I recently ran across this photo, supposedly of the 1906 Philadelphia Giants, which was auctioned off back in 2006:
Here’s the conclusion of the catalog description:
“As for the detailing of the pictured elements, we identify [white sportswriter and Giants owner Walter] Schlichter, and Sol White likely sits to his immediate left. Rube Foster, we believe is the tallest player standing in the back row. The caption, ‘Season 1906’, was not applied to this print but, instead, to the original. This photo is a splendid rendering of a highly successful independent, Black baseball team that only anticipated the coming of the Negro Leagues - and one showcasing the Hall of Famer, Rube Foster, at the peak of his playing career.”
Despite the authoritative prose, nearly everything said here is completely wrong. True, it is the Philadelphia Giants, and that is Schlichter at the center of the photo. But neither Rube Foster nor Sol White is in the photo, which is readily apparent if you’ve ever seen any photos of them. Another star of the ’06 Giants, Pete Hill, is missing, too.
It’s not, however, a photo of complete nobodies. Standing at the far right is Danny McClellan, who played with the Giants through the 1910 season. Standing at the far left is Spottswood Poles, which tells us something. Poles joined the Philadelphia Giants in mid-season 1909, and played the 1910 season with the club, before jumping to the Lincoln Giants in 1911. So we’ve narrowed down the possible years to 1909 and 1910, when McClellan and Poles were on the Philadelphia Giants.
As it happens, I’ve located another photograph that shows a Giants team of a very similar vintage, this time with most of the players identified.
Poles and McClellan are seated to the right of Schlichter. Standing second from left is Bill “Bonehead” Pierce, who played for the Philadelphia Giants only in 1910. Next to him, standing in the center, is Jesse Barber, who played with the Giants in 1909 and 1910 before defecting to the American Giants in 1911. Next is Lee Wade and then Fisher (no first name known), both of whom pitched for the Giants in 1909 and 1910 only.
I can’t match everybody in the two photos for certain, with the exception of Schlichter, Poles, McClellan, Fisher (standing second from left in the first photo), and the two guys in front, who I believe are the same in both pictures: on the left Bill Francis and on the right William “Knucks” James, both of whom left the Giants after the 1910 season.
But there are a couple of interesting differences I’ve left for last. Consider first the guy sitting to the left of Schlichter in the original photo.
I believe he’s Bruce Petway:
Look anything like this guy?
The regular shortstop on the 1909 Philadelphia Giants was none other than John Henry Lloyd. In 1910 he was signed away by Rube Foster for his Leland Giants, and I don’t believe he is in the second photo.
So my conclusion is that the original photo above was mistakenly identified as the 1906 Philadelphia Giants. In fact, it’s really the 1909 Philadelphia Giants. The second photo, meanwhile, shows the 1910 Giants (note that Knucks James is still wearing his uniform from the previous year).
The first photo absolutely does not include Rube Foster, who was touted by the seller as the photograph’s main selling feature, or Sol White, who at the time of the auction (October 19, 2006) had been Foster’s companion in the Hall of Fame for only a few months. But the photo does show the Hall of Famer John Henry Lloyd, plus noted players Spot Poles and Bruce Petway. So maybe it was worth the price it went for.
Incidentally, here are the actual 1906 Philadelphia Giants, from their manager Sol White’s book:
UPDATE 1/13/2013 Bill Mullins has found the 1909 Philadelphia Giants photo published in the New York Press (September 12, 1909), with a caption identifying all the players.