Friday, March 29, 2013

Reccius cigar Wagner card seen in 1950 TSN

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 Louisville 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 Louisville – 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.

Pitcher                        Threw  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

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