Though a die-hard Dodger fan, I’ve always had a fondness for two lifelong Giants, Mel Ott and Carl Hubbell. How much fondness? At the risk of losing favor with the Great Dodger in the Sky, let’s just say I have more cards of each than I do Dodger legends like Duke Snider, Sandy Koufax, and Jackie Robinson!
One flip through my “old cards” binder is enough to reveal that despite my allegiance to all things Dodger Blue, I’ve been sleeving with the enemy.
As I added my latest Hubbell to the collection, a 1941 Double Play in remarkably nice shape, I stopped to think about why it is I had such a connection to the Giants ace.
I think the allure goes way back to when nearly all of my knowledge of baseball history came from (and this will make me sound old!) books and radio.
I imagine Vin Scully mentioned Carl Hubbell once or twice in the games I’d listen to before bed starting around 1979, perhaps in conjunction with our own screwballer, Bobby Castillo, and I have no doubt King Carl came up even more as Fernando rose to prominence.
As for books, I gravitated more toward cartoon-illustrated tomes with titles like “Baseball’s Zaniest Plays” (and still do!) than biography or serious analysis, a consequence being that I came to prize the 7-for-7 game or double no-hitter even more than the 500 home run hitter or 300 game winner. No surprise then that striking out five of the greatest hitters in baseball history–in a row!–would command my attention.
Of course, as is true with much in my life, there was a baseball card angle. At a card show around 1980, perhaps my very first, I rummaged through the “quarter box” and left with a 1961 Nu-Cards Baseball Scoops card immortalizing the Meal Ticket’s midsummer heroics.
Of course I had no idea it was from 1961. To ten-year-old me this card—bargain price be damned— had to be from 1934, or maybe 1935 at the very latest, which made this card my very first really old card of an all-time great. (In truth, that status still would have held had I known the card’s correct year.)
A few years later I was fortunate enough to receive a through the mail return from the Meal Ticket himself, though the card, like many from my early collecting days, did not survive the decades.
Fast forward nearly 40 years and my Hubbell collection included the glorious plastic sheet shown earlier, a 1935 Diamond Stars, and several pages of post-career cardboard: Fleer Baseball Greats, TCMA, Renata Galasso, Dick Perez, Conlon, etc.
There were definitely other cards I wanted, but I had two things working against me. First off, my “best of” binder page looked so magnificent, I didn’t really want to tinker. Second, vintage Carl Hubbell cards weren’t exactly free. Fortunately, each of these problems had a solution.
If the collection grew a bit, I could borrow a Cigar Box display from one of my Dodger collections, however traitorous that sounds. As for cash, I came to the conclusion that supporting an Ott and Hubbell collection took me a bit outside my means and that selling some Ott cards would be an excellent way to generate some Hubbell money.
It was definitely painful to part with any beloved card of Master Melvin, but I knew I’d made the right decision when I was able to add this absolute dream card to my collection. Plus, Ott played for the Giants, so there’s that. 😃
Another big “hit” was Hubbell’s 1934 Goudey card, notably the year of his famous strikeout feat. (The “Sports Kings” card was likely also released in 1934, though the multi-sport Goudey set is nearly always referred to as a 1933 issue.)
I also decided I was long overdue in picking up some of the Meal Ticket’s early 1970s Laughlin cards.
The result is this wonderful Hubbell display, which sits atop my mantel.
Keen eyes might notice I’ve subbed in this homemade “Heavy J Studios” version of Hubbell’s Sport Kings card while the real one anchors a separate wall display.
I’ve also applied similar treatment (plus cut autograph—thanks, Sean!) to my 1984 Donruss Champions series featuring the glorious artwork of Dick Perez.
To an extent I suppose I’m now where I was almost a year ago, display full and wallet empty. The only difference is now I have exactly the Hubbell collection I’d always dreamed of. Still, I’ll highlight the cards most likely to sneak into my collection someday if the price or timing is just right.
In honor of Hubbell’s strikeout record, I’ll start with this group of five cards, any of which would bump the 2019 Panini Diamond Kings card out of my display.
1933 Goudey #234
I’m a sucker for 1933 Goudey, so this is an obvious want. However, it’s not quite a need. The image is the same as Hubbell’s 1934 Goudey card, and I already have both that and Hubbell’s other 1933 Goudey. Shoot, though. I do love red backgrounds.
1934 Batter Up
This card is attractive to me in a couple ways. The pose is tremendous, so there’s that. But there’s also the fact that I don’t have a single Batter Up card in my collection.
1941 Goudey (Blue)
There is so little to love about this set, but I do think the Hubbell is among its least terrible cards. Yet another set I have no cards of in my collection.
1943 M.P. & Company
Literally the exact same comment as above.
1974 Laughlin All-Star Game
I absolutely LOVE Laughlin cards, having grown up on the Fleer sticker backs of the early 1980s. I know a lot of collectors my age would go back to card shows of that era and buy up Mantle cards. Me, I’d scoop up all the 1970s Laughlin sets for two to three dollars a pop!
As much as I enjoy the larger pieces, they’re a challenge to display with my other cards. Still, I’m forced to at least call out two cards so spectacular I’d find a spot for them somehow.
1937 and 1938 Wheaties
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How about you? What are your favorite cards of the Meal Ticket? Do your player collections include enemies from the rival team? Let me know in the comments, and happy collecting!
A FEW LESSONS
- When “collecting them all” is a practical impossibility, building a player collection of personal favorites, perhaps restricted or otherwise influenced by display parameters, is a great way to go.
- If displaying is an end goal, you might be surprised how much customs, modern, and art cards can enhance the overall look and obviously save a ton of cash.
- Selling or trading all but a couple favorites of a player you collect is a great way to build up your collection of someone else. Not easy but no regrets!
RANDOM CARL HUBBELL TRIVIA
- Hubbell’s feat of five consecutive All-Star Game strikeouts was matched in 1986 by fellow screwballer Fernando Valenzuela. However, the batters retired by Fernando (Mattingly, Ripken, Barfield, Whitaker, Higuera) don’t read quite the same as Ruth, Gehrig, Foxx, Simmons, Cronin).
- Hall of Fame teammates Mel Ott and Carl Hubbell died exactly 3o years apart (November 21, 1958, and November 21, 1988) from injuries suffered in automobile accidents.
- Born in Carthage, Missouri, King Carl won 18 games in 1929 but was outdone by namesake and fellow Show Me State native Edwin Hubble (Marshfield, MO) whose discovery of Hubble’s Law had profound implications for our understanding of the universe.
5 thoughts on “Collecting King Carl”
I have 5 Hubbell cards from before I was born but only overlap with you on two of them (Golden Press and 1970 Laughlin). The other three are 1960 Fleer, a Dixie Lid, and a Diamond Matchbook.
I feel like with the lids and matches, they are always $20 when I’m not looking and $80 when I am! May bite if the right deals come around. I do have the 60 Fleer but I didn’t want to pull it from the set.
You could probably pick up a #53 Hubbell from the ’76 Shakey’s Pizza HOF set for a couple of bucks. The set is numbered in order of induction, so I assume Hubbell was the Hall’s 53rd member.
That may be a set I go for someday but right now the Hubbell single by itself might not do enough for me.
I’d max out on Laughlin’s King Carl cards, since a few more are out there. 1967’s black-and-white version of that World Series screwball drawing and 1972 Great Feats of Baseball come to mind first.