This Athletic Club t-shirt dates back to roughly 1910, and features the primitive, wide-necked, straight-shouldered pattern that would go largely unchanged from roughly 1900 to 1950. More important than the shirt’s early vintage is its label itself, which harkens back to the Golden Age of celebrity endorsements; the Spalding-influenced graphic boldly declaring its allegiance with the greatest shortstop of the Deadball-Era:
Pittsburgh’s Honus Wagner (AKA the Flying Dutchman.)
Wagner was unusual not only for his prodigious talent (which resulted in eight batting titles, 732 stolen bases, and 3,430 hits), but also for the airtight control he exercised over the licensing of his name and image. A teetotaler, he famously turned down a contract from the American Tobacco Company (then the world’s leading distributor of baseball cards) because he didn’t want to encourage smoking amongst minors. Somehow, despite Wagner’s rejection, a few ATC cards were printed and slipped into distribution, but these are exceedingly rare. One of the clandestine imprints sold at auction last year for $2,105,770.50, setting an all-time record. BUT…as valuable as the Wagner tobacco cards are, several examples are known to exist. Have you ever seen another one of these shirts…?