Early 19th and 20th Century baseball cards often feature players that did not make a huge impact on the game. It’s just a matter of numbers… not every baseball player is going to be a Hall of Famer.
For every Ty Cobb, there’s a Heinie Heitmuller, a Kid Madden. and a George Magoon.
But at least all of those names are of real baseball players that played on real teams.
One card among the T209 set–released in packs of Contentnea cigarettes between 1909 and 1910–features a baseball player that has no record in any baseball database or publication. By all accounts, he doesn’t exist, and neither does the team that is featured on his uniform.
Behold the mystery of “Bourquise” (correct spelling possibly “Bourquoise”) in the T209 baseball card set:
Look up the name “Bourquise” or “Bourquoise” in any baseball player database, record book, or program and you won’t find him. He simply doesn’t exist. That means the player pictured on the card is either a misidentified ball player (perhaps they just got the name completely wrong?) or not a baseball player at all.
No one has yet been able to identify the man in the picture, nor identify who “Bourquise” is.
But the mystery doesn’t end there.
The team listed on the front of “Bourquise’s” card is Rocky Mount, aka the Rocky Mount Railroaders. The T209 set features exclusively players from the Virginia, Carolina Association, and Eastern Carolina Leagues. The Rocky Mount Railroaders were a baseball team in Rocky Mount, North Carolina in 1909. Despite having Jim Thorpe on their squad (he played there during the summer break while he wasn’t playing football at Carlisle Indian School), they were not very good. They eventually became the Rocky Mount Rocks in 1942, playing in the Bi-State League, before eventually becoming the Rocky Mount Phillies in 1972.
The point is that the Rocky Mount Railroaders baseball team did exist and they did play in the Carolina Leagues in 1909. But the team name on the front of “Bourquise’s” uniform says “Fulton”, which is not what the Rocky Mount Railroaders would have worn.
There is no record of any team with the name Fulton (either as the location or the nickname) in the Carolina Leagues at that time. There is a team with the name “Fulton” that played in the Empire State League, which was a league made up of teams in New York, in 1907. That’s the closest possible match.
Is it possible the person wearing the Fulton uniform in the photo is somehow a member of the 1907 Fulton baseball team in New York?
It is technically possible, but it would be difficult to believe that a regional tobacco company in North Carolina would somehow include the picture of a player from New York in their set of baseball cards. Remember, this is the early 20th Century we are talking about. There would be no reason to think it possible, given the technology at the time, and the lack of interest to do so. Documentation of biographical information of players, including names and pictures, was not well kept, so it would be hard to imagine that one state’s league could have detailed information on another player in another league in another state.
So it is not likely that this player wearing “Fulton” on his uniform is a player on the Fulton team. Also, just in case you were wondering, according to the minimal records that exist, there is no “Bourquise” on that 1907 Fulton team in New York. Nor is there a record of one on any of the Rocky Mount baseball teams across their many seasons.
Ultimately, baseball card experts are unsure who “Burquise” is and unsure of the team that he may or may not have played for.
The sales history of T209 Bourquise suggests it’s a difficult item to procure. Simply put, there are not a lot of these cards out there to buy. The highest record sale of the card is a PSA Near Mint 7 copy that sold for $928.25 back in 2008.
PSA’s pop report shows this card has only been graded 15 times, with this PSA 7 being the highest grade in the population. The most recent sale of this card is a PSA 4 that sold in April of last year for $450.18.
It’s hard to say what the appeal of this card could be to collectors. Perhaps there are T209 set builders that just need it to complete their set (there are only 16 cards in the set). Or maybe there’s big fans of vintage Carolina league baseball out there that want to add to their collection.
But I think the most likely appeal of this card is its oddity: it’s the only known baseball card of a player that didn’t exist who played for a team that didn’t exist.
— Sources: “Game Faces: Early Baseball Cards From The Library of Congress” by Peter Devereaux; www.baseball-reference.com —