Which Bud Fowler Baseball Card Is The Best For Collectors?
Sunday, July 24th was an historic day for baseball fans and card collectors. Six new members of baseball’s Hall of Fame will be inducted on that day including Tony Oliva, David Ortiz, Jim Kaat, Buck O’Neil and Minnie Minosa.
We’ll explore each of those players, including their Hall of Fame credentials, path to the Hall of Fame, and of course, their rookie and other baseball cards.
Today we will take a look at the 19th century baseball star Bud Fowler.
Hall of Fame Elections in a nutshell – The BBWAA Ballot
A player becomes eligible for election into the Hall of Fame five years after their retirement. If a player had a 10 year career and is selected by the committee, they appear on the ballot to be voted on by the Baseball Writers Association of America (BBWAA).
A player appears on the ballot until elected by appearing on 75% of ballots, dropping off the ballot by appearing on less than 5% of ballots, or appearing on the ballot for 10 years (until recently, the maximum years on the ballot was 15).
Alternate paths to Cooperstown
Now, after a player drops off the ballot, induction into the Hall of Fame isn’t off the table. The Hall of Fame knows that with more time, some players’ careers can be re-examined and their Hall of Fame case becomes more convincing. The Hall has a series of committees that meet to examine these players and their hall of fame merits.
These committees consist of 16 members that meet in person and vote. Just like the BBWAA ballot, 75% or more of the vote is required for induction, in this case 12 out of 16 votes.
Fowler’s Hall of Fame credentials
Fowler was a true baseball pioneer in every sense of the word. He was the first black professional ballplayer (1872). He was the first black manager of an integrated professional team. He was an owner and organizer of teams, barnstorming tours, leagues, and championship series.
But first, he was a ballplayer. He started his professional career at the age of 14, as a pitcher, but moved all around the diamond before eventually landing at second base. He is said to have played for and managed teams for many years, potentially until as late as 1904.
And while the statistical record from the pre-1900 era is spotty at best, one thing that is clear is that Fowler was a very good baseball player. Add that to all the rest of the above and you have yourself a pre-Negro league pioneer and star.
Fowler’s Path to the Hall of Fame
Having never played in the official major leagues, Fowler never appeared on a BBWAA ballot. He was on the preliminary ballot for the 2006 Special Committee on the Negro Leagues election, but was not on the final ballot, so 2021 was his first real shot at the Hall of Fame.
Bud Fowler was elected as part of the 2022 Baseball Hall of Fame class via the Early Days Era Committee ballot. 12 of the 16 voters included him on their ballots, giving him 75% of the total (the minimum required for induction).
He will be inducted to the Baseball Hall of Fame in Cooperstown New York during induction weekend on July 25, 2022. The MLB Network will be covering the festivities.
The Best Bud Fowler Baseball Cards
Bud Fowler has no cards released during his playing days. While that may sound surprising for a player with a 20-year career, in a way, Fowler is the perfect storm of “not having a card”. Combine “pre-1900” with “minor league”, and add in “black player” and it’s not that difficult to believe that Fowler didn’t have any contemporary cards.
What is a bit surprising, though, is that Fowler didn’t appear on a baseball card until 1994, when he appeared on a card in the Ted Williams baseball card set. The Ted Williams set contains a number of cards of Negro League players. Williams used his Hall of Fame acceptance speech advocating for the induction of Negro League players into the hall. The inclusion of Negro League players in a set bearing his name feels fitting.
Fowler didn’t again appear on a card until the 2009 TriStar Obak set. If you’re a modern card, parallel-loving collector, this may be the card for you. TCDB.com lists ten version of the card, including Black, Green, Purple, and serial number versions of 50, 25, 5, and 1.
Fowler also appears in the 2020 Dreams Fulfilled Negro Leagues Legends set released in conjunction with the Negro League Hall of Fame and featuring the artwork of Graig Kreindler. The set was limited to 5,000 copies, and if you’re a Negro Leagues fan, it’s a beautiful set to own.
With these cards all being produced a century or more after Fowler’s death, they are not likely great investments in a monetary way, although I’d be hard-pressed to argue they wouldn’t enrich any collection.
The final word on Bud Fowler and Fowler’s Cards
Fowler, the son of an escaped slave, spent part of his youth in Cooperstown, NY, the home of Baseball’s Hall of Fame. In 2013, the city declared April 20th “Bud Fowler Day”, dedicating a plague, and renaming the street leading to the ballpark in Cooperstown after Fowler.
Now, he’ll be honored in Cooperstown with induction into the Hall of Fame. While no cards from his playing days exist, you could easily own a piece of that day with a low-cost, post-career card of Fowler.