(Originally published by SGC Collector Magazine in March 2006)
With the nickname “Rube,” most people assume that Richard William “Rube” Marquard was a country boy. But Marquard was born and raised in the city of Cleveland -- his father was the Chief Engineer of the city -- and Marquard carried bats for several Cleveland baseball players as a youth, including Napoleon Lajoie and Elmer Flick. In the year prior to signing with the New York Giants, Marquard worked for an ice cream company in Cleveland and pitched for their company team on Sundays. Marquard earned his nickname while pitching for Indianapolis of the American Association in 1908. In an early acknowledgement of Marquard’s extraordinary pitching ability, an Indianapolis Star article reported that the left-handed Marquard resembled one of the greatest southpaws of all time, Rube Waddell.
Toward the end of the 1908 American Association season, the Giants purchased Marquard’s contract from the Indianapolis franchise for the unheard of figure of $11,000, the highest price ever paid for a baseball player at the time. This earned Marquard another nickname, the “$11,000 Beauty” (or the “$11,000 Lemon” when he struggled early in his career). A number of other Major League Clubs bid on Marquard at the time. Marquard claimed that the Cleveland Naps (later Indians) came in second, with an offer of $10,500. Marquard’s price may have been driven up because Indianapolis sold him immediately after he had pitched a perfect game against Columbus. Marquard made his Major League debut for the Giants on September 25, 1908, two weeks shy of his 22nd birthday.
Given the high expectations that accompanied Marquard’s Major League debut, it is not surprising that the American Tobacco Company pictured Marquard in the first installment of its renowned T-206 White Border baseball card set in 1909. During the three years that T-206 was issued, Marquard was featured in three different poses, including a portrait pose, a pitching pose and a pose of Marquard standing with his hands at his sides. According to Bill Heitman’s The Monster, the latter is the only one that was issued in 1909.
The Giants did not have to wait long for a positive return on their investment. Marquard led the team to three straight pennants from 1911 through 1913, during which he won an amazing 73 games (24 in 1911, 26 in 1912 and 23 in 1913). Marquard’s .774 winning percentage (24 wins and just 7 losses) and 237 strikeouts were best in the National League in 1911 and a record for lefty hurlers that stood for 50 years until Sandy Koufax topped him with 269 strikeouts in 1961.
Marquard followed this breakthrough season with an outstanding 26-win effort in 1912. That season, he earned victories in his first 19 decisions, from April 11 through July 3, losing his first game of the season on July 8, in a 7-2 loss to the Cubs. In doing so, Marquard tied Tim Keefe (with 19 consecutive games won from June 23 to August 10, 1888) for most consecutive wins during a season. Marquard is said to have celebrated his record tying win by purchasing an opal stickpin for himself. A friend allegedly told him that opals were a jinx, so he threw the pin into a river. But it was too late; Marquard lost his next decision. Now, over 90 years later, no pitcher has matched or won more consecutive games in a season since. As Marquard’s manager with the Giants, John McGraw, stated in My Thirty Years in Baseball, “When right Marquard’s fastball had a peculiar jump to it that was a complete baffler to opponents. It was in the use of this ball at the right moment that he won his 19 straight games.” And Joe Tinker once said of Marquard’s fastball, “You can’t hit what you can’t see.” Interestingly, Marquard later claimed in Lawrence Ritter’s The Glory of Their Times that he actually won 20 straight decisions that season as a result of a victory in relief for which he was not given credit because of the way games were scored at the time.
Marquard also had his best World Series performance in 1912, winning both of his starts in two complete games with a combined ERA of 0.50. Marquard’s effort was not enough as the Giants eventually lost the 1912 Series to the Boston Red Sox. Marquard had the talent and good fortune to pitch for five pennant winners over his storied career. While never a part of a team that won the World Series, Marquard managed to start eight World Series games over his career, including five for the Giants (in 1911, 1912 and 1913) and three for the Brooklyn Robins (later Dodgers), in 1916 and 1920.
During his last season with the Giants in 1915, Marquard no-hit the Brooklyn Robins on April 15, 1915. Coincidentally, Marquard was sold to the Robins later that season for $7,500, helping them win the pennant the following year, posting a record of 13-6 with a 1.58 ERA. Marquard claimed to have brokered the deal himself when McGraw, unaccustomed to losing, cast blame on Marquard for the Giants’ disappointing season. Marquard played for Brooklyn through the 1920 season. On October 9, 1920, several hours before the start of Game 4 of the 1920 World Series against Cleveland at League Park, Marquard was arrested after attempting to sell a World Series ticket for $350 to an undercover police officer. Marquard later pitched in the game, which his hometown opponents won 5-1 on their way to taking the Series from Brooklyn in seven games. At his trial, Marquard reportedly told the judge he was “joking” when a passerby had asked him for tickets. He also claimed to have purchased the ticket from a scalper for $275. Marquard was ultimately found guilty and ordered to pay $3.80 in fine and court costs. As a result of his misconduct, Marquard’s World Series share was initially held back by the National League.
Not so coincidentally, the Robins traded Marquard to the Cincinnati Reds for pitcher Dutch Ruether on December 15, 1920. Ruether had just gone 16-12 for the Reds in 1920, after winning 19 games and losing only 6 for their World Champion team in 1919, so it was obvious the Reds had high expectations for Marquard. Nonetheless, Marquard only pitched one season for the Reds, 1921; but he pitched well, compiling a record of 17-14 with a 3.39 ERA. Just prior to the 1922 season, the Reds traded Marquard with shortstop Larry Kopf to the Boston Braves for pitcher Jack Scott. Marquard finished his Major League career with the Boston Braves, pitching in his final game on September 18, 1925. But Marquard continued his baseball career in the minor leagues as a manager, coach, part-time pitcher and umpire. His final professional win came in 1932 with the Atlanta Crackers of the Southern Association.
Marquard amassed an impressive 201 career wins with a lifetime ERA of 3.08. Marquard was also one of the best strikeout pitchers of his era, leading the National League with 237 strikeouts in 1911, and finishing in the top five four times (1911, 1912, 1913 and 1921). Marquard also finished in the top ten in ERA four times (1911, 1912, 1913 and 1916) and the top ten in wins five times (1911, 1912, 1913, 1917 and 1921). Marquard’s 1,593 strikeouts stood as the National League record for left-handed pitchers for 17 years, until it was eclipsed by Carl Hubbell in 1942, and at the time of his retirement ranked 3rd in Major League history among lefthanders (behind only his namesake, Rube Waddell, and Eddie Plank).
As was not entirely uncommon for baseball players in the early part of the 20th Century, Marquard spent three years on the vaudeville circuit. In fact, he was once married to famed vaudeville singer Blossom Seeley. And Marquard also starred on the silver screen. In 1912, Marquard was featured in a movie with Alice Joyce entitled Rube Marquard Wins. According to a review from Motion Picture World dated August 24, 1912 (available on-line at http://www.stanford.edu/~gdegroat/AJ/reviews/shorts1912.htm#rmw), Joyce, playing herself in the movie, helped foil a plot to imprison Marquard in order to prevent him from pitching in a decisive game.
Marquard was inducted into the Baseball Hall of Fame in 1971. He died June 1, 1980 in Baltimore, Maryland. He was 93 years old. The combination of Marquard’s early success and long life meant that he signed autographs as an established baseball star for approximately 70 years. Accordingly, autograph seekers looking to add Marquard to their collections will not have to look particularly hard to find Marquard’s signature -- with its rounded “R,” sharp zigzagging “M” and tailed “d” that initially moves away from the name and then cuts back under the last few letters -- on Hall of Fame postcards or index cards. In addition, while it is next to impossible to find signed T-206 cards of any players, let alone Hall of Famers, there are a small number of T-206 cards autographed by Marquard still in circulation that occasionally find their way into on-line and catalog auctions.
The autographed T-206 Marquard cards pictured on this website were authenticated and graded by SGC and the autographs were certified authentic by James Spence Authentication. Each of these cards were originally acquired in early April 2004 in separate eBay auctions from the same seller and were purportedly from the same collection. This collection also included a couple of Hall of Fame postcards autographed by Marquard. Based on the type of ink used in the signatures, James Spence Authentication indicated that Marquard likely signed these cards in the late 1960s or early 1970s. Although these T-206 cards grade in lesser condition, owning an autographed T-206 card in any condition is a very special privilege. While a T-206 card autographed by Marquard may never be worth what the Giants paid to purchase his contract back in 1908, there is no question that each one is a beauty.
Baseball-Almanac.com (biographical information)
Baseball Encyclopedia (playing statistics)
Baseballhalloffame.org (biographical information)
Baseballreference.com (playing statistics/transaction history)
ESPN.com (biographical information)
The Glory of Their Times, Lawrence Ritter (biographical information)
The Monster, Bill Heitman (T-206 reference)
My Thirty Years In Baseball, John McGraw (biographical information)
Retrosheet.org (transaction history)
Wikipedia.org (biographical information)