A Pioneering member of the 1869 Cincinnati Red Stockings and lifetime .346 hitter, Cal McVey is a seldom-seen signature to begin with—but especially so on a photographic image. In fact, in our decades of experience, we have never seen another.
This unique survivor is a FASCINATING relic. It's dated to March 27, 1923, when "Mac" was 72, and carries a period notation referencing the photo studio backdrop as San Francisco's landmark Seal Rock House hotel. Why Seal Rock? Because among McVey's various post-baseball jobs—primarily as a mining investor, cigar store owner and night watchman—he was also an armed guard at Jack Johnson's training camp in the Seal Rock gymnasium! Indeed, as described in the bestselling biography Unforgivable Blackness that spawned Ken Burns' documentary of the same name, "Johnson hired the onetime Cincinnati Reds pitcher-manager Cal McVey as an armed guard to keep [Johnson's former manager George] Little away from him and to patrol Seal Rock House at night." (Other books mention McVey having a shotgun at the ready.)
That position was over a decade behind him by the time of this postcard, but after many years of financial struggles—due in part to a mining-accident injury and the loss of his cigar store in the 1906 San Francisco earthquake—McVey was finally sitting pretty here. He had benefited from a baseball game fundraiser on his behalf in 1919, and then the National League (at the behest of the Base Ball Players Fraternity) awarded him a much-needed pension. McVey died a few years later, in 1926. His black-ink signature rates "7" strength, and the crystal-clear sepia postcard is VG. Ex-John Heydler Collection. Full LOA from JSA.