Saturday, September 6, 2014

1941 Sporting News ad offered Browns, Cards team sets

As I peruse my microfilm copies of back issues of The Sporting News I am always delighted to find specific references in articles, columns and ads to the cards and memorabilia that were available 50+ years ago.

Often there are contemporary details there that fill in gaps in the hobby's current base of knowledge.

Such was the case with an ad that first began appearing in the Aug. 7, 1941, issue, offering the St. Louis Browns and St. Louis Cardinals team sets of baseball cards.

The ads were about 1/8 of a page and ran frequently for the remainder of the 1941 baseball season and a bit thereafter.

While I suppose many collectors already had this knowledge, or could have guessed as much, we now know for sure that the 30-card St. Louis team sets were manufactured for, and sold by, the Sportsman's Park concessionaire. 

The TSN ad made them available by mail order for 30 cents per set. I'd bet that at the ballpark the sets probably sold for a quarter.

Both boxed team sets shared a 2-1-/8" x 2-5/8" black-and-white format. Fronts had close-up portrait photos and backs offered biographical details and up to five yeas of stats.

Each boxed set contained a header/order form card and cards for the manager, coaches and players. And, as the ad specified, there were cards for "club officials." In the case of the Browns, this meant owner Donald Barnes and vice-president (also minority owner and general manager) Billy DeWitt. In the Cardinals team set, there are cards of owner Sam Breadon and vice president Branch Rickey. The latter is significant because Rickey is a Hall of Famer and this is one of very few career-contemporary baseball cards on which he appears.

Besides Rickey, the Cardinals team set includes Hall of Famers Enos Slaughter, Billy Southworth and Johnny Mize. While Stan Musial was a Cardinals rookie in 1941, sadly he doesn't appear in the card set because he didn't make his debut until mid-September.

There are no Hall of Famers in the Browns team set.

Two players of special note in these set are Johnny Berardino (Browns) and Sam Nahem (Cardinals). 

Berardino was an 11-year major league veteran who went on to a Hollywood career (with his surname minus one "r" as Beradino) most noted for his role as Dr. Steve Hardy on the soap opera General Hospital, 1963-96.

In the Cardinals set is the only career-contemporary card of Sam Nahem, a Jewish ballplayer who had a four-year major league career (1938, 1941-42, 1948).

The St. Louis card sets were cataloged by Jefferson Burdick in the American Card Catalog as W573 (Browns) and W574 (Browns). Those 30-cent card sets are listed today in complete-in-box Near Mint condition at $850 for the Browns, $1,000 for the Cardinals, according to the Standard Catalog of Vintage Baseball Cards

The premium for the Cardinals set is attributable to the inclusion of the Hall of Famers. In reality, the Browns set was probably sold in far lesser quantities back in 1941. Both teams played in Sportsman's Park. Attendance at Browns games was 176,240; Cardinals attendance that year was more than 3.5X greater, at 633,645.

The portrait of Browns utility man Johnny Lucadello
in the 1941 team set bears a strong resemblance
to Charlie Sheen.

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