Five (More) Great Bargains in the T206 Set — Part II
Here are five more T206 steals for bargain hunters
I got a lot of feedback from my recent article about five T206 commons that are borderline steals. So much so that, I figured I’d identify five more great buys at low prices.
You won’t see the name Howie Camnitz on many lists of star baseball players. But make no mistake about it — Camnitz was one of the game’s top pitchers when the T206 set was in circulation.
1909, the first year of the T206 set, was when Camnitz really broke out. That year, he was an astounding 25-6 and his .806 win percentage led the entire major leagues, helping the Pittsburgh Pirates to the World Series championship. Camnitz wasn’t only a beneficiary of playing on a good team, either. His 1.62 ERA that season and 1.56 ERA in 1908 were both in the top five in the league. Camnitz’s ERA did not remain that low throughout his career, but he did manage to win at least 20 games in both 1911 and 1912.
Better yet, Camnitz is one of many players featured more than once in the set, so that means the overall population for his cards is relatively high. In fact, we get an idea of just how notable of a player he was at the time since he’s in there three times. His three cards are more than Walter Johnson, who was just getting his start in the majors.
Camnitz is one of many commons you’ll find at a low price.
Chicago White Sox players involved in the 1919 World Series fix often have expensive price tags affixed to their cards. But if you’re looking for some cheaper cards of players that were involved, Bill Burns is a great target. I’ve written before about the cards for others that were involved and Burns is one of those that is pursued by collectors.
Burns’ playing career was over by the time the 1919 World Series came around. But he was involved in the fix and generally is cited as a middleman distributing money from gambler Arnold Rothstein and the players.
That Burns was actually a former player is just another cool part of this and his card is also notable because it could picture him wearing an ambidextrous baseball glove.
Add it all up and for the price of a common, it’s one of the more intriguing cards in the set for collectors wanting to find a bargain.
Fred Merkle enjoyed a 16-year career in the major leagues and, while not a star, certainly was a dependable player. A few times, he even garnered some consideration for the Most Valuable Player award, with a top ten finish and a top 20 finish.
But what Merkle will always be remembered for is a critical mistake he made as a 19-year-old player.
The play, known as ‘Merkle’s Boner’ (a name that has not particularly aged well, I might add), involved Merkle, who was at first base with another runner on third in a 1-1 game in the bottom of the ninth inning against the Chicago Cubs. Merkle failed to touch second base after an apparent winning run crossed home on a single and he was declared out. The game ended in a tie and wound up being an important one as the two teams finished tied in the standings. At the end of the season, the teams replayed the game with Merkle’s Giants falling short.
The mistake is one that has lived on in baseball memory for more than 100 years. Despite its significance, Merkle’s cards are a great cheap addition, generally not costing much more than a common.
Ed Ruelbach’s T206 cards are some additional great buys when you consider that he was a dominant pitcher in the early part of the century.
Reulbach is not often mentioned in the ‘star’ category but he probably had one of the more memorable starts to a career for a pitcher in the pre-war era. He was out and out dominant in his first five seasons, averaging nearly 20 wins a year for the Chicago Cubs.
While he was 18-14 as a rookie in 1905, he had next to no run support as his 1.42 ERA was second in the entire league. He would eventually get more help and Reulbach went 19-4, 17-4, and 24-7 after that, leading the league in winning percentage each of those three seasons. He finished that stretch up with a 19-10 record and 1.78 ERA the following year.
Reulbach’s 2.28 career ERA still ranks 18th in major league history and there’s little doubt that he is more of the underappreciated players found in the T206 set.
Finally, another great buy in the set is the card of Heinie Zimmerman.
For one thing, Zimmerman’s card is a cool find as it’s, alphabetically, the final card in the entire set. That’s hardly the only reason to pursue it, though.
Zimmerman only has one card in the set. However, if it was released a few years later, he possibly could have had a few. That’s because Zimmerman really burst onto the scene in 1912, the year following the printing of the T206 cards. That season, Zimmerman actually won the Triple Crown, leading the league in home runs (12), RBI (104), and batting average (.372). He was one of the earliest players to achieve that feat, joining Hall of Famers such as Ty Cobb, Nap Lajoie, and Hugh Duffy.
Zimmerman would never achieve that kind of season again, though he remained a very good player. The following year, he batted .313 — the second highest mark of his career. He would also lead the league in RBI twice more in 1916 and 1917.
As a common card, his is another exceptional value.