Author’s note: This is the sixth in a series of pieces that will offer a mix of facts, unknowns, and speculation on one of the Hobby’s most iconic brands. This installment returns to the timing of the 1933 set’s various releases.
UPDATE: This article was updated in November 2021 to include reflect dates of birth from the 1933 edition of “Who’s Who in Major League Baseball” thanks to an eBay purchase from an ex-major leaguer!
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Toward the end of my third article, covering the 1933 Goudey set’s release schedule, I hinted at the fact that more information was yet to come. My quick spoiler alert is that the overall impact of the information is negligible. Still, we’re here for overanalysis, so the main requirement of these posts is not relevance but length. 😊
I’ll use Carl Hubbell’s two cards in the set to give a preview of what’s to come. First, here is his Sheet 9 card, one of the most picturesque of the entire set.
Of course, it’s the card’s reverse that’s more germane to our study.
That scoreless innings record from July 13-August 1 is from the (then) current year, 1933! In truth, this tidbit tells us fairly little about the Sheet 9 release since none of our earlier estimates pointed to the finalization of these cards before August 1. The larger point is that player bios offer at least a potential source of information beyond what was previously examined.
Case in point, Carl Hubbell’s other card in the set, his World Series card from Sheet 10. In particular, read the first sentence of the bio.
In our earlier analysis, we treated the end of the World Series, October 7, as the earliest finalization date for Sheet 10. However, Hubbell’s card now extends that marker by at least 3 days since the results of the 1933 NL MVP vote were not announced until October 10.
Fellow National League ace Dizzy Dean also offers some timing clues in his bio. Here is his “looker” from Sheet 9.
It’s a bit hard to read, but the first paragraph ends with “set a modern league strikeout record when he fanned 17 Cubs in a game on July 30, 1933.” As with the Sheet 9 Hubbell card, this fact fails to move the needle beyond simply affirming Sheet 9 as one that was finalized pretty late in the season. Still, great job, Goudey, staying current like that!
Ah, but there is one more clue on the card, a much more mundane one but the type of clue we will find across nearly a third of the set. At the end of the second paragraph we learn that Dean is 22 years old.
Given that Dean was born on January 16, 1910, this statement now strikes us as incorrect regardless of when Sheet 9 came out. However, the statement makes more sense when we consider the birthdate Goudey had on file for Dean, as evidenced by his card the next year.
If you aren’t yet dizzy from the data, you may now be thinking, “So what!” And you’d be correct. However, some birthdays are more interesting than others.
Of particular note is the card of Bluege, who has two cards in the set. The first is from Sheet 6 and notes his age as 32. The second is from Sheet 10 and notes his age as 33.
A plausible assumption, therefore, is that Bluege must have turned 33 sometime after his Sheet 6 card was drafted (or slated for release) but before his Sheet 10 card was finalized. Interestingly, his birthday was October 24.
Let’s pause for a second and see where we are.
- We’ve long known Sheet 10 was finalized after the World Series, hence no earlier than October 7.
- The Hubbell MVP card further adjusts this date to October 10.
- The Bluege card may suggest cards were still being finalized through at least October 24!
Now may is italicized for a couple reasons. One, we’ll see soon enough that ages and birthdays aren’t totally reliable in the Goudey set. Two, perhaps the bio writers completed their work by October 10 but simply took into account that cards would still take a few weeks to land on shelves. I sure won’t counter either of these points, but I will note that a finalization date for the sheet after October 24 makes the US Copyright Office publication date of December 23 look a lot less crazy.
Are there more?
By my count, there are 75 cards in the set that state the subject’s age and a handful more that–like Hubbell and Dean–reference 1933 events we can date precisely. As you can tell from the position of the scroll bar, I reviewed every single one.
Much to my chagrin but probably not your surprise, a lot of the ages were very wrong, and some might say so wrong as to make the entire endeavor an exercise in futility.
For example, here is Leo Mangum (Sheet 6), who Goudey portrays as 32 years old. With an actual birthday of May 24, 1896, Mangum would have turned 32 in 1928!
Then again, the Who’s Who guide lists Mangum’s date of birth as May 24, 1900, which would have Mangum as 32 years old from May 24, 1932, through May, 24, 1933. Problem solved! Still, even with the Guide, other cards proved problematic.
Here is Gus Mancuso (Sheet 10), who Goudey portrays as 33 years old. With an actual birthday of December 5, 1905, Mancuso wouldn’t turn 33 until 1938!
With Mancuso being one of the 18 repeated players on the World Series sheet, we don’t have to look far to see what birthday Goudey had on file for him. Here is his card 41 (Sheet 3), which shows…1905 also! This 1905 date of birth similarly occurs in the Guide, so about all we can do here is regard the “33 years old” bio as a math error or typo.
I wish I could say Mancuso presented the only unresolved issue in the data, but such was not the case. In all, about two dozen players had an age in their bio that was completely incompatible with their Baseball Reference date of birth. Many were “fixed” by the 1933 Who’s Who guide, but several persisted.
The first sheet in the set includes 12 cards with ages. Four of them (Bartell, Lazzeri, Cohen, Brickell) fall into the Mancuso category of ages incompatible with the 1933 release. As for the other eight, do they offer any useful information?
Indeed, all eight of the other ages would have all been correct from March 21, 1933, through August 27, 1933. This range is fairly broad but certainly compatible with our previous knowledge of the sheet one cards.
The second sheet also included 11 cards with ages on the back. Only one, Hank Johnson’s, has an age incompatible with the 1933 release.
Even ignoring Hank Johnson, the data are trouble since there is no window that would make all ten ages correct. We also see two cards, Harris and Ford, whose data clashes strongly with our assumed window for sheet two based on prior articles. Were we to ignore these cards as well, something far more pragmatic than rigorous, the window we’d arrive at would be April 22, 1933, through June 5, 1933. This checks out nicely but of course comes from some cherry picking of the data.
The next sheet included five cards with ages.
If we conveniently ignore the Grimes card, the window where the other ages are correct is December 2, 1932, through April 5, 1933. This matches well with earlier evidence of these cards being prepared during the preseason. Still, we only arrive at this by discarding a conflicting data point. Either way, don’t get too comfortable. By the end of this article, we will present definitive evidence that this sheet was still being worked on during the season!
The next sheet in the set included seven cards with ages. As in my 1934 Diamond Stars article, Rabbit Maranville was a definite problem, though he was not the only problem.
It’s hard to know what to make of the Heathcote card. By itself it would point to the sheet having been prepared several months before Opening Day, something many students of the set might assume reasonable. On the other hand, the same sheet includes two players who didn’t turn their card ages until April (Cantwell) or May (Combs). To make matters worse, even if we ignore Maranville and Heathcote, there is still no single window where all ages would be correct.
Our next sheet features three very wrong ages to go along with two aging hurlers, whose card ages coincided on only four days out of the year: July 22-25.
Interestingly the US Copyright Office publication date for Sheet 5 is July 14, which is not terribly different.
The eight cards with ages on the set’s sixth sheet fit the 1933 baseball season well.
That said, the first and last card listed are mutually incompatible, with MacFayden not turning his card age until June but Leo Mangum aging out in May. Were we to cast MacFayden aside the window where all (other) ages were correct would be March 16, 1933, through May 23, 1933. Conversely, the window minus Mangum would be June 10 through July 26. This latter window matches earlier estimates for the sheet, but of course we have only attained it by ignoring one of the cards.
Incidentally, this is a great time to highlight a fun story about Babe Ruth. We now know his birthday today to be February 6, 1895. However, it was known at the time–even to the Babe himself–as February 6, 1894. The result was that the Babe literally celebrated two fortieth birthdays! [Sources: Brooklyn Eagle (February 7, 1934) and Boston Globe (February 7, 1935)]
Sheet 7 included seven cards with ages but two were readily ignored.
Three of the players (High, Hargrave, Jamieson) were their card ages the entire baseball season. Meanwhile Walberg was his card age only through July 26 while Warner did not attain his card age until August 29. As such, there was no window where both were their card ages at the same time.
Were I forced to choose which card were more correct I’d choose Warner for the reason that Walberg was a repeat from the sixth sheet. Even with the bios different across his two cards I can see someone grabbing the age from the first one without thinking too hard about whether it might be outdated.
If we do reject Walberg (and Schulte and Holm!), the window for the sheet is August 29 to November 20, which matches up nicely with the September 1 publication date on file with the US Copyright Office.
The next sheet includes three cards with ages, though the Mahaffey card falls far outside the 1933 release.
Two of the cards, Bridges and Suhr, had ages that held for the entire 1933 baseball season. The other card, Urbanski, pointed to finalization or release by June 4, which is far earlier than previous clues have suggested. Therefore, this sheet is not only worthless in helping refine the timing of the set but it calls this entire analysis into question. Still, I’ll keep going.
Seven ages hit card backs on Sheet 9, all of which held for just about the entire baseball season (Klein turned 28 the final day of the World Series) other than that of Russ Van Atta.
The ages on this sheet, therefore, point to a window from June 21 through October 6, which fits but does not improve upon earlier estimates for this sheet.
We got a sneak preview of this sheet from Ossie Bluege much earlier in the article. Notably, his age isn’t the only one that suggests a bio finalized after the World Series. Joe Cronin, with an October 12 birthday, joins him as well.
Two cards, Moore and Mancuso, have ages wholly incompatible with the set’s 1933 release. Meanwhile the Weaver card simply clashes with this sheet having come out after the World Series. Abandoning these three data points, we obtain a window of October 24, 1933, through January 4, 1934.
Other events in the bios
In addition to all the cards covered thus far, there were a handful of others that alluded to in-season events. I’ll provide them here, both for completeness and because the final one adds genuinely new information to the mix.
The first sentence of Gehringer’s bio indicates that “no selection of an American League All-Star team would be complete” with him, and of course the Mechanical Man was the starter in the 1933 Midsummer Classic. That said, the wording of the sentence is such that it could have been written before or after the All-Star Game, and even a read of “after” tells us nothing we didn’t already know about the timing of Sheet 9.
Other cards (e.g., Hornsby, O’Doul, Durocher) refer to team changes during the season, and this information has of course already been used exhaustively in my previous article.
One card refers to an injury and loss of playing time, and opens the door to a bit more research.
“Has been out of the game part of 1933 season owing to injuries” most likely refers to July 5-25 when Alexander missed 19 straight games. Given that all prior estimates for Sheet 9 were well after July, this information is interesting but not useful.
The final 1933 event noted in a player bio is the long win streak boasted by Alvin Crowder from 1932-33.
Both of the General’s cards (Sheet 3, Sheet 10) reference a 15-game win streak from 1932 that was extended into the 1933 season prior to an early season loss to the Red Sox, which game logs show to be on April 17.
Unlike much of the data we’ve reviewed, I definitely treat the Crowder bio as significant and exciting. It presents our first evidence that Goudey was still working on Sheet 3 even after the season had started. It also provides at least some basis for speculation that the same was true for Sheet 4.
Throughout this series I have done my best to present “all the data” whether it supports or challenges various working theories of the set. While I do believe Goudey intended for player ages to be correct at the time of each card’s release, a position corroborated by the sole correction made in the set, I have no real information on what Goudey’s source data was, and there is ample evidence that birthdates as “known” in 1933 differ frequently from those deemed correct today. Therefore, any incompatibilities I highlight could be typos, could be the result of bad math, or could simply be the result of discrepant sources.
Ultimately, of course, it’s a fool’s errand to put ages on cards that, whenever they’re released, are intended to be enjoyed all season. Goudey included ages far less frequently in the 1934 set, opting more often for precise dates of birth or evergreen statements like “Bob was born in Maryville, Ill., in 1909.” By the 1938 set, full dates of birth were used exclusively, perhaps indicating a lesson learned.
Interestingly, National Chicle may have learned similar lessons with their Diamond Stars set but solved the problem in an altogether different way. Their one series of new cards in 1936 consisted solely of players who remained their card age the entire season!
As a final note, when I first wrote this article I did not yet have access to the 1933 edition of Who’s Who, which provided my revision with important contemporary birthdates I previously lacked. As messy as some of the data in this article are, earlier readers may recall it was even worse before! This offers me at least some hope that other contemporary sources might further clean up the data and potentially lead to more consistent results.
I hope you enjoyed the article that I promised would be “one for the ages!” Tune in next time for the seventh installment in this series in which I apply similar analysis to the 1934 Goudey release.
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