These are happy times for the nation’s capital.
The Washington Nationals’ four-game sweep against the St. Louis Cardinals in the NLCS means the World Series will be played in Washington, D.C., for the first time since 1933.
Franklin D. Roosevelt was completing his first year in the White House in 1933, and Adolf Hitler was consolidating his power as chancellor of Germany. Since then, Washington has lost two American League baseball franchises — the original Senators bolted to Minnesota after the 1960 season, and the expansion Washington Senators that replaced the original Nats shifted to Arlington, Texas, beginning in 1972.
Not only was 1933 a great year for baseball in Washington, it also was a great year for baseball cards, with the colorful, beautifully illustrated 239-card Goudey Big League Gum set making its debut. The 240th card in the set was produced in 1934, with a specially made Napoleon Lajoie card as the subject. It also contained 17 players from the pennant-winning Senators club and a total of 23 cards.
The Senators, who would win the AL pennant with a 99-53 record, outdistanced the defending World Series champion New York Yankees by seven games. While the Senators would lose the World Series in five games to the New York Giants, their lone win in the Fall Classic was a 4-0 victory in Game 3 at Griffith Stadium.
Joe Cronin: Matinee Idol
The player-manager of the Senators, future Hall of Famer Joe Cronin, would have three cards in the 1933 Goudey set — card Nos. 63, 109 and 189. He’d also have to escape a throng of admirers after the pennant clinching game.
The last time DC won a pennant, in 1933, #Nats 26-year-old player manager Joe Cronin was “besieged in the clubhouse by a hero-worshiping throng of thousands of fans of both sexes gone mildly mad” and had to escape through a trap door in center field. @thorn_john @rickklein #NLCS pic.twitter.com/FcCSRmZJxF
— Fred Frommer (@ffrommer) October 16, 2019
Another future Cooperstown resident, Heinie Manush, would have a staggering four cards in the set, matching Babe Ruth. Manush had cards Nos. 47, 107, 187 and 205. The low number card is one of the scarcer cards in the set, as the first 48 cards in the Goudey set are harder to find than the higher numbers.
Goose Goslin, another player destined for the Hall of Fame, had two cards (Nos. 110 and 168).
Meanwhile, Sam Rice, who starred for the Senators’ pennant-winners in 1924 and 1925 but was a part-time player by 1933, was featured on card No. 134.
I Spy Mo Berg and Other Notables
Some other interesting players from Washington were in the 1933 Goudey set. Card No. 158 featured Moe Berg, a journeyman catcher who was of the great spies in U.S. history. Earl Whitehill, who was the winning pitcher in the Senators’ only World Series game victory in 1933, was featured on card No. 124. Third baseman Ossie Bluege (Nos. 113 and 159) and Fred Schulte (Nos. 112 and 190) had two cards apiece in the set.
Other Senators in the set were Dave Harris (No. 9), Bobby Burke (No. 71), Alvin “General” Crowder, (No. 95), Joe Kuhel (No. 108), Luke Sewell (No. 114 and No. 163), Lefty Stewart (No. 121), Buddy Myer (No. 153), Jack Russell (No. 167) and Al Thomas (No. 169).
More than 80,000 cards from the 1933 Goudey set have been submitted to PSA for grading, and only 13 of them have earned a PSA 10 rating. There are 229 cards that have attained PSA 9 status, with Russell leading the way among Senators players with four. Berg, Bluege, Rice and Stewart had three apiece. Cronin’s No. 63 cards and one of his No. 189 cards reached 9, while four Manush cards have earned PSA 9s — two No. 107s and a pair of No. 187s), Other players with two PSA 9s include Burke and Goslin, while Sewell had one.
While high-grade examples can be expensive, most of the Senators cards in the 1933 Goudey set can be found on eBay for reasonable prices.
The 1933 Senators were a distant memory when the Montreal Expos relocated to Washington and rechristened themselves the Nationals in 2005. The Expos reached only one NLCS series, losing to the Los Angeles Dodgers in 1981. The Nationals played in four divisional series before finally breaking through and winning this year.
If the Nationals win the World Series this year, it would be Washington’s first World Series title since 1924. Just getting to the World Series already puts this year’s squad in rarified company in Washington sports history. The 1933 Goudey set reminds collectors that attractive cards of interesting players were possible 86 years ago. There are bigger names in the set, but the Senators were well-represented in the Goudey product.