The Hidden Rookie Card of Hall of Famer Ross Youngs
This Ross Youngs’ Rookie Card Isn’t Necessarily Easy to Find
Hall of Famer Ross Youngs didn’t have a long playing career. Playing ten seasons with the New York Giants (1917 through 1926), Youngs was good, though. He was a career .322 hitter and led the league in runs (121 in 1923) and doubles (31 in 1919) while helping the Giants to two World Series titles.
Those numbers don’t necessarily scream Cooperstown, of course. So it’s no surprise that Youngs didn’t make the Hall in short order. He didn’t get into that prestigious club until 1972 when he was elected by the Veteran’s committee.
Some of Youngs’ rookie cards are often viewed as the early American Caramel, National Caramel cards, and Koester Bread card in the early 1920s. But his true rookie card is likely his W514 strip card, which is usually stated as being from 1919, 1920, and/or 1921, depending on who you ask.
Even if you concede that W514 card as predating his other cards, Youngs’ W514 card is often missed.
Why? The name.
Youngs’ W514 cards state his name as Pep Young, which is confusing for a few reasons. First, there actually were other players going by the name Pep Young. One was irrelevant to this discussion since he played with the Pirates, Reds, and Cardinals in the 1930s and 1940s. But another (named Ralph) played for the Detroit Tigers in the same period.
Regarding Ralph, the ‘Pep’ nickname may not have been all that well known. But he was called Pep Young in the 1923 W516 strip card sets. So how do we know the Pep Young featured in W514 is Ross Youngs? Most notably, he is named as the right fielder for the New York Giants. The other Pep Young played in the infield for the Detroit Tigers.
Ah, but about that troubling ‘Young’ name? Why is Youngs missing the ‘s?’ Well, you shouldn’t need me to tell you that typos were common in pre-war sets. But even more than that, several of Youngs’ cards actually omit the S, including those aforementioned National Caramel, American Caramel, and Koester’s Bread cards, where he is merely called Ross Young.
Now, you might be asking, where does ‘Pep’ come from? Was that one of Youngs’ real nicknames? According to Baseball-Reference, yep. SABR, too, says that Youngs was actually given the nickname from manager John McGraw for his hustle. The W514 strip card is undoubtedly a Ross Youngs card given the team, position, and the Pep nickname.
The card does actually go recognized by some. This SGC 3 on eBay was advertised as such and sold for $250. But the it also definitely goes unnoticed probably just as much. I found one in a box of commons recently and got it for a ridiculously low price.
Not all Pep Young cards depict the Hall of Famer. But not only does this one picture him, it’s also a rookie card.