He was about 16 when he started saving them. Nearly 50 years after Glenn Bosworth was hoarding Joe Tinker, Johnny Evers, Frank Chance, Mordecai Brown, Christy Mathewson and other stars of the deadball era diamond, the baseball cards he had pasted into an album were still there.
By the time he spoke to a curious newspaper reporter in 1960, the guy the locals called “Speed” was a baseball icon, too. In fact, without his notoriety in and around Akron, OH, it’s unlikely anyone would have wanted to tell his story. Forgotten for nearly 60 years, I found it in an old newspaper. Since it’s not every day we can “meet” someone who actually collected T206 and other cards issued more than a century ago, we’ll make sure he’s remembered in the 21st century, too.
The Akron Beacon-Journal, which had reported on many of his exploits as a semi-pro baseball player, coach, promoter and supporter of local teams, dropped in on the 64-year-old Bosworth in May of 1960. He was still active in the game, adding pro scout to his list of accomplishments.
Speed, it seems, had been reading an article in the American Weekly about the popularity of baseball cards. After seeing that a Honus Wagner card was worth about $250 (insert groaning sound here), Speed’s ears perked up. He had collected cards from what we know as the T206 series as a teenager growing up near Terre Haute, IN.
“From about 1910 on, I collected trading cards-or to be more accurate, collected and gambled for them,” he told reporter Phil Dietrich. Not just T206s, it seems, but T205, Fatima, Sporting Life and others.
Whether he had taken up smoking or gotten the tobacco cards from those who did wasn’t revealed, but his method for acquiring many of them is one kids would use for decades to come. The idea was to find a friend who also had some cards and “flip” for them. The guy who owned the card that landed right side up after being dropped from a distance above the ground pocketed the other guy’s player. Speed was apparently pretty good at it. He had accumulated 834 cards before he quit collecting and was drafted into World War I.
“Practically every boy in Indiana, it seemed, was a Cubs fan in those days,” he said. “And a lot of rivalry was involved in getting trading cards involving Cubs players.”
The cards he’d pasted into his scrapbook would stay there for decades until he read that article in 1960 and showed them to the Beacon-Journal. Thankfully for those of us reading it in 2019, the photographer took a great photo of Speed proudly holding his baseball card scrapbook. With 834 in his collection, there were probably more on display that day. Speed told Dietrich he hadn’t yet found a Wagner in his stash, but if he didn’t start collecting until 1910, he likely missed the brief window before Honus told the American Tobacco Company folks to remove him from the T206 set.
He told Dietrich he’d call back if he did. “If I’m in the money, I’ll let you know.”
What became of that scrapbook has likely been lost to time unless it has somehow been passed down and stayed out of the modern day hobby or someone knows when it may have been sold. Yes, the method of storage would have rendered most to what we’d call “low grade” today. The coolness factor, though, would be off the charts if it’s still around.
We do know that Speed’s collection of personal baseball memorabilia is housed at the University of Akron, but there’s no sign of the cards in the online records.
Glenn Bosworth died in 1979 at age 85. He’s a Hall of Famer, too, having been inducted into the Greater Akron and Summit County Baseball Halls of Fame–an appropriate culmination of a lifelong love of baseball.