Chicago White Sox Trip to the Royal Gorge Memorialized on 1910 Postcards

A pair of postcards documented a cross country trip for the 1910 Chicago White Sox

These days when players report to spring training, the trip is usually not much more than a quick flight. But in the early 1900s, travel was a bit more complicated.

In 1910, the Chicago White Sox made the trip as a team from Chicago to San Francisco for spring training. Along the way, the team stopped at the Royal Gorge Bridge in Colorado. And there are some fantastic postcards picturing the club at this landmark.

The Baseball Hall of Fame site talks about this historic location:

Charles Shaler Smith, an assistant project engineer for the Santa Fe Railway, is believed to be the man responsible for figuring out how to build a track through the narrow, 30-foot passageway at the heart of the Royal Gorge canyon where the pre-existing rock formations did not allow for traditional blasting.

Upon completion, the Hanging Bridge was viewed as a feat of structural engineering and early trains that passed through the gorge would stop to allow passengers to examine the bridge and take photographs. Some of the trains even had open platform observation cars to allow passengers to see the structure without having to stop the train.

That helps explain why the train that was carrying the beloved White Sox stopped for pictures. Those pictures, by the way, became quite famous and were widely circulated. Many people may have stopped on the bridge to take pictures but as that Hall of Fame article points out, the only more famous guest of the bridge to have his picture memorialized may have been president Teddy Roosevelt.

The pictures taken didn’t just show members of the White Sox. Instead, they also included other travelers from the train, which explains the women and children seen in the images — at least some of which were believed to be spouses and children of players.

The pictures didn’t only end up in newspapers, either. They actually were featured on a few postcards. While more than two different types may have been printed, there are two main ones that are the most widely seen. And today, those postcards are heavily sought after by card collectors.

The first one is a traditional postcard size with a colorized image. This one is more rectangular in nature and is the one probably most encountered. The second is oversized (measuring about 5 1/2″ x 6 1/2″) and is more of a square-like card with white borders. The pictures are essentially the same, though the way they have been colored varies slightly. Note one of the players, leaning on the outside of the railing — in the smaller postcard his sweater is red, in the larger one, blue.

So who’s in the picture? I’m not sure every player has ever been confirmed 100%, though this Net54 post takes a stab at identifying the other members of the team.

The most notable trio present is the group of Hall of Famers, including owner Charles Comiskey, manager Hugh Duffy, and pitcher Ed Walsh. The Hall of Fame article identifies them as being present.

But a couple other notables were part of the trip/team but have not been confirmed to be present.

Then rookie Chick Gandil became famous for his role on the 1919 Chicago White Sox team involved in the famous World Series fix. He was on the team but a comment in a different Net54 thread says that Gandil was one of a few players already in California waiting on the team to arrive, per a Chicago Examiner article.

For clarity’s sake, I did not see the aforementioned Examiner article. And it should be noted that some folks in those threads thought that they saw Gandil in there. But the general consensus is that he does not appear on the postcard. Also not believed to appear is American League president Ban Johnson, another Hall of Famer. Johnson was reportedly on the train ride but not believed to be pictured.

Interestingly, if you purchased one of the larger postcards (not the smaller ones) and wanted to write a message, that actually factored into the cost of postage to mail it. The back of the postcard stated postage without a message was one cent but if a message was included, that would be two cents. Sheesh.

While the postcards feature the 1910 White Sox team, you can sometimes see them advertised as being from different years — particularly in the case where a postmarked date is included. But as the postcards picture the 1910 team, that is as good a place as any to estimate the appropriate date of release. It is possible, of course, that they were printed over several years. And it is also possible that a card was printed in 1910 but not used until, say, 1914.

Finally, note that while I have shown the two most popular postcards picturing this historic trip, others possibly exist. A third type of ‘mailing card’, at least, was printed with this same image, only in black and white. How many other iterations exist, I am not sure.

So what about cost? Prices on these postcards fluctuate a good bit. That is because they are not seen too often and, in a true auction setting, the price depends on how many interested parties there are. Typically, however, you will see them in the $100-$200 range.

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