Walter Johnson was born in Kansas and played high school baseball in California, but as a young adult he played semi-pro ball for the Weiser Baseball Club in 1906 and part of the 1907, season when the pitcher was discovered by the Washington Senators.
By 1936, “The Weiser Wonder’’ was in the Baseball Hall of Fame, part of the first class, along with Ty Cobb, Babe Ruth, Honus Wagner and Christy Mathewson. Johnson was the American League MVP in 1913 and 1924, won a World Series in 1924 and finished his career with a no-hitter and 110 shutouts.
This week, Robert Edward Auctions is auctioning off an “exceedingly rare postcard picturing Walter Johnson as a member of the Weiser Baseball Club in 1907.’’ Robert Edward Auctions says it knows of only one other similar postcard.
The postcard up for auction came directly from Hank Thomas, who was Johnson’s grandson, according to the auction company.
From the lot description at robertedwardsauctions.com:
The formal studio photograph pictures Johnson posing in his Weiser uniform, while the printed caption along the bottom white border reads “Walter Johnson ‘The Weiser Wonder.’” A 1907 copyright date appears just to the left of Johnson’s feet. Apparently, a local fan sent this postcard to Johnson after he left town that summer and made good with the Washington Senators. The handwritten black-ink notation written along the right front border reads, “Your picture is on the wall of the Vendenn Cigar Store.” Johnson played with Weiser in 1906 and the first half of the 1907 season before signing with the Washington Senators in late July. While pitching for Weiser, Johnson certainly earned the nickname “The Weiser Wonder.” He finished 7-1 in 1906 and in the first half of 1907 he was 14-2 with an 0.55 ERA. Add to that 214 strikeouts in 146 innings, two no-hitters and a string of seventy-seven scoreless innings, and it was no surprise that major league scouts were flocking to Weiser in droves that summer.
There has always been some doubt as to the exact date this postcard was produced. Although the photo was taken in 1907, it’s not known if the card was produced while Johnson was still with the club in the first half of the 1907 season or a short time later, when he became a star at the major league level.
Regardless of its exact year of issue, it remains one of the earliest, if not the very earliest, card ever issued picturing baseball’s legendary “Big Train,” (a moniker given to Johnson by legendary sportswriter Grantland Rice).
The fact that this was Johnson’s personal example only adds to both its enormous appeal and historical significance. The postcard (3.375 by 5.25 inches), which has not been addressed on the reverse or mailed, displays rounded corners, chipping along the edges, and a few moderate creases. Surface paper loss is evident along the reverse from its having once been mounted in an album. In Good condition overall. Encapsulated by PSA, with the postcard certified as “Authentic.”
NOTE: The auction ends at 7 p.m. MT Saturday.