As a kid, before the Internet existed, I got my early baseball knowledge from things like encylopedias, almanacs and books.
I remember walking into a bookstore that was right around the corner from my grandparents home and finding "Baseball As I Have Known It," by Hall-of-Fame writer Fred Lieb. Lieb's love for the game began in the early 1900s when he cheered on his Philadelphia Athletics during the American League's earliest days.
He would later cover that team, along with several others as he made his mark as a reporter in Philadelphia and New York. His book is a wealth of knowledge. And I read every page.
Chapter 8 is titled: Hal Chase: He had a corkscrew brain. It focuses on the darker side of baseball -- Gambling, throwing games, cheating, you name it. And at the center of it all was Hal Chase.
Chase was regarded as a smooth-fielding, good-hitting first basemen. One of the best. Some would even consider him as the deadball era's biggest draws along with Ty Cobb. Lieb mentions him as being on par with the likes of Lou Gehrig, Bill Terry, Frank Chance and George Sisler. But only when he wanted to be. It seems like he had all the skills but didn't always use them.
He would often be late in covering the bag or let the ball fall from his glove. Many of his managers flat out accused him of throwing games. And I think most baseball historians agree that he was no good. But he filled the stands and his antics were often overlooked.
By 1919, he was banished from the game. Many think he was instrumental in the Black Sox scandal that would rock baseball.
So in 1909, when a kid would have pulled this card from his dad's pack of cigs it must have come with some mixed emotions. Not only were you getting a card of one of the best but of a known cheat. Oh, and it was pink.
Probably not your first choice.
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