is rare and nearly impossible to find. Even those with the necessary funds are often left out in the cold waiting for one to surface for sale. To date, PSA has graded only three of them (SGC’s pop reports are unclear).
In short, if you’re looking for a card of Fred McMullin from his playing days, you could be waiting a very long time.