The 1923-24 Cuban Winter League had enough interest to allow for multiple card issuers and Tomas Gutierrez took advantage to issue a lengthy, 85 subject set distributed as inserts with Diaz Cigarettes. One of the most popular of all the Cuban baseball card issues, yet also one of the most scarce, the cards were part of a redemption offer where a complete set could be exchanged for a hardcover book with printed images of the cards. It is believed that the complete sets were not returned to the person submitting them, which accounts for some of the scarcity of the issue.
Described by many who played against him as the best ballplayer they ever saw, Oscar Charleston played nine seasons in the Cuban Winter League. It was during this time that this card was issued, one of two cards issued in 1923-24 that are considered Charleston's "Rookie" card (the other being his 1923-24 Billiken card). This VG/EX example is a fine portrait on a card that's aged nicely, with a clean surface and spectacular image, free of creases. Two small, dark marks are present at the very bottom edge of the card, visible at both the front and back, though not at all distracting from what is a beautiful card, high-grade for the issue. The reverse is otherwise clean, with some moderate surface abrasions across the top edge, heaviest at the corners where some tiny bits of surface paper appear to have been scuffed away. This is one of seven examples of this card in the SGC database, with just one higher. PSA has graded two, with the best grade a 2 in their pop report.
Charleston's lifetime batting average of .364 is good for second all-time, just .002 behind Ty Cobb. His 1921 season was perhaps his finest, when he posted a .433 batting average and .512 OBP, though he continued to post incredible numbers through the 1920s. In addition to ranking among the Negro Leagues' top five all-time in batting average and home runs, Charleston is its all-time leader in stolen bases. Though James ranks Charleston fourth all-time, other baseball scholars feel Charleston may be the greatest player ever. The great John McGraw said of Charleston "If Oscar Charleston isn't the greatest baseball player in the world, then I'm no judge of baseball talent."
In recent years, as Charleston begins to gain recognition as one of the game's most elite players, his cards have begun to fetch prices more consistent with his legend. Recent sales of his 1924 Aguilitas card have approached and eclipsed the six-figure mark, with an example graded GOOD by SGC fetching $132,000 at public auction. As one of Charleston's true rookie cards, the Tomas Gutierrez is more important, more rare, and in this case, a higher-grade example, certainly one of the most important cards of Oscar Charleston in existence. One of the most significant baseball cards we have ever offered.