Welcome to the Hall of Fame, Mr. O’Day

O'DayOn Tuesday it was announced that the Pre-Integration Committee of the Baseball Hall of Fame had elected Hank O’Day, with Hank receiving 15 votes from the 16-member commission.  O’Day, the only man in history to play, umpire, and manage in the National League, was an umpire in the first World Series in 1903, along with nine more Series during his 35-year career.  It was Hank O’Day who made what is probably still the most famous “out” call in history – the one where Hall of Famer Johnny Evers produced the baseball and stepped on second base, forcing out Fred Merkle in that infamous 1908 game.

O’Day, who passed away in 1935, was also a serviceable pitcher in his younger years, compiling a 73-110 record over a 7 year career lasting from 1884 to 1890.  It was in in 1889 that O’Day pitched for the champion New York Giants team that featured greats such as Buck Ewing, Jim O’Rourke, John Montgomery Ward, Roger Connor, Tim Keefe, and Mickey Welch – one of the most famous 19th Century baseball teams.

It was also in 1889 that O’Day posed for this cabinet photo at the Hartley Studio on Madison Street in Chicago.  The Harley studio, the “largest and finest equipped photographic gallery in the world,” according to the advertisements on the backs of some of their cabinets (but not this one), was one of Chicago’s most prolific, producing many photos for families and individuals in the late 1800s.

The 1889 Giants played a four-game series in Chicago against Cap Anson’s White Stockings from June 24-27, a three-game series from August 5-7, then finally one last three-game set from September 26-28.  O’Day began the 1889 season with the Washington Nationals, and was sold to New York on July 26 – so it is likely that this picture was taken in August or September of 1889 while the Giants were in town to play the White Stockings.

After the 1889 season, O’Day’s career blossomed as he moved with his Giants teammates to Monte Ward’s player’s league – however, more than 300 innings pitched took a toll on O’Day’s arm, and after one season in the minors, he became an umpire, working his first game in 1895. With two seasons interspersed into his long umpiring career (1912 with the Reds and 1914 with the Cubs), O’Day retired after the 1927 season.

If you’re a Hall of Fame collector and you want a Hank O’Day piece from his ballplaying days, acquiring a card will be pricy, but still you have a few options.  There are, of course, five different poses of O’Day in the massive N172 Old Judge set.  The N172s are his easiest to track down, and while we expect their values may take off in the immediate aftermath of O’Day’s selection to the Hall, they should come down to a reasonable level in short order.  For a more scarce (and expensive) alternative, there is an N173 Old Judge cabinet (one sold at public auction for $9,300 back in 2007).  Two poses of O’Day exist in the N175 Gypsy Queen set, and there is an O’Day in the 1888 M117 Sporting Times cabinet set.  Last Spring, an 1892 team cabinet of the Columbus baseball club, which featured O’Day among his teammates, sold at public auction.

The truly discriminating collector, however, may be interested in a more esoteric and possibly unique piece.  This lovely Hartley Studios cabinet may be just what the doctor ordered.  Evaluated and graded Authentic by SGC, the cabinet boasts a striking and clear profile image of the new Hall of Famer in his Giants uniform.  The mount is intact but clipped at all four corners and likely trimmed slightly on all four sides, based on the irregular-looking cut of the edges.  The reverse of the cabinet is clear with no writing, the ornate Hartley Portraits logo emblazoned across the entire surface.

This striking and possibly one-of-a-kind cabinet will be featured in our February, 2013 auction.  Come take a firsthand look at the Philly Show in Valley Forge, PA, this weekend.

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