Today’s Card of the Day comes from the 1912 T205 set, which is sometimes referred to as the Gold Border set. Today’s featured player is Pittsburgh Pirates great Deacon Phillippe. The last two times we looked at this set, we were looking at strong starting pitchers in Pirates history. The first one featured Sam Leever, who was teammates of Phillippe for the 1900-1910 seasons. The second one highlighted Howie Camnitz, who was part of the same starting rotation during the 1904, 1906-11 seasons with Phillippe.
The timing of this card is a bit of a coincidence that I realized as I was typing up that first paragraph. The Pirates recently announced their second Hall of Fame class. I mentioned that first class in the Camnitz article because he’s an interesting case study. I actually saw a few people comment about the second class, stating that the Pirates Hall of Fame was already getting a bit watered down. That’s not how team Hall of Fames work though. The Pirates aren’t even close to being watered down. They still have numerous Cooperstown Hall of Fame players who need to go into the team Hall. However, the 1900’s pitching staff alone should provide plenty of options.
I think Camnitz is an easy choice for the team Hall. Leever and Phillippe are no brainer choices, and could have been in on the first ballot. They still need to put Hall of Famer Vic Willis in, as well as Lefty Leifield and Babe Adams. None of those are tough choices, but they all made starts for the 1909 World Series winning Pirates. The tough choice comes in when you think about the seventh member of that rotation, Nick Maddox. He doesn’t have longevity, but he has three things going for him. He threw the team’s first nine-inning no-hitter in 1907. He won 23 games in 1908. He was a contributing member of the 1909 champs. Those things combined should qualify him for the “Fame” part, but he may not have played enough to get there.
Anyway, this is a Card of the Day article for the great Phillippe, who will eventually be in the team HOF. This is his fourth appearance in this series, as we celebrate what would have been his 151st birthday if modern medicine didn’t fail us.
Here’s the front of the card:
You can clearly tell where the Gold Border name comes from with these cards. You can’t tell the origin of the T205 name because that was given many years later to help catalog cards. The “T” stood for tobacco, while the “205” part was just a random order assigned to cards in the similar groups. We have looked at many of the other T cards here, though not all of the sets have Pirates players.
Except for a small subset of minor league players, these cards all had portrait-style artwork from the shoulders up, as you see here. The cards included facsimile autographs, as well as a Pirates logo and the actual word Pirates on the card. You don’t see “Pirates” too often on old cards because it was nothing more than a nickname back then, not an official name. Team names could change at any point still back then, but the Pirates name was around since 1891 at this point, though the team didn’t use it for many of the early year, but papers outside of Pittsburgh embraced it. During a stretch from 1893 through very early 1895, they were known locally as the Braves. They switched to the Patriots for the 1898 season, which included a uniform change and everything, but went back to Pirates for 1899.
This is a set that is popular for the era. It’s nowhere near the T206 type of popularity, but there are some hardcore collectors of the T205 set. I have a handful of them, but I’m not big on portrait cards, so I didn’t collect the set.
Here’s the back of the card:
The one advantage this set has over the T206 set is the bio section. The T206 set has just standard back ads for tobacco products. This has the ad, though it’s much smaller and at the bottom. The great control part in the bio was true for Phillippe. He led the league five times with the best walk rate. He had great rates during the 1909-1910 seasons as well, but he didn’t put in enough innings those years to qualify for the title. Depending on your cut-off, he either has the best or second best walk rate in team history. He’s second if 500 innings is good enough for you to qualify.
Just like with the T206 set, the T205 cards can be worth more with certain backs. Piedmont is one of the common cards, so it adds no value.
If you would like to add this card to your growing Pirates collection, you have some choices on Ebay. I’ll note one thing here. Just search his last name and T205. A couple of sellers used only his first name, while two others spelled Deacon wrong. Instead of searching “Decon” Phillippe, just use the last name. You have five options between $28 and $83, though the low price is a straight auction and will be done before you see this article. The other two are overpriced, so avoid those cards, which are a PSA 3 for $300 and a PSA 5 for $685. You can get something nicer for less.