Four seasons before a bad decision would end a brilliant baseball career, Oscar “Happy Felsch”, the best baseball player ever to come out of Milwaukee, WI, was a 23-year-old big league newcomer. A photo capturing the arrival of a key member of the Black Sox into the major league fraternity is now up for auction.
Originating with the Chicago Tribune Photo Bureau, the 5 ¼” x 6 ½” silver gelatin image shows Felsch standing between veteran White Sox teammates Braggo Roth and Shano Collins as the three men compare bats at the ballpark. It’s one of more than 400 images in RMY Auctions’ newly launched August online catalog.
The Sox had purchased Felsch from his hometown American Association Brewers in August of 1914 but allowed him to remain with the minor league club until the following spring. Felsch made his major league debut on April 14, 1915 and played for a salary of $2,500 per year, a figure that didn’t grow much over the course of the next five years and would become central to his decision to agree to conspire with teammates and throw the 1919 World Series to the Cincinnati Reds.
His debut season was an important year for the Sox. With Felsch joining fellow newcomers Joe Jackson and Eddie Collins and new manager Pants Rowland leading the way, the Sox rose from sixth place to third. In 1917, the Sox were World Series champions, led by Felsch, the hard-hitting centerfielder who was considered by then one of the game’s top stars. After enjoying the greatest season of his abbreviated career in 1920, Felsch and seven other Sox players were banned for life for the 1919 scandal.
While undated, the photo at auction unquestionably dates to 1915 as Roth was traded midway through Felsch’s rookie season with the Sox. In addition to the Tribune stamp on the back, a portion of the original paper caption remains attached. It’s the first time the photo has ever been offered at public auction.
Bidding continues through August 12 at RMYAuctions.com.