Early Innings in American Baseball

Today’s post is about the turn of the century baseball cards recently posted by the Library of Congress.

Goodwin & Co., Sponsor. Ned Hanlon, Detroit Wolverines, baseball card portrait. , 1887 to 1890. Photograph. https://www.loc.gov/item/2007686521/.

Our modern baseball players are very fit and polished, by comparison. The players in these pictures weren’t especially muscular or toned.


Can you imagine the reaction if one of these players was signed today?  A few of these guys – at least – must have had day jobs and probably just played ball for a hobby.


For instance, the fellow on the left looks a lot like someone who works at the 7-Eleven near where I work. (I also have a day job.)


Another interesting thing about the cards is that they are sponsored by cigarette companies.

Allen & Ginter, Sponsor. John M. Ward, New York Giants, baseball card portrait, 1887. Photograph. https://www.loc.gov/item/2007678538/


This is Mr. C.F. McDowell from the Newsboys League. I initially thought he was pretty funny (the belt is so great!) but I did a little digging and learned McDowell wasn’t a ball player – he actually was a newsboy for the Rochester Post Express! The SF Hess tobacco company ordered this photo as part of an unusual set featuring several newsboys from eight cities.

S.F. Hess & Company, Sponsor. McDowell, Rochester Post Express, baseball card portrait. , 1888. Photograph. https://www.loc.gov/item/2007680747/.

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