Today’s Card of the Day is from the 1888 N29 Allen & Ginter set. The Pittsburgh Alleghenys were represented in the set by catcher George “Doggie” Miller, who is one of the handful of baseball players in this very popular set representing numerous sports of the era.
Miller spent ten seasons with the Pittsburgh Pirates franchise and he was one of the few players who stayed with the team while the rest of his 1889 teammates jumped to the newly-formed Player’s League in 1890. He started with the team in 1884 when they were the Pittsburgh Alleghenys of the American Association and finished with the club in 1893 when they were in the National League and often referred to as the Pittsburgh Pirates. There are good reasons to date the “Pirates” nickname to 1895 as being more official, but that’s a story saved for another day.
The N29 designation was a catalog number added at a much later date. The “N” stands for nineteenth century cards, while the “29” was chosen randomly, sort of.
The N29 cards note on the back that they are the second series of “THE WORLD’S CHAMPIONS” set. The first series was designated as the N28 set, so N29 was the next logical number for the second set. The “sort of” above means that the “N28” designation was random, but N29 was used to follow the first set for easy cataloging. There are other N sets with lower and higher numbers, but most don’t feature baseball players. For example, N20 set shows cards of chickens and N12 cards show various types of fruits…seriously.
Here’s the front of the card:
The cards themselves are very popular and most people cite the terrific portrait illustrations on the front. I personally prefer the N172 cards (see examples below in links) because they are real photos, but the N29 cards are very collectible and that’s reflected in the price.
Miller was an interesting player to include back then. The N28 set had ten baseball players and six of them ended up in the Hall of Fame. Miller was a minor star back then, known more for his solid defense and speed than his hitting. His best years at the plate came in 1891 and 1894, well after this set was released. So it’s a little tough to figure out how he was picked as one of the six baseball players for the second series when there were plenty of better choices.
Miller was well-liked as a player by fans. He was very vocal on the field and the crowd seemed to like that, so that may have led to him being in the set. His nicknames Foghorn and Calliope reflected his vocal prowess. His more commonly known nickname now is “Doggie”, which came from his love of dogs, which included some show dogs. He was referred to more often back then as Foghorn according to my research of that time period.
Here’s the back of the card
As you can see, there are only six baseball players in the 50-card set. The other sports range from boxing to tennis to professional walkers, which was a thing as one time.
Topps has recently produced tribute cards to this set, featuring both current and retired players, such as Roberto Clemente and Honus Wagner. As for the original, you can find the Miller card, but it will be very pricey. Nice ones will sell for four figures, while even ones in poor condition will go for $250+. It’s a very popular set and the baseball cards are all pricey, especially the Buck Ewing card, since he is the only Hall of Famer in the group.
Here are the previous Card of the Day articles. Eventually we will have a better way to organize them, as opposed to just a continuously growing list at the bottom of each article:
1887 N172 Sam Barkley (guest submission)
1998 Topps Jose Guillen (guest submission)
John started working at Pirates Prospects in 2009, but his connection to the Pittsburgh Pirates started exactly 100 years earlier when Dots Miller debuted for the 1909 World Series champions. John was born in Kearny, NJ, two blocks from the house where Dots Miller grew up. From that hometown hero connection came a love of Pirates history, as well as the sport of baseball.
When he didn't make it as a lefty pitcher with an 80+ MPH fastball and a slider that needed work, John turned to covering the game, eventually focusing in on the prospects side, where his interest was pushed by the big league team being below .500 for so long. John has covered the minors in some form since the 2002 season, and leads the draft and international coverage on Pirates Prospects. He writes daily on Pittsburgh Baseball History, when he's not covering the entire system daily throughout the entire year on Pirates Prospects.