The 1939 Play Ball set is one of the more popular pre-war issues. It features real black and white images of players, which some collectors feel are more appealing than color art lithographs. While the set has a few expensive cards, including those of Ted Williams and Joe DiMaggio, a few bargains can be found inside of it as well. Here are five that offer a solid bang for your buck:
Leo Durocher (No. 6)
Leo Durocher became a Hall of Fame manager but had a much more modest career as a player. It’s not that he was a particularly bad player – he was, after all, a three-time All-Star. But his career .247 average didn’t exactly make him an offensive threat.
Durocher did most of the damage to opponents with his glove and he was more of a defensive wizard, ranking first or second in fielding percentage in seven different seasons. He doesn’t have a ton of cards from his playing days, but is found in the 1939 Play Ball set. Decent Durocher cards can be found for as little as $25.
Bobby Doerr (No. 7)
Doerr’s Play Ball card isn’t quite a rookie issue but it is one of his earliest cards. His initial full-time season came with the Boston Red Sox in 1938 and after batting .289 with a league-high 22 sacrifice hits, he stuck with the club.
Nine All-Star appearances later, he was eventually inducted into the Baseball Hall of Fame. Doerr’s card can be had in decent mid-grade condition starting around $50.
Hank Greenberg (No. 56)
Greenberg isn’t a minor name by any stretch but his 1939 Play Ball card is actually pretty reasonable considering it’s one of his earlier issues.
1939 was a good season for Greenberg but his 1940 year was really one to remember. That season, the slugger won his second Most Valuable Player Award, leading the league in a slew of categories, including home runs, doubles, runs batted in, OPS, slugging percentage, and total bases.
Greenberg’s cards often seem a bit underrated and considering he was one of the biggest stars of the era, that is the case here, too. You can sometimes find mid-grade copies of Greenberg’s card in the $50-$75 range.
It’s too hard to separate brothers Lloyd and Paul Waner so I won’t attempt to do so here.
Both “Little Poison” and “Big Poison” are Hall of Famerswho made their with the Pittsburgh Pirates. The Oklahoma-born pair helped the Bucs to the 1927 World Series (where they were ultimately swept by the New York Yankees) and had stellar careers. Paul was a former Most Valuable Player and a bit more in demand than his brother Lloyd but both are Hall of Famers and can be found starting under $50.
Moe Berg (No. 103)
Berg’s 1933 Goudey card is one of his most popular cards but his 1939 Play Ball is also significant. Berg is remembered less for his playing career and more for the fact that he became a spy during World War II. Somehow, that just seems more intriguing than .243 career hitter.
One of the great things about this card is that is is one of his last issues during his playing days as his career ended in 1939. He briefly became a coach before being called to war.
While Berg’s cards are all a little pricey, this one isn’t bad and a nice example can be found for under $100.