Saturday, December 8, 2012
Bad Bill Dahlen and the Pre-Integration Hall of Fame Ballot
Bad Bill Dahlen just missed election to the Baseball Hall of Fame by the Veteran's Committee by two votes, while umpire Hank O'Day, owner Jacob Ruppert and 19th century catcher Deacon White all got the call. This actually leaves Dahlen at the top of the pre-1947 backlog for the Hall of Fame and a likely inductee in 2015 if this committee meets again.
Dahlen was a shortstop in the 1890s and 1900s, known for his slick fielding (holding the NL Assist record for a shortstop in a season into the 1980s) and power for the day. Through the lens of history, he is always compared to George Davis, elected to the Hall of Fame in 1998. Davis primarily played for the Giants and White Sox and was the best player on the Hitless Wonders who won the World Series in 1906. When John McGraw was unable to secure the services of Davis for his team as part of the settlement of the war between the American League and National League, he acquired Bill Dahlen instead.
Starting with the Chicago Colts (then known as the Cubs), he made his way to the Superbas (now the Dodgers), Giants, then the Boston Doves (now the Atlanta Braves) where he is depicted at the top, before finishing his career as the all time games leader for the Brooklyn Dodgers in 1911. Dahlen would be a worthy Hall of Fame induction in my eyes and considering where I am at with my collection, I am now officially no longer afraid of it.
When I started collecting T206s, Bill Dahlen was one of the few cards I was legitimately worried about when trying to put together a set. Due to trades and other player movement, a number of players have two T206 cards for different teams or multiple teams if the mood struck the printers. Most of these players are minor in the history of baseball: Kid Elberfeld, Carl Lundgren, George Browne, Bill O'Hara, Ray Demmitt, Frank Smith, Red Kleinow. All of these players have short printed cards with one team or another, which matters only for set collectors, since the average card collector is not thinking, "Boy, I need that Kid Elberfeld portrait to have a W instead of a New York across the jersey and Washington instead of New York Amer. to make it matter to me." However, as a set collector, that is the exact mentality, since it is the same image just with a touch up to the uniform, save for Lundgren, where they also recolored the background to move him from mid-day to dusk.
The problem remained the last short print was Bill Dahlen in a Brooklyn uniform. As you can see, there is just a small change, with the B now blue instead of red and Brooklyn replacing Boston on the card. While not the rarest of the short prints, it is still in fact a short print. Theoretically, this shouldn't matter too much, as the market would remain only set collectors...unless Bill Dahlen was elected to the Hall of Fame. Elected to the Hall of Fame, interest in the card would spike, making one of the 518 cards I needed a short print Hall of Famer, which does horrible things to prices. I could see the card going two or three times what it was currently worth, adding a prohibitively expensive card to my set.
Knowing this about a week into my collecting, I made the card a priority for acquisition, as his impending election could be just over two years away. The downside of shortprints is they are not always available. So, you have to keep scanning and then, once you find one, you have to bid the other desperate set collectors into oblivion, so you can take the card home.
The copy you see above was purchased in August 2011. A gentleman who does not collect T206s found the card in an antique store in Washington. After posting it, he was willing to accept offers of ten possible cards, mostly 60s and 70s pieces related to the Pirates or big national league stars of the day. Of course, our old friend cash was also a possibility. I made a strong offer and he indicated a preference to trade. So, I waited and believe it or not, was searching to see if I could find any of these items. I came close to buying a Bob Clemente card as bait, but I was quite concerned about being stuck with Clemente, who is not a player I have any affection for or interest in. Fortunately, he made a call for last offers and the card was mine.
The card is actually the most I've paid for a non-Ty Cobb T-206, but it was one of the last Dodgers I needed and more correctly, I was desperately afraid of tomorrow being worse for the card. The card itself is quite nice with the only flaw being a stray pencil mark, which led to the card being a fair instead of a good or even good plus under today's wacky grading systems. It also has the desirable Sovereign back and a similar card I thought not as nice did sell for a fair bit more than my initial purchase price. Of course, once he gets elected, things will get worse.
And to close the door on the Dahlen that started it all, the card at the way top is one of my favorite cards. I call it Exorcist Bill Dahlen for the ink mark running perfectly down his face. It's story is that I was the underbidder the first time, because it had a rare Hindu backed Southern Leaguer Harry Bay with it and I couldn't stand the heat on the auction to get the Dahlen alone, thinking I would need to flip the Bay. Of course, the other bidder was after the Bay and flipped the Dahlen about a month later to my great surprise and joy. Most importantly, it allowed me to meet Marc, who has probably sold me more T206s than anyone over the years and was vital in getting me so close to completing my set in under three years.