The Messy Post-Career T205 Card of Ed Abbaticchio
Ed Abbaticchio’s T205 wasn’t supposed to be a tribute card — but it was
What is this, an Ed Abbaticchio tribute site from now on?
So, yesterday, I wrote about the two T206 cards of infielder Ed Abbaticchio, who is generally regarded as the first person of Italian descent to play baseball in the major leagues. But in writing about those cards, I inadvertently learned about what might be Abbaticchio’s most interesting card — his 1911 T205.
Sure, I could do the sensible thing. Shelve this article for a few months later. Or I could write about it now since, well, I just love writing about cards. Yeah, I did the latter.
Despite the naming system given to us in the American Card Catalog, the T205 set was released in 1911 and after the 1909-11 T206 cards. It’s certainly one of the more popular pre-war card sets out there, even if it trails T206 in overall popularity. As I’ve written before, it’s much rarer and some of the pictures are just outstanding.
As is the case in the T206 set, Abbaticchio’s T205 card is consistently a common. In lesser grade, you can get one that’s halfway decent starting around $30-$40. But his biography on the back is where things get interesting. That’s because, even though the set was issued in 1911, Abbaticchio’s final playing days happened in 1910.
As his SABR biography notes, Abbaticchio was expendable when the Pirates secured the services of a younger infielder named Bill McKechnie. McKechnie didn’t turn out to be much of a player but would go on to become a Hall of Fame manager. And sidetracking a bit, in terms of card collecting, his T207 card, issued in 1912 after T205, is considered as his rookie and is fairly valuable.
Anyway, even though McKechnie hit only .217 in 1910 for the Pirates, his acquisition forced the team’s hand and they had no room for Abbaticchio, who had appeared in only three games for them to that point. So in June, they released him and he was scooped up by the Boston Doves. There, Abbaticchio found more playing time but he still hit only .247 in 52 games.
That’s sort of where things take a weird twist with his T205 card.
Abbaticchio’s card pictures him as a member of the Boston Rustlers. The Doves changed their name to the Rustlers in 1911 and it was clear to the makers of the T205 set that Abbaticchio was expected to remain with the club — name change and all. That all changed, though, since Abbaticchio was released in September 1910. So if common sense wins out here, we know that artwork for the fronts of the 1911 set almost certainly began before that date — a good bit in advance of the actual 1911 season.
It’s important to note that, while the more time-consuming artwork started that early, the back with the biographies and statistics had to wait. We know that because the backs include final statistics for the 1910 season, which didn’t conclude until October. And we also know that because of what appears on some backs, including Abbaticchio’s.
See, Abbaticchio’s card pictures him with the Rustlers. But his back tells a different story. In early 1911, Abbaticchio signed a deal with Louisville in the American Association. However, he backed out of the deal and ended up buying a hotel in his native western Pennsylvania instead to plan for his post-baseball life.
The problem was, Abbaticchio was already in the 1911 set. While the makers of that series did change team names of certain players that moved to different franchises (coincidentally, some shortprinted ones involve other Rustlers players Dave Shean and Peaches Graham, who moved to the Cubs in 1911 and have both Rustlers and Cubs cards), Abbaticchio didn’t technically go to a new team. So his card continued to list him as a Boston player. That is even more confusing in the context of the back of his card, which had a more up-to-date description, mentioning that he was eschewing baseball life to run a hotel. In part, his writeup reads:
“Edward J. Abbaticchio, the infielder whom the Louisville American Association team got from the Boston Nationals late in 1910, decided to go into business for himself and Louisville fans were greatly disappointed.”
Looking back at things, it’s a wonder Abbaticchio’s cards were not pulled altogether. After all, consider that while he played in Boston, he never was around for the Rustlers name. He had moved to Louisville but never played for them, either. And he wasn’t a player of significant consequence, like Addie Joss, whose T205 card was made into a tribute card following an untimely death. It isn’t known why his cards didn’t disappear altogether since he was not even in baseball at the time of their distribution. Without checking, it would not surprise me if the set included other similar tales of former players.
More cards for us — who am I to argue?