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:
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:
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.