The 1911 Chicago Union Giants panoramic postcard that Brian Campf sent me recently reminds of another fantastic Union Giants image, this one a broadside shown to me by Jason Miller last year. I was going to post it then, but other things got in the way, and I never got around to it. So, with apologies to Jason, here it is at last:
On the bottom it says “Will Play at Rockford July 8.” That could refer to Rockford, Illinois, where the Union Giants regularly played circa 1910-1911, although I haven’t found a Union Giants game reported on exactly that date during those years. (It might also refer to other Rockfords, such as the one in Minnesota or the one in Michigan.)
Here’s a detail of the team:
Jason was unsure of the exact year of the broadside and the identities of the players, and I couldn’t help him much at the time. But comparison with Brian’s postcard, which has been definitively dated to September 6, 1911, shows that several of the same players appear in both—so Jason’s broadside must date from sometime around 1911, though maybe not that year precisely. Here are the ones whose identity we can be pretty sure of (1911 postcard on left, undated broadside on right):
Bob Gilkerson, who played for the Union Giants from 1909 to 1916 (in 1917 he founded the Lost Island Giants, and in 1919 Gilkerson’s Union Giants). He was captain of the Union Giants in 1911 and 1912.
Horace Jenkins, Union Giants 1910-1914
Sam Gordon, Union Giants 1909 to 1912 (late in 1912 he joined the French Lick Plutos, and in 1913 he became their manager).
Lefty Harvey, Union Giants 1910-1912
The presence of Jenkins and Harvey in the broadside would narrow down its date to 1910 to 1912.
Of the other players we’ve identified in Brian’s postcard, Albert Toney and Haywood Rose seem to have played for the Union Giants only in 1911 (Rose is listed on a Union Giants roster once in 1912, but I haven’t found a box score showing him playing for the team.) Neither of them seems (to me) to be in Jason’s broadside—which would be an indication that the broadside might date from 1910 and 1912, but probably not 1911. (Although Toney joined the team partway through the 1911 season.)
There are four players who probably appear on Brian’s 1911 postcard who aren’t matched to a specific face:
Guy Jackson, Union Giants 1910-1911
Mack Ramsey, Union Giants 1909-1917
Ed Lee, Union Giants 1910-1911
Hub Alexander, Union Giants 1911-1914
At least two of these still-unidentified players are also on the 1910-1912 broadside (again, 1911 postcard on left, undated broadside on right):
Lee, Ramsey, and Jackson all appeared for the Union Giants in 1910, but not Alexander (as far as I know); Guy Jackson and Ed Lee didn’t play for the Union Giants in 1912, but Ramsey and Alexander did. Given that two of these four appear in the broadside, that would seem to be an indication that the broadside dates from 1912, as the 1912 Union Giants shared only two of these players with the 1911 edition, while the 1910 Union Giants had three of them. If the broadside shows the 1912 team, then the two players pictured above might be Ramsey and Alexander, though which is which is still unknown.
I might also have a line on one of the unknown players in Jason’s 1910-1912 broadside, a player holding a catcher’s mitt (at right).
In 1910 and 1911 Gordon and Washington caught for the Union Giants; in 1910 there’s a third one, usually identified in the box scores as “B. Jones” (to distinguish him from outfielder Willis Jones). (I haven’t found his first name yet.)
And the 1912 Union Giants also used a third catcher. An article by Bob Gilkerson in the March 16, 1912, issue of The Freeman (Indianapolis), mentions the presence of “Armstroad [sic], the St. Paul Gophers’ reliable catcher,” who “will help old warhorse Gordon to cut off the men from pilfering bases.” He’s referring to George “Mule” Armstrong, who did indeed catch for the Union Giants that season. Here’s a comparison of the unidentified player with the catcher’s mitt from Jason’s broadside (on the left) with the only two photos I have of Mule Armstrong (on the right).
The catcher in the broadside looks intriguingly similar to the first picture of Armstrong (in the middle), but not so much to the second one, and in any case the eyebrows are a problem, in my opinion.
If Armstrong is in the broadside, that would be a very solid reason to think that it dates from 1912 rather than 1910—but I can’t go there just yet. Careful work might just tell us for sure, and might also help to sort out the unidentified players on Brian’s 1911 postcard.
Lastly, there’s one player I can identify in Jason’s broadside who is not in Brian’s 1911 postcard.
This is, I believe, a catcher named William Washington. The picture of Washington on the right is from this 1908 postcard of the Union Giants, which is also from Brian Campf. Washington played for the Union Giants earlier in 1911, but was apparently not with the team in the Upper Peninsula in September. He was also with the team for part of 1912. So his presence in the broadside is not inconsistent with either 1910 or 1912.