The Pittsburgh Pirates opened their best season ever on this date in 1902, with Deacon Phillippe getting the Opening Day assignment and the win. He would go on to win 20 games that season, his fourth of five straight 20+ win seasons to open up his career. Phillippe has appeared in this series before, but not on a card of his own. With no majors names among the former Pirates born on this date, today seems like a good day to give him his first solo article. This is also the introduction to the 1906 Fan Craze set, which is a tough to find, semi-popular set from that era, coming out during a time-frame before 1909 when putting player photos on cardboard became extremely popular for a stretch.
Here’s the front of the card:
I had to crop this photo a little more than I wanted because it was in a holder, but you should be able to see the rounded corners, like what you would find on a deck of cards. That’s exactly what these sets were, split into the American League and the National League, but considered to be one set. At the top, you’ll notice the word “ball”. These cards were part of a game so you could simulate a baseball game by shuffling the cards. The other outcomes were wild pitch, hit by pitcher, single, sacrifice, 2-base hit, 3-base hit, home run, strike, stolen base, passed ball, hit by batted ball, out on bunt, out on foul, bunt safe, caught napping, balk, double play, out on fly, out at first, out on steal, triple play and double steal. The extra-base hit cards each were listed on just one player (Honus Wagner got the triple). As you can imagine by those results, there were a lot of low scoring games and plays that didn’t make sense because no one was on base.
This photo of Phillippe was originally taken by Carl Horner, who is known to this day still for his baseball portrait photos. Part of that reason is that his photos ended up in numerous sets, getting used over and over. You can find this Phillippe picture in other sets from that era. The famous T206 Honus Wagner had artwork based on Horner’s photo. As you might notice at the bottom of the card, Pittsburgh is spelled without the H at the end, which was correct for 1906.
Here’s the back of the card:
The manufacturers of this set made the back of the National League cards red, and the American League cards are all blue, with a similar design for each card. Each one had Fan Craze written in a baseball, with “art” on the top and “series” on the bottom. Basically, you’re looking at a similar design to a deck of playing cards, except it was for a baseball game.
If you’re interested in this card, you only have one choice on Ebay and it is a bit pricey for most collectors at $227.49. The card is graded a PSA 8.5, but these cards can be found much easier in higher grades than most old cards because they came in a boxed set and the rounded corners help. Nearly half of the auctions on Ebay right for cards from this set are graded PSA 8 or higher. That price for the Phillippe is probably a little high in comparison to other non-Hall of Fame players that have sold recently, but it’s not bad. You might want to wait for an actual auction listing and not a buy-it-now if that’s too much for you, because you can find these cards in lower grades. They aren’t common though.