Sepia Saturday Interlude: Animal Baseball

Last week, one of the Sepia Saturday entries featured some classic baseball cards. It put me in mind of one of my favorite pieces of memorabilia of my father's. He had always been a fan of the Thornton Burgess animal stories. And he was a baseball fan. Not surprisingly then, when he was about 15 (c. 1933) he invented the Animal Baseball card game. He kept the cards in this box.

He started with a commercial deck based on Burgess's creations, which I gather was equivalent to Old Maid, and added cards sufficient to make up two teams, by both cutting out Burgess characters from books or magazines, and drawing the rest.

The homemade cards were backed with cardboard -- sometimes from cereal boxes or other sources. One is a movie flier of some sort; the blurb for the 1933 Western, "Smoke Lightning," IMdB says "Branded as a killer--hunted, hounded, driven to desperation, he turned on his hunters and shot his way to freedom--and the heart of the only girl." The plot for "Grand slam" is too complicated to go into here!

The numbered cards (from another deck) determine the baseball play. At the bottom of the following stats sheet (he kept meticulous records for every game he played) is the valuable key to scoring runs.

1=Single; 2=Out; 3=Strike Out; 4=Out; 5=Double; 6=Out; 7=Double Play!!; 7=Out; 8=Second Base; 9=Out; 10=Triple; 11=Out; 12=Out; 13=Walk; 14=Walk; 15=Home Run

He would call out the plays as they occurred, as though he were a radio sports reporter. In fact, before deciding to go into English, he wanted to be a sports announcer or reporter. (A future Sepia Saturday will feature excerpts fom his long-running hand-produced "Daily Blah" newspaper, which he singlehandedly issued throughout high school).

He also made some of the cards from photos, including two of his dogs...Mike was supposedly an Airedale, and I have never seen any other photos of him, but this does not look anything like an Airedale to me! Some card illustrations were from other sources. Reynard the Fox was marked as team manager.

Here is the stats chart for the Animal Baseball team.

Buster Bear and Grandfather Frog were apparently hall-of-famers who got special plaques.


  1. It's very fortunate your Dad's Animal Baseball has survived - what fun :-)

  2. What a treaure! You are very lucky to have this, Sean.

  3. What a treasure! And what a clever guy he was. I love it that the fox was the manager. I don't know anything about baseball but the fox seems appropriate.

  4. I'm glad I checked back for any Sepia Saturday stragglers. I would hate to have missed this. These cards are so wonderful. Even the box he stored them in is a gem.

  5. How lucky to have such a treasure of your father's - he created a wonderful heirloom and he was so young when he did it. I enjoyed all of your photos and reading about the cards.

  6. Sean, your father was very inventive and so creative. It looks like he drew some of his cards and adapted coloring book pages, photographs, greeting cards, and other paper items to make the cards.

    I perked up when I saw the word "Airedale", being an owner and lover of the breed, but I have to agree with you that Mike does not look like an Airedale.

    This game of your father's is such a treasure. I think it's amazing that it's survived these many years. Thanks for sharing it on Sepia Saturday.