They’re colorful works of art, but those who created T206 baseball cards started with black and white photographs. The images used to create them aren’t commonly found, but they offer some fascinating insight into what the artists saw when they were turning the photos into cards that would be inserted into millions of packs of cigarettes from 1909=1911.
One of those photos is now up for auction.
RMY Auctions is offering the 5 ¼ x 8 ½” image of Cincinnati Reds third baseman Mike Mowrey in its current online catalog. It’s the only one of its kind known to ever reach the hobby, having been pulled directly from a newspaper archive and is being offered for the first time.
The silver gelatin photo shows Mowrey running on the diamond with his glove tucked into his back pocket. It gives collectors their first look at the scene the artist was looking at since his T206 card depicts only a head and shoulders image. The T206 artist added the “Cincinnati” lettering to Mowrey’s jersey.
The back of the photo is stamped with a 1914 Central Press archive date but was likely captured a year or two before the T206 set was produced.
Mowrey may not be a household name today but if you were a baseball fan in the deadball era, you most certainly knew his name. A third baseman, Mowrey was known for knocking batted balls to the ground instead of snaring them with his glove. He appears as member of the Cincinnati Reds on his T206 card but would be traded to St. Louis before the 1909 season was over.
Mowrey had his best season ever with the Cardinals in 1910, batting .282 with 70 RBI and 21 stolen bases. He also played with the Pittsburgh Pirates, the short-lived Federal League team called the Pittsburgh Rebels and finished his big league career with the National League’s Brooklyn Robins. He continued to play semi-pro ball for several more years. Mowrey lived in Chambersburg, PA and died of heart disease in 1947.
The photo is one of several images in the auction that were used to create baseball cards. Bidding runs through March 6 at RMYAuctions.com.