Compared to the 1914 issue, the 1915 Cracker Jack baseball cards are a piece of cake. Unlike the debut issue when the cards were only available inside sticky boxes of candied popcorn and peanuts, the ’15 CJ’s could be had by sending in for what amounted to proofs of purchase. You had to eat a lot of it, but sending in for a set was something a lot of kids (and presumably adults) did.
Today, the cards from both sets are extremely popular but it’s that second year issue that average collectors and newcomers can latch onto without fabulous wealth.
1) Fred Merkle. He was a very good player who just happened to make one bad move during an important game (think Bill Buckner). Merkle’s career put him in the middle of some incredible games and the lasting hubbub surrounding ‘Merkle’s Blunder’ is a fascinating story. He stands with his arms folded on this card, as if the publicity after he failed to touch second base in September 1908 had made him guarded. By the way, did you know his real name is actually Carl Frederick Rudolph Merkle? He’s one of the famous Dead Ball era players but you can find a graded VG Merkle for around $150-175.
2) Chief Meyers. He was right in the middle of the action during the deadball era, playing in some of the most important games of the era. Chief (real name John) was the battery mate for Hall of Fame pitcher Christy Mathewson and the duo helped lead John McGraw’s New York Giants to three straight National League pennants. Meyers played in four World Series before his long career was over.
He came from the Cahuilla Indian culture of California, went to college at Dartmouth and was a good-natured chap despite dealing with racism during his career. Meyers lived to the age of 90 and was interviewed for Lawrence Ritter’s The Glory of Their Times late life. Not that many 1915 Cracker Jack Chief Meyers cards have been graded so it’ll be a challenge to find one for sale but a ‘3’ sold not long ago for $145.
3) Fred Clarke. If you don’t know much about Fred Clarke, you should start learning. Clarke was a great hitter, a Pete Rose-like competitor and a great manager—sometimes all at once. He had over 2600 hits, batted .312 for his career, won four National League pennants including three in a row and served as the Pittsburgh Pirates player-manager.
Clarke was an Iowa farm boy who became one of the most well-known baseball figures in the first quarter of the 20th century. Clarke’s card can get a little pricey. Try a “2” at around $200.
4) Connie Mack. His largely forgettable playing career was spent entirely in the 19th century but Connie Mack was still managing (though not very well) in 1950 at age 88. Mack had already captured three World Series championships with the Philadelphia A’s by the time his 1915 Cracker Jack card was issued (he’d win two more). Remarkably, $275 should buy you a VG example. Just a great card to have in your collection.
5) Hal Chase. As honest and forthright as Connie Mack was, Hal Chase was seldom above bending the rules, breaking them or taking a little cash in return for doing something he shouldn’t. Still, he was a handsome dude who was enormously popular and talented. A California guy, Chase was one of the first players who starred on both coasts during his pro career. Babe Ruth and Walter Johnson thought he was the best first baseman they’d ever seen.
He’s not in the Hall of Fame but in 1981, baseball historians named Hal Chase as one of the greatest 100 players in history. His 1915 Cracker Jack card is less than $200 in very good condition.