Collecting the Cubs Hall of Fame

Collecting rookie cards of all the significant Chicago Cubs/Orphans/Colts/White Stockings is a hobby of mine, so identifying those members of the hall that have rookie cards is step one. (I have some thoughts on what a rookie card is, if you’re into that kind of thing.) Let’s look at the rookie cards of the Chicago Cubs Hall of Fame, one era at a time. All the cards pictured are from my collection unless otherwise noted.

Tobacco Card Era

When your favorite team is as old as the Cubs, collecting the all-time greats becomes a challenge. If you’re just starting your collection, maybe don’t start with the 19th century stuff. It can be intimidating! It’s also an era where defining “rookie card” is difficult and ripe for debate. Some of the sets are exceedingly rare and some have very small checklists. The following is a list of those cards I can safely label as rookie cards for the players from this era, but feel free to expand the list to some of the rarer or less comprehensive sets. (Frank Chance has a 1903 Breisch-Williams card that PSA has graded exactly one time. If you want to call that one his RC, good luck!)

There are several sets within the designation of T206 (Sweet Caporal, Piedmont, Old Mill, etc.), all of which would qualify as rookie cards for these players.

John Clarkson1887 N172 Old Judge
Clark Griffith1887 N172 Old Judge
King Kelly1887 N172 Old Judge
Jimmy Ryan1887 N172 Old Judge
Ed Reulbach1909 Ramly T204
1909-11 T206
Frank Chance1909 E101 Set of 50
1909 Ramly T204
1909-11 American Caramel E90-1
1909-11 T206
Heinie Zimmerman1909 E101 Set of 50
1909-11 T206
Joe Tinker1909 E101 Set of 50
1909 Ramly T204
1909-11 American Caramel E90-1
1909-11 T206
Johnny Evers1909 E101 Set of 50
1909 Ramly T204
1909-11 T206
Mordecai Brown1909 Ramly T204
1909-11 American Caramel E90-1
1909-11 T206
Orval Overall1909-11 American Caramel E90-1
1909-11 T206
Wildfire Schulte1909 Ramly T204
1909-11 T206
Hippo Vaughn1911 T205 Gold Border

Pre-War Era

I’ll get a E210 Hack Wilson one day
The Durocher is not mine, picture taken from the PSA website.

Much like the tobacco card era, there is room for debate here. World War I created a black hole of card production, and all the color and creativity of 1908-1915 was replaced with lifeless, gray products (or no products at all) until the explosion of 1933. That’s when sets like Goudey, DeLong, Batter-Up, and Diamond Stars began to appear. But the question of which cards are really rookie cards still remains. Beckett doesn’t assign the label of RC to any cards before 1933 Goudey. Even though Gabby Hartnett’s Goudey card is a beaut, I still think the American Caramel sets of the early 20s should qualify as rookie cards.

One of the great sets of the 30s was 1933 DeLong and it features two Cubs Hall members in Cuyler and Stephenson. But the set’s checklist has only 24 players and doesn’t really qualify as a comprehensive MLB set. But YMMV!

And what is Rogers Hornsby’s rookie card? Beckett says 1933 Goudey, his earliest card is 1917 Collins-McCarthy, but I say it’s 1921 American Caramel. The Collins-McCarthy set is too rare (Hornsby has 6 copies graded by PSA) and asking RC hunters to track that one down is too much.

Grover Alexander1914 Cracker Jack
Rogers Hornsby1921 E121 American Caramel Series of 80
Gabby Hartnett1922 E120 American Caramel Series of 240
Charlie Grimm1922 E120 American Caramel Series of 240
1922 E121 American Caramel Series of 120
Hack Wilson1927 E210 York Caramel
Billy Herman1933 Goudey
1933 Tattoo Orbit
Charlie Root1933 Goudey
1933 Tattoo Orbit
Kiki Cuyler1933 Goudey
1933 Tattoo Orbit
1933 World Wide Gum
Leo Durocher1933 Goudey
1933 World Wide Gum
Riggs Stephenson1933 Goudey
1933 Tattoo Orbit
Phil Cavarretta1934 Batter-Up
Stan Hack1934 Batter-Up
1934-36 Diamond Stars

Post-War Era

Things get a lot simpler at this point. Once Topps took over, the task of identifying a player’s rookie card was easy: just find the first card he ever had. There’s a bit of debate at the beginning regarding Leaf. PSA calls it a 1948 set, Beckett calls it 1949. From everything I’ve read, that Leaf set wasn’t actually released until 1949. This is important to rookie card collectors, since that means Hank Sauer’s 1948 Bowman is his one and only rookie card, making the 1949 Leaf a second-year card. Other than that, it’s smooth sailing. There were several small, regional sets during the era but nothing that would qualify as a rookie card. And in 1965 a Canadian version of Topps (with a smaller checklist) called O-Pee-Chee began production.

Hank Sauer1948 Bowman
Andy Pafko1949 Bowman
1949 Leaf
Lou Boudreau1949 Bowman
1949 Leaf
Ernie Banks1954 Topps
Ron Santo1961 Topps
Billy Williams1961 Topps
José Cardenal1965 Topps
Glenn Beckert1965 Topps
Fergie Jenkins1966 Topps
Don Kessinger1966 Topps
1966 O-Pee-Chee
Randy Hundley1966 Topps
Ken Holtzman1967 Topps
1967 O-Pee-Chee
Bill Buckner1970 Topps
1970 O-Pee-Chee
Rick Reuschel1973 Topps
1973 O-Pee-Chee
Andre Dawson1977 Topps
Bruce Sutter1977 Topps

Modern Era

The era when Topps lost its monopoly and competitors like Donruss, Fleer, and Score were added to the mix. O-Pee-Chee was still a thing, and even Donruss began a Canadian imprint called Leaf. You might see an “XRC” designation next to Maddux’s Topps Traded and Fleer Update cards from 1987. Ignore that. They’re rookie cards.

This section still has some catching up to do. The Cubs only began their renewed focus on this Hall in 2021 and there are several names clearly missing. Mark Grace, Sammy Sosa, Carlos Zambrano, Kerry Wood, and Aramís Ramirez are all names you might see on this list one day. If the Cubs can stop adding random players from the 70s long enough to get to them.

Rick Sutcliffe1980 Topps
Lee Smith1982 Donruss
1982 Fleer
1982 Topps
Ryne Sandberg1983 Donruss
1983 Fleer
1983 O-Pee-Chee
1983 Topps
Greg Maddux1987 Donruss
1987 Fleer Update
1987 Leaf
1987 Topps Traded

Who’s Missing?

The Cubs Hall of Fame currently has 59 members, 48 of which spent time as either a player or manager in Major League Baseball. Of those 48, only 45 are on one of the lists above. Who are the other three?

1888 G and B Chewing Gum
Albert Spalding

Albert Spalding played for and managed Chicago in 1876 and 1877, and then transitioned to part-owner and president. He conspired with other owners to create the National League, of which Chicago was a founding member. The only issue he was featured on that resembles a baseball card was from the 1888 G and B Chewing Gum set. It is extraordinarily rare and even in poor condition sells for tens of thousands. Get one in your collection if you can, but by no means should it be a requirement to finish the Cubs Hall RC set. (The example above is, sadly, not from my collection. The picture is from tcdb.com)

1899-00 Sporting News Supplement
William Lange

Bill Lange was a star for Chicago in the 1890s before retiring to marry a girl (her father didn’t approve of ball players). He played during a sparse time for card manufacturing. The only major set he might have been included in was 1895 Mayo’s Cut Plug, but sadly he was not. He does have a couple issues in the catalog though. He is featured in the 1899-1900 Sporting News Supplement series, very attractive full-page prints included with Sporting News magazines. A full portfolio of the prints was also produced by National Copper Plate Co. Either version is hard to find, but in any case it would be a stretch to call these “rookie cards.” Another option is the 1896-98 Cameo Pepsin Gum Pins set. But like the name suggests, they are pins and not cards.

1930 Blue Ribbon Malt Premiums
Joe McCarthy

Joe McCarthy managed the Cubs from 1926-1930 before going on to experience moderate success with the Yankees from 1931-1946. He had a very short MLB career from 1905-1906, then played on various minor league and independent teams before hanging them up in 1913. His only two issues from his playing days are odd ducks: 1909-11 Colgans Chips and 1911 Pinkerton Cabinets, both showing him playing for Toledo. He does have some nice issues from his managing career, and the one most interesting to Cubs fans might be the 1930 Blue Ribbon Malt Premium. The set was a large format photo set for just the Cubs and features a great shot of McCarthy.

Collecting the Cubs Hall of Fame

It could be worse, you could be a Yankees fan. You don’t have to chase rookie cards of Babe Ruth, Lou Gehrig, and Mickey Mantle. And at least for now, you don’t have to chase the most challenging Cub of all, Cap Anson. He’s not in the Cubs Hall and may never be. But this list still has some tough cards on it, so if you’d like to build this collection, start small. Start with the modern cards and work your way back. Don’t insist on PSA 9s and 10s for everything. Or don’t go for graded cards at all. Just figure out what fits your budget and go from there. Many Cubs fans think the history of the Cubs comes down to Tinker-to-Evers-to-Chance, Ernie Banks, and the 2016 World Series. But there are a lot of great and colorful players mixed in there that deserve to be remembered. Good luck collectors!

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