HOF Cards From The Forgotten Yankees & Athletics Rivalry

1932-caramel-ruthAs the prosperous days of the Roaring Twenties inched toward conclusion, baseball fans were gifted with an all-time rivalry that played out over a 4-year period from 1927-1930.

It was almost like a final treat to Americans before they would be wreaked havoc upon by the Great Depression that loomed just around the corner after the conclusion of the 1929 World Series.

It was an interesting period for America’s Pastime. Most major cities on the east coast had two professional teams, between the AL and NL, because baseball had not yet garnered as much popularity in the west.

However, these four years saw one of the earliest battles between two teams who were in a quest to become major leagues’ supreme club at the time. 

It was a rivalry between the Philadelphia Athletics and the New York Yankees

Both teams were loaded with Hall of Famers and throughout this article I will discuss my favorite card for each HOF player from both teams.

They are listed in the table of contents below.

The Rivalry - Yankees vs Athletics

Murderer's Row - The Yankees Domination 1927-28

The New York Yankees were repeat World Series champions in 1927 and 1928.

The Yanks swept the Pittsburgh Pirates in 4 games in the 1927 World Series to capture the franchise’s second title of the decade.

Murderer’s Row, they were called.

Murderer's Row - circa 1927, courtesy Wikipedia

It is undoubtedly one of the best nicknames in sports history

The team’s high-octane offense consisted of Hall of Famers Babe Ruth, Lou Gehrig, Tony Lazzeri, and Earl Combs, all of whom hit over .300 during the 1927 season.  

The same year that Babe Ruth smashed 60 HRs in a single season, more than any other team that year!

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Babe Ruth, 1927, image courtesy Rogelio A. Galaviz (Flickr)

It was a record that stood until Roger Maris hit 61 HRs in 1961

In 1928, the Yanks did it again, although it was an absolute battle as they finished the season only 2.5 games ahead of the Athletics to once again win the AL pennant.

Babe Ruth and Lou Gehrig hit 54 and 27 home runs, respectively. However, Lou Gehrig finished with a .374 BA, the highest on the team by far.

The Athletics’ Mickey Cochrane was voted the regular season A.L MVP in 1928. 

Did You Know?

Mickey Cochrane


Mickey Cochrane's career came to an abrupt halt in 1937 at the age of 34 after he was struck with a pitch on the head by Yankee's pitcher Bump Hadley. Cochrane would spend six weeks in the hospital following the accident and never play a baseball game again.

After winning the AL Championship, the Yankees went on to repeat as World Series Champions in 1928, beating the Cardinals, making it the Yankee's third World Series championship in franchise history. 

Athletics Repeat from 1929 to 1930

There would be no three-peat from the Yankees in 1929.

The Yanks finished in second place in 1929, 18 games back from the AL champion Philadelphia Athletics. 

After winning the AL title, the Athletics went on to beat the Chicago Cubs in the World Series, capturing the fourth world series victory in team history.

 However, just 10 days later the stock market would begin to collapse, and Americans would be abruptly thrust into the beginning of the Great Depression.

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Great Depression (Flickr - courtesy tonythemisfit)

Connie Mack assembled a masterful team in 1929, though, one that featured a line-up peppered with HOF players, like: Jimmie Foxx, Lefty Grove, Mickey Cochrane, and Al Simmons.

It is considered one of the greatest teams ever assembled in baseball history. Some think they were even better than Murderer’s Row.

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1929 Athletics team photo

The two big sluggers that year for the A’s were Jimmie Foxx and Al Simmons, with the latter smacking a team high 34 HRs in 1929 while Jimmie was right behind him, hitting 33 of his own. 

The Athletics would repeat as World Series Champs in 1930, finishing the season sixteen games ahead of the third- place Yankees and they would go on to beat the St. Louis Cardinals in the World Series, sealing the franchise's fifth World Series championship. 

The Babe finished the 1930 season number one in HRs (54) and Gehrig finished number one in RBIs (174); however,  the A's Al Simmons had the best BA (.381) that season.

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The Yankees also became the first team to score over a thousand runs in a season. Robert "Lefty" Grove dominated the majors in pitching during the 1930 season.

He finished the regular season number 1 in wins (32); era (.2.54); and SO (209). 

Lefty was lights out all season.

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Lefty Grove

" You've got a little round ball and a little round bat and anything can happen."

 

Philadelphia Athletics HOF Players (1927-30)

Connie Mack 

1914 Cracker Jack #12

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Our first player starts with Cornelius McGillicuddy, better known as Connie Mack. He played in the big leagues from 1886 to 1896 and later as a player/manager for the Pittsburgh Pirates from 1894-1896.

Following his stint with the Pirates, Connie Mack founded the Philadelphia Athletics in 1901, where he was manager, treasurer, and part owner of the team for 50 years. 

Before the New York Yankees even won their first World Series, which was in 1923, Connie Mack and the Philadelphia Athletics had already won 3 of them, ---- 1910, 1911, 1913 ----making them a bona fide dynasty.

"You can't win 'em all" - Connie Mack 

After 65 years of seeing the game from various perspectives, I’d say ole Cornelius is essentially the Father of America’s Pastime.

Mack's 1914 Cracker Jack card was released at the height of Connie’s success in Philly, right after the Athletics beat the New York Giants for their 3rd World Series in 4 years.

There’s only a measly population of 50 graded PSA Cracker Jack Connie Mack cards, according to the PSA Registry, and 90% of the cards are graded below a PSA NM 7.

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Cracker Jack cards are notoriously known for being nearly impossible to find in high grades and this card is no exception. 

Eddie Collins

1909 American Caramel E90-1

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Amazingly, Eddie Collins was a part of all 5 Philadelphia Athletics World Series ----1910, 1911, 1913, 1929, 1930.  

He was a HOF second baseman known for his intellectual approach to the game.

In terms of championships, he is the most decorated professional athlete in Philadelphia sports history. The Athletics, who moved to Oakland in the 1950s, last played in Philadelphia nearly 60 years ago!  

The total PSA population for this card is only 85, with none being higher than a PSA 6 EX MT. 

E90-1 PSA Population Report

The E-90 Eddie Collins makes for a great, affordable investment, as lower grade copies can usually be found for less than $300.

This is a great card of a Hall of Famer from an early and inspirational set.

Ty Cobb

1928 W502 #27

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Ty Cobb finished up his illustrious career with the A's, playing for the team in 1927 and 1928. Even at the age of 40, Cobb was a starting outfielder for the team, finishing second only behind Simmons with a .357 Batting Average.  

His 1928 W502 strip card issue was released while he was with the A's. The card is pretty rare; PSA has graded only around 20 copies. However as Old Cardboard notes the issue is closely related to several other sets from the same year

Herb Pennock

1928 W513 Strip Card #68

Herb Pennock (Hall of Fame) Baseball Cards

Herb Pennock won six World Series championships with three different teams, including one with the Athletics in 1913.  He won one also with the Red Sox in 1915 and 4 with the Yankees from 1923-1932.  

He was big key to their 1927 and 1928 World Series victories.

I like his 1928 W512 Strip Card, mostly for its scarcity and affordability.  PSA has graded only 36 copies, but collectors can usually find one in lower grade for less than $200.

Jimmie Foxx

1935 Diamond Stars #64

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I think the 1935 Diamond Stars set is the most underrated set in the hobby.

In terms of aesthetic appeal, it could be the most beautiful all-around set; every card is simply splendid.

Wait, was Foxx a catcher? 

Nope, one of the things that makes this card unique is that Jimmie didn’t usually play catcher; he usually played first base. 

When he played with the Athletics from 1925-1935, he rarely played catcher because the Athletics already had a HOF catcher in Mickey Cochrane.

Among some of Jimmie’s many achievements are:  

2X WS champ, 9 time All Star, 3x A.L MVP, Triple Crown in 1933. 

PSA has graded over 500 copies, so not scarce, but a great card with a good enough supply to make it somewhat affordable; low to mid grade copies sell for less than $500. 

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Al Simmons

1933 Goudey #35

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Al Simmons is a predominantly unknown HOF and all-time great.

He hit more home runs and had a better average than Jimmie Foxx in the 1929 season; Al hit for a BA of .354 and Jimmie .333.

There have been 3 separate sales so far in 2021 of PSA 5s sold at auction or on eBay for an average price of approximately $565.

Anything graded a PSA 7 NM or higher will easily cost thousands. 

PSA has graded over 500 copies, but not scarce, but a good enough supply that makes buying one fairly accessible.

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Mickey Cochrane

1935 Diamond Stars #9

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This is my favorite card within this stunning art deco, 1935 Diamond Stars set.

There are not many high caliber graded cards for this issue as the numbers illustrate.  For example, there are only 35 PSA graded cards of this card that have been graded a PSA 7 NM or better.

Quality examples of cards from this set are relatively hard to find and do not pop up a whole lot at auction.

A PSA 7 sells for around $1000; considering the scarcity of this set relative to others, I think it's an attractive price point. 

1933 Goudey Cochrane PSA Auction values.

Lefty Grove

1933 Goudey #220

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The 1933 Goudey Lefty Grove issue is truly a magnificent card of the HOF pitcher. There are only 77 cards graded at least an 8 NMMT or higher.

Two years ago you easily could have purchased a PSA 5, possibly a 6, for well under a $1000.

The bull market, however, continues to persist for all sports cards, which is why a PSA 5, and certainly a 6, would likely run you around $2000, give or take.

It’s a sellers’ market these days.

PSA has graded about 500 copies

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New York Yankees HOF Players (1927-1930)

George (Babe) Ruth

1932 U.S Caramel #32

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1932 was the season the Babe won his last World Series, the 7th in a long, illustrious career; he won 3 rings with the Red Sox and 4 with the Yankees.

The U.S Caramel cards are a difficult set to find in high grades. There are only 135 PSA graded Babe Ruth 1932 U.S Caramel cards.

I personally think this is the most beautiful card in the set. The slightly askew hat on top of George’s head is emblematic of the Babe’s lighthearted approach to life.

The bright red background contrasting with the dark and light colors helps portray that light-heartedness. 

Prices have been on the rise, of course, and this card is no different.

The one-year increase from 2020 to 2021 for a PSA 5 EX has been 55% thus far. The most recent PSA 5 sold this year for over $15,000. 

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Tony Lazzeri

1933 Goudey #41

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Most people think of Babe Ruth and Lou Gehrig when they think of Murderer’s Row, but there were 4 other Hall of Famers on that team and Tony Lazzeri was one of them.

He is the one of the only players in baseball history to hit for the natural cycle, meaning he hit a single, double, triple and HR in that order. He was a stupendous fielder and finished his career with a .292 batting avg.

His 1933 Goudey issue is a nice-looking portrait card, and it is from a landmark set, a set that was released amidst the depression and pervasive financial turmoil.

At the time, bubble gum companies, like Goudey, were producing baseball cards as a marketing ploy to keep people, particularly kids, interested in the game of baseball due to dwindling game attendances across the board. 

Sometimes children during the Great Depression would compete in marble shooting contests, where each child would wager one of their baseball cards in each round. 

This card is affordable. The last PSA 6 EX MT sold for close to $900. The highest graded card for #41 Lazzeri, of which there are 8, is a PSA 8 NM MT, and one recently sold for over $15,000.

Waite Hoyt

1923 W572

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The Waite Hoyt card is the only black and white card I feature on this list. And one of only several strip cards. This one from the W572 issue from 1923 is one of the lesser known strip card issues

I like this card because it catches Hoyt in mid pitch and the card was also released the year the New York Yankees won their first World Series Championship in franchise history.

Lou Gehrig

1933 DeLong #7

1933 DeLong Cards Were A One-Year Wonder

Lou hit for a .334 BA and crushed 32 home runs in the 1933 season. The 33 Lou Gehrig DeLong is Gehrig’s second-best card, in my opinion.

I put it right behind his 1932 U.S Caramel card, primarily because that was Gehrig’s first mainstream card and therefore his rookie card, but the 33 DeLong cards are a uniquely gorgeous set.

This card, like most of Lou’s from this era, carries a hefty price tag.

The total PSA supply for this card is just 298. The market has always had a hearty appetite for it, too, which is why today a PSA 1 FR would cost a healthy $2,000.

Earl Combs

1933 Goudey #103

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Earle is another neglected HOF member of the potent Murderer’s Row lineup, which is good because it means his card is a reasonably priced investment opportunity for anyone’s collection.

I love the navy-blue background of this card. It’s fitting for a Yankee player because it goes with the team’s colors, and it makes this card stand out from the other cards in the set. Most 1933 Goudey cards feature softer and brighter colors in the backdrop.

There are a total of 442 cards graded at least a PSA 1 FR or greater. The most recent PSA 5 sold for $332 on eBay in June of this year.

1933 combs goudey

Finishing Up

The time from 1927-1930 was a volatile period in American History.

During the Depression game attendance was severely down throughout the league, including for the most decorated franchise at the time, the Philadelphia Athletics.

No other team had 5 World Series wins at that point.

However, the New York Yankees would proceed to go on the most fruitful championship run of any sports team in the history of sports. 

From 1932 to 1962 they won 17 World Series, which is more than half of them. It is ridiculous! 

I hope this list provides some good ideas for any collectors looking to buy any HOF cards from these legendary Yankees and A's teams.

The idea for this piece came from an old Sports Illustrated issue written by Jon Wertheim. It was titled “The Team That Time Forgot”.

If you want to much more in-depth look into the Philadelphia Athletics and Connie Mack, then definitely check out this article.


Joe Volpe
 

Joe is a passionate collector and a lover of all things vintage. He graduated with a BA in Finance from Catholic University and is currently pursuing a Masters in Publishing from George Washington University.

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