Thursday, August 22, 2013

McCarthy's player photos weren't cheap

Back on Aug. 8, my blog posting concerned my recent purchase of hundreds of baseball player photos/negatives that were the work of Detroit-area photographer James D. McCarthy from the late 1950s through the early 1980s.

I mentioned that as I found interesting items during the process of cataloging the pictures, I'd share them with you.

Here's one such subject.

While sorting through the "G" photos, I found two examples that show McCarthy's price structure for prints that he sold to the players.

McCarthy is best known among collectors for the many black-and-white player postcards that have made their way into the market over the past 50+ years. These are postcards that the players would purchase from McCarthy to send to fans who had requested pictures or autographs.

But McCarthy also produced color photos for the players, presumably to be given family and friends, hung on their walls, etc.

I recently found two McCarthy photos that detail his pricing structure to the players for those prints; one is from 1963, the other from 1978.

The 1963 price list is on the back of a 4" x 5" proof of Jesse Gonder with the Cincinnati Reds. Baseball card collectors of the 1960s may remember Gonder as a back-up catcher for the Mets (1963-65), Braves (1965) and Pirates (1966-67). 

His major league career actually began in 1960-61 with the Yankees (too bad there weren't any Yankees photos of Gonder in McCarthy's archive). He was with the Reds in 1962-63 and made his Topps baseball card debut as a bug-sized portrait on one of the '63 4-on-1 Rookie Stars cards.

Rubber-stamped on the back of the Gonder photo is a price list that shows:

  • 5 x 7     $5
  • 8 x 10   $10
  • 11 x 14 $20

Jump ahead to 1978, and we find an updated price list on the back of another Reds photo, that of Mike Grace. That list offers photos as follows:

  • 8 x 10         $10
  • (5) 8 x 10s  $25
  • 11 x 14       $25
  • 16 x 20       $45
  • (100) 4 x 5 $50

Maybe it's just me, but those print prices seem high for 35-50 years ago. Then again, the players wouldn't have paid McCarthy for the actual work of taking their pictures, so maybe it all evened out.

You probably never heard of this Mike Grace, apparently no relation to the Mike Grace who pitched for the Phillies 1995-99.

The Reds' Mike Grace was an infielder whose major league career consisted of five games with Cincinnati at the start of the 1978 season, when he was just 21. He was hitless in three at-bats, striking out twice. When the minor league season started, Grace was sent down to Indianapolis.

Grace had been a second-round pick in the 1974 amateur draft and began his pro career at age 18 with Billings in the Rookie-level Pioneer level. He advanced to Class A Tampa in 1975 and Class AA Trois-Rivieres in 1976.

Except for his cup of coffee with Cincinnati in 1978, he spent the 1977-80 seasons at AAA Indianapolis.
Apparently released by the Reds after 1980, he played three more seasons in the Southern League with Atlanta and Houston farm clubs.

Mike Grace,spring training 1978.
Usually a third baseman, but also playing some at second, short and in the outfield, Grace never his better than .274 and had a cumulative minor league mark of .243, averaging just 5.2 home runs a season.

But his presence in the McCarthy archives, as a good-looking young prospect at spring training in 1978, is an example of why I find that collection so interesting as a card collector and baseball historian. Without J.D. McCarthy I don't think we'd have a picture of Mike Grace as a major league ballplayer. Actually, we have two; there was a second pose in the collection.

While Grace never appeared on a major league baseball card, he was included in several minor league issues during his playing days. While I doubt that I'll ever find time to make a Mike Grace custom card, it's good to know that because of J.D. McCarthy, I could.

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