More than Mathewson: Popular 1905 New York Giants Postcard Features Other Interesting Players

While Christy Mathewson is the highlight on the 1905 New York Giants Scorecard postcard, others add to its desirability

With prices at all-time highs for pre-war baseball cards, collectors have been on the hunt for more and more bargains. Sure, some can be found. But bargains on Hall of Fame players these days are somewhat slim.

One that has surprisingly managed to sell for relatively low amounts is the 1905 New York Giants Scorecard postcard.

The postcard was copyrighted by J.T. Dye in 1905 and features six members of the Giants. Two different versions exist — one printed in full color and the other in black and white. The bottom of the postcard even proved useful, allowing fans to track the scoring of a game between the Giants and an opponent. That, I suppose, has proved to be somewhat problematic for the sake of condition as many fans did indeed write on the postcard and, at least, theoretically hurting its value. But all in all, it’s a great card that is incredibly affordable given that it features Hall of Famer Christy Mathewson as one of the six subjects.

The card emphasizes the team’s ‘defense’ with four of the six players being Giants pitchers. A fifth is catcher Frank Bowerman. Only the sixth, Sam Mertes, is a non-battery player as he was in the outfield (though, even Mertes caught a few games over the course of his career). Mertes is the only player depicted as a hitter on the card.

There was good reason to feature the pitching staff. The Giants had a ridiculous 2.39 team ERA with a 105-48 record among its starters. The 15 games won by Hooks Wiltse were actually the fewest in the rotation.

Matty cards have become very popular with even low-grade examples of his famous T205 and T206 tobacco cards starting a little below a grand for anything in ‘half-decent’ low-grade condition. Some cards, such as his game cards or strip issues are cheaper than that. But starting around $100-$150, this is undoubtedly one of his more affordable cards.

What really is important to remember about this card is that it is recognized as a 1905 issue. Mathewson’s other cheaper cards were printed several years after this one. And while Mathewson does have a handful of earlier issues, this postcard pre-dates the majority of his cards.

Because Mathewson is the most important player on the card, he may be the reason that many collectors pursue it. But what shouldn’t be forgotten is that some other intriguing players are just as prominently featured.

What some collectors won’t realize is that the card actually features another Hall of Famer in Joe McGinnity. McGinnity’s name, of course, will be familiar with collectors of early cards. But others dabbling in post-war cards will not be quite as knowledgeable about him, even though he led the league in victories in five different seasons. Some will attribute much of his success to playing for mostly good teams. But that wasn’t always the case and, as his career 2.66 ERA will attest, he was a very strong pitcher. McGinnity even led the league with a 1.61 ERA in 1904 and finished in the top ten in ERA five on five different occasions.

Also appearing on the card is popular pitcher Luther Taylor. Nicknamed ‘Dummy,’ Taylor was one of the first deaf major league players. Taylor’s cards are heavily pursued for that reason. He isn’t a Hall of Famer but he was also far more than a simple novelty. In 1905, the year this postcard was released, Taylor went 16-9. The year before, he won a career-best 21 games and Taylor had a career 2.75 ERA.

The other three players are less notable but were still very good in their own right. That group is led by long-timer hurler Red Ames, whose 22 wins in 1905 were second only to Mathewson on the Giants’ staff. Ames won at least 15 games three other times and finished his career with 183 wins. Mertes was one of the Giants’ capable hitters, batting .279 for his career while leading the league in doubles and runs batted in during his 1903 campaign.

Finally, no mention of this postcard would be complete without the mention of catcher Frank Bowerman. Bowerman’s appearance will probably raise some eyebrows with collectors familiar with the team. That’s because Hall of Fame catcher Roger Bresnahan was present and bypassed for Bowerman, despite Bresnahan starting more games behind the plate. However, reading this quote from Taylor in SABR’s biography on the pitcher might provide some insight into how good Bowerman really was:

“Frank Bowerman was the Giants’ best catcher. He made Matty one of the greatest pitchers before Bresnahan came to New York.” He added, “He had a style of his own and steadiness was such that a pitcher contracted it like a disease. A pitcher’s control was always better when Bowerman caught him. He was tops…”

The lack of Bresnahan on the card could certainly have been due to a licensing/rights issue without permission to use his likeness. But it also could have been due to the publisher simply believing he was the better catcher behind the plate, which at least Taylor believes he was.

I get the attraction to this postcard because of Mathewson’s presence. Frankly, he’s the reason I wanted one in my own collection. But the postcard is also full of some other pretty good players and their appearances only enhance it.

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