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9 of the Most Significant Items in Baseball's Early History

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Pulled from A History of Baseball in 100 Objects by Josh Leventhal, these items help tell the story of how baseball grew to resemble the game we know today.

1. A Little Pretty Pocket-Book (1744)

Often considered the first ever English-language children's book, A Little Pretty Pocket-Book also holds the distinction of containing the first-known mention of "base-ball." The book features rhymes about various childhood games accompanied by woodcut illustrations and some designated "moral" or "rule of life." The "Base-ball" entry includes the following rhymes (remember, the funny-looking "f" is actually an "s"):

The picture shows three boys playing a game with posts standing in for bases but no bats. Without rules, we can't know how much this resembled modern baseball or even the British game of "rounders" that emerged in the early 1800s.

2. The Doubleday Ball (1839)

The myth that Abner Doubleday invented baseball in a single, purely American stroke of brilliance has been thoroughly debunked numerous times since Abner Graves originated the story about how Doubleday taught him and his fellow Cooperstown schoolboys the new game back in 1839. However, it is because of this fictional origin story that the Baseball Hall of Fame is located in Cooperstown, New York, and it was this frayed baseball, found in a trunk thought to have belonged to Graves, that was the very first item added to the collection by the Museum's founder Stephen C. Clark. It remains on prominent display to this day.

3. Union Prisoners at Salisbury, N.C. (1863)

This picture of an idyllic baseball game actually depicts a POW camp from the Civil War. In a testament to how ingrained in the culture baseball already was at the time, Union soldiers held prisoner by the Confederacy often played baseball to keep their spirits and physique up. In 1862, Union officer and artist Otto Boetticher made this drawing while being held prisoner. The following year, it was published as a color lithograph.

4. Constitution and Playing Rules of the National League of Professional Baseball Clubs (1876)

When it was formed in 1876, the National League became the third organized baseball league. But while the other two—the National Association of Base Ball Players and the National Association of Professional Base Ball Players—have long since disappeared, the National League will celebrate its 140th anniversary next year, enjoying its status as the longest-running pro sports league in the country.

The NL was born out of Chicago White Stockings' William Hulbert's coup from within the short-lived and unstable National Association of Professional Base Ball Players. The White Stockings and seven other teams Hulbert recruited introduced business into the world of baseball, with a focus on keeping out small markets and turning a profit. Among the regulations listed in the formative documents were bans on gambling and alcohol and a provision that the team with the best record—provided they played the stipulated minimum number of games against each other team in the League—would be named the "Champion Base Ball Club of the United States."

5. Fred Thayer's Catchers Mask (1876)

A mask from the 1890s

When baseball first began, there was virtually no protection for the players—the fielders caught balls barehanded and catchers wore only mouth guards (if they wore any protection at all). The rules made this possible, as runners were out if a hit or strike was caught on a bounce. Also, pitchers threw underhand with less velocity. This didn't keep the game injury-free, though, and catchers often suffered broken noses, black eyes, or other facial ailments. In 1876 Fred Thayer, the captain of the Harvard University baseball team, designed a mask for catchers based on those worn by the school's fencing team. Starting in April 1877, Harvard's catcher James Tyng started wearing the crude wire mask in games.

It took a while for the contraption to catch on among the pros, where players feared that such protection compromised their manliness. Rule changes starting in the 1880s which allowed pitchers to throw overhand and required catchers to set up closer to the plate all but necessitated a greater level of gear, and masks caught on, while padded chest-protectors also began to make an appearance.

6. Umpire's Ball-Strike Indicator (1887)

For one year (1887), there were four strikes to a strikeout, and it took five balls to earn a walk (the number dropped each year from the original nine balls per walk). While the four-strike rule was clearly an aberration, it's indicative of a changing ethos in baseball.

Initially, games were thought of as offensive and defensive expositions. The pitcher was there primarily to lob underhand tosses that were easy to hit. As the rules started to allow pitchers to protect their interest more and more with side arm and then overhand throws, the offensive output around the Leagues fell. The fourth strike was briefly introduced in order to combat this.

The pitcher's role was clearly in flux that year. It was also the first time that batters were no longer able to explicitly request a pitch location. In prior seasons, the strike zone had been determined batter by batter as each player was allowed to request a general location for their desired pitch, and then balls and strikes were determined based on whether or not the pitcher met this request. Starting in 1887, the uniform strike zone that we know today was introduced.

7. World Series Championship Trophy (1888)

In the late 1870s and early 1880s, the new National League had no interest in coordinating or collaborating with other nascent leagues. Although they played exhibition games against the short-lived International Association of Professional Baseball Players, this was mostly to poach their better players, a practice which irreparably crippled the smaller league. The American Association, which launched in 1882 and fashioned itself as a blue-collar alternative where alcohol consumption was permitted, fared a little better. In the first year of its existence, the champion from the AA, the Cincinnati Red Stockings, split a two-game exhibition series against the NL champion Chicago White Stockings.

In the following years, the two leagues sent their respective champions to play exhibition series of varying lengths against one another each year. In many ways they differed from our modern World Series—they often played all 10 or even 15 games, even if a winner had been decided. The matchups were hardly even, and in the seven years that the two leagues played championship series the AA won only once. But in 1888, the World Series got a little more modern with the introduction of the championship trophy. That first trophy, which was awarded to the NL's New York Giants, currently sits in the Hall of Fame with the distinction of being the oldest existing baseball championship trophy.

8. Spalding World Tour Banquet Program (1889)

In the late 19th and early 20th century, Albert G. Spalding was one of the most influential figures in baseball. After a successful playing career, Spalding retired from the field in 1878 to serve as the president and part owner of the White Stockings and focus on the A. G. Spalding Sporting Goods Company.

In an effort to promote the game and his new business venture, Spalding decided to bring baseball to the rest of the world with a promotional tour. Following the 1888 season, Spalding's White Stockings and a group of All-Stars from other teams took to the road. Starting in Chicago, the tour first played a series of exhibition games across the country before embarking from San Francisco on an international leg. They played games in New Zealand, Australia, modern-day Sri Lanka, Egypt, and all around Europe for several months. Upon their return to the States, the teams were celebrated with a prominent banquet in New York and then again in Chicago after playing their way around the Northeast.

9. Contract for the Formation of the American League (1900)

In 1899, Byron Johnson served as the president of a regional minor league called the Western League. That year, he announced that it would disband and reform as the American League of Professional Base Ball Clubs. It was intended as a direct challenger to the NL, which had contracted from 12 teams to eight just a few years before, leaving lots of high-caliber talent unemployed.

At first, Johnson tried to make nice with the NL, offering to sign an agreement in 1900 that would require both leagues to respect each other's contracts. This offer was rejected by the NL and a rivalry ensued. The AL started moving teams into cities already occupied by the NL and, without a salary cap like the older league, started poaching star players.

For a few years, the attendance began to tip in the AL's favor as the NL frantically brought futile lawsuits against the upstart league. Finally, following the 1903 season, the NL agreed to peace and even offered to merge the two leagues. The AL declined, preferring to coexist as equal major leagues.

20th Century Fox Home Entertainment
15 Things You Might Not Know About The Sandlot
20th Century Fox Home Entertainment
20th Century Fox Home Entertainment

What, you haven’t seen The Sandlot? You’re killing me, Smalls.

OK, now that we’ve gotten that out of the way, let’s get down to business. Roger Ebert got it right: The Sandlot is like the summer version of A Christmas Story. They’re not penned by the same screenwriter and they don’t share a director or even actors, but both make you feel nostalgic for a childhood you probably didn’t even have.

No matter how many times you’ve watched Squints execute his plan to get to first base with Wendy Peffercorn, there’s bound to be something you don’t know about this modern classic. On the 25th anniversary of the movie's release, here are 15 of our favorite The Sandlot secrets.


Originally called The Boys of Summer, the film's name had to be changed because there was already a famous baseball book by the same title.


The movie was inspired in part by a childhood experience co-writer/director David Mickey Evans’s brother had. Some older boys wouldn’t let Evans play baseball with him. When they lost a ball over a brick wall, he thought he could get on their good side by retrieving it for them. When he hopped the wall, however, he found a giant dog named Hercules waiting for him—and he was bitten.


It was shot in just 42 days.


Casting directors originally wanted the kids to be 9 to 10 years old, but as they began casting, "it became obvious real fast the kids were much too young," Evans told Sports Illustrated. "So I said, 'We've got to make them 12 or 13.' We knew it was the right decision instantly, because the first kid that we interviewed was Mike Vitar [who played Benny Rodriguez]."


The cast of 'The Sandlot' (1993)
20th Century Fox Home Entertainment

The production crew had been agonizing over how they were going to pull off a tree that size—"We were looking at having to buy an oak tree, and a specimen that big, if you can even find one, is hundreds of thousands of dollars," Evans told Sports Illustrated—when they happened to notice one being chopped down not far from the production offices. The 100-year-old oak was interfering with the foundation of the house it was planted next to. The man removing it agreed to give it to the crew, and Salt Lake City’s utility companies took down power and telephone lines on certain streets so the tree could be hauled safely to the empty lot where filming was taking place. It was cemented into the ground there and became an iconic part of the movie.


Marty York, the actor who played Alan “Yeah-Yeah” McClennan, originally read for Bertram. Not only did York not get the Bertram role, he wasn’t the first choice for Yeah-Yeah, either. The kid cast for Yeah-Yeah got sick just as the movie was scheduled to start filming, and York replaced him.


The chewing tobacco from the carnival scene was really made out of licorice and bacon bits—and that, the actors later said, combined with riding the carnival rides for so many takes, made them as sick as their fictional counterparts got. (The vomit from that scene, by the way, was a mixture of split pea soup, baked beans, oatmeal, water, and gelatin.)


It was so hot during the daytime shoots—upwards of 110 degrees—that the actor who played Scotty Smalls, Tom Guiry, got weak from running around in the heat and fell into one of the cameramen.


On the other hand, the famous pool scene was actually freezing. The day was overcast and the water was just 56 degrees. Evans says you can actually see Squints’s teeth chattering while he’s staring longingly at Wendy Peffercorn from the pool.


Speaking of the Squints scam: Evans had to give actor Chauncey Leopardi a stern reminder before the scene was shot: “You keep your tongue in your mouth, you understand?”


Wendy was partly based on a girl Evans remembers from his childhood—a lifeguard in a red bathing suit named Bunny.


The kids were super impressed that Darth Vader was on set—James Earl Jones, of course, played junkyard owner Mr. Mertle. (They were almost as taken with Marley Shelton, who played Wendy.)


When the young cast wasn’t acting, they were getting into the kind of shenanigans that their Sandlot alter egos surely would have been proud of—they snuck in to see Basic Instinct.


The Beast—a.k.a. Hercules, an English Mastiff—was played, in part, by a puppet. It took two people to operate. If you don’t mind ruining the movie magic, you can see the behind-the-scenes photos on Evans’s blog.

Some scenes with the Beast called for a real dog (two, actually). When Smalls and Hercules make friends at the end, they got the dog to lick his face by smearing baby food on one half of Tom Guiry’s face. "That scene where I’m looking to the side, the other half of me is just slathered in this baby goo. That dog had a field day on my face," Guiry told Time. "I’m a dog-lover though, so it didn’t really bother me.”


The Sandlot was at the center of a lawsuit that eventually had a major impact on Hollywood. A man named Michael Polydoros sued 20th Century Fox, claiming that his former classmate, David Mickey Evans, had based the character of Michael “Squints” Palledorous on him, and that it caused him embarrassment and humiliation. A judge decided that there wasn’t enough similarity to justify the lawsuit, meaning that movie studios could continue using characters inspired in part by real-life people.

10 of the Most Valuable Baseball Cards in the World

If baseball is America’s national pastime, then collecting baseball cards is a close second. Closets, crawl spaces, and attics across the country are full of cards from every era—from the days of Babe Ruth and Ted Williams to Derek Jeter and Albert Pujols. But not all of them are going to pay off your student loans or put you in a new house.

Baseball card values depend on many factors, like age, condition, scarcity, and the collectible market trends at the time. With all that in mind, we're taking a look at 10 of the most valuable baseball cards in the world.

1. HONUS WAGNER, 1909-1911 ATC T206 // $3.12 MILLION

If you know anything about baseball cards, it won't come as a shock that this Honus Wagner card sold for a staggering $3.12 million in 2016, besting its previous high of $2.8 million from 2007. Widely considered to be the "Holy Grail" of baseball collectibles, the card's value is forever tied to its backstory. It was originally produced by the American Tobacco Company and was included in packs of the company's cigarettes. But, for reasons that still aren't completely clear, Wagner made the company pull the card from the market, resulting in anywhere from only 25 to 200 ever being released—and more than 100 years later, the scarcity has made it a landmark in sports collectibles.


Joining Wagner in the more-than-a-million-dollars card club is none other than Mickey Mantle. More specifically, it's his 1952 Topps Major League card that went for $1.13 million at auction in 2016. Its Professional Sports Authenticator (PSA) grade, which scores a card's condition, is an astounding 8.5 out of 10, making it one of the most attractive Mantle cards out there. But even copies with lower scores have gone for significant amounts, with grades of 6 and 7 regularly going for more than $100,000. But in a few weeks this list might need updating—another 1952 Topps Mickey Mantle card is up for auction in April, this time with a PSA grade of 9. Its pre-auction estimate is a mighty $3.5 million-plus.

3. BABE RUTH, 1916 SPORTING NEWS // $717,000

Babe Ruth’s Sporting News card from 1916 (his pre-Yankee days) sold for $717,000 in a 2016 auction. It was far from the only auction that featured this card of a young Bambino, though. In 2017, the same card with the same PSA grade fetched around $550,000. It's just another example of how selling at the right time and finding the right buyer can make a six-figure difference.


So how did a card like this wind up taking $717,000 at auction? It's not nearly as old as a Ruth card, yet it went for just as much money. Well, for one, it features Pete Rose on it, and anything with "The Hit King" is going to get some interest. Another reason is that it was graded a perfect 10 by the PSA, which is exceedingly rare for any card of its age. It's the only copy of this particular card ever to get that rating, and for collectors, that's a big deal. This one won't fetch nearly as much in any other condition, though, as a 9 grade might get around $70,000 at auction.


"Shoeless" Joe Jackson was the most high-profile baseball name to be linked to the notorious Black Sox Scandal, but that hasn't hurt his worth on the collectible market. In 2016, a PSA grade 8 copy of what's considered to be Jackson's rookie card sold at auction for $667,149. In 2008, the same card with a lower grade went for $86,975, so it just goes to show that a card's condition can make all the difference.


Like the Rose rookie card, this Nolan Ryan/Jerry Koosman combo piece was rated a perfect 10 and was rewarded with $612,359 at auction, far higher than it would have been otherwise. In fact, of the 8000 Ryan/Koosman rookie cards that have been submitted, it's the only one to receive a perfect score. And that pristine condition is exactly why it commanded that price—when you put a 9 grade on the same card, for example, its value goes down to around $20,000 to $30,000.

7. BABE RUTH, 1914 BALTIMORE NEWS // $575,000

It shouldn't come as a surprise that the Babe wound up on this list twice. This time, the Sultan of Swat is seen as a minor league pitcher for the Baltimore Orioles, well before his home run prowess was realized. In 2012, Robert Edwards Auctions sold a PSA 2 graded copy of the card for an impressive $575,000. And if you want a rare card, this is it: It's generally agreed upon that there are only around 10 in existence.

8. WILLIE MAYS, 1952 TOPPS // $478,000

In 2016, Heritage Auctions held a Sports Collectibles Auction that over three days sold $11 million of memorabilia. The single most valuable item sold was a $478,000 Willie Mays card. While not his rookie card, it was the first Topps card to feature the legendary centerfielder.

9. ROBERTO CLEMENTE, 1955 TOPPS // $478,000

All-time great Roberto Clemente, a member of the 3000-hit club and the Baseball Hall of Fame, died tragically in a plane crash en route to Nicaragua to contribute to earthquake relief in 1972. In 2012, his 1955 rookie card—graded a rare 10 by PSA—sold for $432,690. But four years later (showing that timing can be more important than grade), a 1955 Roberto Clemente card that was graded a 9 sold for $478,000 (however, the same card with a PSA grade of 8 is worth around $30,000). An interesting note about the 2012 sale is that the card was owned by former big leaguer Dmitri Young, who auctioned a large portion of his impressive collection in 2012 for $2.4 million.

10. JOE DOYLE, N.Y. NAT'L, 1909-1911 ATC T206 // $414,750

“Slow Joe” Doyle might not be the most famous player on this list, but he has one of the most notorious cards on the market. First off, this particular card is over 100 years old, so there are reported to be less than a dozen in circulation. But most importantly, there was a printing error on the card, listing Doyle as playing for New York's National League team, rather than the correct American League team (he was a member of the New York Highlanders, which would eventually become the Yankees; it’s thought the confusion was due to Larry Doyle being on New York’s National League team). The error was quickly fixed, so a majority of them hit the market with the correct wording. The card has come to auction only a few times in recent years, bringing in anywhere from $64,099 to a staggering $414,750. Not bad for a pitcher with a career record of 22-21.


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