Featured Cards: 1928 W502 #15, Clarence Mitchell; 1928 W502 #44, Grover Cleveland Alexander; 1949 Bowman #115, Emil “Dutch” Leonard
As anyone with a familiarity with pre-WW II baseball cards can probably surmise, that particular portion of my Phillies baseball card database is the one causing me the most issues. There are plenty of reasons for this, not the least of which is the fact that so much of that material is documented rather poorly. As a result, figuring out what to include in the database can sometimes present a number of challenges. Case in point: the 1928 W502 set.
Based solely on the checklists made available by Beckett and Sports Collectors Digest, it would appear that card #15, Clarence Mitchell, is likely a Phillies card. After all, by 1928, he was appearing in his sixth season in the club, and it should be noted that the TeamSets4U checklists denote it as a Phillies card as well. However, the W502 set does not use team designations, which leaves the pictured uniform worn by the player as the only true way to apply a team designation. Typically, if team insignia are not visible, for whatever reason, on a card from a particular year, then I will go ahead and assign Phillies status to a player who played for the Phillies that particular season. None of the scans I had seen of the W502 Mitchell card clearly showed the letter/insignia on his hat, so I went ahead and denoted it as a Phillies card.
I finally picked up the card off of eBay last week and was able to get a good luck at it. Unfortunately, under the right magnification, it’s obvious that his cap bears a “B,” and Mitchell played for the Brooklyn Dodgers from 1916 through 1922. Thus, this by my reckoning, this is actually a Dodgers card. I should’ve been more careful about this and been more insistent on seeing a high-quality scan before acquiring the card. After all, I had also listed the W502 Grover Cleveland Alexander card* in the database because it shows him in a Phillies uniform, and he hadn’t pitched for them since 1917. Because of the Alexander card, and a few others that I knew bore a picture of the player from an earlier year with a different team, I should’ve waited until I properly ascertained whether or not the team insignia on Mitchell’s cap was truly too blurry to discern.
So, I now need to make a decision. With a couple notable exceptions, my Phillies collection only contains cards which in some fashion denote the player (or one of the players, in the case of multi-team cards) as a member of the Phillies, and those exceptions (for example, the 1949 Bowman Emil “Dutch” Leonard) are in there because when looking solely at the front of the cards they appear to be a Phillies card. By my criteria, the W502 Mitchell card, despite his status with the club when the card was issued, is most certainly not. However, since receiving my W502 Mitchell card, I have researched more carefully all the other Mitchell cards I placed in the database (the 1927 York Caramels and the various F50 sets (Harrington’s/Sweetman/Tharps’s/Yuengling’s) and determined that they all use the same design and photo as the W502. Thus, there really is no other way to add a Clarence Mitchell card to my collection.
I haven’t made up my mind yet as to whether I’ll keep the card or place it back on eBay to recoup the funds and use the money for a different card. I am, however, leaving it and its very similar brethren in the database with a notation in the Notes column describing the picture and his status with the team. I’m sure other collectors would denote it as a Phillies card, so it feels like it belongs in there — I just don’t know yet whether it belongs in my collection.
*W502 Grover Cleveland Alexander image courtesy of VintageCardPrices.com.