No Stars in the 1936 Goudey Set? Says Who?
The 1936 Goudey set is often dismissed for a lack of stars — but is that perception really true?
The 1936 Goudey set is one of the easiest pre-war baseball card sets to complete. In fact, it’s at the top of my list when someone asks for a recommendation for a manageable set to start.
One of the reasons for that? Well, the short 25-card checklist has a lot to do with it. It’s Goudey’s smallest baseball card release and while small doesn’t necessarily make for a great set, it’s make for an easy completion.
But the set isn’t just small, it’s cheap because there are no real expensive cards in it. In low-grade condition, you can get every card in the set for well under $100. Low-grade commons are abundantly easy to find, too, at low prices.
Part of the perception is, because of that, there are few stars in the set. Let’s be clear — the set is certainly missing many notable players like Lou Gehrig, Joe DiMaggio, and others. But is it really a set deprived of stars?
Let’s take a look.
The Obvious Stars
Right off the bat, there are some easy big names we can identify. Those are Hall of Famers Hank Greenberg, Mickey Cochrane, and Lefty Gomez. The trio represents a “Big Three” of sorts for this set and were among the biggest stars of the era.
But after that, you’ve got five additional Hall of Famers — Paul Waner, Bucky Harris, Rick Ferrell, Chuck Klein, and Kiki Cuyler.
With these eight players, you’ve got about 1/3 of the set that’s made up of guys in Cooperstown. That’s a pretty strong percentage. Obviously large sets won’t be able to keep up with a number like that just due to the volume but even for a small set, it’s a respectable number.
Right off the bat, you’ve got more than 30% of the checklist consisting of some of the biggest names the sport has ever seen.
The Not So Obvious
The set doesn’t end there in terms of stars. Next, you’ve got some guys that were, no doubt, stars, even if not at the Hall of Fame level.
St. Louis Cardinals outfielder/third baseman Pepper Martin is one of those guys. Martin was a four-time All-Star, who led the league in stolen bases three times. Then there’s Dolph Camilli. Camilli was the 1941 National League Most Valuable Player after leading the league in home runs (34) and RBI (120) with the Brooklyn Dodgers.
After that, you’ve got two-time All-Star Frankie Crosetti, who was a part of six World Series winning teams with the New York Yankees.
These guys aren’t Hall of Famers but their cards sell for above common prices in practically any set in which they appear. With these 11 guys, we’re up over the 40% mark in terms of legitimate star players in the set.
On top of those guys, you’ve got several others that were legitimate star players, even if their names don’t scream it.
Wally Berger is one of those.
Berger, to be honest, is the player that sort of prompted me to dig deeper into this set. I was surprised to learn that, not only was he a four-time All-Star, but he also led the league in home runs (34) and runs batted in (130) in 1935, the year before this set was issued. His is not a household name but it absolutely makes sense that he’d make it into this release. Those numbers, you might notice, even topped those of the aforementioned Camilli’s MVP season. Berger was also a career .300 hitter, something that few collectors probably know.
Paul Derringer is another. Derringer was a six-time All-Star, won 20 games four times (and nearly did in his 1931 rookie year with 18 victories and with 19 in 1936), and had two top five Most Valuable Player finishes.
Journeyman Rollie Hemsley made five All-Star teams. Bobo Newsom made four. Pinky Higgins, three. Heck, what you’ve got here is a set that consists of about 2/3 star players when you look at everything a bit closer.
The set is certainly missing big names. In addition to whiffing (most would say, fairly, given the small size of the set) on rookies Joe DiMaggio and Bob Feller, Hall of Famers Gehrig, Mel Ott, Dizzy Dean, Jimmie Foxx, and others are all missing. Even Gabby Hartnett, the 1935 National League Most Valuable Player isn’t included. There’s simply no denying that the set is without many of the best players of the era. That point cannot and should not be debated.
But the set also shouldn’t be beaten down as if it was completely devoid of stars. Many players included in the set certainly were star players, even if their careers are not remembered as well as they should have been.