Hall of Famer Hughie Jennings was not only one of the best shortstops of the dead ball era, he was also one of baseball’s most colorful characters of the early 1900s.
A lawyer with a knack for getting hit by pitches, Jennings was perhaps best known for managing the firebrand Ty Cobb and aggravating opposing players with his wild dugout and on-field antics.
Once forgotten as a player and manager, Jennings may be on the verge of getting some newfound recognition after the discovery of a rare T206 Lenox Brown trading card featuring the Hall of Famer. The card, discovered at a card shop in Marietta, Ga., features Jennings in a “both hands showing” pose.
The card is up for bid at Memory Lane Inc. and has already surpassed $6,600 in an auction that ends Saturday, Oct. 9.
The card was discovered by Rob Oberth of RoundTable Trading in a collection of T206 cards brought to his story in Marietta.
The card was graded PSA Authentic with no other examples listed in the PSA or SGC population reports.
“As I began examining the collection, it just jumped right out at me and seemed to have an interesting look,” said Oberth, who runs the Card Dealers Helping Card Dealers Facebook group. “Given the rarity of such a unique card to even exist, I wasn’t entirely sure it was real.”
After posing the card on the group Facebook page, Oberth was contacted by Daniel Wulkan of Memory Lane. His response: “This is a first of its kind. Rarely do we see a card of this nature enter the market.”
The lot (#229) description at Memory Lane calls the card “one of the rarest tobacco cards on the planet.”
Though a lesser known player, Jennings was as talented and colorful during his day as Cobb and Honus Wager, two stars of the T206 tobacco card era.
He led Baltimore to three straight championships from 1894-96, hitting .335, .386 and .401 while driving in 355 RBI during the three-year run. A career .312 hitter, he had 1,525 hits, 359 stolen bases and set a major league record by being hit by a pitch 287 times. He was once beaned in the head, fracturing his skull and leaving him unconscious for four days before he returned to the field.
After his playing days, Jennings went to law school at Columbia University and paid his tuition by coaching the college baseball team. That led him to Detroit in 1907, where he led Cobb and the Tigers to three straight American League pennants in his first three years.
As a manager, Jennings was known for his encouragement and positive reinforcements, yelling “Ee-yah” and “Attaboy” to his players. He was also known for his colorful antics in the on-field coaching box, sometimes playing with a jack-in-the-box, a rubber snake or a pet dog to distract opposing pitchers.