As I was nearing the close of 1950 in my reading of microfilms of The Sporting News, I was surprised to find a familiar image on Page 18 of the Dec. 6 issue.
Imbedded in the third installment of the paper’s serialized baseball biography of Honus Wagner was a picture of the Henry Reccius cigar card that stirred up so much interest and a bit of controversy in the hobby more than a decade ago.
Produced by a
cigar manufacturer, the black-on-orange 3-3/8” x 4-11/16” card has a portrait
photo of Wagner in what is presumed to be a Louisville uniform dating from the years
(1897-99) he played there. On back is a poem extolling trade unions.
What made the card such a big hobby deal is that it was touted as Honus Wagner’s “rookie card.” With no indication of when the Reccius card was distributed – some suggested it may have even been years after Wagner’s played for
– owners of the two known examples claimed the card predated what had generally
been accepted as Wagner’s first baseball “card” appearance, in the 1898-1899
National Copper Plate series of 10” x 13” baseball player portraits. Those
portraits, and additions to the series, were reissued in a slightly different
format by The Sporting News in 1899-1900. These are classified within
the hobby as M101-1 supplements.
The M101-1 Wagner is a $10,000+ item in top condition. The first-known Reccius card has been graded Poor-Fair by PSA and was auctioned in November, 2001, for $21,850. It appeared at auction again in April, 2006, and was hammered down for $52,040. If it has resold since 2006, I don’t have a recollection of the details or of its current whereabouts.
A second example of card, graded “Authentic” by PSA was found in 2012 and sold in mid-year for $21,400.
Among the loose talk by nay-sayers after the discovery of the Reccius card, some even suggested that it was not vintage at all, but a recent fabrication. I guess the appearance of the card in TSN in 1950 lays that theory to rest.
Wagner vs. ATG Pitchers
Also in that issue of TSN was a chart of how Wagner performed against the All-Time Great pitchers of his era. I think that chart is worth reproducing in modified form here.
G AB H Ave.
Amos Rusie R 5 21 11 .524
George Wiltse L 31 117 43 .368
Nap Rucker L 37 135 48 .356
Kid Nichols R 27 105 37 .352
Cy Young R 17 70 24 .343
Christy Mathewson R 86 327 106 .324
Mordecai Brown R 49 181 50 .276
Clark Griffith R 15 58 16 .276
Joe McGinnity R 40 149 41 .275
Grover Alexander R 27 100 20 .200