Saturday, September 15, 2018

C46 Degrees of Separation: Bill O'Hara

A few months ago, I was looking at C46s, and Ed Phelps caught my attention. I've looked at so many cards in this set. I used to own over half of it, so I'm not sure why it took so long for me to make this connection, but it did: Ed Phelps. He caught for Pittsburgh while George Gibson was there. It made me wonder how many other guys in this set played with or against Mr. Gibson.

And so, here we are. A friendly spin on the whole "6 Degrees of Separation" thing, with a particular focus on connecting as many players in the C46 set, as possible, to George Gibson. Without any further ado, I present to you, C46 Degrees of Separation.

Up first, is the first man in the set. Bill O'Hara. A pretty excellent place to start, if I don't say so myself. If you know your T206s, then you're already thinking about the O'Hara St. Louis variation in that set, and maybe even know that he played only a few games with St. Louis in 1910, but played most of the 1909 season with the New York Giants. Well, did you also know that O'Hara is Canadian?

That's actually why his C46 is so great to me. It's Canadian through-and-through. O'Hara is also a pretty excellent place to start, because it should be easy to connect him to George. Bill's professional playing career started in 1902, and continued until 1915, at which point, he joined the war effort. When he returned from the war, he returned to Toronto and was involved with the club in a non-playing capacity. I don't actually know a lot about those years, but since Gibson managed in Toronto in 1919, it seems likely that they'd have crossed paths.

But I can do better than that. Bill played 14 games for Baltimore in the Eastern League in 1905, and George was with Montreal for part of 1905. There's a chance they crossed paths there, but I didn't look. In 1909. Bill played 115 games with New York of the National League, and George, of course, set his iron man record, appearing in 150 games with the Pirates.

That leaves us with 1910, while Bill is with St. Louis in the National League, and George is with Pittsburgh. According to baseball-reference, Bill appeared in 9 games with St. Louis in 1910. I have no reason not to believe that's true, and it sure explains the scarcity of that darn T206. So the question is, did St. Louis play Pittsburgh in any of those 9 games? As you've surely figured out by now, the answer is yes.

Opening day for both Pittsburgh and St. Louis, in 1910, occurred on April 14th at St. Louis. Pitching for St. Louis that day, was former Pirate, Vic Willis. In the bottom of the ninth, Willis' spot came up in the batting order, and he was lifted for a pinch hitter. And so, with Gibson behind the plate, and Howie Camnitz on the mound, none other than William A. O'Hara stepped to the plate. Gibson and Camnitz would work together to turn O'Hara into a strikeout victim, on their way to preserving a 5-1 lead, and an eventual Pirates win, which isn't a great story for O'Hara, but it does connect him to Gibson, right?

O'Hara would end the season in Toronto, playing 122 games there. He remained in Toronto for another 5 seasons, including 1912 when he batted 0.304 and helped his club to the first ever International League championship.

Thanks for reading,


Monday, July 2, 2018

113 years ago today...

Yesterday was Canada Day, marking Canada's 151st birthday.

113 years ago, yesterday, a young Canadian was in Pittsburgh, set to make his major league debut for the hometown Pirates, who were hosting St. Louis. It would have been a nice little bit of trivia; Canadian ball player making their first appearance in the big leagues on Canada's 38th birthday. But it rained, and the game was not played.

That Canadian, of course, was George Gibson. That night, he boarded a train with his new Pirates teammates, and made off for Cincinnati. It was there, 133 years ago, today, that he made his big league debut. Pitching for the Bucs was Deacon Phillippe.

According to newspaper reports, Phillipe out pitched his counterpart, Bob Ewing, but 5 errors by the Pirates were his undoing. One of those errors was awarded to Gibson, who in an attempt to catch a would-be base stealer, chucked what he thought was a decent ball down to second base, only to have it arrive before either SS Honus Wager, or 2B Claude Ritchey, could get there. The ball went into centre field, and Gibson was awarded an error.

The play is well documented in Lawrence Ritter's excellent book, The Glory of their Times. As Gibson tells it, he figured Wagner and Ritchey missed the ball on purpose, because he was a rookie, when in fact, they missed it because they were used to the slow rainbow throws from the injured Heinie Peitz. Following the inning the three man sorted the play out, and Wagner advised Gibson to keep throwing the ball the way he had.

Over course of the game, the Reds stole three bags on Gibson, and he went 0-for-3. Nonetheless, Pirates owner Barney Dreyfuss, liked what he saw. As reported by the Pittsburgh Press the following day (July 3, 1905):
"President Dreyfuss says the lad is still green, but expresses the belief that he will learn quickly, and be a mighty valuable man."
Gibson, of course, did prove to be mighty valuable, and remained with the Pirates for eleven more seasons, before joining the New York Giants.

Friday, January 12, 2018

Time to solve a RMYstery

If you're at all interested in baseball photos -- whether it's learning about them, looking at them, or trying to collect them, you should check out They describe themselves as an "industry leading auction site for vintage collectable photographs." They are. They've been running auctions since 2013, I believe, and I've always been amazed at the scope and quality of images they auction.

If you're interested in reading baseball books, then you should also check out The Glory of their Times, by Lawrence Ritter. The book contains interviews with old-time ball players. The original version was published in 1966. It was re-released in 1984, and another four interviews were added. It's a very easy read, and the interviews are so candid and honest. Even if you don't want to buy it, your local library almost certainly has a copy.

Back to photos, though. This past December, RMY's 2017 Holiday Premier Auction contained a George Gibson photo. It's one I'm well aware of, as it the basis for a number of George Gibson cards.

Here are some such cards:

And here is the image upon which they are based: 

I've wanted to track down a copy of this image for a long time. When I saw this in RMY's auction, it didn't take long to decide to go after it. And lucky for me, I won it for what I consider to be a very reasonable price.

Now here's the RMYstery. Look at the back:

When I first saw the back of this photo, I didn't think much of it. I mean, I was interested in the front, obviously, so I don't think much about the backs of photos. I know that the back of the photo can help you authenticate it, but honestly, I don't know what I'm looking at/for, and I trust RMY.

At some point, I was checking on the auction and the back did catch my attention. Specifically, "#1 in George Gibson chapter." George Gibson chapter? What George Gibson chapter?

And then it hit me. I came racing upstairs to my office and grabbed my copy of 'The Glory of their Times'. I flipped to the "George Gibson chapter", and guess what I found?

Page 71. I'm not going to scan the page in case there's some copyright reason I can't, but sure enough. The bottom half of that page is this photo. Below it is the caption "George Gibson around 1910".

So now I'm thinking, well wait a second...does that mean this is the actual physical photo that Lawrence Ritter used for his classic book? That can't be. Can it?! I flipped through the book a bit more, and eventually I landed on a page titled 'Picture Credits'.

The page starts with, "Many of the pictures in this book were obtained from the personal albums of the players themselves. the sources of the others are as follows:"

So I went through the list of photo sources, and page numbers.

Guess which page number isn't in the list? Page 71. Keep in mind the auction is still going at this point. But now I'm thinking the photo in this auction was used for the book, AND, it came right from George Gibson?! That couldn't possibly be, could it?

So there's my RMYstery. Where did this photo come from?

After the auction ended and I paid for the photo, I emailed RMY and asked for some more info about where they got the photo. I haven't heard back, though I'm sure I will. With 1100+ lots in the auction, plus the holidays fast approaching, I can only imagine how much work it would be collecting payments, packaging, shipping, dealing with inquiries, paying consigners, etc. And the truth is, while I do believe this photo was used in the book, I really don't believe it came from George Gibson, so I'm fine to wait for a response.

BUT....what if?