Previously, I took a stab at ranking all of the cards in the 1935 Goudey set. That was less about providing any type of meaningful and more about doing something for my own amusement. In other words, this site will slowly evolve into a forum of mind-numbing stupidity in 3…2…
Writing a recent Philadelphia Caramel article for Sports Collectors Daily spurred me on to do the same type of ranking for the E95 set. The E95 Philadelphia Caramel set is one of the most popular caramel issues in the pre-war era. It’s got big names and with a short checklist of only 25 cards, many collectors have pursued sets.
E95 and E96 really sort of go hand in hand as a two-part issue. The E96 Philadelphia Caramel set was distributed a year later in 1910 but because the set didn’t duplicate any of the players, it’s really a continuation of the E95 release.
Here’s one man’s shot at ranking all 25 cards in the set. I’ll do E96 in a separate article.
No. 25 – Art Devlin
Like I did with the Goudey set, I’m going to group the least-appealing cards together. There’s not much point in trying differentiate guys like Nick Maddox and Tommy Leach, after all. That said, the hideousness of the Art Devlin card in this set can not and should not be overlooked.
So, I mean, I don’t think we talk about bad cards enough. This site mostly focuses on why pre-war cards are so spectacular. If I’m a contrarian looking to bash pre-war cards, though, I’m starting here. This card would be my opening and closing argument.
I once owned this card. I don’t know why. It was the first E95 I ever had and was probably secured in an attempt to try to create a set since I’m primarily a set collector.
There was a good reason it was the first one I purchased and that’s because it was likely the cheapest. This card is awful. What exactly Devlin is doing in this hot mess of a card is beyond me. But he looks to be evading a ball being thrown his way. Even if the artist’s rendition is accurate, I don’t know why anyone would choose this kind of photo for a baseball card.
There is no way to underestimate just how bad this card is.
No. 24 (tie) Bill Carrigan, Solly Hofman, Harry Krause, Tommy Leach, Harry Lord, Nick Maddox, Matty McIntyre, Fred Merkle, Cy Morgan, Ed Reulbach, Ed Willett, Hooks Wiltse.
Just not too much to get excited about here. Some of these guys were fine players, leading the league in several categories and such. But in terms of collectability, they’re all on the outer edge of being even remotely interesting cards.
If you’re like me and you piece your sets together by acquiring a bunch of the most inexpensive cards first, you’re probably starting with these guys. Oh, and also that horrible Devlin card.
But Mom, Do I Have To?
No. 12 Larry Doyle
So to most collectors, Larry Doyle probably sounds like he should be in that first group, but I gave him a bit of a break with his own special category.
Giving Doyle his own header seems more like a chore than anything. But it’s the right thing to do. I guess.
Truth is, he was a heck of a player. Doyle won the MVP award in 1912 without leading in any statistical offensive categories. In 1909, he led the league in hits. In 1915, he repeated that feat and also led the league in doubles and batting average. He also nearly won a second MVP award in 1911, finishing third.
In the end, I just couldn’t lump Doyle along with a bunch of guys that weren’t really his equal. We’re all about justice on this site and if that means giving Larry Doyle his own section, so be it.
First Hall of Famers
No. 11 (tie) Vic Willis, Sam Crawford, Johnny Evers, Frank Chance
These guys are all Hall of Famers but took a while to get in, being selected by Veterans and Old Timers Committees. It’s like, ‘We all know you’re not real Hall of Famers but have a crack at it anyone, gentlemen.’ Heck, Willis was just inducted in 1995.
In actuality, any Hall of Famer is a really great player. These are all incredible talents and quality cards but, given that they’re so far down the list, you can see how many great cards there are here. These are generally the Hall of Famers that should cost you the least if building this set.
No. 7 Eddie Collins
Seriously, college boy. That’s the first thing I think of when I hear Collins’ name. It’s a derisive name he earned by teammates and opposing players for attending school at Columbia.
Yep, we’re at the point where going to college is a bad thing.
Collins is a cut above the other Hall of Famers mentioned earlier. He won an MVP award and nearly won four others, twice finishing second in the voting and twice finishing third. Collins also won four World Series’ and is one of the more underappreciated pre-war Hall of Famers by most accounts.
Upset City, Baby
No. 6 Christy Mathewson
If this list was a bracket, putting Christy Mathewson this low would be a supreme upset. Purely from a financial point, it’s one of the more expensive cards in the set. But there’s a lot I really hate about this card.
First, his card lacks the detail in the face that we get on the T205 and the dark cap version of his T206 card. It’s a really poor rendition of such an iconic face and I’m totally docking it for that. This picture looks more like that of 1,000 possible players than it does one of the best pitchers of all-time. If we hadn’t seen this pose used on so many other issues, in fact, we’d swear this was an identification issue like the Irv Young/Cy Young mess on some E-Cards.
Plus, let’s talk about that printed name for a second. Now, while spelling errors can be kind of appealing, that’s less the case when we’re talking about Hall of Famers. Especially big name ones. No points for that double ‘T’ in his name on the front and it just really detracts from the card. I don’t think it’s quite E120 American Caramel Ty ‘Cob’ level bad, but it’s bad.
It’s not enough to drop it below the dull Hall of Famers behind him, but this just isn’t a great card.
No. 5 Chief Bender
No. 4 Eddie Cicotte
Seriously, look at that hat. Look at that glorious hat. Take one good look at it and you tell me this masterpiece of a card doesn’t belong at least this high on the list. If we’re going purely by aesthetics here, you can make the argument that it’s the best freaking card in the entire issue.
This is the kind of card that makes you want to start collecting a set even if you have zero interest in it. If you aren’t flat out in love with this thing, I don’t know what to tell you. As if that wasn’t enough, Bender is also a Hall of Famer to boot.
Talking about great apparel, check out the jersey on my man Eddie Cicotte. I love Cicotte’s jersey even more than I love Bender’s hat, to be honest.
So was this an actual uniform? Yep, it really was. In 1908, the Red Sox trotted out these uniforms with a huge red sock on the chest and word ‘Boston’ printed in white inside of it. Here are several pictures of them. I don’t believe the uniforms were worn in 1909, so the card maybe even gives us a little insight on when it was produced – likely early in the 1909 calendar year.
Like Bender, Cicotte is also a star player in the set. He really emerged with the Chicago White Sox later and was infamously a player on the 1919 Black Sox team. His involvement in that scandal makes his cards plenty desirable and this one is one of my absolute favorites.
No. 3 Eddie Plank
No. 2. Ty Cobb
No. 1 Honus Wagner
Getting right down to it, here are the last three cards. Plank’s issue is popular for collectors unable to find his rare T206 card. It uses the same portrait picture (which is also found on other cards, too) and is a really gorgeous card.
Of course, there’s no way it’s jumping Cobb or Wagner, though.
Cobb or Wagner. Wagner or Cobb. That’s the question, right? In most cases Cobb easily bests Wagner in terms of desirability. Cobb’s cards aren’t quite Ruth’s cards much in the way that Wagner’s cards aren’t quite Cobb’s cards. They’re mostly just a wee step behind.
But I’m giving Wagner the nod here. First, the batting pose is just a much more interesting look than Cobb’s portrait. Second, the card is from 1909. That year, Wagner’s Pirates beat Cobb’s Tigers in the World Series, four games to three. Adding insult to injury, Wagner was spectacular, batting .333 while Cobb faltered, hitting .231.
For this year and this set, I’m taking Wagner.