Card of the Day: 1914 Baltimore News Ensign Cottrell

If you collect cards, then there’s a 99% chance you know about the famous Babe Ruth rookie card that is up for auction right now. The auction is going on now at Robert Edward Auctions, where the 1914 Baltimore News Babe Ruth card jumped to $4,500,000 within a half hour of an 18+ day auction starting. Some people have guessed that the card will end around $10,000,000. It got another bid while I was typing up this article.

The 1914 Baltimore News set is one we haven’t featured here yet because there are no players in the set except those playing in Baltimore at the time. It’s for the Baltimore team of the Double-A International League, where Ruth was before joining the Boston Red Sox. The set also includes at least four cards from the Baltimore Terrapins, which was the Federal League team at the time.

This current auction doesn’t just have the Ruth card from the set. It also has a card of Jack Dunn, who is know for being the man who discovered Ruth. Then there’s a lot that has 13 cards from the set. The actual set size is unknown, as new cards have been added to the checklist recently, including cards in that 13-card lot. These cards are extremely rare, so even having a ton of money doesn’t guarantee you could put the set together. Even if you somehow did complete a set, there’s always a chance a new one is discovered in some family attic. Whoever wins this auction is going to have one of the best Baltimore News collections.

We are going to look at the set here using the only card from this auction that makes sense for a Pittsburgh Pirates site. One of the players here is Ensign Cottrell, who pitched for the Pirates on June 21, 1911. The was not only his pro debut, it was his only game with the Pirates. He signed out of Syracuse University, where he was a star pitcher. However, manager Fred Clarke wasn’t impressed with what he saw, so Cottrell was released later that summer.

Cottrell pitched in the majors for five straight seasons with a new team each year, though he only pitched a total of 12 big league games. He ended up playing for two World Series winning teams, the 1913 Philadelphia A’s and 1914 Boston Braves. He spent a majority of that 1914 season with the Baltimore Orioles of the International League, where he went 13-7 over 184 innings, with a 1.09 WHIP, 92 strikeouts and 2.40 runs allowed per nine innings (ERA isn’t available).

Here’s the front of the card:

Cards from this set came with either red or blue borders, which adds another level to the collecting of the set. Imagine winning the Ruth card for eight figures, then deciding you want to get the rest of the cards in the set, including the other Ruth card as well…

These cards measure in at approximately 2 1/2″ by 3 1/2″, which is standard card size now, but an uncommon size for early cards. I’ve heard some collectors say that they were surprised at the smaller size of older cards, including a person I helped get their first two Old Judge cards, though there are plenty of exceptions as well. You just don’t often see cards that are almost exact to modern standard size from back then.

At 5’9″, 170ish pounds, Cottrell was even small for a pitcher back then. The 1911 Pirates used 14 pitchers during the season and he was tied for the shortest with Howie Camnitz. Cottrell still put in plenty of work during his four full seasons of pro ball, before retiring at age 27 to go back to school full-time.

Here’s the back of the card:

The backs were schedules for the team, both home and abroad. You’ll notice that there are scheduled doubleheaders, but they would always end up playing about ten extra doubleheaders throughout the year due to bad weather early in the season. There’s an interesting quirk here, possibly only to me when I use the word “interesting”. Notice that all of the opposing team names are abbreviated until the very last line on the schedule. Then they just write out Newark.

There’s no pricing section here because that will be decided with these auctions. The set is gaining popularity now due to the Ruth card. What I can say is expect to pay at least $5,000 for one of these cards if you can find one in a low grade. The actual price could be a lot more if two (or more) people really want it.