Tuesday, April 14, 2015

Mertes busted up two extra-innings no-hitters

Though Mertes was photographed in the
uniform of the Chicago White Stockings
on this 1903-04 E107 caramel card, his
team is given as the N.Y. Giants.
Uncommon commons: In more than 30 years in sportscards publishing I have thrown hundreds of notes into files about the players – usually non-star players – who made up the majority of the baseball and football cards I collected as a kid. Today, I keep adding to those files as I peruse microfilms of The Sporting News from the 1880s through the 1960s. I found these tidbits brought some life to the player pictures on those cards. I figure that if I enjoyed them, you might too. 

Versatile Sam Mertes played every position during his 10 years in the major leagues around the turn of the 20th Century.

He also played pro ball all over the country. A San Francisco native, Mertes broke into pro ball at 19, playing for three different teams in the Central California League in 1892. He first made the major league in 1896 with Philadelphia. After a year back in the bushes he returned to the National League with the Anson-less Chicago Orphans in 1898-1900. 

When the American League was formed he jumped to the Chicago White Stockings in 1901-02, then spent 1903-06 with the N.Y. Giants and ended his big league days with the St. Louis Cardinals in 1906.

In those 10 major league seasons, Mertes hit .279 and in 1903 led the N.L. with 32 doubles and tied with 104 RBIs.

Before, during and after, his years in the major leagues, Mertes played in the minors from Wilmington to Stockton and Toronto to Los Angeles between 1892-1909.

If he his remembered by baseball historians today at all, it is because Mertes had the distinction of breaking up two no-hitters with extra-inning singles. 

In the debut season of the American League, on May 9, 1901, Mertes, playing for the Chicago White Stockings, singled in the 10th inning to ruin a no-hit bid by Cleveland's Earl Moore and spark a game-winning (4-2) rally. Chicago went on to win the first A.L. pennant.

With John McGraw's N.Y. Giants on June 11, 1904, Mertes broke up a no-hitter by Cubs pitcher Bob Wicker, again with a 10th inning single. It was the only hit given up by Wicker in winning 0-1 in 12 innings. Once again, Mertes' team won the pennant that season.

Though his big league heyday fell between the first great period of tobacco card issue in the late 1880s, and second era of cigarette cards, 1909-1919, Mertes can be found on a decent number of baseball cards, most of them scarce-to-rare. Any of them will set you back several hundred to several thousand dollars -- if you can find them.

The most common of Mertes' cards is in the caramel issue known as E107 issued in 1903-04. His rarest card was also issued in 1904, with the Allegheny Card Company's baseball game. Like all Allegheny cards, it is unique.

Mertes also appears on at least two cabinet card issues of the 1900s. He is pictured in a N.Y. Giants uniform on a cabinet card from renowned Boston photographer Carl Horner (shown here at left).

There are also three variations of Mertes' cards in the Sporting Life cabinet card series. He was issued pictured with the Giants (on right) in 1903, the Cardinals

in 1906 and the Boston Doves in 1907, though he doesn't appear to have ever played for Boston. In the same W600 cabinet series, cards of both of Mertes' pitcher victims Earl Moore and Bob Wicker, were issued.

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