My First Baseball “Cards”

ED-U-CARDS

The first baseball “trading cards” that I ever bought (or rather, my mom bought for me) were 1967 Topps, sometime in late spring.  But these were not my first baseball cards. No, my first “cards” were these guys right here.

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Packaged like a standard deck of playing cards, they made a game where two players would take turns playing through an inning, and then handing the deck to the other guy.

They were made by ED-U-CARDS and the copyright on the box says 1957.  I got them a decade later — I assume they were purchased at the checkout line of a grocery store.

These cards were part of my education about the game and how the various events played on top of one another.  Although I am sure I enticed my brother or someone else to play on occasion, I also spent hours just playing the game by myself.  Like solitaire, except that I was learning how the game was played.  A few months later I got some Topps cards, and I began to learn about the actual players.  Both purchases were significant childhood events in by path toward full-on baseball nerd-dom.

The very next year, Topps inserted “game cards” into their 1968 packs.  I was predisposed to love these cards and I did — I still believe it is unmatched in Topps insert history, the absolute GOAT — but as an actual “game” the Topps version was far inferior.  There were fewer cards, fewer game events, and the ED-U-CARDS illustrations were classic.  The HIT-BY-PITCH alone was worth playing the game for.

In subsequent years I ran across similar games that came out around the same time.  If you grew up in the pre-video-game era, everyone had “card games” like this.  A house that did not have an “Old Maid” card game laying around was a house you could not trust.

What follows are other examples of card games that I did not own as a child but encountered later on.

 

Built Rite

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The above game was put out by Built Rite (according to the box) and cost 29 cents.  There is no date.  I like the scooped edging — much easier to hold for a youngster.  In fact the box brags “Shaped Cards To Fit Small Hands.”  The game events are pretty much the same, but the game includes a “Diamond Card” where you are supposed to place coins to keep track of which bases were occupied.  That’s a nice touch.

 

Batter Up

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This “Batter Up” game is copyright 1949, and is very similar to the other games.  I came to love the bright yellow cards, but I have to admit these have a classy look and the illustrations are really well drawn.  Also, it came with a set of rules which folded out to make a diamond for game play.

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Earl Gillespie

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Earl Gillespie was the voice of the Milwaukee Braves when this game was put out in his name in 1961.  It is a very classy box and set up, and the game plays out like all the rest of them, but the illustrations are pretty basic.  Gillespie emphasizes the game itself, rather than the fun drawings.  Its well done.

He also includes a handful of score sheets which is — probably taking things a bit far?  I mean, who are the players in this scenario? As a bonus, he includes a sample — a scoresheet (the Braves batters) from opening day in 1961.

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The question “what is a baseball card?” is inevitably so tied up in personal memories of childhood that logic is no longer driving the bus.  You can classify these as you wish, but good luck prying them from my hands.

 

Author: Mark Armour

Long-time SABR member, co-chair of the Baseball Cards Committee, founder and past chairman (2002-2016) of the Biography Project, author of several books and dozens of articles on baseball. See mark-armour.net.

12 thoughts on “My First Baseball “Cards””

  1. Holy crap I can’t begin to explain how much my 8-year-old son would love these games. He has a set of baseball guys (http://www.kaskeykids.com/product-category/baseball-guys/) which he’s using to play out games as it is. He knows how to look up retrosheet on his ipad and follow the play-by-play. But an actual game like this is something he would play for hours.

    The good news is that this is something I can totally see making into a project where he designs his own cards and then we photocopy enough of the routine cards so that the game becomes playable. Heck if the weather turns out to be the way it’s shaping up to be we might be doing this on at least two snow days this week.

    Liked by 3 people

  2. You can find these game on eBay pretty cheap as well. But you are right, it would be pretty easy to make your own and even add some better realism. In these games, for example there is one triple and one home run. There is a balk in one of the games which therefore is coming up every few innings. So its not perfect.

    Liked by 1 person

  3. Very cool! I foresee a whole new genre to collect. Darn you! I once took a regular deck of cards and created a ’68 Topps game from memory. My son and I played for hours while vacationing on the Oregon Coast. The illustrations are excellent. So many times, sports art in books or games is done by someone unfamiliar with the game.

    Liked by 2 people

  4. The ’61 Earl Gillespie score sheet has catcher Del Crandall hitting second, an unusual placement for a slow footed backstop. The picture of Earl with headphones is worth the price alone.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. This was the actual lineup from their game. An interesting fact about this game points out the flaw in the score sheets. The flaw, as every scorekeeper knows: what happens if the game is not settled in 9 innings? In fact, the actual game was 2-1 Cardinals in 10 innings, so Gillespie only showed 9 innings!

      Liked by 1 person

  5. Earl Gillespie was an institution in Milwaukee Sportscasting long after his days of calling the Braves ended. He was beloved in Milwaukee and remained sports anchor on WITI-TV6 in Milwaukee. I am actually surprised that I have no recollection of seeing this game anywhere around Wisconsin when I was a kid.

    Liked by 2 people

  6. Wow this brought memories shooting back when I saw the pic. I have these around in a drawer or box somewhere. My brother, who’s about a dozen years older than me had these, then I pretty much self-inherited them when he moved on and got married.

    Liked by 1 person

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