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Deaf-mute Pitcher's Minor League Card a Real 'Fit for a King' Find

Bill Wagner - Babe Waxpak by Bill Wagner, "Babe Waxpak"
May 16, 2005

Dear Babe: I have a strange-looking baseball card. It is 1-1/2 x 2-1/2. It has a color drawing of a player named Buffalo Taylor. The uniform has the letter "B" on it. The back of the card says "Sovereign Cigarettes - Fit for a King" and under that "Base Ball Series - 350 Subjects - Factory No. 25, 24 Dist. Va." Do you know anything about this card?
Essie Grissom, Covington, Ga.

Actually it's Taylor of Buffalo. In the days before political correctness, "Dummy" Taylor, whose given name was Luther, pitched for the New York Giants. He was a deaf-mute who overcame the disabilities in compiling a 116-106 record over nine Major League seasons from 1900-1908, mostly with John McGraw's New York Giants. He was 21-15 in 1904.

Since you have his 1909 T206 card showing him with Buffalo, he obviously pitched in the minors after his big league career ended, since the Bisons were an International League team and still are today. Beckett's Almanac of Baseball Cards and The Standard Catalog of Baseball Cards from the editors of Sports Collectors Digest list Taylor's T206 card at $375 (Standard Catalog) in near-mint condition down to about $60 (Beckett) in very good condition. That top value includes a premium because cards with Sovereign backs are more rare than those with Piedmont and Sweet Caporal backs.

"Total Baseball" notes in its bio on Taylor that McGraw learned enough sign language to communicate with his deaf pitcher. One afternoon, the duo was comparing opinions on umpire Tim Hurst's abilities. Unknown to them, Hurst had a deaf relative and understood sign language. The umpire didn't like what he was seeing and tossed them both out of the game.

Dear Babe: My son was given an autographed baseball from his grandfather, Tom Witherspoon, who had served with Ted Williams in WWII. Williams signed the baseball while still playing ball in 1952.
Tom Gengler, Long Beach, Calif.

Single-signed Ted Williams baseballs are on the rise. The ball is probably worth $300-$400 thanks to the fact that top-of-the-line, single-signed Williams baseballs are now selling for $500-$700, said Phil Castinetti of Sportsworld in Everett, Mass., a suburb of Boston.

Dear Babe: I have a soft cover copy of "Who's Who in Baseball" that was published in 1912. It's a "first edition." Recently you wrote about a Who's Who book from 1933, noting it was the original. Please explain.
Robert Morse, Nashua, N.H.

Whew. Da babe makes his fair share of errors, but not this time. You've got the first "Who's Who in Baseball." The 1933 book was the first time out for "Who's Who in the major leagues." Your original is worth $1,000-$1,500, if it's in nice shape, said Mike Heffner, president of Lelands.com auction house in New York.

Dear Babe: I have a Highland Mint sports memorabilia item from Ted Williams. It is an autographed 8x10 black and white picture along with a piece of a bat. It's in a sealed frame and it's marked 08/15. I think that means only 15 were made.
Eric Pinzon, Riverside, Calif.

I checked with the folks at The Highland Mint. They did release a game-used bat/autographed photo combo in the late 1990s. It sold wholesale to dealers for $98 and retailed for $150-$300. Today, it's worth around $500, said Phil Castinetti of Sportsworld in Everett, Mass., a suburb of Boston.

Dear Babe: My wife bought an autographed Mickey Mantle baseball for me for Christmas in 1994 from Hammacher Schlemmer. It had a certificate of authentication. My problem is I have lost the certificate. It has Bobby Brown's signature as president.
John Pogue, Riverside, Calif.

I'm not sure how much an older COA would help. If you sold the ball through a major auction house, it would be authenticated before going up for sale. Mantle baseballs have been on the rise with top values now at $600-$700. Mike Gutierrez, owner of MGAuction.net in Arizona, attributes the rise to the fact the existing supply of Mantle baseballs has dwindled and many of the forgeries have been cleared through authentication. Lower supply means an increase in value. I'd say your ball is going to be in the $300-$500 range, possibly more with authentication.

Want more? Check out another Babe Waxpak column every Thursday exclusively on Redding.com.

About the author
Bill Wagner is a veteran journalist with 37 years in the newspaper business as well as being a former Army combat correspondent in Vietnam. He developed the Babe Waxpak sports card column in the 1980s and took over authorship in 1993, expanding into sports memorabilia and autographs as well as answering questions on cards.

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