Among the many challenges of completing the T206 set is the subset of nearly 50 players from the Southern Leagues. The majority of these minor league players are not well known by collectors. Despite that, they are not necessarily cheap by comparison. While other low-grade T206 commons can be purchased starting around $20 or so, finding Southern Leaguer cards under $75 or $100 that aren’t heavily damaged condition wise can be a bit of a challenge. Southern Leaguer cards with the rarer Old Mill back, of course, also sell for a premium over those with a Piedmont back.
Some of the cards are a bit more notable than others. Here’s a look at five keys to the Southern Leaguers subset.
Without a doubt, the card of Shag Shaughnessy has become the most popular card in the subset.
Many collectors of modern cards aren’t likely to be familiar with him. And even some collectors of vintage cards may squint awkwardly upon hearing his name. But to collectors of T206 cards, he’s become a bit of a cult hero.
Shaughnessy is not recognized for his baseball prowess, per se. After all, he appeared in only nine major league contests (all before his T206 cards were even issued), recording a total of nine hits with the Philadelphia Athletics and Washington Senators. Rather, he is popular because of his unique hairstyle on the card and, more importantly, because his card has been known as a difficult one to find.
Finding Shaughnessy cards these days isn’t downright impossible. But his card is more difficult to locate than those of other Southern Leaguers. Some collectors believe the card has been hoarded over the years by others hoping to collect as many of them as possible, thus taking a large quantity off the market. Others believe that Shaughnessy’s card is popular as he also played football in college for Notre Dame. But whatever the reason, his card is generally considered the key to the subset.
In decent condition, the card usually starts in the $200-$300 range but many sell for more.
Few players in the Southern Leagues had long major league careers, but Bill Bernhard certainly built a quality career.
In all, Bernhard lasted nine years in the major leagues, playing in Philadelphia (for both the Phillies and Athletics) and Cleveland (for the Bronchos and Naps before they became the Indians). Bernhard wasn’t just a roster filler, either, winning at least 15 games in five different seasons, and 14 in a sixth. His 18-5 mark in 1902 gave him a .783 winning percentage, which led the American League.
Decent copies of Bernhard’s cards generally start around $100 – $125.
While Bernhard was known as a reliable major league pitcher, fellow Southern Leaguer Bill Hart was less impressive. Hart, in fact, is known more for his losing.
Hart broke into the majors in 1886 and he played on and off there across eight seasons. Despite playing eight years in the majors, Hart never had a winning record. He hadn’t strayed too far from .500 baseball in his first several years but was 12-29 in 1896. His 29 defeats with the St. Louis Browns led the entire majors that season and he came close to replicating that the following year, going 9-27.
Hart was a career 66-120 pitcher in the majors and he had a career 4.65 ERA. Frankly, it’s surprising he was given as many opportunities as he was since his ERA was over 5.00 in 1896 and then over 6.00 in 1897. Still, all of that losing hasn’t hurt his card values that much as his cards still generally start around $75-$100 in decent shape.
Of all of the Southern Leaguers, Al Orth no doubt was one that may have put together the best career in the major leagues.
Orth’s 15-year career included a total of 204 wins. Now, with 189 losses, Orth wasn’t flat out dominant and was essentially a .500 pitcher. Still, few in the Southern Leaguers subset had the kind of longevity in the majors that he did.
Six times, Orth won at least 15 games and he came close to that, winning 14 games five other times. Orth was one of the Yankees’ (then the Highlanders) first notable pitchers and in 1906, his 27 wins with the club led the entire major leagues. His 36 complete games that season also led the league.
Given how much success he had in the majors compared to his Southern Leaguer counterparts, Orth’s cards starting around $100-$125 in decent condition are a bit of a bargain.
Harry Lentz … Er, Sentz
Unlike others on the list, Harry Sentz never appeared in a major league game. So little is known of his career, in fact, that the esteemed Baseball Reference website can’t even definitely tell us if he was right-handed or left-handed.
Sentz played parts of five seasons in the minor leagues, even achieving a bit of success, hitting .295 in 1911 and then .375 in limited action in 1912. But he never excelled to the point that he played in a major league contest.
Sentz’s card is notable not for his playing ability but for a typo. His cards have his last name spelled Lentz, causing some confusion over the years as collectors have tried to learn more about him.
The typo has not done anything to increase his cards’ values, though, since it was never corrected. All of them carry the Lentz name so there’s no difference among them. His cards generally start in the $100-$125 range for something above low grade.