Since the mid-19th century, when the New York Knickerbockers played the first organized baseball games using modern-day rules, New York has been home to some of the sport’s most successful and beloved teams. Opening June 10 at The Metropolitan Museum of Art, the exhibition The Old Ball Game: New York Baseball, 1887–1977 will include nearly 400 baseball cards featuring players from numerous teams, from the New York Metropolitans and the Brooklyn Bridegrooms to the Giants, Dodgers, Yankees, and Mets.
All of the cards are from the collection of The Met; many will be on display for the first time.
Highlights of the exhibition include never-before-shown cabinet cards of the late 19th century, such as an 1894 example picturing George Davis, the Hall-of-Famer shortstop for the New York Giants. The first six hitters in the Yankees’ famed 1927 lineup—Earle Combs, Mark Koenig, Babe Ruth, Lou Gehrig, Bob Meusel, and Tony Lazzeri, also known as “Murderers’ Row”—will be represented through cards published in the 1920s and 1930s by the American Caramel Company and Big League Goudey Gum, respectively. The legendary “Shot Heard ‘Round the World,” in which outfielder Bobby Thomson led the New York Giants to win the National League pennant against the team’s long-time rivals, the Brooklyn Dodgers, with his game-winning home run in 1951, will be recognized through 1952 Picture Cards issued by Bowman Gum. Joe DiMaggio, Mickey Mantle, Yogi Berra, Jackie Robinson, Reggie Jackson, and other major stars will be featured through cards published in the 1950s through 1970s.
The majority of the cards on display are drawn from the Jefferson R. Burdick Collection, the largest and most comprehensive collection of American trade cards ever assembled privately in the United States. Burdick (1900–1963), an electrician by profession, deposited more than 300,000 items at The Met between 1943 and 1963, including more than 30,000 baseball cards, for which he developed a cataloguing system that remains in use today. Since 1993, in response to the overwhelming enthusiasm of collectors and fans, The Met has put on display groupings from the Burdick Collection of several dozen baseball cards at a time, rotating them at six-month intervals.