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Lot # 16 (of 1866)   < Previous Lot | Next Lot >

Legendary N172 Old Judge Rarity: Deacon White Portrait Identified as “McGreachery, Mgr”

Starting Bid - $10,000, Sold For - $130,350

Presented is an extraordinary newly discovered example one of the most legendary rarities of the entire N172 Old Judge set and one of the most interesting of all nineteenth-century cards: The Deacon White portrait card misidentified as “McGreachery, Mgr.”

Prior to the recent fortuitous discovery of this card in a small collection of Old Judges that had not seen the light of day since the 1880s, there was only one other "McGreachery" example known to exist! That card, which, incredibly, was itself not discovered until the 1980s, is the plate specimen featured in The Photographic Baseball Cards of Goodwin & Company (1886-1890), the definitive book on Old Judges by Jay Miller, Joe Gonsowski, and Richard Masson. In addition to being inexplicably rare, one of the keys to the N172 Portraits subset, and featuring Hall of Famer Deacon White, it is an extraordinary (and possibly intentional) error card. Some have speculated over the years that the "McGreachery" card was perhaps a joke card with a hidden meaning. The makers of the Old Judge card set certainly knew Deacon White, one of the biggest stars and longest-playing veterans of the day. In fact, he has eight other poses in the set. How could the very famous and very easily recognized Deacon White possibly be misidentified by the card producers? In addition, Deacon White did not play for Indianapolis (the team on which he is identified on the card); he played for Detroit; and furthermore there was no player or manager named "McGreachery" with Indianapolis (or any other team). It is very possible that the McGreachery card is an intentional error card produced for the amusement of the card producers at Goodwin. A thorough scholarly discussion on the topic, in which theories are presented and commented upon by tremendously knowledgeable collectors, can be found on the extremely popular Net54 collectors message board site at the following address:

http://www.net54baseball.com/showthread.php?t=159990&highlight=mccreachery

Of special note in the Net54 discussion is the theory that "McGreachery" is a clever play on words, and an intentional joke card created by the producers of the set. The roots of words comprising the name "McGreachery," in Old English and Latin, according to research presented, translate to "Sweet Son of God" and "Fall from Grace." Hall of Famer James "Deacon" White was one of the premier stars of the first twenty years of professional baseball, as well as one of the players in the game most well known for his strong religious beliefs and moral lifestyle (hence the nickname "Deacon"). He was a member of five consecutive World Championship teams between 1873 and 1877, and is credited with the very first hit (as well the first catch) in baseball's first all-professional game in the first National Association game in history, in 1871. By 1888, he was naturally getting a little older and nearing retirement. The discussion on the Net54 message board powerfully makes the case that the name "McGreachery" is a double-entendre, referencing both Deacon White's strong religious views and his downfall as a ballplayer due to advancing age. The fact that he is misidentified as a manager, as opposed to as a player, and is even featured in a suit-and-tie and in portrait (both qualities reserved primarily for managers in the N172 set) is also consistent with the card having this hidden meaning. We will never know for sure, but other interesting cards in the N172 set do have subtle and clever hidden meanings. For example, the "Whitney with dog" card is not just a ballplayer (Art Whitney) with a dog. The card is a "study of two extremes": the loyal dog, and Whitney who was the opposite of loyal, constantly jumping from team to team. A card of Thomas Poorman of Milwaukee, with his name misspelled with a space between "Poor" and "Man" (thus reading "Poor Man") features an image in which he appears to be begging (a fielding photo giving this impression was chosen). These cards are obviously the result of the card makers having some good-natured clever fun at the expense of the subject.

Graded POOR 10 by SGC. The card displays outstanding photo contrast and is perfectly centered with even rounding to the corners. Entirely free of any creases or wrinkles. A single pinhole appears in the background of the image near the top border, and the blank reverse exhibits areas of paper loss and a small piece of excess paper (consistent with removal from an album). Despite the technical flaws (which are so common with Old Judges and are responsible for the modest grade), as can easily be seen, the card is extremely attractive and displays exceptionally well.

We will never know with certainty if the theory about Deacon White's "McGreachery" card is really the answer to unlocking the mysteries of the card. It may well be a card expressing a joke at the expense of Deacon White, perhaps even suggesting that at his advanced age in 1888 he would be better suited to be a manager than a player. At the very least, the McGreachery card is an error card of epic proportions, and one of the rarest and most fascinating of all N172 Old Judges. Reserve $10,000. Estimate (open). SOLD FOR $130,350


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