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The Library of Congress > Teachers > Classroom Materials > Collection Connections > Baseball Highlights, 1860s-1960s

[Detail] Jackie Robinson and Pee Wee Reese

Baseball Players as Symbols | Biography | Lyrics | Persuasive Writing | Screenwriting

Jackie Robinson and Other Baseball Highlights, 1860s-1960s, contains speeches, jokes, and works of fiction that provide a number of opportunities to discuss the symbolic depiction of baseball players in the media and other forms of contemporary popular culture. These primary sources offer different accounts of baseball’s impact on American culture and provide the catalyst for a number of writing activities.

Baseball Players as Symbols

Casey Stengel

Casey Stengel, 1915.

This collection contains a variety of images depicting baseball players from throughout the game's history. Early baseball images include an 1869 illustration of the first nine of the Cincinnati Red Stockings base ball club, which presents formal portraits of players in ties and jackets surrounding an image of a single man in the Red Stockings uniform. Later, cigarette cards such as the uncut sheet of cards depicting the 1887 Washington base ball club offer staged full-length photographs of players using a bat or a glove.

The twentieth century provided candid photographs of players such as a 1915 portrait of Casey Stengel standing in the outfield wearing sunglasses. Examine and compare these images to determine the symbolic values assigned to baseball players through time.

  • Are the players in these images represented as part of a team or as individual players?
  • What is the appeal of each type of representation?
  • What personal skills or qualities are emphasized in the images? What adjectives would you use to describe the players?
  • How is the baseball player depicted as a hero?
  • How do the images from the mid-nineteenth century compare to the photographs in the collections, Civil War and Daguerreotypes?
  • What purpose do you think these symbolic images of baseball players have served? How has that purpose changed through time?
  • What are the implications of segregation in baseball when the players are treated symbolically?