In 1950, Hall of Fame manager Connie Mack released a book about his baseball career titled, “My 66 Years in the Big Leagues.” The book chronicled his famous career from a 19th century player to iconic skipper.
To help promote the book, a special set of baseball cards was produced. It’s one of those obscure issues that’s unknown to a lot of collectors today. Seventy years after the book was published, the cards are tough to find and quite valuable.
1951 Connie Mack Book Cards
The Connie Mack book card set isn’t a big one. In all, there are just four cards and together, they were titled, “Four Mighty Heroes.” The first printing of the book is noted as 1950 while these cards are cited as a 1951 issue.
The cards were packaged together in a folder likely sent to reviewers and others in hopes of garnering publicity. The subjects included Mack, Babe Ruth, Christy Mathewson, and Rube Waddell. All four players had already been inducted into the Baseball Hall of Fame. Ruth and Mathewson, of course, were inducted in the inaugural 1936 class. Mack himself was elected the following year in 1937. Waddell was the last of the group to make it in and he was elected in 1946.
Cards in the set are unnumbered, 2 1/4″ wide by 3 1/2″ tall, and printed in black and white. The player’s image is against a solid background. While not as large, the cards sort of have the look of the Exhibit cards that were being printed at the time. The player’s name was printed on both the front and the back and, in addition to some information about the particular subject on the back, there was commentary from Mack about each player. Bottoms of the backs mentioned that additional memories could be found in Mack’s book.
Mack’s commentary included some valuable insights into each player. Of Waddell, he recounted the pitcher once holding up a game in Pittsburgh as he was found playing marbles under the stands with kids. He called Mathewson “the most outstanding figure among my adversaries.” And of the legendary Ruth, his card calls him the “greatest gate attraction in baseball history” while Mack remembers Ruth’s days as a pitcher as well as how Ruth became a Japanese icon.
An addition note about a key statistic on Ruth’s card is of some importance. While Ruth is credited as hitting 714 major league home runs, the back of his card actually mentions that he hit 729. But that total shouldn’t confuse fans, as it includes his 15 home runs in the World Series.
Mack’s own writeup on the back for himself is slightly different, obviously. Instead of Mack providing commentary or quotes, his card discusses his career as a catcher and world championship winning manager, also detailing his work as a pioneer of the game. His card mentions he helped form the American League and also introduce modern overhand pitching to the sport.
Finally, as an aside, this was not the only Connie Mack set of baseball cards in 1951. That year, Mack headlined a different set for Topps called the Connie Mack All-Stars. While these cards promoting his book are not as popular as that mainstream issue, they are much rarer and more valuable.
Rarity and Pricing
It would be interesting to know how many of these cards were initially printed because few exist today. As they are approximately 70 years old, that is not terribly surprising. Still, the rarity on these is greater than many other issues from the same time period. Either few were been printed or a large number were seemingly discarded.
A small number can usually be found on eBay. but they are not common the population reports give us a good indication of their rarity. Collectively, the three major grading companies have examined fewer than 100 of them.
The rarity has, in turn, played a role in the pricing for these unique cards. Even as they were post-career cards for Ruth, Mathewson, and Waddell, they are priced nearly as high as some of their earlier contemporary issues. Ruth’s card, of course, is the most expensive one in the set. A PSA 2 recently sold for just over $700.
Oh, and if you’re looking for copies of Mack’s actual book, those can be found, too — and for less money. Used copies are much easier to find than the cards and generally start in the $15-$25 range. A complete set of the cards and the book is listed on eBay right now.