Forget NFL Kneeling, Hall Of Famer Gave The Finger To Fans Twice On His Baseball Cards

Tweet This

<div _ngcontent-c23 innerhtml="

Photo by Robert Edward Auctions

Radbourn’s 1887 Old Judge with "obscene gesture."

Some fans don’t approve of the NFL players kneeling down during the National Anthem in protest, so what would they make of one of baseball’s greatest pitchers who flipped the bird on not one, but two baseball cards in successive years? Why, the scoundrel corrupted America’s youth.

A top sports auction house, Robert Edward Auctions (REA), is selling a relatively rare 1887 Old Judge tobacco card featuring “Old Hoss”Charlie Radbourn giving his fans the finger. An astonishing 22 bids have driven the "Obscene Gesture” card up to $2,000, with 17 days still left.

Photo by Robert Edward Auctions

A close-up of Radbourn giving in the finger on his 1887 Old Judge card.

That amount is especially surprising for a card in poor condition (a PSA 1 on a scale of one to ten). Despite a bold image, the front has a couple of surface chips and the reverse has remnants of having been at one time being glued to a scrapbook (a common practice with Old Judges). In 2010 REA sold a copy of this card in SGC 7, near mint condition, for $9,400 after 24 bids.

“He is, in fact, not-so-subtly giving an obscene gesture with his middle finger,”REA notes. “This was not an isolated incident with the tough-as-nails pitching legend. Radbourn is credited by many scholars as being the first public figure to be photographed extending his middle digit to the camera, the earliest example known being a Boston team photo dating from 1886.”

Perhaps because the 1886 card marked the first time he did his dirty deed (his “rookie”FU), it tends to show up a bit more often on the Internet than his Old Judge from the following year.

Photo by BostInno.

Radbourn first flipped the bird on his 1886 Boston team card.

“[He] dutifully rested his right hand on the shoulder of the teammate sitting in front of him,”Edward Achorn wrote in his book, Fifty-nine in ’84: Old Hoss Radbourn, Barehanded Baseball, and the Greatest Season a Pitcher Ever Had.  “But at the last minute, wearing a straight face he lifted his left hand above his teammate’s other shoulder, firmly thrust out his middle finger, and held it rock steady so that it would remain sharp and clear in the captured image.”

Old Hoss’s gesture was an act of defiance, Achorn explains. “He was an ornery character,”the author told BostInno. “He was famous for being a tough, cantankerous guy.”

Photo by BostInno.

No, it’s not a cigar, but his middle finger.

In case you’re wondering, as I was, ”digitus impudicus,” or the ‘impudent finger,’ dates back to ancient Rome. ”When Emperor Caligula offered his extended middle finger, rather than his hand, for his subjects to kiss, observers found the act scandalous and offensive,”Rob Chirico writes on Strong Language, a blog about swearing. “The gesture became so abhorrent that Augustus Caesar banished an actor from Rome for giving the finger to an audience member who hissed at the man during a performance.”

Old Hoss loved the nightlife and saloons. In those manly days, players even drank during the games. But by any era’s standards, Radbourn was a big-time boozer, throwing back a quart of whiskey per day.

I’ll have what he was drinking. “‘Old Hoss’was a warrior, an inspirational workhorse who crammed 309 victories into a short-but-exciting 11-year career,”wrote Ron Smith in Heroes of the Hall. “His most magical season was 1884 for the Providence Grays when Radbourn won 59 games. “He worked 678 innings, completed all 73 of his starts and recorded 441 strikeouts and a 1.38 ERA.”

Unlike today’s pampered starters, pitchers in the late 1800s pitched almost every day and usually finished what they began. Eventually, the warrior blew out his arm and was never quite the same again.

Alas, the last dirty joke appears to have been on him. He died in 1897 at the tender age of 42; “as a result of complications from syphilis,”according to the authors of The Photographic Baseball Cards of Goodwin & Company (1886-1890).

Forty-two years later, Old Hoss achieved no small measure of immortality as a member of the first class of Hall of Fame inductees. But he is now best remembered for his two scandalous baseball cards.

“>

Photo by Robert Edward Auctions

Radbourn’s 1887 Old Judge with “obscene gesture.”

Some fans don’t approve of the NFL players kneeling down during the National Anthem in protest, so what would they make of one of baseball’s greatest pitchers who flipped the bird on not one, but two baseball cards in successive years? Why, the scoundrel corrupted America’s youth.

A top sports auction house, Robert Edward Auctions (REA), is selling a relatively rare 1887 Old Judge tobacco card featuring “Old Hoss”Charlie Radbourn giving his fans the finger. An astonishing 22 bids have driven the “Obscene Gesture” card up to $2,000, with 17 days still left.

Photo by Robert Edward Auctions

A close-up of Radbourn giving in the finger on his 1887 Old Judge card.

That amount is especially surprising for a card in poor condition (a PSA 1 on a scale of one to ten). Despite a bold image, the front has a couple of surface chips and the reverse has remnants of having been at one time being glued to a scrapbook (a common practice with Old Judges). In 2010 REA sold a copy of this card in SGC 7, near mint condition, for $9,400 after 24 bids.

“He is, in fact, not-so-subtly giving an obscene gesture with his middle finger,”REA notes. “This was not an isolated incident with the tough-as-nails pitching legend. Radbourn is credited by many scholars as being the first public figure to be photographed extending his middle digit to the camera, the earliest example known being a Boston team photo dating from 1886.”

Perhaps because the 1886 card marked the first time he did his dirty deed (his “rookie”FU), it tends to show up a bit more often on the Internet than his Old Judge from the following year.

Photo by BostInno.

Radbourn first flipped the bird on his 1886 Boston team card.

“[He] dutifully rested his right hand on the shoulder of the teammate sitting in front of him,”Edward Achorn wrote in his book, Fifty-nine in ’84: Old Hoss Radbourn, Barehanded Baseball, and the Greatest Season a Pitcher Ever Had.  “But at the last minute, wearing a straight face he lifted his left hand above his teammate’s other shoulder, firmly thrust out his middle finger, and held it rock steady so that it would remain sharp and clear in the captured image.”

Old Hoss’s gesture was an act of defiance, Achorn explains. “He was an ornery character,”the author told BostInno. “He was famous for being a tough, cantankerous guy.”

Photo by BostInno.

No, it’s not a cigar, but his middle finger.

In case you’re wondering, as I was, ”digitus impudicus,” or the ‘impudent finger,’ dates back to ancient Rome. ”When Emperor Caligula offered his extended middle finger, rather than his hand, for his subjects to kiss, observers found the act scandalous and offensive,”Rob Chirico writes on Strong Language, a blog about swearing. “The gesture became so abhorrent that Augustus Caesar banished an actor from Rome for giving the finger to an audience member who hissed at the man during a performance.”

Old Hoss loved the nightlife and saloons. In those manly days, players even drank during the games. But by any era’s standards, Radbourn was a big-time boozer, throwing back a quart of whiskey per day.

I’ll have what he was drinking. “‘Old Hoss’was a warrior, an inspirational workhorse who crammed 309 victories into a short-but-exciting 11-year career,”wrote Ron Smith in Heroes of the Hall. “His most magical season was 1884 for the Providence Grays when Radbourn won 59 games. “He worked 678 innings, completed all 73 of his starts and recorded 441 strikeouts and a 1.38 ERA.”

Unlike today’s pampered starters, pitchers in the late 1800s pitched almost every day and usually finished what they began. Eventually, the warrior blew out his arm and was never quite the same again.

Alas, the last dirty joke appears to have been on him. He died in 1897 at the tender age of 42; “as a result of complications from syphilis,”according to the authors of The Photographic Baseball Cards of Goodwin & Company (1886-1890).

Forty-two years later, Old Hoss achieved no small measure of immortality as a member of the first class of Hall of Fame inductees. But he is now best remembered for his two scandalous baseball cards.

Let’s block ads! (Why?)

About the author

Related