Exploring the Iconic 1941 Baseball Card Sets: Play Ball, Goudey, and Double Play

1941 is widely regarded as a notable one for baseball, with many considering it the best season in baseball history. During this time, three major baseball card sets were released: Double Play, Goudey, and Play Ball. These sets are considered important by collectors for their unique features, but their release also coincided with the United States on the verge of entering World War II, making them even more historically significant.

The 1941 baseball season occurred when World War II had already been raging for two years, but the United States was still officially neutral in the conflict. Despite the global turmoil, Americans found solace in the national pastime, which saw some incredible accomplishments that year. Three significant records were set:

  • Taft Wright drove in at least one run in thirteen consecutive games.
  • Joe DiMaggio hit safely in 56 straight games.
  • Ted Williams finished the season with a batting average of .406.

However, the year was also marked by the tragic loss of Lou Gehrig, who died at the age of 37.

Things changed, of course, when Japan attacked Pearl Harbor on December 7, 1941, and the U.S. entered the war. But before the production of baseball cards would essentially grind to a halt for six years, the 1941 Play Ball, Goudey, and Double Play sets were printed and distributed; here’s a quick summary of each.

1941 Double Play

1941 Double Play #23 Harold Reese and #24 Kirby Higbe

Gum Products, Inc. of Cambridge, Massachusetts, released the 1941 Double Play baseball card set. It consists of 75 cards with two consecutive numbers per card, for a total of 150 subjects. However, some players are duplicated, bringing the total number of players featured in the set to, I think, 130. The front of each card features a sepia-toned photograph, while the back is blank. This set includes rookie cards featuring Phil Rizzuto, Enos Slaughter, and Pee Wee Reese. The set’s last 50 numbered individual subjects are somewhat rarer than the first 100. The cards were sold in wax packs containing two cards and a stick of gum for a penny.

1941 Goudey

1941 Goudey #33 Mel Ott Yellow Background

The 1941 Goudey baseball card set is the smallest of the three significant releases that year, containing just 33 cards. Each black-and-white player photo is printed on a blue, green, red, or yellow background, making the master set of 132 player and color combinations challenging to complete, particularly in nice condition since the set is known for being miscut. The design of the cards is basic, and the set doesn’t feature many star players, with Carl Hubbell and Mel Ott being the main attractions. However, it is one of the rarest Goudey releases.

1941 Play Ball

1941 Play Ball #14 Ted Williams

Gum, Incorporated released three sets of Play Ball baseball cards, with the 1941 set being the smallest, with just 72 cards. And a lot of the 1941 cards were just colorized versions of cards from the 1940 set. According to the Standard Catalog of Baseball Cards, cards 49-72 are rarer than the lower-numbered cards. Some hobby historians believe the set may have been reissued in 1942, as cards 1-48 can be found with or without the 1941 copyright date, while the higher-numbered cards are only found without the copyright date. The cards were sold in packs of two for a penny, along with a piece of gum.

The 1941 Double Play, Goudey, and Play Ball sets were the last to be released before the United States entered World War II. As a result of the war, over 500 players ended up serving in the military, and paper was rationed, leading to a halt in the production of baseball cards. The only “major” release during the war was the 1943 M.P. & Co. set, along with a few minor league sets, team issues, postcards, and oddballs.

If you have a favorite among these sets, feel free to share it in the comments. Also, don’t forget to subscribe to the Post War Cards Newsletter for more hobby information and happy collecting!

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