Card of the Day: 1911 Baseball Bats Dots Miller

We have had Card of the Day featured from guest contributors (see links below), but I figured I would do one now to show off a new purchase and possibly start a GoFundMe for my bank account (only half kidding). Today’s Card of the Day is a 1911 Baseball Bats Dots Miller card.

I collect cards of Dots Miller, infielder for the 1909-13 Pirates. The very quick story for those who don’t know is that we were both born in Kearny, NJ, and we have six relatives in common. Miller’s niece, married my grandfather’s cousin. They had three kids, who in turn had three kids of their own. Miller was born on September 9, 1886, 17 days after my great-grandfather, who lived within two blocks of Miller in the German section of town during Miller’s entire life. I have no actual proof, but it seems safe to say that they knew each other.

Anyway, that back story, which I learned years after I had already chosen the Pittsburgh Pirates as my favorite team at a very young age, is the reason I collect his cards. I’ve collected baseball cards my entire life, so he seems like the perfect area of focus. I have about 40 of his cards, which is one short of my goal. He has more cards, but some of them are just the same picture on front with a different advertisement for tobacco or candy on back. I don’t need all of those. Before I bought this 1911 Baseball Bats card, I was still one card short of my goal (1913 Voskamps is the missing card still).

That sounds a little confusing, still being one card short of a goal after purchasing one card, so let me explain. This particular card was thought to exist for many years. I have been looking for one, but it never showed up. Not even a scan of one for proof that it existed. I don’t know when it happened, but some time in the recent past, the Dots Miller card was taken off of the 1911 (sometimes listed as 1912) Baseball Bats checklist. With the Miller card, the set had 51 cards. A 50-card set sounds more likely that 51, just in general, because round numbers are more popular. So with the card removed from the checklists, it seemed possible that Miller being in the set was just a catalog mistake years ago,until…

About a month ago, I was looking at a vintage baseball message board called Net54 and noticed a scan of a Dots Miller card that I’ve never seen before. The Baseball Bats set has three different color variations, and without ever seeing a Miller card, I never knew exactly what I was looking for all of these years. The person who owned the card, who I knew in passing from being on the board for many years, was kind enough to send me some scans of the card. I said to him that if he ever thought about selling the card, to remember me. He did just that a few weeks ago and after some quick friendly negotiating, the card was mine and my bank account suffered.

Dots Miller has some very difficult to find cards and they all seem to be for the same reason. Like his 1910 Orange Borders and his 1912 J=K Candy cards (future Card of the Day subjects), the 1911 Baseball Bats card came on the side of a display box, which sold penny candy. The boxes were likely discarded more often than they were kept, so even back then a specific card would have been hard to find. The cards had to be hand cut, which probably led to some more being ruined, plus the attrition rate of old cards is huge from that era. You’re talking about a small 109-year-old item made of cardboard, which had no monetary value for much of its life.

At least one of these cards survived and it’s now in the official Dots Miller Collection alongside his other cards. The back is blank and the card measures 1 1/2 x 2 1/2. The batting pose is a popular one of Miller from that era, used on a few other cards. The card is sepia color (also referred to in some places as a black & white card)

Past Guest Submissions

1887 N172 Sam Barkley 

1998 Topps Jose Guillen 

1931 W517 Paul Waner 

1948-49 Leaf Honus Wagner