Here are some of the most unique baseball cards from the 1919 Chicago Whitesox also known as the Blacksox. These baseball cards are hard to find but can be worth a pretty penny at top grades. – Gold Card Auctions
1890 Stevens Cabinets #NNO Charles Comiskey
You can’t understand the Black Sox scandal without knowing “the why,” and that’s White Sox Founder and club patriarch Charles Comiskey. Therefore, you can’t collect the Field of Dreams game without getting a card of the man they were rebelling against, the miserly team owner nicknamed “The Old Roman.”
The eight members of the Sox who tanked the fall classic did so because they felt very disrespected and underpaid by Comiskey. “Eight Men Out,” a movie that’s superior to “Field of Dreams,” in my opinion, depicts what Comiskey did that pushed the players over the edge. He was exploitative of his underpaid labor, to say the least.
In terms of finding a Comiskey card, well, that’s a very tough get, as his playing days were way back in the Gilded Age. I did see this specific card at The National, however, and as you might expect, anything this scarce is very expensive. It’s a beautiful card from a year he captained the Chicago Pirates, and there’s true artistry on both the front and the back.
1919-21 W514 Hand Cut Eddie Cicotte
The first card on our list that showcases a player wearing that iconic Sox uniform (the current White Sox will give away replica jerseys during the Saturday home game following the Field of Dreams contest) that features in both “Field of Dreams” and “Eight Men Out.” Cicotte was 29–7 during that fateful regular season while posting a 1–2 mark in that notoriously tainted World Series.
“Knuckles,” as he was known, was a fiery competitor who was infamous for not taking any guff from anybody. He was the key to throwing the series. Without Cicotte, the game one starter and best pitcher in all of baseball at the time, the gamblers would not have been able to pull it off. And this card, which features a drawing and not a photograph, depicts him at that portion of his career.
While aged 35 in 1919, Cicotte was peaking, and one has to wonder what else he might have been able to accomplish. While there are other Cicotte cards out there, this one is most iconic of the scandal with which he is almost synonymous.
1919-21 W514 Hand Cut Chick Gandil
Among the players, Arnold “Chick” Gandil was the ringleader of the plot. History tells us that he was also the originator of the scheme. He was supposedly paid $35,000 (about half a million dollars today) to manage and execute the scam. The middle man between the team and the mob-backed gamblers, it turns out, he hornswoggled his own teammates, as he allegedly kept most of the payoff kitty.
Then promptly retired from baseball. A lot of what we said above about the Cicotte card applies here, as this specific set is the one you must seek out if you’re trying to collect the Black Sox. It features seven of the eight banished ballplayers, by far the most in the hobby.
1919-21 W514 Hand Cut Swede Risberg
While Gandil was the ringleader, the Swede was his right-hand man in the series scam. Some players were more obvious about their tanking than others, but none telegraphed it quite like Risberg. He went 2 for 25 at the plate against the Cincinnati Reds and committed eight errors (a World Series record that still stands).
Risberg was paid $15,000 (about $235,000 in today’s money) for his (lack of) efforts. While his light hitting that October wasn’t too suspect, as he never hit above .266 for a single season during his abbreviated career, the fielding gaffes were a major red flag. That’s because Risberg was one of the best, if not the best, defensive shortstops in the game that season.
His depiction on this card is interesting, especially when one learns that Swede had a reputation as a degenerate. The look on his face in this card, the one you got to have if you’re collecting this player, certainly indicates that.
1919-21 W514 Hand Cut Lefty Williams
Claude “Lefty” Williams still holds the record for most games lost in a single World Series with three. Although, really, this record should have an asterisk given that those Ls were intentional. In the series finale, game eight (they were experimenting with the format and did a best-of-nine), he didn’t even make it out of the first inning, just as he had been reportedly instructed to do.
Williams earned $5,000 for his partaking in the scam, which was half of what he was promised. To get this card in decent or better condition, it will likely cost you more today than Williams got paid for dumping games back then. Although, to be fair, the amount Williams received would be worth about $78,524 in today’s dollars.
1912 American Tobacco T207 Buck Weaver
George Earl “Buck” Weaver lived and played in a time where essentially all ballplayers had nicknames, and they were almost always referred to by said monikers. In this era, even the baseball cards showed listed the players by a nickname instead of their given name.
Buck Weaver is an interesting story all within himself. He was basically the scandal’s worst collateral damage, as all accounts showed he played to win, didn’t take any of the dirty money, and yet found himself with the same baseball death sentence as all the players who were on the take. Why? Because he knew of the scam being pulled but didn’t tell anyone that the fix was in. No one was more adamant and consistent about their innocence than Weaver, and he tried to publicly clear his name every year until his death.
Off all of Bucky’s cards, this issue best exemplifies the spirit of this man, one who loved the game above all else. Condition is this set can be a big problem, though. Like all tobacco cards, their small size created wear and tear on the front.
1915/16 M101-5 Sporting News Hap Felsch
As many movies often convey to us, the bad guys are often much cooler. The 1919 White Sox were a team that totally defied all the cliches about needing team chemistry as they dominated opponents despite being divided into two factions. One included the degenerates, hard-drinkers, and those known to consort with the criminal underworld.
The other side included the clean-cut, wholesome, straight arrow sort. Oscar Emil “Happy” Felsch was played in Eight Men out by actor Charlie Sheen. I think you can assume which crowd Felsch was with! To this day, Felsch still shares the records for double plays by an outfielder in a season (15) and assists in a single game (4). However, he made some uncharacteristic errors in the 1919 World Series, where he also hit just .192. If you’re looking for a card of the Milwaukee native, then this is the one to get.
1915 Zee-Nut Minor League Fred McMullin
The easiest card to select on this list as it is the only individual card of McMullin. It’s also the hardest to find card on this list because he was an extremely obscure utility infielder. To date, PSA has only graded three and a low-grade McMullin card, an SGC 1.5 sold in 2018 for over five grand.
Why McMullin, a bench-warmer, was included in the plot remains a mystery. Some say it was because he overheard the ringleaders, with which he was friends, discussing the scheme.
1916 Famous and Barr #33 Eddie Collins
You can’t cover the Black Sox without discussing the star player who ratted them out and testified against them. Collins was one of the few guys on the team who was actually getting paid what he was worth, and he wasn’t exactly chummy with the crooked ballplayers on the squad. Hence he testified against them in the criminal conspiracy trial (all eight were acquitted). At the national, I saw an ex5 version of this card on sale for $775 and seriously considered it.
But then again, if I’m going to splash the cash like that, on rather extravagant expenditures, I’d get a card of someone who was in the Black Sox, not one of the “Clean Sox.” As Billy Joel famously said, “I’d rather laugh with the sinners than cry with the saints- the sinners are much more fun.”