When an athlete’s name was attached to a baseball board game, the manufacturer simply paid for the player’s endorsement and the use of his image.
Walter Johnson was willing to sit down and play it with a youngster or two.
A mid-1920s image showing Johnson in promotional mode at the annual American Toy Fair in New York City is the RMY Auctions Photo of the Day. The 6 ½” x 8 ½” Underwood & Underwood news photo is among the featured items in the company’s current online catalog.
In the 90+ years since it was first issued, the Walter Johnson Baseball Game has become one of the most popular and sought after antique sports board games.
Johnson, arms folded as he sits at a table in a suit complete with a flower on the lapel, is showing a young boy how to play the game. In the background is a stack of brand new games that feature his image on the front.
Johnson did participate in photo sessions for the game but auction officials say it’s the only image of Johnson unveiling it to the public. The photo is exceptionally high grade with little wear and a caption still attached to the back.
The game was relatively simple. It included a flat 10×14 board with a diamond illustration. A weighted top was spun to determine the outcome of the “play.” High grade copies are scarce today and rarely include all of the various pieces.
The photo is one of over 1,300 images in RMY’s auction, which runs through Saturday, March 6.