I went to a baseball card trade show over the weekend, with the mission of finding some cards older than my current-oldest card (which is a Gil Hodges from 1950). I found a dealer who had cards dating back to the 1930s, which was pretty incredible, but as I was looking through them, I gravitated toward a painterly series of “Play Ball” cards (shown along the top row), which were produced by “Gum, Incorporated” in 1941. For example, if you look at “Soupy” Campbell in the top left corner, do you agree that the background field, stadium, and sky appear to be either a painting or drawing? Even Soupy’s face doesn’t strike me as a photograph. “Pinky” May may have originally been a black and white photograph, but it looks like it’s been colorized, and the background behind “Gunboat” Gumbert doesn’t appear to be anything one would find in a baseball stadium.
Are you catching my trend for deciding which cards to buy? The funny nickname theme presented itself as a course of action, so in addition to these 3 “Play Ball” cards, I also picked out two cards from the 1949 Bowman set, including Stan “Happy Rabbit” Rojek and Harry “The Hat” Walker. I’m not sure what it was about the 1940s that caused so many players to have nicknames, but I liked the idea of getting Soupy, Pinky, Gunboat, Happy Rabbit and The Hat all together in my collection.