One of the more interesting characters of turn of the century baseball was Hal Chase. California born Chase, known to most as “Prince Hal” because of his swaggering manner began his major league career in 1905 with the New York Highlanders (now known as the New York Yankees). In his position at first base he was considered by many of his contemporaries as well as later players as one of the best first basemen ever. So popular was he during his stint with the Highlanders from 1905 through 1913 that the American Tobacco Trust, the Company that put out the T206 set, honored him on five (5) different cards more than any other player and one (1) more than Ty Cobb considered by most to be the best player of his time. Quite a tribute and makes one wonder “why isn’t this guy in the Hall of Fame?” After all, historians Lawrence Ritter and Donald Honig named him as one the 100 greatest players of all time in their book of the same name.
Chase played with the Highlanders from 1905 through 1913; the Chicago White Sox from 1913 through 1914; the Buffalo Blues of the newly organized Federal League from 1914 through 1915; the Cincinnati Reds from 1916 through 1918; finally ending his career with the New York Giants in 1919.
The story of his fall from grace has been well documented by many writers and historians. Fact of the matter was that Prince Hal was a gambler, he wagered on games, he was accused of throwing games; he paid players to throw games and committed other acts thought to corrupted baseball. Several of his managers suspected what was going on and in 1913 when the suspicion appeared more reality Manager Frank Chance of the Highlanders shipped him off to the White Sox. Chase always had aspirations to be a manager and at times held a player/manager position with a team. While with Cincinnati in 1918 Manager Christy Mathewson learned that Chase had paid a player to throw a game. Mathewson suspended Chase and brought up charges for fixing games. Chase was subsequently acquitted by the National League President. Following his acquittal Chase was dealt to the Giants and due to some new found evidence of throwing games in 1918 was banned from the game.
Though not an active participant in the 1919 Black Sox scandal it is known that he won $40,000 betting on the Reds.
The final fall came after it was learned that in 1920 he had bribed Spider Baum of the Salt Lake Bees, Pacific Coast League, to lose a game against the Los Angeles Angels. In 1921 the Commissioner of Baseball, Kenesaw Mountain Landis, issued a formal lifetime ban. After the ban Chase played on outlaw teams with Black Soxers Buck Weaver, Chick Gandil and Lefty Williams.
Chase died in 1947 at age 64.
Pictured with this article are his five (5) T206 cards. The Black Cap, Blue Portrait and Holding Trophy cards are from my collection. The White Cap and Pink Portrait scans are courtesy of my friend Joe Yanello of Joes Vintage Sports Cards. Joe has the cards listed in his eBay Store and can be found at the following link: http://stores.ebay.com/Joes-Vintage-Sports-Cards