What we'd like to see: American Memory Heritage baseball card theme.

Here's Branch Rickey's scouting report about Don Drysdale:

And here is a closer look at the image from the American Memory collection of the Library of Congress. Of course Mr. Drysdale never played for the Pirates. As the handwritten annotation at the bottom of the report says, Drysdale signed with the Dodgers, for whom his father was a "bird dog" or scout. He then spent his entire major league career of 14 years with the Dodgers, first in Brooklyn and then in [grrrr] Los Angeles. He led the National League in strikeouts three years and won the Cy Young Award as the best pitcher in baseball in 1962. He was elected to baseball's Hall of Fame in 1984. Branch Rickey had preceded him there in 1967.

Our baseball card point is that there are so many unmined sources of visual baseball history that we just wonder why, in baseball card sets, we repeatedly find inserts that have nothing whatsoever to do with baseball. What we would enjoy is an American Heritage-style set that presents in at least 125 cards the history not only of the game itself, but the place of baseball in American culture.

As we noted with Heritage, the set could also be broken down into different eras or categories of the history. Ken Burns in card form? Perhaps, but if done well, it could be a winner. And it could be used to broaden the target audience for cards, aimed at people who seem to be staying away from cards but whose entry into the market might help reenergize the hobby. I can state uncategorically that parents (and parents who homeschool) would be all over such a set for their kids.

From the American Memory collection, here are some other historically significant baseball topics that could be covered:

The place of baseball in America's Japanese culture...including the unspeakable internment camps. This is a baseball game at Manzanar Relocation Center, California. Photograph by Ansel Adams. 1943.

Top row, far left: Eva Cooke, Southern Ute, poses with a group of girls from Towaoc wearing baseball uniforms, bloomers, and tops with ISI (Ignacio, CO). The others are from Towaoc, picture taken at Ignacio, between 1920 and 1920.

From the scrapbook of Annie Grace Clark, religious centerpiece and, below, a cut-out of Curtis Welch, St. Louis baseball player from a Leverings Coffee advertisement.

Uniformed baseball team members of the Chicago White Sox pose at Hanging Bridge, in the Royal Gorge of the Arkansas River, Fremont County, Colorado, with a Denver and Rio Grande Railroad locomotive and men in suits. 1910. And here's the team in another pose at Hanging Bridge with that same locomotive and those Men In Suits. What do you suppose this field trip was all about? The negative has a note, too: "Club owner Charles A. Comiskey at center rear - tall man in grey hat" and "see if you can find the rear end marker flags."

"New wartime baseball." Cork-cushioned centers in baseballs are "war taboo." Rubber-cushioned centers, borrowed from stopped golf ball production, offer temporary relief. Left: cork-type ball; right; new baseball with rubber center. Roger Smith, photographer. January 1943. Office of War Information.

"Lunch hour at California Ship Building Corporation finds two of baseball's major leaguers talking things over. As fellow ship-builders at the California shipyards, George Stovall, retired manager of the Cleveland Indians, and Vince DiMaggio, Pittsburgh Pirates outfielder, agree that they're both members of the greatest American team in existence--the team that's all out to beat the Axis." Ann Rosener, photographer. 1943.

Breaking a tradition of 167 years, the U.S. Marine Corps started enlisting African-Americans on June 1, 1942. The first class of 1,200 volunteers began their training three months later as members of the 51st Composite Defense Battalion at Montford Point, a section of the 200 square mile Marine Base, Camp Lejeune, at New River, North Carolina. On the baseball team, black enlistees and white non-com officers were teammates. Camp Lejeune had its own baseball league, with the Montford Point team a strong contender. Roger Smith, photographer. March 1943.

Here is a view of the last game of the World Series of 1933, in Washington, D.C. Theodore Hoydczak, photographer:

President Calvin Coolidge shaking hands with Walter Johnson:

at Griffith Stadium; Bucky Harris in back. Published between 1923-1927. And here's a shot of a baseball game at Tulare migrant camp, Visalia, California, in 1940 (Arthur Rothstein, photographer):
The official scoreboard for a game at the annual field day of the Farm Security Administration farmworkers community in Yuma, Arizona. Russell Lee, photographer, 1942:
This is a photograph from the old World Telegram & Sun newspaper featuring Willie Mays:

with his arm around the shoulders of Roy Campanella. Photo by William C. Greene. 1961.

Reach out, Topps! Your non-standard audience of baseball card collectors awaits.


White Sox Cards said...

Great finds! It just goes to show that there is a whole hidden world that the card companies choose not to show.

night owl said...

The impression I get is that we don't see more of this stuff because whoever makes up the creative braintrust at Topps, Upper Deck, etc., AREN'T BASEBALL FANS.

They seem to be fans of whatever might make a buck, piggy-backing on whatever trend is popular at the time.

I would love it if the card companies called up some people who truly loved baseball, people like, oh, are the type who devote their free time to blogging about baseball cards, and asked them to come up with their ideal baseball card set.

There is so much out there, as you point out, that could be used. But instead, we're cutting up pieces of seat cushions to put in cards.

MattR said...

A set like that would REALLY be cool. I don't buy modern baseball cards because of the emphasis on short prints, game-used materials, autographs, etc. A set like this would renew my interest in newer cards.

GCA said...

Brilliant idea! Keeps the theme limitied to baseball but would attract outside fans too!

mikepelfreyshouse said...

I like the Pictures of the Military! They remind me of my great uncle who pitched in the army in the 1940's and eventually played AA ball for the Cubs! No joke!

ernest said...

That Curtis Welch Scrapps card pasted in the scrapbook is great and also very rare. I wonder if they ever tried to remove it.

Out of curiosity, how did you determine that it's from a Leverings Coffee advertisement? I had not heard that before.

PMW said...

Great post! It really is too bad that the broader history of baseball never makes it into card sets.

MDA said...

I nominate the girls of Dinged Corners to be the new commissioners of the Baseball Card industry.

They shall have final say over all things baseball card related.

The position shall be for life unless 99 % of all baseball card blogs vote them out (fat chance).

New designs shall be presented to them and if they do not approve, back to the drawing board.

They shall, at their discretion, use any of the baseball card bloggers to assist them in their duties.

All manufacturers shall put monies forth to accommodate them with offices, staff and a salary.

They shall be given season tickets to all Major and Minor league teams, with the Mets providing them with nice box seats and fresh popcorn.

dinged corners said...

Mark, we think this is a brilliant plan. :) We will even pay for our own hot dogs at games! Gosh we're reasonable.