Card of the Day: 1922 E121 Carson Bigbee

Today’s Pittsburgh Pirates Card of the Day features a player who spent his entire 11-year Major League career with the Pirates. Carson Bigbee makes his third appearance in this series, as we look at his 1922 E121 American Caramel card. This is a picture used in other sets from this era, but this card has a much different design than the one we previously looked at here. It also helps us identify Carson Bigbee on the card, which could have been an issue here.

Bigbee is part of a select club in team history. There have been 26 groups of relatives to play for the Pirates. I say groups because two of them include more than two players. Bigbee is one of the pairs of relatives. His brother Lyle was a pitcher for the 1921 Pirates. This E121 card is the perfect card to use while talking about the groups of relatives in Pirates history. Actually, the 1954 Topps Johnny/Eddie O’Brien card is perfect, but this is a close second, as you will soon see.

Here’s the front of the card:

First off, this is a great picture of Bigbee for many reasons. I just like seeing the old baseball scenes. Imagine a current player trying to use one of those gloves? I can’t even imagine a current player working under 1920s conditions because it would be so different for them. Traveling by train would probably cause half of them to wave white flags on the recreation. Finding out they had to play in-season exhibition games in the middle of travel days? No batting gloves, no batting helmets, rough and tumble players with steel spikes and the ability to make contact to break up double plays or plays at the plate. There goes the other half of current players, and we haven’t even got to the daily living conditions. Bigbee did it for 11 years at the highest level, back when everyone played baseball and big league jobs were limited.

Not only is it cool seeing Bigbee in a staged action pose here, you also get an unknown player in the background in real action. Add in the city landscape behind both of them and this is a terrific photo. Not all of the cards in this set are horizontal, but this layout always allows for better action photos.

Once you’re done looking at the photo, glance over to the words at the left. “L. Bigbee, P-Pittsburgh Nationals”. This card is misidentified as Lyle Bigbee, the slightly older brother of Carson. The “L” is the first giveaway, but the “P” for pitcher confirms that it wasn’t just a mistake with the initial. Carson was an outfielder, Lyle was a pitcher. The other thing to talk about here is the “Nationals” part. They weren’t calling the Pirates by a different name, it was just to indicate it was a National League team. There were 16 teams back then and five cities (Boston, Chicago, New York, St Louis and Philadelphia) had ten of those teams, so writing American/National made sense. Also, Pirates was still just a nickname back then, not an official team name.

Here’s the back of the card:

The back is a quick who/what description of the front.  They didn’t give a checklist or number the cards, but they let you know there were 120 cards to collect. The who is the American Caramel Company, which was out of York and Lancaster Penna. I always wondered if the person who wrote that on the back wasn’t sure how to spell Pennsylvania. There’s clearly enough room not to have to abbreviate it, but on the flip side, when do you ever see “Penna” as the abbreviation?

There is only one completed example of this card from Ebay in the last three months. The card shown above was graded PSA 4 and it sold for just over $80 after tax/delivery. There’s an ungraded one (listed without the name Carson in the title) for $84. If you like the pose, you can find it in other sets, including the W575-1 set, which also has the identification error. I have one of those in an SGC 70 grade (not for sale).