Top Five Combos in the 1941 Double Play Set
The 1941 Double Play set isn’t technically a pre-war issue. Rather, its one of the few wartime sets issued smack dab in the middle of World War II.
The set isn’t known as much for that as it is for being one of the small number of sets that pictured two players on one card. The set has most, if not all, of the main stars in the game at the time. What are the top combinations of players found in the set? Here are my top five.
Note that these aren’t the most valuable cards. Rather, they are the ones in my opinion that had the best combinations of total star power along with some bonuses being given for rookie cards.
Two cards didn’t make the cut even though you can probably make a pretty good case for them.
First, there’s cards 85 an 86 featuring Hank Greenberg and Red Ruffing. Both are Hall of Famers, though Ruffing is not nearly as desirable as many others in that category. Leaving Greenberg out of my top five hurt but the other combinations were simply too strong in my eyes.
Ditto for cards No. 105 and 106 — Lefty Grove and Bobby Doerr. Grove is another strong Hall of Famer while Doerr’s name doesn’t stand up to some of the others from Cooperstown, even though he’s a Hall of Famer, too. Another tough call here but when you’re limiting the list to only five combinations, this one falls just short for me.
5. Joe DiMaggio and Charley Keller
This is the only card in the list (including the honorable mentions) that did not include two Hall of Famers.
While that might seem odd that this card gets the nod over the two that just fell short, a couple of things play into its selectability. First, DiMaggio was arguably the biggest star in the game at the time this set was released and is one of the all-time greats. 1941 even saw DiMaggio win his second Most Valuable Player award.
Second, Keller was no slouch himself. While not a Hall of Famer, Keller was undoubtedly a star. He won three World Series titles with the Yankees and was not merely along for the ride, either. He was a five-time All-Star, batted .300 three times, and led the league in OPS in 1943 and walks twice in his career.
4. Johnny Mize and Enos Slaughter
This card includes the legendary Johnny Mize and Enos Slaughter. Both players were inducted into the Baseball Hall of Fame.
Slaughter is the lesser known of the pair but he boasts plenty of credentials, including a lifetime .300 batting average and ten All-Star appearances. That includes three years of inaction due to World War II service. And while Slaughter never won a Most Valuable Player award, he came close three times, finishing second or third. As if this card needed an additional boost, it is also one of Slaughter’s rookie issues.
Mize, meanwhile, was one of the game’s top hitters in his era. He, too, was also a 10-time All-Star, despite missing three years due to World War II. He led the league in hitting in 1939 with a .349 average and that wasn’t even his best season at the plate. As a second-year player, he batted .364 two years earlier and, all told, he batted over .330 four times (a fifth, he hit .329). Mize was also a tremendous power hitter, leading the league in home runs four different times. Like Slaughter, he nearly won three Most Valuable Player Awards, too, finishing in the top three on three different occasions.
3. Joe Cronin and Jimmie Foxx
Cards No. 59 and 60 tout Hall of Famers Joe Cronin and Jimmie Foxx. One could easily swap this card with the No. 4 card on this list.
Neither man here needs much of an introduction, though Cronin is certainly lesser known. That doesn’t mean he doesn’t belong, though.
Cronin was a lifetime .301 hitter in a 20-year major league career. Throughout the course of his career, he led the league in several categories, including doubles and triples, while leading the league in Defensive WAR at his position three times. As if that wasn’t enough, he served as a player/manager for many years, leading his team to more than 1,200 wins and two league pennants.
Foxx, of course, was even more impressive. One of the all-time great home run hitters, he clubbed 534 of those and won three Most Valuable Player Awards. He was one of the top players of his generation. Like many of his cards, his name is spelled as Jimmy here as opposed to the more commonly known spelling of Jimmie.
2. Lefty Gomez and Phil Rizzuto
I mentioned in the last entry that you could swap No. 3 and 4 on this list quite easily. Some could make the same argument for this card, too. All three are very close to call.
This card features two more Yankee Hall of Famers in pitcher Lefty Gomez and Phil Rizzuto.
Gomez arguably does not get the credit he should. He is in the Hall of Fame but without even 200 wins to his name, he is often dismissed by some. Had the Cy Young Award been around when he was playing (that award was not given out until the 1950s), he could have won it at least twice in 1934 and 1937 when he won the elusive pitcher’s Triple Crown award, leading the league in wins, strikeouts, and ERA. Gomez did not have the longevity of others, playing in the majors until he was only 34. But the seven-time All-Star was one of the dominant arms of his era.
Rizzuto is another big name in the set, though his Hall of Fame credentials are often called into question. But he won the 1950 Most Valuable Player Award and nearly won another, finishing second in 1949. On top of his playing credentials, the card is also Rizzuto’s rookie. And according to Old Cardboard’s rookie card list, he does not even have any other traditional cards until 1947.
1. Ted Williams and Joe Cronin
No matter how you slice it, it is difficult to top this card when it comes to player combinations. Featuring Hall of Famers Ted Williams and Joe Cronin, it is generally the most valuable card in the set with even low-grade copies starting around $150.
Cronin’s achievements have been covered earlier. Williams, of course, needs little introduction. He is considered by some to be the best hitter in the history of the sport and his six batting titles are impressive credentials. What is sometimes forgotten is how great of a power hitter he was, though. Williams was one of the best home run hitters in the history of the sport with 521 of them to his name. He also won two Triple Crown titles as well an is undoubtedly one of the all-time greats.
When it comes to finding the best combination of players on a card in the set, this one stands above the rest.
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