The History of Baseball in 100 Objects #18- The 1st Baseball Card

100 book

This is a list of objects in no particular order that define baseball’s history. They will encompass the entire history of the game up until 1994(The year they took the game away) and will be chosen due to their importance to the game, the fans, and me. I hope you enjoy the ride.

#18-The 1st Baseball Card

As usual when it comes to the history of baseball nothing comes easy. No one is really sure what is considered the very 1st baseball card. John Thorn has a recent blog post where he touches on this very issue. Is it an illustrated ticket that was used in 1844 for the Magnolia Ball Club? My answer would be no, for 2 reasons. It’s described as, and utilized as a “ticket” for admission. This is not a card….my humble opinion. And 2nd, I couldn’t find a photo of this item, so I reject its’ existence.

I have several inflexible rules for this series of posts. 1. An object of baseball can only be an object if I can provide photographic proof. No photo……it doesn’t exist. A photo of Bigfoot playing catch with Abe Lincoln…..that’s proof enough for me.  2. Always try to mention the NY Yankees in each post. 3. Never talk about ex-girlfriends when your wife is around. This applies more to life in general, but it’s still a good all-around rule.

Another candidate for 1st baseball card is this card featuring Dave Birdsall when he was with the Unions of Morisania.

birdsall This card dates from either 1866, or as late as 1870, the year of Birdsall’s last season with the Unions after spending the 1869 season with the Cincinnati Red Stockings. It was featured in a Robert Edwards Auction a couple of years ago, and was listed as the 1st baseball card? They believe this card is from 1866, which would certainly put it in the running, but they tend to always lean in the direction that would produce the highest bids, so I will lean in the other direction and go with 1870.

For this post I will have to go with this card:

1865 Atlantics

Above is the team photo of the 1865 Brooklyn Atlantics, the proud Champions of Baseball. The Atlantics formed in 1855 and were one of the founding members of  the National Association Of Base Ball Players and quickly established themselves as one of the dominant teams in the game. After winning the Championship in 1864 the Atlantics sat down for a team photo for photographer Charles Williamson. They had the photo reproduced and would give it away as souvenirs before each game to fans and opponents alike. This little piece of self promotion and braggadocio was backed up by a 23-0 record and another NABBP Championship.

The Championship Nine included:John Galvin-SS, Dickey Pearce-C, Fred Crane-2B, Charlie Smith-3B, Frank Norton-CF, Joe Start-1B, Jack Chapman-LF, Tom Pratt-P, Sid Smith

Because this card was produced by the team as a promotional give away, and not produced independently of the team as a for profit item, it might not be considered a true baseball card. For me it doesn’t matter. My take on this card is one of complete and total awe. I’d like to thank the pioneers/inventors of the art and science of photography for making this photo possible. 146 years ago 10 men sat down in front of a photographer to proclaim themselves the Champions Of America. Starched collars, black ankle high shoes and no gloves. Just 1 baseball, 2 bats and 9 players. The proud progenitors of a great game. That’s what the 1st baseball card should be all about, and it makes my list of the 100 Objects of baseball.

Check out objects 1-17 HERE

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2 Responses to The History of Baseball in 100 Objects #18- The 1st Baseball Card

  1. Have to say, I like the “Old Man” card better. I mean, c’mon, The Old Man? What’s up with that?

  2. Kevin Graham says:

    As explained on the auction website- “The Unions star pitcher Charley Pabor’s eccentric but sunny disposition earned him the curious nickname “The Old Woman in the Red Cap,” one of baseball’s most notable nicknames from any era. It is also explained that his batterymate, catcher Dave Birdsall, was his diametric opposite in disposition and was known as “The Old Man.” These nicknames poked fun at the fact that as pitcher and catcher, this unlikely pair was as inseperable as a married couple, despite being totally at odds with one another in terms of personality.”

    Nicknames were so much better years ago. Arod, Krod, Jeets….give me a break. I’ll take Le’ Grande Orange any day.

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