We’ve teamed up with Helmar Brewing Company, makers of some of the hobby’s most iconic art cards, for the “Card of the Week”. This is the second installment in the series as we again feature one of the company’s original, unique creations–and the story behind it. Learn about the cards, the series, the history and how you can own them through these weekly tales from the diamond.
Over a century has passed but the Detroit Tiger squads of 1907 through 1909 are still ranked among baseball’s finest teams. In those three seasons the Tigers completely dominated the American League, winning the “peanut” (pennant) easily while compiling a 280-175 mark. A vital part of the team was first baseman Claude Rossman, a man that endured a slow, tragic end and who is mostly forgotten today.
Ty Cobb, Rossman’s teammate during those heady days, recalled him as, “our lanky first baseman…with his long arms, could reach anything around the plate… (he) was one of the most dependable hit-run men and the best sacrifice bunter that I ever saw.”
But Claude Rossman could do much more than sacrifice bunt.
In the field he had an almost unparalleled range, perhaps second only to that of the legendary Prince Hal Chase. And at the plate Rossman was no slouch; on what was the best offensive team in baseball he batted fifth, just behind Cobb and Sam Crawford.
The most remarkable aspect about Claude Rossman’s career cannot be found in his batting or fielding statistics. Instead, it can be found in the sheer number of times that he played for a first place club. It seems that nearly every club that he joined became a big winner immediately. Detroit, for example, did not take the peanut until the addition of Rossman in 1907. After two more first place finishes in ’08 and ’09, Rossman found himself demoted in 1910 (more on that later) to Minneapolis in the American Association. The Millers had finished a weak third in ’09 but Rossman was once more been the missing piece to the puzzle. With the first sacker consistently hitting above .300, Minneapolis not only won in ’10 but repeated in 1911 and 1912. That completed a remarkable string of six straight first place finishes for the Philmont, New York native.
Rossman’s demotion from the big leagues had a mental component. While his hitting and ability to field the ball continued to be excellent, he somehow found himself unable to throw the ball to second base when a runner was advancing. He simply froze and it was not long before the entire league was taking advantage of the struggling 28-year-old. This unusual trait may have been the first inkling of later troubles; not long after his playing days he is said to have suffered a major mental breakdown. Sadly, he was later committed to Poughkeepsie’s Hudson River State Hospital for the Insane. After several years as a patient, he died there in 1928 at the age of 46.
The card is part of the ongoing Helmar-Our Guy series. Each card is 1.625″ x 2.65″.
To visit Helmar’s eBay storefront and read more about Claude Rossman and the Our Guy series, click here.