By John McMurray
Relative to other contemporary tobacco card sets, the T207 set is remembered for its overall lack of color, a display so plain that even the Standard Catalog of Vintage Baseball Cards has described the cards in the set as “rather drab.”
The T207 set’s appeal has clearly been limited further by the number of player poses which are repeated frequently, by a lack of action shots and by images which are typically hazy rather than sharp.
Still, it is important to remember that the “brown background” set includes some truly hard-to-find cards (most notably, Louis Lowdermilk, Irving Lewis and Ward Miller); a few challenging variations (including Paddy Livingston and George Mullin); and several cards of Hall of Fame players which are quite expensive (like Walter Johnson, Harry Hooper and Tris Speaker). These in-demand cards have kept collectors’ interest in the T207 set over time.
Since the T207 set has never been a collector favorite, it is easy to overlook many of the other cards in the set. Beyond the obvious Hall of Fame players, rarities and variations, here are 10 cards from the T207 set which deserve continued attention from collectors (listed in alphabetical order). Some are prominent in the hobby, while others are underrated.
Barry, the shortstop in Connie Mack’s $100,000 infield, appears on the only horizontal card in the entire T207 set. In a set filled with player portraits, Barry’s card also offers the set’s only legitimate action shot of a player fielding a ball, a sight which is relatively uncommon in tobacco card sets in general. Horizontal cards in tobacco issues (particularly those in the T206 set) are always in demand by collectors, and in that spirit, Barry’s T207 card is worthy of more attention.
Cicotte, of course, is remembered for being one of the eight players banned permanently from Major League Baseball as part of the Black Sox scandal in 1919. Cards of Black Sox players remain consistently popular, leading to strong demand for this card and making it one of the more expensive in the set. Because he was a consistent pitcher with Boston and later a star with Chicago, Cicotte appears on several tobacco and caramel cards, as well as in both Cracker Jack sets. Even so, his T207 card offers the most memorable action image of all of them.
Although Graney’s career offensive statistics were undistinguished, the Cleveland outfielder participated in two notable baseball “firsts”: he was a member of the first team to wear numbers on its uniforms, and he was also the first batter to face Babe Ruth. Graney remains well known to Cleveland Indians fans, as he later became a renowned radio broadcaster for the team. Although he appears on several D-, E-, M- and W- cards, Graney’s T207 card is his only tobacco card appearance.
More commonly known by his nickname “Red,” interest in Hoff’s cards spiked in the 1990s when it became known that he was the last living player from the Deadball Era. Hoff, who died at age 107 in 1998, played for Hal Chase and struck out Ty Cobb, the first batter he faced as a pitcher. Hoff, who played in only 11 career games, appeared on only one baseball card – this one in the T207 set – and it remains popular due to his relatively recent celebrity.
The T207 set contains many images of pitchers about to start their respective windups (including those of Howie Camnitz and Rube Marquard), but Krause’s card is unique in the set, both for portraying him from head to toe and for actually showing him holding the ball (which occurs on only a few occasions in the T207 set). In a set which lacks variety, the Krause card offers a seldom-seen pose.
As with the Red Kleinow and Fred Snodgrass cards in the T206 set, collectors have always appreciated vintage cards of catchers wearing their full protective gear. Lapp, the longtime backup catcher for the Philadelphia Athletics, appears in the only such pose in T207 (though Bob Williams also appears in partial catcher’s gear the T207 set, albeit without his catcher’s mask).
In a set filled with portraits of players who look serious or forlorn, the Lord card offers one of a relatively rare sight: a player smiling in the T207 set. (It stands in particular contrast to the other Lord card in the set, that of Harry Lord, where Harry looks quite dour.) Bris Lord’s card is not the only one to portray a happy-looking player; Daubert, Dooin, Fournier, Hoff, Oldring, Rath and Tooley’s cards are among the few in the T207 card set where players appear to be smiling. Lord’s card features one of the sharper images of the T207s and also offers a good view of the vintage Philadelphia uniform and cap.
In contrast to Eddie Cicotte, who appears on a number of tobacco cards, Weaver’s only tobacco card appearance is in the T207 set. A member of the Black Sox who was portrayed by John Cusack in the movie Eight Men Out, Weaver remains one of the most well-known players from that notorious 1919 team, thus keeping demand for his T207 card high.
Wood, who went 34-5 for Boston in 1912 with 16 straight victories, is one of the most dominant pitchers not in the Hall of Fame. While Wood’s career was shortened by injury, he remains a prominent figure, to the point of being the subject of a full-length biography in 2013 written by Gerald C. Wood and titled Smoky Joe Wood: The Biography of a Baseball Legend (University of Nebraska Press). One of the most underrated pitchers of the 20th century, Wood makes his only solo tobacco card appearance in T207, having appeared as part of a multi-player card in the T202 set.
Part of the fun of looking through old sets is finding cards of players who achieved short-term stardom. Although he never became the star second baseman that many anticipated he would, Steve Yerkes played an important role in the Red Sox comeback against the New York Giants in the 1912 World Series, getting key hits in Game 1 and Game 5 and eventually scoring the winning run in the decisive Game 8. Yerkes, too, appears on the only tobacco card of his career in the T207 set.
Of course, one could make a case for other cards in the T207 set. Slick-fielding Jake Daubert surely is on the short list of the best first basemen who have not been elected to the Hall of Fame.
Vean Gregg – another player whose only tobacco card appears in the T207 set – had one of the most dominant three-year stretches of pitching in history from 1911-13. Also, in a set where most batters are shown from the waist up with the bat on their shoulder (such as Knetzer, McBride, Milan, Sweeney, etc.), Otto Knabe’s card offers something different: a full-length shot of a player who actually appears to be about to take a swing.
For dedicated collectors, there are other features of the T207 set which make collecting it both fun and a challenge. Some collectors try to locate cards with the Broadleaf, Cycle, Napoleon and Recruit backs (not to mention select cards which appear with the exceedingly rare Red Cross back), while others aim to find cards without any evidence of cracking on the fronts. Also, in a set whose colors are mostly black and white, the red caps worn by the Cincinnati players and the blue cap worn by Saier in his Cubs uniform stand out.
No one would suggest that several interesting cards in T207 can overcome the overall poor presentation of the set. Indeed, excessively dark and uninspired card images, like those of Ham Hyatt and Marty O’Toole, are the norm rather than the exception in T207. Still, there worthwhile cards to find in the T207 set, if one is willing to look for them
John McMurray writes a regular column on vintage cards for SCD. He can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.