Love of the Game Auctions Spring 2023 Premier Auction

11. Rare 1923-24 Billiken Jose Mendez (HOF) - SGC GOOD+ 2.5

The Billiken Cigarettes set of 1923-24 was a Cuban-issued set that featured 2” x 2 5/8” cards depict- ing 60 players from the Cuban Professional League. Each black and white glossy photo contains an ad on the reverse, either for Billiken or La Mode Cigarettes. One of the more popular Cuban League issues, this set includes many stars of the American Leagues, including Oscar Charleston, Pop Lloyd, Andy Cooper, and this card of Jose Mendez. Mendez was a Cuban pitcher and manager in the Negro Leagues elected to the Baseball Hall of Fame in 2006. Mendez’ notoriety began in the summer of 1908, when he pitched 25 consecutive scoreless innings in three appearances in Havana, against the visiting Cincinnati Reds. In addition to being a standout in the Cuban League, Mendez pitched with various Negro League teams, notably concluding his American playing career with the Kansas City Monarchs, where he played and also managed from 1920 through 1926. On his Billiken card, Mendez is depicted with the Santa Clara Leopards, a team loaded with Ameri- can Negro League players and often considered the most dominant team in the Cuban professional league. Mendez was a legend, the author of a 10-inning perfect game in 1909. His dominance against American teams in Cuba made him the first internationally-known Cuban star. The Billiken issue remains very scarce, and extraordinarily difficult to find in top condition. The cards are printed on photographic paper, and are subject to significant wrinkling and creasing. Much like American N172 Old Judge cards, the photos are often found faded, similarly making the numerical grade less important than the image quality. While this card has been graded GOOD+ by SGC, the card boasts strong image contrast and clarity. Aside from the 1910 Punch Cigars card of Mendez, no earlier issue of the player exists, and just six card sets featuring Mendez in his playing days - all Cuban issues - are known. An outstanding col- lectible from an international Cuban and Negro League Hall of Famer. MINIMUM BID: $1,500 Issued in 1923-24, the Billiken Cigarettes issue was a Cuban-issued set that featured 2” x 2 5/8” cards depicting 60 players from the Cuban Professional League. One of the more popular Cuban league sets, this issue includes many stars of the American Negro Leagues, including Oscar Charleston, Pop Lloyd, Jose Mendez and this card of Andy Cooper. Cooper was a well-known left-handed pitcher who played for the Detroit Stars in the Negro Leagues when this card was issued. In 1928, Cooper was traded to the famed Kansas City Monarchs, where he played until 1929. As manager of the Mon- archs between 1937 and 1940, he won his league title three times before suffering a stroke early in the 1941 season, prematurely ending his managerial career, and shortly after, his life. Negro League scholars generally rank Cooper among the top two or three left-handed pitchers in the history of the Negro Leagues, and while he sadly was never given the chance to compete in the ma- jor leagues, his greatness was finally recognized in 2005 when the Committee of African-American Baseball elected him to the Baseball Hall of Fame. This example, likely Cooper’s first card, is also his most desirable. Very few examples have transacted publicly over the years, but Billiken Cooper cards are highly sought after among advanced collectors, quite desirable in any grade. This example, as is the case with most Cuban cards, is well-worn, with considerable surface wear and soiling. Still, one of few known examples of one of the greatest players of the American Negro Leagues. MINIMUM BID: $1,000

12. 1923-24 Billiken Andy Cooper (HOF) - SGC GOOD 2


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