Card of the Day: 1981 Perez-Steele HOF Postcard Jake Beckley

Today’s Pittsburgh Pirates Card of the Day can be found with baseball cards on Ebay, but it’s actually a postcard. An artist named Dick Perez created postcards for the Hall of Fame over the years, adding new players when necessary. They are referred to as Perez-Steele postcards, with the “Steele” part being his partners at a gallery. You might recognize Dick Perez’s name from his work with Donruss on the yearly Diamond Kings cards.

Jake Beckley played eight seasons for the Alleghenys/Pirates (technically the team went by the name Braves for over a year in the middle of his tenure with the team too). He played in Pittsburgh during a time when not a lot of cards were being produced. We already looked at one of his Old Judge cards, which actually show him on his minor league team from the start of 1888. They changed the captions on the cards after he joined the Alleghenys in the middle of that season. The other card we looked at was produced in 1980, as part of a set called Baseball Immortals. That’s a very odd looking card that I suggest checking out.

If we want to look at more from this all-time great, we have to bend the rules a bit. Luckily, I made the rules, so I’m okay with occasionally breaking them for the right “cards”. In this case, the card is a postcard.

Let’s get into the card by checking it out. Here’s the front:

These postcards measure 3-1/2″ by 5-1/2″. They are legitimate postcards that can be mailed, as you will see in the back scan below. The artwork here definitely gives off Diamond Kings vibes. Those random background colors are a big part of his style.

The main photo of Beckley here is probably his most famous photo. It is used often when he is featured in an article. It’s from team photos taken of the Pirates during the 1894 season, when the name Braves was used for the entire season. That name started in 1893, then spilled into early 1895, when Pirates was then used more often than not again. The team hasn’t been the Pirates straight through. They took the name Patriots and changed uniform colors during the 1898 season, noting that the name Pirates didn’t fit the team. Yet the name came back in 1899.

I mention the uniform colors so I can note that the colors here are wrong. My guess is that since researching back in 1891 was much tougher than now, Perez was either given bad information on the colors, or he was given free will to color the jerseys as he sees fit. He was going off of a black and white photo, so that didn’t give him much help. The caps were blue (no stripes) and Pittsburg (without an H at the end back then) was also blue. The tie was added on for the photo, so there’s no way of knowing if that is right or not.

The other picture here of Beckley was from later in his career. I believe it’s a 1905 photo from when he was on the St Louis Cardinals. It’s another photo of him that you will see a lot. These two photos are basically his two most famous, outside of maybe the T206 photo for him. As a side note, Beckley is one of five people who show up in both the 1887-1890 Old Judge set and the 1909-1911 T206 set.

Here’s the back of the postcard:

I’d love to know how many people actually mailed out these postcards. You can see in the top left corner that these were limited to 10,000 copies. They have an ornate design, along with a little bit about the player. Another case of more modern research can be found here with his 1894 average. He’s credited with hitting .345 that season now. I wouldn’t be surprised if that .343 number was thought to be correct back then. Beckley is still a .308 career hitter, so that’s still true.

Beckley is a good case of stats meaning very little back then as far as having historical significance. Outfielder Sam Rice finished 13 hits short of 3,000 in his career. He said later on that 3,000 didn’t mean anything, so he didn’t come back to get it. I’m sure 16 teams would have offered him a deal to get 13 hits. Beckley finished with 2,938 hits, except he still played in the minors for another four years. If 3,000 was significant back then, he would have reached that milestone somewhere. He has some partial minor league stats missing, but the available ones show him with 3,840 career hits.

There are six of these on Ebay right now and they range in price from $7.50 to $20. Beckley passed away in 1918, so don’t buy any autographed copies of these postcards. Otherwise, nothing else of note here.