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[Detail] Jackie Robinson and Pee Wee Reese

3. Baseball Merchandise and Advertising

Many pieces of baseball merchandise celebrate the game but have little to do with the game itself. Advertisers in the late nineteenth and early twentieth centuries often associated their products with a leisure activity. The tobacco industry was one of the first groups to use baseball images in their advertising. An 1867 "Star Club" tobacco label prominently features a generic baseball scene on its packaging while later cigarette products included photographic cards depicting players such as the 1887 Washington Base Ball Club. (Additional cigarette cards are featured in the Card Set that is part of the American Memory collection, Baseball Cards). In 1933, the Goudley Gum Company began including baseball cards with its product, thereby using the cards to appeal to a younger demographic.

  • How do baseball cards depict the game and its players?
  • Why would cigarette and gum manufacturers include baseball cards with their products? What audience of consumers is being targeted?
  • Now that baseball cards are an independent industry, do they serve a different purpose than when they were packaged with cigarettes and gum? Explain.
  • What is the appeal of collecting sports cards?
Jackie Robinson Story

The Jackie Robinson Story Eagle-Lion Films, 1950.

Jackie Robinson’s achievements on the field were celebrated in baseball cards and other products during the middle of the twentieth century. His popularity spawned a number of products during the 1950s including a comic book series and The Jackie Robinson Story, a biographical film in which Robinson played himself.

  • How do products such as a comic book series or film about Jackie Robinson differ from a baseball card featuring Jackie Robinson? What are the film and comic book selling?
  • How are professional athletes used in marketing today? What products are they associated with?
  • How is today's merchandising of athletes different from merchandise sold in the late nineteenth and early twentieth centuries?