Just who were those guys in the T206 set? A new book will offer some insight.
Sometimes the names on its’ checklist echo like cannon fire through canyons of baseball’s past … Ty Cobb, Cy Young, Nap Lajoie, Christy Mathewson. At other times, other names, like Honus Wagner and the name of the set itself … "The T206 Collection" … are spoken in the hushed tones of an art gallery or museum.
There are many reasons why the T206 set is almost always described as the "Holy Grail" of card collecting and it’s hard to decide which is most dominant. The set and its keyhole look at a country reaching adulthood and a sport learning to run before it would never walk has enticed thousands for a century now.
You wouldn’t have to mentally squint too hard to see the T206 set as baseball’s "baby pictures". And while looking through old snapshots is always fun, what brings them to life are the stories behind them. A new book from Peter Randall publishing, set for release in April tells all of the stories of the most famous baseball card set of all time.
The T206 Collection – The Players & Their Stories was born in the imaginings of author Tom Zappala while looking over his own T206 collection.
"One day I was staring at a Lena Blackburne card, and began to wonder what kind of a player Lena Blackburne really was. In reality, he was not a very good player at all, but he made a contribution to baseball that remains to this day."
The book continues the story of the player who pioneered the practice of taking the shine off new baseballs by rubbing them with a very fine mud from the Delaware River. Even now, every baseball used in play during in every major and minor league game is rubbed with Lena Blackburne’s mud, taken from the same secret location in the Delaware River, by a company founded by Blackburne, and still run by a descendant.
"As I dug a little deeper," says Zappala. "I found out that a majority of the players in the collection had a little story to tell that contributed to changing our national pastime into what it is today. Their backgrounds were unbelievably diversified… farmers, city-bred,rich, poor, educated and uneducated. Another thing that really interested me was some of their post-baseball careers. They became doctors, politicians, actors … criminals."
Other players in the set offer similar stories that still echo through the game today.
One of them is the reason every professional baseball field features coaches boxes.
Another was the inspiration for the character of "Bump Bailey" who dies after crashing through an outfield fence in the movie "The Natural".
Members of the T206 set were four of the five Charter Inductees to the Baseball Hall of Fame, and another player in the set was the man who coined the iconic nickname of the fifth Charter Inductee, "Babe" Ruth.
Co-author Ellen Zappala says that her involvement in the project started with her husband’s interest in the T206 set, "but as the project evolved, I got hooked by the human side of the players’ stories."
"It was amazing to me to learn about the hardships many of the players went through just for one shot at the major leagues, and many never got that shot. Even the major leaguers of the day didn’t make a lot of money. Most players worked in the off-season in a factory, in shipyards, or on the family farm to make ends meet. Some were also boxers and tournament pool players, and the more popular players even worked in vaudeville reviews."
"Some players were college boys, and some were not well educated. Some players were professional men…dentists, pharmacists, bankers, and business owners but during the season they played baseball."
The 242 full-color, hard-bound pages of T206 Collection – The Players & Their Stories includes biographies of every player in the T206 set from Honus Wagner, to over 100 minor leaguers along with each player’s personal and professional statistics.
Professional Sports Authenticator’s Joe Orlando wrote the book’s foreword, and an entire chapter on understanding the value of the cards in the set.
For more information about The T206 Collection – The Players & Their Stories, visit their website at T206players.com.
The book is available for pre-orders at Amazon.com.