Illustrated Baseball Books

This article was written by Mark Rucker

This article was published in The SABR Review of Books

Author’s note: The following compilation of illustrated baseball books has been necessarily limited by my own research interests. I am predominantly a 19th century researcher, though my involvement carries into the early 1900s. My library contains volumes which reflect this bias, and consequently the following short list is strongest in pictorial coverage from 1930 back. Dozens of illustrated books have been issued to which I have no access, and dozens more which I don’t know about. So, please keep these restrictions in mind when perusing this catalogue. It is by no means comprehensive, but I hope it will be of some use to readers with an interest in the early game.

Robin Carver’s Book of Sports for Boys, Boston, 1832. This little juvenile contains a woodcut of boys playing “Base Ball” on Boston Common. It is the first illustration of the game in America under that name. Pirated from a London volume of 1829, this picture later appeared in many other children’s books.

Base Ball Player’s Pocket Companion, Mayhew and Baker, Boston, 1859. This exceedingly rare book of only 35 pages bears a gold-stamped illustration on the limp leather cover and four full-page illustrations of “Massachusetts Game” players on the inside.

The American Boy’s Book of Sports and Games, Dick & Fitzgerald, NY, 1864. Very nice woodcuts of game scenes, with posed player illustrations to demonstrate technique. Base ball is but one section of many.

Book of the Muffin, by S. Van Campen, Taber Bros., New Bedford, MA, 1867. The first fully illustrated book. Each of the sixteen pages contains one or two woodcut illustrations, mostly humorous, of contests in progress and players in action. The primitive drawings some of which are hand colored, are wonderful. Players appear in 1850s uniforms, though the book was published in the next decade. Very rare: there are only three copies known.

Yachtville Boys, by Caroline E. Kelly Davis, Hoyt, Boston, 1869. An early rare book with one fine steel engraving illustration. The cover has a design of crossed bats, a ball, and a belt incised in gold. The frontispiece engraving depicts an amusing scene in the story with a baseball theme. Our Base Ball Club, novel by Noah Brooks, Dutton, NY, 1884.

Introduction by Al Spalding. Inside illustrations are black & white drawings of games and players. The best of the images are the color litho covers. A full game scene is on the front, and the Chicago White Sox team with a base ball motif on the back.

Sports and Pastimes of American Boys, by Henry Chadwick, Rutledge, NY, 1884. The tome covers many sports, but has a large section on baseball. There are a few small cuts, a reproduced version of an 1860s game scene, and a full-page, full-color illustration.

Base Ball A. B. C., McGloughlin, NY, 1885. This extremely rare volume contains drawings of players in alphabet shapes. Athletic Sports in America, England, and Australia, by Harry Palmer, Hubbard Bros. , 1889. This eye-popping time is perhaps the highest quality book on baseball published in the 19th century. It contains hundreds of illustrations, many full-page. Baseball takes up the lion’s share of the contents, with large B&W photos of every major league team in 1889, and four-color images. Photos and woodcuts chronicle the tour of the Chicago and All-American All-Stars around the world, including team should in exotic locations, advertising posters for the tour, and the sites visited.

Walter Camp’s Book of College Sports, by Walter Camp, Century, NY, 1893. There are 114 pages on baseball in this instructional, with handsome woodcuts demonstrating how to play all aspects of the game.

Art Gallery of Prominent Base Ball Players of America, National Copper Plate Co. 1895. I have only seen the large pages removed from this book: big-format engravings of teams from the late 19th century. Most books were dismantled to frame the prints and the pages dispersed.

Boston Base Ball Club, 1871 -1897, by George V. Tuohey, Miller Press, Boston, 1897. Printed photos of the Boston Red Stockings, 1874, 1879, 1883, 1892, and 1896 are included throughout the book. Also find pictures of managers, club officers, and individual full-figure portraits of the ’97 team members. Additional photos include such Beantown favorites as Harry Wright, King Kelly, George Wright, Radbourne, Clarkson, with many more. This one is scarce.

A Ball Player’s Career, by Adrian Anson, Era Publishing Co., Chicago, 1901. Many high-quality photos of Anson, his family, the teams he played on, tour photos, important baseball personages, and the interior of Anson’s pool hall improve this self-serving autobiography.

Athletics at Princeton, by Frank Presbrey and James Moffatt; Frank Presbrey & Co., NY, 1901. Photos of many of Princeton’s teams and players, starting with the 1860s. This thick book is dominated by baseball.

Baseball 1845-1871, by Seymour Church, author and publisher, San Francisco, 1902. A much sought after volume with full-color plates on the large folio pages, featuring California players and game scenes, along with many other large and small photos of varying interest and importance to baseball history.

Old Boston Boys and the Games They Played, by James De Wolf Lovett, Riverside, Boston, 1906. Approximately 90 pages on baseball in this early Boston history. The chapters cover the inception of baseball in New England, particularly east coast Massachusetts. Included are photos of the Lowell of Boston teams, players with Lowells from 1865-1868, early Harvard U. teams, George Wright, and other popular Bostonians.

Base Ball in Cincinnati, by Harry Ellard, Johnson &. Hardin, Cincinnati, 1907, 1908. A limited edition issue, which is loaded with plates concerning early baseball history, major figures in the game’s early days in Cincinnati, 1860s Queen City players, Red Stockings teams and celebrities 1868-69. Also found are images of the teams of 1885, 1889, and their new “Palace of the Fans. ”

The National Game, by Alfred J. Spink, National Game Publishing Co., St. Louis, 1910. A fabulous book for pictures, many available nowhere else, with some important 19th century team shots. Containing over 180 photos of players, officials, writers, team strongest in the 1900-1910 era.

Touching Second, by Johnny Evers & Hugh Fullerton, Reilly &. Britton, Chicago, 1910. 5×7” photos of Evers, McGraw, Chance, Collins, etc., are spaced throughout the book.

America’s National Game, by A. G. Spalding, American Sports Publishing Co., NY, 1911. This famous, bright blue (sometimes tan) book contains over 100 photo images, which show 19th century teams and stars, including some of the earliest. Also, photos demonstrating other forms of ball games, pictures of famous people on and off the field, and pictures from Spalding’s around the world tour are included. Particularly fine are the fold-out photos of stadiums and groups.

Book of Base Ball, by Patten and McSpadden, Collier, NY, 1911. The best pictorial book from the first years of the century. It’s crammed with high-quality photos of past and contemporary famous diamond figures, featuring action shots of the day’s heroes. Game scenes, portraits, and diagrams abound.

Humour Among the Minors, by E. M. Ashenback, Donohue & Co., Chicago, 1911. Include Full-page portraits of officials, writers, players, and teams of the majors and minors.

Pitching in a Pinch, by Christy Mathewson, Putnam, NY, 1912.Twenty plates with 1910 era stars, umpires and action.

How to Play Base Ball, by John McGraw, Harper & Bros., NY, 1913, 1914. Illustrations of major leaguers and the games they played in accompany the instructional text. 30 black & white photos.

Richter’s History and Records of Base Ball, by Francis Richter, author and publisher, Philadelphia, 1914. A rare and wonderful piece with 21 top-quality pictures. Nineteenth century teams and players, groups of portraits of prominent hurlers and batters are mixed with league officers’ photos.

Commy, by Charles Comiskey, Reilly & Lee, Chicago, 1919. Not too many photos show up in this book, but some nice ones. There are the 1884 St. Louis Browns, along with the Chisox teams Comiskey owned or managed, tours of the White Stockings teams, and shots of the Old Roman himself.

Spink Short Stories, by Al Spink, by Spink Sport Stories, St. Louis, 1921. This three-volume set features short pieces on famous personalities in all sports, with heavy baseball coverage. Portraits of players in halftones accompany the biographies, along with some action photos. Good info and great pictures here of early 20th century stars.

The Science of Base Ball, by Byrd Douglas, Thomas Wilson & Co., 1922. Very grainy and crude halftones of celebs of the 1915-20 years are sprinkled through the text. Game shots and demonstration photos are included to amplify written descriptions.

The H Book of Harvard Athletics, by John A. Blanchard, Harvard Varsity Club, 1923. All sports at Harvard are covered with a large baseball section. Photos of every Harvard team from 1866 to 1923 are the book’s real value.

The Big Baseball Book for Boys, M. G. Bonner, McGloughlin, Springfield, MA, 1931. Handsome full-page photos of Cobb, Cochrane, Johnson, Ruth, Abner D., and more.

History of Baseball in California and the Pacific Coast Leagues, 1847-1938, Fred W. Lange, author and publisher, Oakland, CA, 1938. The best book I know of on the subject with photos of West Coast teams from the 1870s, ’80s, ’90s and forward. Interspersed also are cameos of on and off-field California characters.

Baseball: The Fans’ Game, by Mickey Cochrane, Funk & Wagnalls, NY, 1939. Twenty-four photos, incorporated in groups, all from the ’30s, serve to depict the lessons the author seeks to impart.

McGraw of the Giants, by Frank Graham, Putnam, 1944. McGraw and the favorites he managed are the subjects of the twenty-two illustrations selected for inclusion here.

They Played the Game, by Harry Grayson, Barnes, NY, 1945. Small pictures of players, and one or two of teams from the 1880s are offered.

75th Anniversary of the National League, published by The National League, 1951. Liberally filled with tinted and B&W photos from 1876 to its date of issue. There are many small pictures in some daring layouts.

Ball, Bat and Bishop, Robert Henderson, Rockport, NY, 1947. This tome traces the history of games played with spheres, and illustrates the thesis with twenty-nine plates and six cuts, most of which date from antiquity.

The Story of Baseball, by John Durant, Hastings House, NY, 1947. There are 282 pages in this history replete with more pictures than copy. All are B&W portraits and scenes beginning in the 1830s, many of which I have seen nowhere else.

The Washington Senators, by Morris Beale, Columbia, Washington, DC, 1947. A hard-to-find book on baseball history in our nation’s capital. Photos and drawings are scattered throughout from the 1870s onward.

The Babe Ruth Story, by Bob Considine, Dutton, NY, 1948. Forty-nine photos of the Babe in all aspects of his life and career.

The Dodgers, by John Durant, Hastings House, NY, 1948. More pictures than text here, covering Brooklynites from the 1860s into the 1940s. The bulk of the illustrations are post-1920.

The Story of the World Series, by Fred Lieb, Putnam, NY, 1949. Plenty of black & white shots of the Series from 1903 to the ’40s. Thirty-nine different players represented.

The Yankees, by John Durant, Hastings House, NY, 1949. A picture album of the team from their Highlander days to the DiMaggio era.

The Great Baseball Managers, by Charles Cleveland, Crowell, NY, 1950. Illustrations of McGraw, Mack, Anson, McCarthy, Chance, Huggins, Durocher, Stengel, etc.

Pictorial History of American Sports, by John Durant and Otto Bettman, A. S. Barnes, 1952. Contains four short sections of baseball, each devoted to an historical period, within a well-designed format.

The Home Team, by James Bready, author and publisher, 1958, with three subsequent editions. A pictorial chronicle of baseball in Baltimore, 1860s to the present. A thorough resource for research in any era, there is great variety of illustrations, including photographs, prints, diagrams, and cartoons.

Fireside Book of Baseball, Nos. 1, 2 and 3, by Charles Einstein, 1956, 1958, 1966. Contemporary photos are interspersed sparingly along with cartoons and drawings, all illustrations heavy on humor. Good reading, but the pictures are of little interest.

Baseball (1845-1871), by Preston D. Orem, author and publisher, Altadena, CA, 1961. Reproduces many of Spalding’s images from his National Game.

Baseball in America, by Robert Smith, Holt, Rinehart & Winston, NY, 1961. A large, splendid picture book, laced with images from early baseball days to the 1950s. I find this one continually useful.

Old Timers Photo Album, JKW Sports Publications, NY, Vol. 1-4, 1961—. Player photos are strewn about the pages in a peculiar style. Some issues cover participants from all decades, while others feature modem players only.

The Story of Baseball, by John Rosenburg, Random House, NY, 1962, 1964. A baseball account with numerous illustrations, some of which are not available or so well reproduced elsewhere.

The Glory of Their Times, by Lawrence Ritter, Macmillan, NY, 1966. The twenty-two plates follow the articles from Rube Marquard to Paul Waner. This book is a modern classic.

Only the Ball Was White, by Robert Peterson, Prentice Hall, Englewood Cliffs, NJ, 1970. A somewhat sparsely illustrated book with important and obscure pictures of black teams and players. Especially fine are the group shots from the dead ball era.

Baseball, by Earl Schenk Miers, Grosset & Dunlap, NY, 1971. An odd little book, with a good assortment of photos, including a number from the Victorian days and later which you won’t find anywhere else.

Baseball: Diamond in the Rough, by Irving Leitner, Criterion, 1972. An early game researcher’s reference, containing woodcuts, photos, prints, and diagrams from the sport’s beginnings. Drawing on the New York Public Library’s collection, Leitner has done an excellent job with the material.

The World Series—A Complete Pictorial History, by John DeVaney and Burt Goldblatt, Rand McNally, NY, 1972. You guessed it!—photos from every Series, highlighting stars, fans, and memorabilia. Over 400 illustrations.

Illustrated History of Baseball, by Robert Smith, Grosset & Dunlap, NY, 1973. The second of these coffee-table volumes includes all new material from the book. It is organized just like its predecessor, and is just as good.

The Ballparks, by George Kalinsky and Bill Shannon, Hawthorn, NY, 1975. The best picture book on ballparks yet issued. Photos dominate the pages, covering every major league city, and every stadium extant or demolished.

The Illustrated Book of Baseball Folklore, by Tristram Colin, Seabury Press, NY, 1975. A bizarre selection of pictures is included, some good 19th century photos, mixed with miscellaneous items from all eras, many of which are useless and dull.

That Old Ball Game, by David Phillips, Regnery, Chicago, 1975. An excellent, big book with pictures and captions from the l860s to the 1930s. Fine reproductions, and a fine variety.

A Baseball Century, Macmillan, NY, 1976. Color and B&W illustrations fill this volume. Team histories, souvenirs and artifacts from all eras accompany the well-executed artwork.

The Cincinnati Reds, by Ritter Collett, Jordan-Powers, Virginia Beach, 1976. A picture history of the Reds, thorough and well-designed. This book is worth finding, even if you hate the Reds.

The Game and the Glory, Joseph Reichler, editor, Prentice-Hall, Englewood Cliffs, NJ, 1976. A classy, large book with big color photos. Coverage of contemporary scene predominates, but sprinkled about are photos of historical interest.

Baseball’s Best. The Hall of Fame Gallery, by Martin Appel and Burt Goldblatt, McGraw-Hill, NY, 1977. Photos of all Hall members in portrait and action are of high quality.

The Pittsburgh Pirates, by Richard L. Burtt, Jordan, Virginia Beach, 1977. From the Allegheny Nine to the Pirates’ teams, this book depicts them all. Some color plates can be found in this well-conceived edition.

The Great American Baseball Scrapbook, by A. D. Suehsdorf, Random House, NY, 1978. This large format book is the first to illustrate baseball memorabilia from its beginnings in a glossy color layout. Just about every type of collectible can be found.

The Image of Their Greatness, by Lawrence Ritter and Donald Honig, Crown, NY, 1979. This book is packed with photos, of all sizes, from twentieth century baseball. Good quality and lots of variety. This book is still available.

The Relief Pitcher, by John Thorn, Dutton, NY, 1979. Forty-one photos accompany this chronicle, from Jack Manning to Rich Gossage.

The Ultimate Baseball Book, by Daniel Okrent and Harris Lewine, Houghton Mifflin, Boston, 1979. Everyone has this, the bellwether of new pictorials. Gorgeous graphics, knock-out photo reproductions, and color plates put this book on top. It covers baseball through its history. The hardcover is preferred over the paper edition, because it contains the beautiful full-color sixteen-page spread.

The 100 Seasons of Buffalo Baseball, by Joseph Overfield, 1985. Illustrations of the teams and players of prominence from Buffalo are presented in photos and line drawings. Coverage starts in the 1800s.