While Dizzy Dean's short reign as the best pitcher in baseball made him a legend to St. Louis Cardinals fans, it was his common way of speaking and his joy at playing baseball that made him a national hero during the Great Depression. This top list brings together Dean's best baseball card appearances from his ultimately too-short career and adds in some of his more modern appearances.
In Dean's first five seasons, he had an impressive 120-65 record with three 20+ winning seasons and one legendary 30-win season in 1934. It was in that season that the Cardinals, given the nickname "The Gashouse Gang" by the press, became America's favorite team and beat the Detroit Tigers in the World Series. Dizzy became the last pitcher in the National League to win 30 games in a season and, along with his brother, Paul "Daffy" Dean, the duo combined for 49 wins.
While pitching in the 1937 All-Star Game, Dean was hit in the foot by a line drive that broke his toe. He didn't take enough time to recuperate and adjusted his pitching motion so he wouldn't land so hard on his injured toe. This in turn led to his arm becoming injured and he would never be the pitcher he once was. The Chicago Cubs eventually purchased his contract and he retired four seasons later. Dean then became a commentator for the St. Louis Browns, even returning in 1947 to pitch one game to prove that he could pitch better than the Browns starting lineup at the time.
A small set of St. Louis Cardinals photo cards produced by Metropolitan Studio in 1931 would be as close as Dizzy would come having a proper rookie card. He had only pitched in one MLB game at the time, making his inclusion in the set unexpected. The card's rarity, however, makes it nearly impossible to locate.
Cardinals fans interested in owning a Dizzy and Daffy Dean appearance together can look to Wheaties Cereal box panels from 1935 which feature the brothers together. You can also find Dizzy solo on Wheaties boxes from 1938 when he was pitching for the Cubs.
In addition to his various vintage options, Dean also appears in several modern sets and collectors can find a Dick Perez painting of Dean in the 1983 Donruss Hall of Fame Heroes set. 2010 Topps included Dean as a short-printed variation of card #479 that normally featured Cardinals ace Chris Carpenter. Fans looking for a Dizzy jersey relic have several sets to choose from, including 2001 Topps Tribute and 2007 Upper Deck Sweet Spot.
Dizzy Dean's time dominating all of baseball was brief but it has been able to create significant interest in his trading cards still to this day. In constructing this top list, scarcity and value was balanced with each card's historical significance and overall design.
Top 10 Dizzy Dean Baseball Cards
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Building off their set from the previous year, Nu-Cards made the front of their 1961 set a fake newspaper headline and moved all the text of the stories to the back of the card. This is one of the few inexpensive examples that combines both of the Dean brothers together on one card.
1935 Schutter-Johnson provided tips on becoming a better baseball player and Dean's card teaches collectors how to throw a forkball. The forkball is jammed between the index and middle finger and when thrown correctly the pitch drops suddenly, barely reaching the plate.
The Batter-Up set was issued by National Chicle from 1934-1936, which nearly exactly coincides with Dean being the top pitcher in baseball. This has led to Dean's card being one of the most valuable in the set and one of the harder cards to locate.
The Gold Medal Flour company issued 12 photocards in honor of the 1934 World Series that featured the Detroit Tigers versus the Cardinals. The set gives collectors an opportunity to own a Dizzy and Paul Dean card as the brothers are individaully featured in the set with Dizzy's card holding the highest value overall.
The bright red and yellow backgrounds have become the trademark of the 1933 Tatto Orbit set. The cards themselves are unnumbered and the Orbit company didn't include any advertising or company information on the cards reverse side. In total, the set has 60 cards with four cards seeming to be extremely short-printed. However, Dean is not one of them.
Exhibits had two versions of these sepia photo cards, some with salutations (like "Sincerely" or "Best Wishes") and some with just the player's signature. However, the signature text used was not actually the player's signature as Dizzy's autograph was much larger and distinguished (as you'll see at #2 on the list.) The Salutation cards also frequently give collectors on a limited budget a chance to own an original card from baseball legends of the 1930s and 1940s.
Dizzy's 1934 Goudey card lists his full name as "Jerome Herman Dean," when his actual name was Jay Hanna Dean. The error can be attributed to Dean himself as he would frequently tell reporters different stories about his early life, including different dates of birth and what his name truly was. He was born Jay Hanna and would sometimes use the name "Jerome Herman," which was the name of a playmate who died when Dean was seven.
Dean passed away in 1974 and so collector's looking for his signature will have to turn to autographed baseballs or cut signature cards, most frequently produced by Upper Deck. Due to Dean's long career as a baseball announcer following his retirement from pitching, there seems to be a large population of Dean signatures out there. As you can see from the example below from 2001 Upper Deck SP Legendary Cuts, Dizzy's signature is notable for the oversized letter "D" used twice and the line that runs horizontally through the entire signature.
The 1935 Goudey 4-In-1 set tried to put teammates together on the same card and with the popularity of the 1934 World Series winning Cardinals team, it's not surprising that Dean's card features three of his teammates. Tex Carleton pitched alongside Dean, Frankie Frisch was the Cardinals Hall of Fame second baseman and Ernie Orsatti patrolled the outfield on the championship team.
1933 Goudey used painted versions of black-and-white photographs and collectors who enjoy Dean's throwing pose can find the actual photo used in the 1934 Butterfinger set. Due to his short career and overall limited amount of trading cards available, Dizzy Dean Goudey cards have become his most popular option and near-mint graded copies can reach $700 at auction.