Thursday, June 25, 2015

No False Ansons

Part of the reason why I collect baseball cards the way I do is so that I can put a face to each and every name on the Cubs All-Time Roster; so, that there is a tome featuring everyone who was so lucky (or cursed) to play for the Chicago National League Ballclub.

It makes for a nice little artifact.

However, I often take for granted that the photo used on each card is actually that of the intended subject.  You'd think the people getting paid to select photos on baseball cards for a living would at least get the names right, if not the cropping, brightness and overall quality.

Especially so with the information available to us today at the touch of the finger and when the subject is a HOF player and one of the greatest players in his team's history.

But, then there's this:

The scan is a little dark, but that's a 2001 Cap Anson SP Legendary Cuts put out by Upper Deck.  It's a rather sharp card and, for once, I don't find the gold foil that obtrusive; it actually works really well with the dark blues and blacks in the design.

This card was a gift from my father way back when and was the first card of a 19th century baseballer that I added to my collection.  For those that don't know, the player-manager, despite his well-documented bigotry, was perhaps the greatest player of his era and still leads the Cubs' franchise in WAR all-time (84).

So great was "Pop" Anson's stature, that when he retired in 1897, the team's nickname was changed to the Orphans for a few seasons.

A fictionalized logo for the Chicago Orphans
Courtesy of

So, since he left such a large legacy and since he continues to pop up in baseball card sets pretty frequently, you'd think that this is in fact an image of Cap Anson, right?  Wrong.

A few weeks ago, while looking for old pictures of 19th Century Chicago ball players for use on potential custom cards (more on that in future posts), I happened across a website dedicated to Mr. Anson:  Cap Chronicled.

Within this website, there is a full archive of images of the first man to reach 3,000 hits in MLB history - including one that isn't actually Anson.

Image courtesy of Corbis Images

As you can see, this is the image that was cropped to make the SP Authentics card.  Apparently, the current owner of the rights to this photo is a company called Corbis Images and the have it incorrectly labelled as Cap in their records.  But, examinations by several 19th century baseball experts have identified the man pictured as fellow teammate Fred Pfeffer.

Image courtesy of the

This image sure seems like it depicts the same man - at least to my eye - and, unless Old Judge got it wrong back then too, we know that this is Pfeffer.

Let's also take a look at the card I have in my CATRC binder for the guy, a reprint of his
1895 N300 Mayo issue:

 Same thick and glorious mustache (though styled slightly different), same facial features and same cold stare.

Image courtesy of

Meanwhile, a close look at Cap's face reveal a more rounded nose, deeper set eye sockets that sloped downward and a more rounded chin.  At this point, I would say it's pretty clear that Pfeffer is a Pfaker.

I can't really blame Upper Deck though.  Whoever was in charge of photo selection came across clear, crisp image that was purported to be the correct player according to the proprietor.  That should be trustworthy information.

In addition, this has been a recurring problem.  Several cards have been released using the incorrect image and Corbis has yet to correct the matter.  Will the real Cap Anson please stand up, please stand up?

 Lifted these from Ebay; I do not have them in my collection

When I found all of this out, there was no way I could leave that card in my binder - not with it showing the wrong person.  Thankfully, over the years, I've acquired a few other Cap Anson cards and these do in fact feature the old-timey first baseman:

                          1992 Old Style Team Issue      2007 Hero Deck Playing Card         2006 Topps Allen & Ginter

Now, the card on the left, holds down the spot for Anson in the "player" section of my CATRC and the card on the right represents Cap in the "manager" section of the same binder. 

Meanwhile, the oddball in the middle just sits in my Cubs box, at the ready, just in case one of these images turns out to actually be Frank Chance or something crazy.

Can I see your ID please, Mr. Chance?

To conclude, it's not like image swapping hasn't occurred on baseball cards since the dawn of the industry; but, I am glad that I was able to correct this discrepancy in my own, personal collection.

I guess we take for granted how much information has to be reviewed for photo selection on baseball cards and it's really easy to gloss over and label an image incorrectly - especially for nostalgia sets based on players of yorn.

I wonder how many other issues like this are out there in the card collecting world; perhaps they haven't even been noticed yet?


  1. That's some fine detective work there.
    Anson played so long he had a bunch of nicknames - before Cap and Pop, he was "Kid" Anson as the youngest of his family on a team in his hometown (and the only one to actually play professionally.). He also had the nickname "Cry Baby" for awhile for his style of arguing with umpires.

  2. I've always thought that image didn't look like the same guy from my other Anson cards. And, as if that wasn't bad enough, a couple of the Anson cards I own list him on the White Sox rather than the Cubs, for some reason. Nice work!

    1. The Cubs were called the White Stockings while Anson played for the team in the 1870s and '80s - the name changed to the Chicago Colts for awhile, then when Anson retired the team called themselves the Chicago Orphans (because Pop was gone). The team was re-named the Cubs in 1903.

    2. Yea, that about covers it! Charlie Comic key wanted to capitalize on the success of the old White Stockings of his youth when starting up his Chicago American League team and thus assumed the name.

  3. Give this detective a gold star. Nice work.

  4. Very nice read. I love finding out new things on blogs.

    The closest I can think of this happening is when Topps confused Juan LeBron and Carlos Beltran.