If you thought that the 1955 Topps Doubleheaders baseball cards were clever and remarkably innovative, you might be surprised to learn that the idea for this design goes back to the 1911 Mecca Double Folders (T201). When you view a T201 card in an open position, you see one player. When the card is folded, you see another (although the players share the same pair of legs).
The original T201 Double Folders of 1911 came from packs of Mecca cigarettes. The cards measure 2¼" by 4¾" and cover 50 different issues (100 players). Each player is pictured in a color lithograph while the "reverse" is printed in red with each player's statistics.
These cards were designed to be folded and they are certified by PSA with this is mind. They are sealed in the open position, of course, but as long as there are no tears or other visual impairments in the perforation there is no penalty in the grade for a fold. Creases on any other part of the card are obviously a different matter.
"This is a great series," says PSA grader Ken Struss. "It's filled with Hall of Fame players. The cards are almost impossible to locate with four sharp corners, though. In addition, there are inevitably minor impairments around the fold." So far no examples have earned a grade of Mint-9 or better.
Every card in the series is a rarity. The most "common" issue has seen a total of 24 examples certified in all grades combined, and most of the cards have populations in the single digits.
Here is a look at a few of the superstars in the Mecca Double Folders set:
Sam Crawford - This great player would be a highlight in any set, but his card is especially desirable in the T201 series because he's paired with Ty Cobb. Crawford even pinch-hit for Cobb once! Crawford holds the all-time record for triples with 309, which is a dozen more than Cobb and a bunch more than anyone else. Wahoo Sam led the American League in RBI three times and led both the National League (1901) and the American League (1908) in homers for a season. Crawford banged out 2,961 hits in the majors before moving to the Pacific Coast League at the end of his career. He was elected to the Hall of Fame in 1957.
Hughie Jennings - This player-manager was also an attorney! He starred on the old Baltimore Orioles team of the 1890s that dominated the National League. He hit .386 and .401 in successive seasons and scored 159 runs in 1895. In 1907 he took over as manager of the Detroit Tigers and won pennants in his first three seasons. He was elected to the Hall of Fame in 1945.
Joseph McGinnity - He was known as "Iron Man" McGinnity and he lived up to the name. He pitched five doubleheaders in his major league career, including three in the month of August 1903. He hurled an unbelievable 842 innings in 1903-04 combined, a number that would make today's pitchers shudder. He won 66 games in those two years, with 31 and 35 victories, respectively. At the age of 54 he was still pitching in the minors. He was elected to the Hall of Fame in 1946.
Edward Walsh - "Big Ed" threw the spitball, and could he ever throw it! Walsh holds the record for the lowest ERA in the history of the game, a minuscule 1.82. His White Sox teammates were known as the "Hitless Wonders" and Ed still found a way to win -- usually. In 1908 he already had 40 wins under his belt when he took the hill against Addie Joss of Cleveland with the pennant on the line. Walsh pitched a beauty, but Joss was perfection, retiring all 27 batters in succession. Walsh was elected to the Hall of Fame in 1946.
Why are the cards of William Bergen, Albert Bridwell, Fred Falkenberg, Earl Gardner and Charles Street in such tremendous demand? Because these players are paired on their cards with Zack Wheat, Christy Mathewson, Napoleon Lajoie, Tris Speaker and Walter Johnson!
The 1911 Mecca Double Folders set includes some of the most intriguing sportscards from the early years of the 20th century and provides a collection that is both challenging and rewarding.