Updated: Oct 1
One of the most iconic vintage sets in the Hobby, the 1933 Goudey set features multiple cards of several players. See these four Babe Ruth cards, for example.
Overall, the checklist of repeated players falls into three categories: one that’s not surprising at all, one that’s perhaps surprising for its time, and one that’s simply bizarre.
The first category, which includes Ruth, is top stars of the era. Multiple cards of Lou Gehrig, Jimmie Foxx, and Rogers Hornsby also fall into this same category, as do Joe Cronin and Heinie Manush. The business reason for this is a simple one: stars sell.
The second category of repeated players has an equally simple explanation: the 1933 World Series. The tenth and final series of 1933 Goudey featured 24 players–12 New York Giants and 12 Washington Senators–who participated in that season’s World Series.
Because most of these players had already been included in the set, this Fall Classic subset generated numerous repeats. For example, here is Hugh Critz with this “base card” (left) and his World Series card.
The decision by Goudey to dedicate the set’s final 24 cards to the World Series was a bold and potentially risky one for at least a couple reasons. As these were hardly the days of Topps Now, these cards would not hit shelves until well after the World Series was over and the attention of young gum chewers had turned to football or other pursuits. For another, dedicating an entire series to only two teams had at least the potential to reduce the releases' appeal to a broader public. Regardless, there is at least a clear logic to these cards and the repeated players they include.
The same cannot be said for the third category of repeated players in the 1933 Goudey set: George “Rube” Walberg. Yes, you read that right. The third category of repeated players is just one guy. Here are his two cards, which also double as a Highlights magazine “spot the differences” puzzle.
The card on the left comes from the set’s sixth series while the card on the right comes from the seventh. From all appearances the cards are the work of two different artists operating off the same photo. The card backs convey nearly identical information, though with different wording and in a different sequence.
In fairness, it could be that this third category, the Walberg category, is not a category at all. Walberg had won 101 games over the past six seasons, including 20 wins in 1931, so it’s certainly possible the crew at Goudey saw fit to double up on Walberg owing to his borderline star status. Still, even beyond his tenuous credentials, there are reasons to doubt this.
For the set’s other star players, the second card either cloned the prior card or gave us something genuinely new. For example, the two Gehrig cards, 92 and 160, are indistinguishable apart from the card numbers themselves.
On the opposite end of things, here are two Hornsby cards with very different poses and text.
Certainly I could have it wrong, but my conclusion here is that the double Walberg was simply a goof. Some “rube” working on the seventh series didn’t get the memo that Rube had just gone out the door as part of the sixth series. Exactly 20 years later Bowman would do the same with two Al Corwin cards in its 1953 set, and even in recent years Topps has managed to bungle a checklist or two with accidental repeats.
“How do these things happen,” we might ask, presuming the creation of a baseball card checklist to be a rather simple thing. That said, we know there are often complicated ways to achieve simple things.
I’m not saying the Goudey checklist was a Rube Goldberg machine, but maybe, just maybe, it might qualify as…a Rube Walberg machine?!