Take Me Out to the Ball Game

Possible Classroom Concepts: Social Studies – History (Industrial Revolution – printmaking), American Pastimes (Baseball), Hobbies (Collections, Scrapbooking),  Famous People

Language Arts – Homonyms, Mathematics – Statistics (Averaging), Science – (Seasons- Spring)

Possible Art Concepts: Art History – Printmaking, Commercial Art (Trade Cards), Trade Cards In Art, M. Vänci Stirnemann, Mike Mandel, LaVern Brock


It’s Spring! Along with the season comes the the beginning of baseball season. Coincidentally, The Metropolitan Museum of Art in NYC has a an exhibit of baseball cards entitled “The Jefferson R. Burdick Collection”. To learn more about the exhibit look  here. Initially, I thought I’d create a short little post about the exhibit and how it correlates with commercial artists. Through my investigation, I learned so much more and discovered correlations with most classroom subjects .

Let’s start with language arts and talk about the word, trade, as a homonym. There are two ways to look at this word. When I think of trading cards, I think of a boy having two Micky Mantle cards and trading one of them for some other card. Through my research,  I learned that is not what “Trade Card” means. The original trade cards were actually more like calling or business cards. A businessman would present his card to a butler by way of an introduction to the man of the house. So in this case, trade stands for a business or occupation. Students could then brainstorm other homonyms that they know. Students could also create a trade card book report.

In mathematics, students can look at the statistics on the back of baseball cards and practice their division skills to calculate averages as can be seen in this lesson. Who knows, you may even spark a math interest in one of your sports minded students.

Social studies can be approached in several ways depending on what you are studying. Let’s start by looking at history. Trade cards have been around since the 1700s, but with the development of the color lithography printing press (part of the industrial revolution), they became more widely used. These cards were handed out for free in stores and at world’s fairs. Trade cards had pictures on the front (created by commercial artists) and advertisements on the back. Read more about them here and here. People often pasted trade cards into scrapbooks as a hobby. These cards are a good source of information for what life was like at the time (art recording history). Baseball ball cards were initially given out for free, but later were placed in products like tobacco and bubble gum. Read more about their history here and here. Innovations in color lithography also affected the world of  postcards and holiday cards.

Trading cards are even made for science. For years animal cards came in the National Geographic Magazine for Kids. Just the other day, I saw that the Winn Dixie grocery chain is giving away a pack of Wild Animal Cards with a purchase worth twenty dollars. Your students could create trade cards in any science theme you may be studying (animals, dinosaurs, flowers).

I even discovered that artists have created trading cards. Evidently, Swiss artist, M. Vänci Stirnemann was the first to create Artist Trading Cards or ATCs. Read the story behind these cards here. In 1970, photographer, Mike Mandel,  created a set of 135 “Baseball Photographer Trading Cards” featuring famous photographers. Read more about this unique card  set in this Smithsonian Magazine article.  The making of ATCs has become a popular topic. One can find many “how to” posts and videos online. Check out  Mini Matisse blogger, Mrs. Hahn’s, recent ATC challenge and ATC instructions here. There is even an artist named LaVern Brock who recycles old baseball cards into one of a kind baseball images. Check out examples of these amazing works here.

So, whether you choose to incorporate just one idea from those listed above or make it a Baseball Card Day celebration (like some teachers have 100 Day celebrations) on opening day, this is really “The little baseball card that could!!!!”

If you found this post helpful, please give me a Like. Simply click on the title and scroll down to the bottom of the post. Any comments or suggestions are also welcome and appreciated.

Stop by again real soon!


  1. Lynn Goff · April 3, 2016

    I love the idea of artist trading cards. Might be a great way to end the year for fifth grade so they can trade memories!


  2. Katie Borland · April 4, 2016

    You are so clever and you have certainly done a lot of research.
    Why don’t you step up and teach Betty’s class.


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