The man who wore three Sox

1911 T201 Mecca Double Folders Eddie Cicotte / Jack Thoney

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This was a spur of the moment pick up off of eBay earlier this Summer, and one that was better than the image supplied with the auction. The colors really pop on this card that was inserted into packages of Mecca Cigarettes, which was a brand under the American Tobacco Company.

The 1911 T201 Mecca Double Folders was also the first issue in which two players shared the same card. On the front was one player, and on the back, the top half of another player’s picture appears. The concept of the doublefolder was that this image can be folded and flipped over onto the legs/torso of the front-image player. The rest of the back shows statistics for both players. There are a total of 50 cards and 100 subjects make up a complete set, that in contrast to the T206’s or T205’s, are generally less expensive to obtain.

What also struck me with the T201’s that I learned after the fact, was it was the first time statistics could be found on the backs of cards. Any prior tobacco releases to this point had carried advertising for various products. This set was also the forerunner to Topps’ own doubleheader issue released in 1955. Obtaining a Red Sox player in that series is on my to-do-list!

Before I loop back to the title of this post, I’ll visit one Jack Thoney who adorns the rear of this beautiful card. On Opening Day in Boston, April 14 1908, he recorded the first out (fly ball) during the first game the team played as the Red Sox (they had changed from the Boston Americans in December the year prior). Then as the leadoff man, walked, stole second base, reached third on a sacrifice, and scored on a passed ball — the first time a player wearing a Red Sox uniform scored a run.

Bullet Jack Thoney was once called “the unluckiest player in the history of baseball.” Boston Red Sox owner John I. Taylor had paid what was thought to be the most money ever paid for a player at the time, but it seemed as though every time Thoney made a major-league team, he broke a limb.

Jack played for the Red Sox over the course of three seasons, or 148 games to be exact with 1908 his only “healthy” campaign. 1909 was a lost year as he had a bout with malaria and then broke a bone in his right leg near the ankle in June. Jack lost all of 1910 when — I kid you not — slipped on a banana peel and broke and dislocated his right shoulder while heading to spring training. Making a comeback that season, he threw his shoulder out again.

So what about “The man who wore three Sox” depicted on the front of this card. Cicotte was one of baseball’s most effective pitchers in the second decade of the American League but is today best remembered for being banned from baseball as part of the Black Sox Scandal for his alleged involvement in fixing the 1919 World Series. He won at least 11 games in each of four seasons as part of the Red Sox rotation, during which he feuded repeatedly with team owner John Taylor. Cicotte purchased by the Chicago White Sox halfway through the 1912 season. It was said that Eddie decided to partake in the fixing of the World Series over a feeling of being underpaid compared to similar quality pitchers. During the Black Sox trials, he did admit to accepting cash from the gamblers, but denied he didn’t do anything on the field to jeopardize his team from winning. However, he did plunk a batter and had a couple of horrendous throwing errors in which the White Sox lost two games.

In the end, Eddie Cicotte wore Red, White, and infamously … Black Sox.

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Not so tip top shape

So as I get back into the blogging scene, I’ll be sharing some of my pick ups over the last year plus, today is a hard to come by issue from the 1947 Tip-Top Bread set.

1947 Tip-Top Rudy York

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Aside from the Cuban issued 1946 Propagandas Montiel, this is the only card from his playing days that depicts York in a Red Sox uniform. Yes Rudy is on a Red Sox team photo pack issue as well a TCMA card, but this a tough one to find. I had almost pulled the trigger on an eBay auction for the aforementioned Cuban card a couple of months prior to landing the Tip Top on eBay.

This tough, regional issue consisted of 163 cards including the following teams: Braves, Browns, Cardinals, Cubs, Dodgers, Giants, Pirates, Red Sox, Tigers, White Sox, and Yankees. The 2¼” x 3″ cards are borderless with black and white player photos on the front, advertisements on the back. The set is known for a quantity of obscure players, many of whom played during the talent-lean World War II seasons.

One of those players was Rudy York. Traded from Detroit in January of 1946, York enjoyed a fine year with the Sox hitting for a .276 average, 17 home runs and 119 runs batted in. Rudy acquitted himself well at the plate in the 1946 World Series as well; his tenth-inning home run won Game 1 for the Sox while his 3-run home run in the first inning of Game 3 gave the Red Sox an early lead that they would never surrender. The Red Sox lost Game 7, and the Series, on Enos Slaughter’s “mad dash” scoring play from first in the eighth inning. Rudy finished the Series with a .261 average, 2 home runs and 5 runs batted in.

Ted Williams later said of Rudy: “He did an awful lot for our club that year. He had more information about more pitchers in the league than anybody. He was all the time stealing signs….[he] was a big, good-natured, easy-going Indian, but a powerful guy. I wouldn’t have wanted him to get mad at me.”

Want to learn more about Mr. York, there’s a thorough bio written by SABR that tells of one time Rudy DID get mad at the legendary Ted Williams. He certainly had his vices and demons, but he enjoyed his last All-Star season in the Fens and almost raised a World Series trophy to boot.

img_3727He return to the Sox organization in 1958 as a hitting instructor for the Memphis Chicks. The following year, he was hired by Boston to serve as first-base coach under manager Pinky Higgins. When Higgins was fired by the Sox in 1959 after a July 2 loss to the Senators, Rudy acted as manager for the July 3rd game in Baltimore, won by the Orioles by a 6-1 score. He would be his only game as a manager. He hung on for a couple of years as a coach and appears on this 1960 Topps #456 coaches card.