Masterpieces and Uncommon Commons XXXVII
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This lot is closed for bidding. Bidding ended on 12/16/2011
For sheer intrigue, few players top Harry Decker and the mystery behind the man. Starting his career as a teenager in Evansville, IN, Decker moved through baseball’s multiple leagues making stops in Indianapolis, Kansas City, Macon, Detroit, Washington and Philadelphia to name a few. A strong-armed catcher with a notoriously weak bat, so poor of a hitter was Decker that he was commonly passed over at the major league level. In 1890, Decker enjoyed modest success with the Pittsburgh Alleghenys, hitting .274 and cracking all five of his career homers. After playing for the New Haven Nutmegs in 1891, Decker’s name disappeared from the game entirely. Now’s where the fun begins. In 1904, Decker filed a patent application for his version of the catcher’s mitt. According to Decker's application, "My invention relates to certain new and useful improvements in base-ball gloves, and has more particular reference to that type known as 'catchers' mitts. The primary object of my improvement is to provide a glove which is thumbless and, further, one in which the padding can be adjusted or regulated to suit the user." Decker was granted a patent in 1906 (U.S. Patent Number 812921), but his new invention was not well received and never went into production. With his money spent on his failed invention, Decker turned to a life a crime and adopted a number of aliases, most notably Earl Henry Davenport—which was probably inspired by his time catching for semi-pro and low minor league teams in Iowa. It was under this name that Decker was arrested and sentenced to hard time at San Quentin. Decker’s true identity was revealed in an article in the March 7, 1915 edition of Sporting Life, "The star base ball team of San Quentin prison, to which the Venice and Los Angeles teams sent uniforms last season, has sent Manager Hogan [of the L.A. Angels] an autographed photo of their team. "They are led by a player who calls himself Davenport, but who is E.H. Decker, who is said to have been a catcher for the Detroit team years ago. When the writer knew him he was catching for the Keokuk, Iowa, team, and was a good man in the field in his position." While not a star, and barely a common player for that matter, the tale of Harry Decker remains one of baseball’s great mysteries. No record of his exists after the 1915 Sporting Life mention. SABR historians continue to search for more information on Decker, but just as with so many mysteries, there are more dead ends than clues. Bring home this card and perhaps you can help uncover more about the life behind this once promising young prospect.
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1887 Old Judge Cigarettes N172 Harry Decker Philadelphia SGC 7 NM

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Bidding
Current Bidding
Minimum Bid: $400.00
Final prices include buyers premium.: $1,504.16
Number Bids: 12
Auction closed on Friday, December 16, 2011.
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