Friday, December 18, 2009

Tales of T212 #23 : Harl Maggert -- Bad-ass Ballplayer

Back in the early 1980s I thought I'd combine my interests in minor league baseball and vintage baseball cards by assembling a collection of the Obak cigarette cards that were distributed on the West Coast in 1909, 1910 and 1911.I didn't realize it then, but those cards are so much rarer than most of the contemporary T206 cards from "Back East" that putting together complete sets of the Obak could take decades to accomplish -- and that's if a guy had more money than God to buy the cards when they became available.At about the time I started my Obak collection I also started researching the players who appeared in the sets. Over the course of several long Wisconsin winters I pored over microfilms of The Sporting News and The Sporting Life from the period several years before to several years after the Obak cards circulated, making prodigious notes on 3x5 file cards for each player in the set.I gave up trying to collect the T212s (that's the catalog number Jefferson Burdick assigned the three sets in the pioneering American Card Catalog in 1939), long ago, and have since sold off all my Obaks, one-by-one, first on eBay, then on the Net 54 baseball card forum. As I was selling each card, I included interesting tidbits about each player from my notes. The bidders seemed to like learning a little bit about these guys on the cards, so I thought I'd now begin sharing their stories here. Please excuse the lo-res nature of the card pictures; they were scanned for my auctions many years ago.

Of all the bad boys to be found on the checklists of the 1909-1911 Obaks, perhaps none was badder than Harl Maggert. He's not as well known because, unlike future Black Sox Chick Gandil and Buck Weaver, Maggert confined his transgressions to the minor leagues, where he had a long and productive career.

Maggert was born in 1883 in Cromwell, Ind., and began his pro career close to home at the Class C level in 1906, at age 23, with Ft. Wayne and Sharon (Pa.) A speedy outfielder, he had decent power with the bat and for 1907 moved up to the Class B Central League at Wheeling, from whose roster the Pittsburgh Pirates picked him up in September.

Maggert was hitless in six at-bats for the Bucs and was turned back to Wheeling to open the 1908 season. In mid-season he went East to join Springfield of the Connecticut State League, where he hit .313. He was batting .307 for the Ponies in 1909 when Springfield sold him for $1,500 to Oakland of the Pacific Coast League . . . at the top of the minor league ladder.

With the Oaks in 1910 he led the PCL with 58 stolen bases. After batting .314 with eight home runs in 1911, the Oaks sold Maggert to the Philadelphia Athletics for the 1912 season. He played the full year with the A's, batting .256 and filling in as a fourth outfielder.

Maggert was returned to the PCL for 1913 and spent the next five years with the Los Angeles Angels. His last year (1917) with the Angels was turbulent. Manager Frank Chance fined and suspended Maggert for beating up the club trainer. On July 28, at Sacramento, he fought with umpire Red Held, accusing him of betting on the game. Maggert's accusations prompted an investigation by league officials, who cleared him, causing the president to threaten a $100 fine and suspension to any player, "who ever mentions the betting scandal."

Maggert was dealt to San Francisco for the war-shortened 1918 season. In 1919 he went to Salt Lake City for two years -- his last in pro ball. Ironically, Maggert was suspended in late 1920 for fixing ballgames during the pennant race of 1919. Blacklisted by Organized Baseball, Maggert went into the coal business. In the off-seasons he had worked in his father-in-law's coal business un Berkeley. Maggert died in 1963 in Fresno.

A son, Harl W. Maggert played briefly with the Boston Braves in 1938.

Maggert appeared only in the 1911 Obak set, though he can be found on many other PCL issues of the 1910s.

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