Just months before Pearl Harbor, the St. Louis Browns and St. Louis Cardinals released team-issued sets distributed at Sportsman’s Park. The intrigue surrounding them is strengthened by the fact that they are among the relatively few war-time sets.
Part I of this dive into the two sets will feature the Browns set while Part II will review the cards for the Cardinals.
1941 St. Louis Browns Team Set Basics
The 1941 St. Louis Browns finished with 70-84 record but enjoyed a nice turnaround after a poor start — more on that in a bit. Overall, the team finished sixth in the American League.
Of the two St. Louis team sets, the Browns set is by far the less heralded. It doesn’t boast the star power of the Cardinals issue but there’s still a lot to like about it.
The American Card Catalog classifies this set as W753. While the W-Card classification is typically reserved for strip cards, this is not a strip card issue.
The cards are basic, measuring approximately 2 1/4″ wide by 2 3/4″ tall. Like the Goudey cards of the 1930s, they are a more square-like card than those from issues that had come before it. Their measurements are similar to those Goudey issues but slightly smaller (as a comparison, the early Goudey cards measure approximately 2 3/8″ by 2 7/8″). A total of 30 cards make up the set.
The Goudey comparisons are, of course, there. In particular, it’s the 1936 Goudey set that bears the most resemblance to these cards. Those cards also used black and white portraits of players with white borders. The long significant difference on the front is that names do not appear on the Browns cards.
The backs include the player’s name, position, biographical information, and statistics. In addition to the players, the checklist also includes a header card and pictures of team executives.
1941 St. Louis Browns Lineup
While the crosstown Cardinals had some pretty big names of the era including 21-year-old Stan Musial, Johnny Mize, Enos Slaughter and Marty Marion, the Browns were a low-budget operation without a huge roster of future Hall of Famers.
The key card, undoubtedly, is that of Hall of Fame catcher Rick Ferrell. Ferrell had begun his career with the Browns in 1929 before he moved to Boston during the 1933 season. After a few years in Washington, he returned to the Browns in 1941. This card marks his return to that team and is one of the later cards in his career. Ferrell would go on to play through 1947 but there were few card sets produced between 1941 and 1947.
Another key card is that of manager Luke Sewell who had spent the majority of his playing career with the Cleveland Indians. The former All-Star retired in 1939 before heading into managing in 1941. That year, he took over for red Haney.
Under Haney, the team got off to a dismal start winning only 12 of their first 44 games but the club’s record under Sewell was .500 (55-55). He would remain for five more seasons, leading the Browns to the World Series in 1944. Following his time in St. Louis, he would then manage the Cincinnati Reds for several seasons. His card in this set is important as it is his managerial rookie issue.
The presence of Sewell also gives us some idea into the precise dating of the set. Because Haney was the manager for a month before being released, we know this set was not issued until at least mid-May as Sewell is the one included.
Here is the complete checklist for the 1941 Browns set.
- Johnny Allen
- Elden Auken
- Donald Barnes
- Johnny Berardino
- George Caster
- Harlond Clift
- Roy Cullenbine
- Bill DeWitt
- Bobby Estalella
- Rick Ferrell
- Denny Galehouse
- Joe Grace
- Frank Grube
- Bob Harris
- Header Card
- Don Heffner
- Fred Hofmann
- Wally Judnich
- Jack Kramer
- Chet Laabs
- Johnny Lucadello
- George McQuinn
- Bob Muncrief
- Johnny Niggeling
- Fritz Ostermueller
- Luke Sewell
- Alan Strange
- Bob Swift
- Zack Taylor
- Bill Trotter
Rarity and Pricing
The cards are not impossible to find but they are quite rare. In all, the three major grading companies (PSA, SGC, and Beckett) have not even combined to grade 300 total cards. Many exist out there in raw form simply because of the lack of big names in this set. However, on average, fewer than ten of each of these cards have been graded and that is still an astonishingly small number. eBay also provides a good indicator of the rarity as few surface there for sale.
Despite that, prices for these cards is relatively minimal. Decent commons start in the $5-$10 range, though nicer examples, of course, can command significantly more.
Even high-grade sets, however, can go overlooked and no guarantee of high prices is assured with this set. A high-grade set of PSA-graded cards fetched a modest $420 in a 2018 auction.