Ah, Yes, the Infamous Clark(e) Boys

The Clarke brothers, Fred and Josh, both had typos on some famous pre-war baseball cards

Over the history of baseball, there have been plenty of brothers that have played in the major leagues, even for the same team. Fred and Josh Clarke, however, were among the earliest ones to achieve that feat.

Both Clarke brothers played in the major leagues. They also both suited up for the Louisville Colonels in 1898. That team was managed by player/manager Fred and it also featured some guy named Honus Wagner. Wagner, for what it’s worth, has a pretty famous card with Louisville that is quite rare.

Fred, of course, was the more notable of the brothers. While Josh played in the equivalent of about two full major league seasons, spread out in various years from 1898 through 1911 (much of his time in between then was spent in the minors), Fred’s career lasted more than 20 years and he was eventually inducted into the Baseball Hall of Fame.

The pair not only come from the same family but they also shared an important distinction of having their names misspelled on some of their most popular baseball cards.

For Josh, his name appears as ‘Clark’ on his T206 card. This is easily Josh’s most famous card and, frankly, it may even be his only one. I haven’t dug too deep so don’t quote me on that. But a cursory glance online turned up only this card and if he is on others, they are not nearly as common as his T206 issue.

Clark is featured with Columbus, a minor league team in the T206 set. A glance of that team’s roster in 1909 (his only year with that club) turns up no other players named Clark. Fred’s T206 cards (he has two), coincidentally, have his name spelled correctly.

Fred’s misspelling is more egregious simply because he was a star player. The context of his major error card is also a bit interesting.

His big typo comes in the 1910 E96 Philadelphia Caramel set. While not nearly as popular as T206, it is one of the more known baseball caramel issues.

The context of his error is interesting if you consider that set against its more popular E95 brother. The E95 set, also issued by Philadelphia Caramel, was produced a year earlier. That set included 25 cards with many of baseball’s biggest names, including Ty Cobb, Honus Wagner, Christy Mathewson, Eddie Plank, Sam Crawford, and a lot more. It’s very star heavy and that’s important to note because the E96 set did not duplicate any of those players. With most of the big names used up in 1909, E96 was sort of left to scrape and claw to find stars.

E96 expanded its checklist slightly and did find some big names, including Clarke, Nap Lajoie, Connie Mack, and Home Run Baker, to name a few. But you would think that because they were so desperate to add stars to the set, they surely would not misspell the name of one of them. Yet, that’s exactly what they did on this extraordinary card of Clarke, who is shown in a great, front-facing bunt photo. Fred appears on so many cards that it is possible his name was even misspelled on others.

While embarrassing, the errors are not really anything more than that. Neither was corrected so all versions of both cards are exactly the same, meaning there isn’t a premium price for the error. In low-grade condition, Josh’s T206 card starts around $20-$30. Fred’s E96 Philadelphia Caramel starts around $150-$250.

Even beyond the names, however, one of the brothers is famous for an even more high-profile error card. This one doesn’t involve the misspelling of his name — rather the misidentification of a team. Fred is featured in the E90-1 American Caramel card set and while most of his cards incorrectly state that he plays for Philadelphia, a rare, updated version appropriately has his Pittsburgh name with type over the Philadelphia font. It’s a rare and unusual card that I covered here.

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