It was the west coast’s “big league.” A starting point for future major league legends, the Pacific Coast League spawned several baseball card sets during its long heyday in the first half of the 20th century. Among them are three early post-war vintage issues from Hage’s Dairy.
Operated in San Diego by Willard Hage Jr., whose father founded the company, Hage’s was a manufacturer and distributor of ice cream and other dairy products.
Here’s a closer look at these rare minor league cards from the late 1940s and early 1950s.
About the 1949-51 Hage’s Dairy Cards
From 1949 through 1951, Hage’s Dairy issued three baseball card sets featuring players from the PCL. The sets clearly were not produced in large quantities as cards from any of the three are fairly rare.
While Hage’s was a dairy, the Standard Catalog notes that these rare cards were actually issued inside packages of popcorn that were sold at San Diego’s stadium.
Some of the team names in the set will be familiar to collectors today. For example, two teams featured in the set are the San Diego Padres and Los Angeles Angels. That might lead some to believe these were major league cards. While those are, of course, major league team names today, these were minor league team names at the time the sets were produced. Aside from a handful of cards, the majority of the players in the sets are minor leaguers.
Classified as F65 in the American Card Catalog, these three sets are somewhat similar in appearance. Each includes a player photo on the front inside of a white border with the player’s name and team inside of a whited out area. Some backs of the cards were blank while others have advertisements for Hage’s Dairy.
Several players were featured on more than one card (even within the same year). And in addition to actual pose variations, cards from the 1949 and 1951 sets were printed with varying tint colors, making for some confusing issues.
Finally, as SABR notes here, while most cards are minor leaguers, not all of them are. For example, the 1951 set actually included some major leaguers with Cleveland Indians players. While the 1949 and 1950 sets each had more than 100 cards, there are only 54 in the 1951 release.
Hage’s Dairy Stars
While these are primarily minor league sets, the Hage’s Dairy releases did produce cards for a good many players that became major leaguers. Several became stars and even Hall of Famers.
The 1949 Hage’s set is the most star-studded. From the 1949 set, the highlights include Hall of Famer Billy Martin, who played for the Oakland Oaks. His card is one of the most expensive across the three sets. Also found in the set was Hall of Famer Arky Vaughan, who was attempting a comeback to the majors. However, his 1949 season with the San Francisco Seals turned out to be the final one of his career.
Hall of Famer Bucky Harris is found in the set on two cards as he managed the Padres. Finally, Luke Easter also appears as a member of the Padres. Easter was one of the earliest black players to enter the majors after Jackie Robinson appeared in 1947.
The 1950 Hage’s set is keyed by the presence of nine-time All-Star Minnie Minoso and three-time All-Star Schoolboy Rowe. While Rowe was at the end of his career, Minoso’s career was just beginning. His Hage’s Dairy cards are among the earliest ones produced for him and they are among the more desirable cards across the three issues.
Finally, Easter is again found in the shortened 1951 set, serving as one of the key cards in that issue. Easter’s card appeared as part of the Cleveland Indians subset.
Rarity and Prices
As mentioned earlier, the Hage’s Dairy cards from any of the three sets are all pretty rare. eBay does usually have some but often, that number will be very limited with only a dozen or two listings.
PSA’s population reports present a good idea of the rarity of the sets. To date, they have graded only about 40 cards from each of the 1949 and 1950 issues. The 1951 cards, however, appear to be the toughest as PSA has graded a grand total of only seven of those.
That rarity, as you would expect, has driven prices up. Decent no-name commons from the set in even modest condition are difficult to find at under $50. And of course, the bigger names can be significantly more. Cards for Minoso, for example, are among the most expensive in the set. A 2015 Huggins and Scott auction featured a 1950 Minoso and, even in low-grade SGC 10 condition, it still sold for $230.