Chicken Wolf

  • Card series: Beginnings: 1880's
  • City: Louisville
  • Team: Colonels
  • League: American Association

William Van Winkle “Jimmy” Wolf (1862-1903) played virtually his entire career with Louisville, starting in 1882 when the club was known as the Eclipse and continuing with the Colonels through the 1891 season. He played three games for the Browns in ‘92 before heading, for the first time, to the minors for three campaigns. Known mostly as Jimmy, Wolf had the Chicken moniker hung on him by teammate Pete Browning after Wolf gorged on a pre-game boiled bird and committed several errors that day. By any name, Wolf earned a renown that has since eluded him. He was, arguably, the best hitter in the history of the American Association, and is the league’s all-time leader in games played, hits, doubles, triples and total bases. The second-class status of the 19th century’s “junior circuit” has always weighed heavily in Cooperstown evaluations. Jimmy reached his pinnacle in 1890, hitting .363 and leading the post-season tourney with .360 and eight RBI. The right-hander was primarily an outfielder, but eventually saw action at every position. The previous year had immersed Wolf in the most controversy of his career. A feud with manager Dude Esterbrook led to Wolf replacing him. Jimmy faithfully carried out owner Mordecai Davidson’s tough fine schedule for on-field lapses. Things erupted into the first players’ strike and Davidson sold the club mid-summer with Wolf ending his managerial career.

  • The trials and tribulations of the 1889 season swirled around Wolf and his hapless teammates en route to a spectacularly dismal record of 27-111. No surprise that tempers flared and fights broke out. Davidson’s obstinance, particularly his penchant for dunning his players, exacerbated the situation. It is to Wolf’s credit that he persevered while holding the captain’s reins and, despite the bad blood, his teammates embraced him once Davidson was gone
  • Wolf was intrepid on the ball field and off. In retirement he served as a firefighter in his hometown of Louisville. His tragic death at age 41 resulted from a traumatic brain injury incurred a few years prior to 1903. Wolf was buried beside childhood friend and comrade in arms, Pete “The Louisville Slugger” Browning
  • William Van Winkle Jimmy Chicken Wolf. I just had to write that again.
  • Wolf enjoys five known poses in the Old Judge canon


  • This card of Chicken Wolf represents the 300th and final card in the 1880s: Base Set
  • It is truly gratifying to close this series on such a high and symbolic note . . . .
    • with an elusive player of some magnitude whom I have been yearning and struggling to get into the series for four years now (this is my fourth attempt at Chicken Wolf as his images are scarce and typically of poor quality)
    • who has a name so deep in the alphabet (only 5 OJ subjects follow Wolf alphabetically: Dandy Wood, Pete Wood, Harry Wright, Chief Zimmer & Frank Zinn – with Zinn being the only one to escape this series’ reach)
    • and with an OJ pose of such repose. Wolf’s halfhearted enactment of a slide while resting on a tuft of carpeted grass strikes me more as somebody who is resting after a hard-fought and victorious campaign in the field of dreams . . . . and that is exactly how I feel in bringing this series to a close.
  • The first release of this 300th & final card, on August 10, 2017, is the 2,068th card to be made and released from the 1880s: Base set
    • I sold the first card from this series, Doc Bushong, on May 8, 2013, for $11.62 to a brave and courageous soul in Wind Gap, Pennsylvania
    • I could not have gotten here from there without each and every one of you. Thank you, sincerely, for your tremendous support.
    • The journey continues . . . . .

Auction History