• A
  • B
  • C
  • D
  • E
  • F
  • G
  • H
  • I
  • J
  • K
  • L
  • M
  • N
  • O
  • P
  • Q
  • R
  • S
  • T
  • U
  • V
  • W
  • X
  • Y
  • Z

California Brown

  • Series: 1888 Champion New York Giants
  • City: New York
  • Team: Giants
  • League: National League

William M. Brown (1866-1897) was a catcher & infielder for 7 seasons with 5 clubs, including stints with NY’s Giants in both their National League and Players’ League incarnations. He began in New York in 1887, left for the Phillies in ’91, was out a year before catching on with the Orioles. His final year in the majors was with two teams: the Louisville Colonels & St. Louis Browns in 1894. This native San Franciscan was exotic enough to be nicknamed for his State in an era dominated by eastern teams and players. Chronic lung problems limited his play. He sought milder climes in the west & Hawaii to no avail, succumbing to the disease at age 32. He is buried in the necropolis “City of Souls” in Colma, CA, near his hometown.

  • Brown’s finest year was 1893 with the Colonels, batting .304 with 140 hits and 85 RBI
  • His 50 walks that year gave him an OBP of .373

Pat Murphy

  • Series: 1888 Champion New York Giants
  • City: New York
  • Team: Giants
  • League: National League

Patrick J. Murphy (1857-1927) was a right-handed catcher for the New York Giants from 1887-1990. This Massachusetts native had a career batting average of .220 and hit one home run in the “Dead Ball” era. He played in one “world series” in 1888, going one for 10 and scoring a run in three games against the St Louis Browns. The Giants prevailed six games to four. The contest was marked by the great future Hall of Famer Tim Keefe’s four victories over the Browns.

  • Murphy was a grizzled 30 years of age when he broke in with the Giants
  • Murphy’s sole hit in the ’88 series was good for an RBI
  • In 1889 Murphy’s salary was $1800

Buck Ewing

  • Series: 1888 Champion New York Giants
  • City: New York
  • Team: Giants
  • League: National League
  • Hall: National Baseball Hall of Fame

William Ewing (1859-1906) was the premier catcher of the 19th century, honored for decades after his early death as even, perhaps, the greatest player of all time. A scourge at bat, Buck hit over .300 ten times. He played behind the plate with courage and style, crouching close to the hitter so as to shave precious seconds off his inerrant throws. Ewing had debuted with the remarkable Troy Trojans in 1880 and joined four future Hall-of-Famers in moving to NYC in ‘83. The sturdy catcher may have been the primary inspiration for Jim Mutrie’s “my Giants!” exclamation that led to the new identity of the Gothams. An arm injury on a raw spring day curtailed his tenure behind the plate from 1891 on. Such a magnetic figure couldn’t escape the turmoil of the Players’ League controversies and Ewing was sometimes pilloried for lax effort. Despite such caviling, Ewing left as indelible a mark on the game’s first century as anyone. Upon his induction to Cooperstown (among the first six of the “pre-modern” era), he was hailed by Connie Mack as the greatest catcher he had seen and he had seen most.

  • “Buck” was a derivative of “Buckingham,” bestowed on the budding star by an admiring scribe who wanted to add gravitas to the youngster’s reputation
  • Played all nine positions and managed 3 different teams over 7 seasons
  • Was the first catcher elected to the Hall of Fame; and the second 19th century player elected (after Cap Anson)
  • Elected to Hall of Fame: 1939

Dave Birdsall

  • Series: The Old Man
  • City: New York
  • Team: Union of Morrisania
  • League: National Association (NABBP)

As Ars Longa strives to honor the long tradition of baseball-on-cardboard, and as we have great reverence for the history of this storied art form, it is only appropriate that we depict what may be the first-ever baseball card. As with many “firsts,” this entry is not without controversy and partisans. No less an authority than John Thorn has nominated “the illustrated ticket to the inaugural soiree of the Magnolia Ball Club, an event that took place in 1844 to celebrate the club's founding the year before.” The Birdsall card can't compete with the Magnolias in seniority. Yet, it is a card, not an admission stub.

In 2013, REA offered the famed “1863 Harry Wright 'Grand Match at Hoboken'” card as the first. It is a card. It is a photographic image of a ballplayer, indeed perhaps the most famous of the early game. But it doesn't identify him. And, like the Thorn favorite, it is clearly an admission ticket to a three-game cricket/baseball exhibition. Another contender is the “only known pre-Civil War baseball team card” as the circa 1860 Brooklyn Atlantics' carte-de-visite was billed when Heritage Auctions offered it in 2015. Is a calling card a baseball card? It wasn't sold as advertising, it wasn't even sold. Such vehicles were used by teams to gift their inner circles of family and friends, more mementoes than collectibles, perhaps?

Ars Longa's Pioneer Portraits I series celebrates another candidate for “first” status: Mort Rogers. His scorecards contained photos of players that were cut into what was probably the first “set” of baseball cards. But he was a printer promoting team events and wasn't involved in the earliest entries in the competition at hand.

Enter our “Old Man.”

Dave Birdsall was the “grizzled” and dour catcher for one of the great teams of the early post-war era. In 1867 he and battery-mate Charlie Pabor led the Unions of Morrisania (lower Bronx) to the first championship outside of Brooklyn. Birdsall's gloomy demeanor was undoubtedly spawned by the rigors of catching in the days when backstops wore no protection; and he was, by far, the eldest member of the squad. Pabor was famously dubbed The Old Woman in the Red Cap. So, perhaps, Birdsall, as the oldest guy on the team and battery mate of The Old Woman, naturally became The Old Man. Years later, when Harry Wright selected Birdsall to staff the Boston Red Stockings in 1871, Dave was again many years older than the next-oldest player.

The card is a hand-drawn image of a Union of Morrisania player labeled “The Old Man.” When Robert Edward Auctions (REA) offered the card in 2008, they mis-identified it as depicting Bernie Hannegan, who had gained a measure of infamy as the star hurler for the Unions when Jim Creighton swung, missed and died of injury, becoming the first “martyr” of baseball in 1862. REA issued a lengthy mea culpa thanking the Wentz brothers for straightening out the mix-up and crediting Birdsall as the player on "The Old Man” card. In support of the “first-card” standing, REA offers: “It is the only card from this early era that we have ever seen featuring the image of a specific current player who is identified on the card.” These, they assert, are “defining characteristics for baseball cards, dating from the 1880s all the way up to modern cards.”

1867-1868 Union of Morrisania Champion Base Ball Club. Dave Birdsall is pictured fifth from left; Charlie Pabor is sixth from left.
It is appropriate to the legend of these friends and their nicknames that The Old Man and The Old Woman in the Red Cap are standing side-by-side in the center of this team image.

Auction History

Deacon White

  • Series: Pioneer Portraits I: 1850-1874
  • City: Boston
  • Team: Red Stockings (NAPBBP)
  • League: National Association (NAPBBP)
  • Hall: National Baseball Hall of Fame

James Laurie “Deacon” White (1847-1939). Considered the greatest catcher of baseball’s barehanded period (1870s), White eventually moved to 3rd base, played 23 seasons, won 6 championships, and played with a number of the century’s best players on a number of the century’s best teams.

  • 1st person to bat in 1st pro league, in 1871, earning a hit – a double
  • Reportedly believed the earth is flat
  • 2 batting titles; 3 RBI titles
  • Elected to Hall of Fame: 2013

Auction History