Nov 17

Base Ball with Cards

The popularity of the game of baseball quickly led to variations on the game. The popularity of the game quickly went beyond the playing field. Baseball games for the home were invented in the late 1860s, and came in various types with the “New Parlor Game of Base Ball” by Metcalf Sumner perhaps the most recognized. The game by the way was played with a spinner.

Research can often lead someone into an unexpected area. For us the delight in finding something unexpected is exciting. For instance, anyone going through the newspapers of early September 1859 will find reference to the great Geomagnetic Storm. The headline in the 24 October 1885 issue of the Washington Evening Star, referenced above captured our attention.

“A movement is on foot to organize a league of baseball clubs here this winter. The game will be played with cards made especially for the purpose. Several of these leagues were formed in northern cities last winter, and the organization of baseball parties in social circles is said to have afforded much pleasure to the participants. Eight, six, or four clubs can constitute a league. Already four clubs in this city have signified their intention of becoming members of the league, and but four more are needed to make it a success. A meeting will be held at 222 3rd Street next Tuesday afternoon for the purposes of organizing and making a schedule of games to be played.”

The game referenced was invented by Thomas W Lawson in late 1884. It is considered the first to use playing cards. The game was sold in a box with a set of 36 cards and instructions. The cards did not represent popular players that would come later. But they did allow the crank to play a game, simulating a baseball game. Cards could also be purchased in decks. The game quickly became popular, some still exist.

Baseball games remained popular. But a winter version of the game soon took hold. Moving ahead to 1896, Sporting Life has this to say about another variation on the game of baseball, Indoor Baseball. “Roller polo is popular only in New England; indoor baseball is the favorite winter sport in the western sections, especially in Chicago and Cleveland. In the middle states bowling is the game.” Indoor baseball began in Chicago in 1887 and soon spread throughout the country with leagues. In the District in the early 1900s the games would even be mentioned in the papers. Another winter sport with limited popularity was baseball on ice.

The article would not be complete without a reference to the “Walter Johnson, Baseball Game,” marketed in 1925. The game was played with a spinner and two versions were available.