Panini Golden Age Batter Up – 25 cards (1:12)
I had hoped the Batter Up insert set would afford some better comparisons for me than the Newark set did yesterday. The Newark set was a 15-card minor league set, so finding players to compare between the original and the modern set put out by Panini this year wasn’t going to yield a player in both sets. But the 1934 Batter Up set issued by National Chicle had 192 cards and a ton of Hall of Famers. And 1934 falls right in the middle of the time period Panini used for the Golden Age set. In fact, Arky Vaughan, Frankie Frisch, Jimmie Foxx, Bill Dickey, Charlie Gehringer, and Dizzy Dean have cards in the 1934 set and are featured in the Panini Golden Age base set.
That’s 6 players they could have put in the Batter Up insert set, and I could have had a really interesting post! But they didn’t put any of those guys in the 25 cards for the throwback set. In fact, only three athletes depicted by Panini were active in 1934, and none of those 3 were in their prime for the sport shown. Babe Didrikson Zaharias had finished her Olympic career by this point, and was about to move on to golf. In 1934, Red Grange was playing his last season for the Chicago Bears, and Ben Hogan was a struggling professional golfer.
So I’ll just compare Hall of Famers in Panini’s version to the original. First up are two of the greatest Tigers of all-time. Gehringer is one of the greatest second baseman of all-time. I’d probably rank him third, behind Joe Morgan and Rogers Hornsby. In 1934, he was a budding star, a few years away from a .371 batting title and MVP season in 1937. He started the first all-star game in 1933, then played every inning for the first six summer classics. Had it not been for World War II, Gehringer very well may have cracked 3,000 career hits. He led the league twice each in hits, runs and doubles, and once each in triples and stolen bases.
As it sits, Gehringer’s 2,800+ hits are third all-time by a Tiger. He’s behind Ty Cobb and Al Kaline – who got a card in Panini’s modern version of this set.
Another Tiger comes next. Hank Greenberg hit 331 homers, and probably would have approached 500 if he hadn’t missed 4+ years to World War II. Greenberg is 3rd all-time in career homers for Detroit, and until the steroid era, sat behind only Ruth and Maris with a season of 58 homers. He won 2 MVPs and accomplished a rare feat by leading the league in doubles and homers in 1940. Only 6 other players have done this in the live ball era – Albert Belle, Ted Williams, Rogers Hornsby, Chuck Klein, Joe Medwick, Willie Stargell. (BTW – Nine players did it before 1920 Tris Speaker, Lajoie, Harry Davis, Ed Delahanty, Tip O’Neill, Harry Stovey, Dan Brouthers, Jimmy Ryan, Heinie Zimmerman)
Greenberg was also notable for his tenure as part owner and General Manager of both the Indians and White Sox after he retired. So it seems best to compare him to Nolan Ryan, who went from all-time great to a member of ownership.
I’ll do one more. First up are two sluggers from “the North Side”. Otherwise known as the lovable losers. Hack Wilson still holds the Major League record for RBI in a season, and that’s one of those records that likely won’t be surpassed. He’s got a card in the original 1934 Batter Up set.
Another Cubbie slugger is in the Panini Golden Age version of the set – Billy Williams. Since I moved to Chicago and now live really close to Wrigley, I see Billy’s statue about 2-3x a week depending on how I’m getting home from work.