Sunday, February 28, 2010

#157 Sam Byrd

This is the final card from the batch of PSA crossovers that I recently received back from SGC; the card was originally a PSA 5 and crossed over at the same grade to an SGC 60. It has a clean surface, but the corners and centering keep it from grading higher. Sam Byrd is pictured as a member of the New York Yankees, in an action pose set against a ballfield background.

Byrd played parts of 8 seasons as an outfielder with the Yankees and the Cincinnati Reds. He was a decent hitter, posting a career .274/.350/.412 line (103 OPS+) in nearly 2000 plate appearances. His best season was 1932, when he hit .297/.385/.478 (127 OPS+) in 243 plate appearances. He saw his only postseason action that year, when he went hitless in his only at-bat in the World Series, in which the Yankees swept the Chicago Cubs.

Byrd has one of the great baseball nicknames - "Babe Ruth's Legs," which he earned for his frequent appearances as a late-inning pinch runner for the aging Ruth.

Byrd's last season in the majors was 1936, after which he became a professional golfer, winning six times on the PGA Tour from 1942-46. He made it to the finals of the 1945 PGA Championship, losing to Byron Nelson in match play and twice finished in the top five at the Masters. According to Wikipedia, he is only person to compete in both the World Series and the Masters. His golf prowess must have been well-known prior to his going pro, as the back of his 1933 Goudey card describes him as "one of the best golfers in professional baseball."

Tuesday, February 23, 2010

#193 Lynford Lary

This card was also in the batch of PSA crossovers that I recently received back from SGC. The card was originally a PSA 6 and crossed over at the same grade to SGC 80. It's a nice example, with great centering and good corners. On the design side, it's not one of the better efforts in the set, with a yellow background that is a little blah for a guy with such a great name.

Lynford Lary, nicknamed "Broadway," played parts of 12 seasons as a shortstop with the New York Yankees, Boston Red Sox, Washington Senators, St. Louis Browns (twice), Cleveland Indians, Brooklyn Dodgers, and St. Louis Cardinals. He is featured on this card as a member of the Yankees. As a hitter, he didn't have much pop (.372 career SLG), but he had a keen eye, posting a very solid career .369 OBP, thanks to 705 career walks against 470 strikeouts.

His best season came as a 25-year old in 1931, when he posted a .280/.376/.416 line (113 OPS+) with 10 home runs and 107 RBI as the Yankees' starting shortstop. Apparently, the Yankees weren't impressed and Lary lost his job the next season to 21-year old Frankie Crosetti, who would hold down the shortstop position full-time for the Yankees through the 1940 season. Oddly, it appears that Lary was the superior offensive player (91 career OPS+ to Crosetti's 84). Crosetti never had an offensive season as productive as Lary's 1931 campaign. Lary led the American League in stolen bases in 1936 with 37, during his first stint with the St. Louis Browns.

Lary was married to Mary Lawlor, an actor who starred on Broadway and in two feature films.

Friday, February 19, 2010

#99 Tony Cuccinello

I picked this card up from SGC today. It was part of the batch of PSA crossovers that I mentioned in a previous post. I bought it as a PSA 6 and it crossed over nicely to an SGC 80. This has to be one of the best-looking cards in the set. Most of the '33 Goudeys feature either a ballpark or solid color background. The Cuccinello card is striking because of its multi-hued background, as well as the enigmatic expression on Cuccinello's face. This card is one of my favorites.

Cuccinello, nicknamed "Cooch" (yikes) and "Chick," had a long major league career as a second and third baseman for the Cincinnati Reds, Brooklyn Dodgers, Boston Bees, New York Giants, Boston Braves, and Chicago White Sox. In 1933, he was a 25-year-old starting second basemen for the Dodgers. He made the first-ever All-Star team that year, and again in 1938, and he finished in the top 25 in the MVP voting four times. For his career, he got into 1704 games and finished with a .280/.343/.394 hitting line, posting a 104 OPS+, which is pretty decent for a middle infielder of that era. His best season came in 1932, when he hit .315/.374/.431 for the Reds.

His performance that year certainly made an impression on the Dodgers. Following the 1932 season, Brooklyn sent slugger Babe Herman, future Hall of Famer Ernie Lombardi, and Wally Gilbert to the Reds for Cuccinello, Joe Stripp, and Clyde Sukeforth. His brother Al Cuccinello played for the New York Giants in 1935.

Thursday, February 18, 2010

#181 Babe Ruth

Here's an image of my #181 Babe Ruth, which arrived in the mail today. I will be submitting it to SGC for crossover in the next few days. I like the appearance of the BVG holder even less than the PSA holder, so it will be nice to see it in an SGC holder. It looks like a solid SGC 20 to me. There are surface wrinkles and a fairly heavy crease that runs about an inch from the bottom border. The other major issue is the stain below Ruth's name. But the image of Ruth is very sharp, the colors are vibrant, and all of the text on the back of the card is legible.

I'm going to be using many of these blog posts to briefly profile the players that are featured on the cards that I add to my set. I'm pretty sure that such a blurb on Ruth would be pointless, as anyone who would read this blog is already familiar with Ruth's exploits. So, instead, I'll post the text from the back of the card, which is pretty great:

"One of the keenest students of baseball, New York Yankees Home Run Star. He is also one of the hardest men to pitch to in the game. Box men say you can fool him on a certain ball once, but the next time he gets it, he is apt to hit it out of the park. Before starring as a home run hitter, was rated as one of the best pitchers in the American League. Born in Baltimore, Md., Feb. 7, 1894, Ruth is a left hander, 6 feet 2 inches tall and weighs 210 pounds."

I'm not familiar with the term "box men." Could it refer to the catcher, who would be calling the pitches?

I'll post an image of the card in an SGC holder once I cross it over.

Wednesday, February 17, 2010

Babe Ruth, part II

In a previous post, I discussed my ongoing search for a low grade Babe Ruth card in my price range to add to my 1933 Goudey set. When I decided to start upgrading the quality of my set, I sold off a lot of lower grade cards, which allowed me to build up a modest war chest to pursue a Ruth. I finally landed one this morning.

I bought a #181, which is the seated Ruth with the green background. I prefer the #149 (red batting pose) or #53 (yellow batting pose), but they were consistently way too expensive, unless I wanted one that had serious problems, such as paper loss or tape stains. My #181 is graded a 1.5 (Fair) by BVG (Beckett Vintage Grading). Based on the images posted by the seller, it looks like it should easily cross to an SGC 20 and may have an outside shot at bumping half a grade to an SGC 30.

Once I receive the card, I'll post a scan, as well as another scan once it is in an SGC holder.

Friday, February 12, 2010

#88 Russell "Red" Rollings

I received #88 Russell "Red" Rollings (SGC 60) in the mail today from an eBay purchase. I particularly like the art on this card - it pictures Rollings in an action pose, set against a vibrant red background. I like how the circular Goudey Gum Company copyright logo, which is typically placed in the lower left or lower right corner of the card, had to be placed on Rollings's jersey so that it would be visible. The card is a solid 60, with good centering and a clean surface.

Red Rollings, from Mobile, Alabama, was primarily a third basemen, who also saw action at second base, first base, and outfield. He played for the Boston Red Sox in 1927-28 and the Boston Braves in 1930, totaling 184 games and 355 at-bats in his major league career. The inclusion of Rollings illustrates one of the interesting aspects of the '33 Goudey set, in that it featured many minor league players, much like the T206 set. In 1933, Rollings was already out of the major leagues for two years and was playing for the Atlanta Crackers of the Southern Association. He would continue to play in the minor leagues until 1941, managing his team for three of those seasons.

In his major league career, Rollings put up a .251/.311/.299 line. Goudey describes him on the back of the card as a "dangerous man at bat in a pinch" - he had a .350 batting average as a pinch hitter in the majors. He was a career .316 hitter in the minor leagues.

Wednesday, February 10, 2010

Crossing Over

Having only recently gotten back into collecting baseball cards, I am still relatively new to third-party grading. When I first started purchasing 1933 Goudey cards about six months ago, I bought both SGC and PSA, with the intention that I would cross all PSA cards over to SGC. At that point, I was intending to collect the set in Very Good condition, which is SGC 40 or PSA 3. I found, however, that many of the PSA 3 and 4 cards that I purchased dropped a grade when I submitted them to SGC for crossover. At that point, I decided that I would limit my PSA purchases, so that I wouldn't end up paying the going rate for a PSA 3 or 4, only to have it drop a grade at SGC. This made collecting more difficult, though, since PSA-graded 1933 Goudeys are more prevalent than those graded by SGC, especially on eBay.

Over the last month or so, I decided to raise the quality of my set to more or less Excellent condition (SGC 60 or PSA 5), except for the super-expensive cards. In doing so, I sold off my lower grade cards and have been purchasing higher grade examples. I have found that higher grade PSA cards cross over to SGC much more consistently. As a result, I have started purchasing PSA 5 and 6 1933 Goudeys when the price is right. I recently submitted three such cards to SGC for crossover: #99 Tony Cuccinello (PSA 6), #157 Sam Byrd (PSA 5), and #193 Lynford Lary (PSA 6). All three are nice examples and, if they cross over to SGC 80 (Cuccinello and Lary) and SGC 60 (Byrd), I will have gotten a great deal, as I purchased them at a reasonable price as a lot on eBay. I will post the results of the crossover once they are available.

Tuesday, February 9, 2010

Babe Ruth

One of things that makes the 1933 Goudey set so great is that it features four Babe Ruth cards (as well as two Lou Gehrigs). It's also one of the reasons that the set is so challenging and expensive to put together. I have resigned myself to the fact that the Ruths that will be included in my set will all be in generally poor condition, most likely in the SGC 10-30 range, as higher grade examples are very expensive.

The #53 Ruth, or the yellow batting ruth, is the toughest of the bunch and comes with the highest price tag. The #149 Ruth (pictured), which is the same as the #53 but with a red background, is the next toughest. The #181 Ruth, which features a seated Babe, is the next most expensive. A cropped version of this image would appear on Ruth's 1935 Goudey 4-in-1 card, when he was a member of the Boston Braves. Finally, the #144 Ruth is the most affordable because it was double printed.

My favorite of the bunch is #149. It features a classic Ruth batting pose and the red background is beautiful (most of my favorite cards in the set feature red backgrounds), which I prefer over the yellow background of the #53. The #181 is also nice, but Ruth looks a little old and weak in the depiction. Even though this is somewhat accurate, since he was reaching the end of his career in 1933, I prefer to think of Ruth as a robust slugger, as he is depicted on the #53 and #149 cards. (Incidentally, Ruth put up a monster season in 1932 - .341/.489/.661, with 41 home runs - so he wasn't quite done yet). The #144 is my least favorite, mostly because it is a wide shot and there is not as much personality to Ruth's depiction.

So far, I don't have any of the Ruth cards. I have been looking for some time to pick one up reasonably, preferably the #149. I am okay with an SGC 10 or PSA 1 example, so long as the image is clear and the colors are vibrant. I have not had any luck so far, most likely because I don't want to overspend.

Monday, February 8, 2010


This is the first post on 240 Baseball Stars, a blog that I will be using to chronicle my efforts to assemble a complete set of 1933 Goudey baseball cards. The set was issued in 1933 by the Goudey Gum Company of Boston and consisted of 239 cards, numbered 1 - 240 (more on the missing card #106 in a future post). As evidenced by the name, the Goudey Gum Company produced chewing gum and one baseball card was included with each pack of gum.

I have decided to collect a set that is graded by Sportscard Guaranty, LLC ("SGC") of Parsippany, NJ because I believe that they are the most accurate and consistent third-party grading company. So far, I have about 10 percent of the cards in the set. A link to my 1933 Goudey SGC Registry set is included in the links list. If you follow the link, you can view my progress and see images of all of the cards in my set. As I acquire cards, I will post about them and provide some information about the player featured on the card.