Huddy Meets Honus

You probably could not make up an All-Star team of them, but you might stock a couple of rosters, with active major leaguers who have a true interest of some kind in the history of the game. Adam Lind is an expert on Brooklyn Dodgers’ ace Carl Erskine, the other hero from their hometown of Anderson, Indiana. After a couple of generations of disinterest, nearly all players revere the memory of Jackie Robinson and the Negro Leaguers before and after Robinson broke the color barrier. Manager Joe Maddon of the Rays sat in the dugout on a sweltering day last summer at Yankee Stadium to watch the entirety of the Old Timers’ Day ceremonies and game.

You can include Tim Hudson of the Braves on this list. The veteran pitcher not only has a commendable knowledge of the history of the teams for which he played (coincidentally the only three-city franchises in the game: the Braves and Athletics), but also a reverence for the Hall of Fame that particularly extends to its original inductees. So after a couple of years of talking about it, it was my pleasure yesterday to arrange for this:

Huddy knew the history of this Relic – the 1909 Honus Wagner card, hardly the scarcest baseball card (not even the scarcest one in that series), but handily the best known. Hudson was able to explain to several others on the bench the history of the American Tobacco card set (known to collectors as T206) and why there are, at most, 100 copies of the Wagner known.

He studied it carefully, asked about the trimming of the card’s borders, the scrapbook residue on the back, some of the other key cards in the set, and how I happened to come by it (how else? I bought it. I’ve been collecting this set since I was 11 years old, and as soon as I became a really overpaid adult I reverted to being a really over-excited teenager and was able to scratch off the last T206 on my want list).

I have to confess I was genuinely surprised by the interest in the card in the Braves’ dugout. Even Chipper Jones was shocked to see it. I’ve known him since he was a rookie and his sangfroid – his amazing calm in the most charged-up of circumstances – was once illustrated when in the middle of a conversation with me his back once went into full spasm and he basically pitched over into his locker. All he did was say “And you know what else? I think I’m going to have to have this back looked at.” Yesterday, even Jones’ eyes widened at the sight of The Wagner.

Some were even more effusive. Phil Falco, the Braves’ Strength Coach and himself a collector (autographed ’57 Topps Football cards are his joy), arch-collector and Media Relations Director Brad Hainje, and broadcaster Joe Simpson were closer to the dropped-jaw stage. I only wish I had done this last year: Bobby Cox would’ve loved to have seen that card.

Incidentally, remind me to explain some time why I don’t believe either the theory that the card is scarce just because Wagner objected to his likeness being used to sell cigarettes, or even the alternate one I proposed nearly 30 years ago that as one of the few players of his era who was aware of the value of his own likeness he was actually holding out for money. I have lately come to believe that the timelines don’t add up, and that to some degree the rarity of the Wagner card was deliberately created, or at least enhanced, by the manufacturer.

For now, just seeing baseball players gape at a baseball card was a great deal of fun.


  1. Patricia Powell Couvillion

    I recognized it the minute I saw it…having seen it on Google Images, but I have never seen an original like the one you guys are showing here. Cool. Keith, they say you have the best card collection in the world. I mean, I have read or heard that more than once. What a joy for you to be able to share it with all the other guys who love the game so much! I wish we had a question and answer spot here at the blog. I seem to always wonder something after I read one of your wonderful blogs. Like…why that pitcher has that too-dark beard…if that Youklis stance really helps him…and why there is not a No Spitting sign anywhere in baseball. But these are probably questions that are unanswerable. Sometimes, a little mystery is a fun thing. Just like wondering why the Wagner card is so rare. Thanks! Hugs.

  2. PepeFreeUs

    Tim Hudson was a guy who I liked, respected and always enjoyed watching pitch when he was in Oakland. Since he came to the Braves, I’ve grown to really (insofar as this word applies in this circumstance) love him.

    Between his stellar mound work, his wonderful and wide ranging charitable activities and his general joie de vivre, he’s earned a place in the hearts of Braves fans. Reading all of this just deepens it that much more for me.

  3. Jeremy Sicking

    There is one other 3 city major league: the Baltimore Orioles. They played as the Milwaukee Brewers in 1901 before becoming the St. Louis Browns from 1902-1953.

    • Richard Hershberger

      The Brewers/Browns/Orioles triplet raises the interesting point that even fans who are historically aware tend to fade out once you go before Ty Cobb. Every such fan knows that the modern Orioles used to be the Browns, but the Brewers period was brief and a long time ago. But a glance at would show this.

      In any case, three-franchise cities is an easy one. How about a major league club which have held franchises in three leagues? I can think of only one unambiguous example, if the discussion is limited to current clubs. If we expand it to include defunct clubs there is at least one more example. won’t help with this one, or at least not much.

  4. Pingback: Keith will be on npr’s Fresh Air tomorrow, a new Word Storm and godly First Guess « Countdown with Keith Olbermann – Unofficial Fanblog
  5. MT

    Thanks for sharing this. As a Braves fan I have enjoyed following Huddy’s career and have long admired his professionalism. Now that I realize he reveres the game’s that just add’s to my appreciation for him.

    I also enjoy reading about Honus Wagner. I can’t wait until a major league historian releases a serious biography on his career.

  6. Dave Petty

    Thanks for the post. I always like it when I hear about players who are fans too. As far as Wagner goes I seem to remember reading he would call into the office of the Pirates and tell them he didn’t fel like playing anymore and was going to go fishing; until they, of course,offered him more money which he happily took. The first holdout? Probably not but he definitely knew his value.

  7. T206museum

    Keith, you are a great guy especially you bought that nun card from a guy who didn’t paid after he won from auction. I am sure those nuns are very appreciated!!!

  8. Mellow_Nomah

    On a slight tangent, the mention that Huddy has a particular reverence for the Hall of Fame brought to mind my one big beef with the Hall, which is the absence of Buck O’Neil from its membership. And that brought to mind a second thought. Did they print cards for the Negro league(s)? My guess is that they did not, but does anyone know?

  9. fashiongirl

    In any case, three-franchise cities is an easy one. How about a major league club which have held franchises in three leagues? I can think of only one unambiguous example, if the discussion is limited to current clubs. If we expand it to include defunct clubs there is at least one more example. won’t help with this one, or at least not much.

  10. Richard Dingman

    Hey, Keith, lots of us collectors join groups and post online wantlists to help each other out.
    Would love to see what you are collecting and what your wantlist looks like.


    There are some fascinating time limits in this article but I don’t know if I see all of them middle to heart. There may be some validity however I will take maintain opinion until I look into it further. Good article , thanks and we wish extra! Added to FeedBurner as nicely

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