21 Old-Timey Baseball Cards To Get You In The Mood For America’s Pastime

A blast from the past

Baseball season is upon us once more and it is easy to get wrapped up in recent history and present day controversies. While we dither about electronic strike zones, whether or not the Astros cheated their way into a title or if the shift is true to the spirit of the game it is sometimes easy to forget that the game of baseball is old. Really, really old.

Baseball cards have been around since the mid-19th century and were often shipped in packs of cigarettes and later packs of gum.

In the spirit of the newly minted 2021 baseball season, here are twenty one old-timey baseball cards that remind us how old America’s Pastime truly is.

1.

Stemmyer was a pitcher for the Boston Beaneaters, the team that would eventually go on to become the Atlanta Braves after multiple iterations. They were in Boston from 1871 until 1952 but after the creation of the American League rival, the Boston Red Sox, the franchise never returned to prominence in the Boston area. This is a classic card from 1887 that shipped with Old Judge Cigarettes.

2.

Meet Dan Brouthers, member of the Detroit Wolverines. He sported a wicked mustache and a predecessor to the modern baseball cap. The Detroit Wolverines were only in business from 1881 to 1888 before being disbanded.

3.

King Kelly, another member of the Boston Beaneaters. What a great name. And yet another great mustache. Someone should tell Bryce Harper to bring these back.

4.

Here is a portrait from the original Washington Nationals, not the new iteration (RIP Expos). This looks more like a picture a mom would keep in their pocketbook of their son rather than a baseball card but this came to us courtesy of Ramly Cigarettes circa 1909.

5.

Helmar Tobacco took the 19th century portrait style that was seemingly popular around the turn of the century and colorized it with a more traditional baseball card aesthetic to give us a great combination of old and new. Devlin played for the New York Giants, yes, the baseball team not the football team. Circa 1911.

6.

They don’t give us poses like these anymore. This is a beautifully colored card from American Tobacco, 1911. Lake was a pitcher for the St. Louis Browns.

7.

Before they were the world renowned New York Yankees, the team started out as the New York Highlanders. Some people think this was due to their home in Upper Manhattan or because of the elevation of their original field. Note this catcher’s attire from 1911.

8.

If you had this 1912 card in your possession today, it could be worth a pretty penny. Even still, it is a pretty card. Ty Cobb is one of the most famous baseball players of all time. This card is from his time at the Detroit Tigers where he spent the vast majority of his career.

9.

Frank Dwyer of the Chicago White Stockings. This was before they swapped to the Chicago White Sox. Back then all pitchers had to bat, thus the bat in hand. Even Babe Ruth pitched some games and was quite good at it, in addition to being a legendary bat.

10.

Another team identity lost to time was the Boston Doves. Note the white uniforms and the newsboy stripes on the hat. The Doves were one phase of the original National League team in Boston that is today’s Atlanta Braves.

11.

Doc Marshall is a great old-timey baseball name. He was also a member of the Brooklyn Superbas which was a predecessor to the Brooklyn Dodgers. Back then, nicknames were less official and more fluid than the tightly controlled franchise names today.

12.

Congratulations to Arlie Latham and the champion St. Louis Browns. They won the pennant and the World Series in 1886 beating out the Chicago White Stockings 4–2.

13.

Love the hair Johnny Evers. Love the team. The Cubs have been an American favorite club for over a century. It was no different way back in 1910 when Evers played for them.

14.

Red Kleinow was another member of the New York Highlanders. His catcher outfit does not look very cool, comfortable or safe but that was how the game was played back then. The Dead-ball Era of baseball was a whole other animal.

15.

Cy Young, another legend. The pitching award today still bears his name. He played for the Cleveland Naps and his legacy lives on to this day.

16.

Arthur Fletcher looked rather sinister for his portrait. These old cards always displayed the city name and the league that the team was in but rarely displayed the team’s nickname.

17.

Here is a classic looking pose for a baseball card. This card dates from 1912 and is from the Pittsburgh Pirates — a team that is still a staple in the National League.

18.

Chalmers played for the Philadelphia Phillies and is rocking the look that was popular at the time. Today, we recognize this look via film great Charlie Chaplin.

19.

It wouldn’t be a classic card lineup without Babe Ruth. This card is from 1933 and features the all time great on a Big League Chewing Gum card.

20.

Not to be confused with the later Speaker of the US House, Tip O’neil was a member of the St. Louis Browns in 1887.

21.

The Indianapolis Hoosiers had a great style for their uniforms. Strong stripes on the hat, a great mustache on the player and killer socks. This is a look that will forever be timeless.

Baseball cards are still popular today and they have been a part of the American cultural landscape for a century and a half.

All images were provided courtesy of the Library of Congress public database.

Professional freelance writer with an eye for history and storytelling. Ardent believer that history is stranger than fiction.

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