Just What the Heck is Going on in this Baseball Scene?

Throughout the history of baseball cards, there have been all sorts of confusing depictions. That’s especially true in pre-war cards where there was a lot less quality control happening. You’ve not only got a gaggle of errors and misidentifications on cards, but you’ve also got some really strange pictures.

I’m not sure what is happening on this Babe Ruth card that I recently wrote about, for example, but at least one trade card probably rivals it.

1881 Tobin Baseball Scene with Dog

In his wonderful Baseball Advertising Trade Cards book, Frank Keetz lists this as one of his untitled trade cards. It wasn’t part of a known set and wasn’t titled on the actual card itself. So it simply gets the designation of No. 215 in his book.

The Tobin Baseball Scene/Dog card is actually one of the earlier trade issues you’ll see. Unlike others, we know this one is an 1881 issue as that copyrighted date appears on the card. It’s also significantly smaller than many others that came after it, measuring about 1 13/16″ x 3 1/8″.

As is the case with many other trade cards, this one was interchangeable and used by a whole army of companies and vendors. A blank space was left on the card where a business would print or stamp their name inside of it, then likely pass it out as sort of a business card. Today, you can sometimes find the cards with a blank box on the front. That would simply indicate a business had not yet affixed their information to it.

A Mess of A Picture


If you just glance at this card, you might be inclined to think it’s just your regular, run-of-the-mill baseball scene. But if you’re a little more perceptive, you see there’s actually a complete mess here.

So, we’ve got a batter. Great! Baseball in action. In the words of Tom Selleck in Mr. Baseball, actual baseball is actually being played. The first thing you notice that’s not entirely kosher is that the players appear to be wearing uniforms but that it’s difficult to tell who is on what team. One guy appears to be a baserunner but he’s wearing a different uniform from the batter and is instead wearing the uniform of what looks to be a fielder on the opposing team. But skip all of that for a second. Let’s just look at the picture itself.

The batter his swinging at a ball while a baserunner (I guess) is taking off, potentially indicating someone stealing home or as a pinch runner from home plate? I guess. Said runner, however, is missing something. He’s actually missing something pretty important.

A freaking head.

The runner in question is either heading home or possibly going to first but my man has no eyeballs because he has no head. Kind of a problem.

Next, there’s a fielder back in the distance. You might want to guess that he’s a catcher but that can’t possibly be the case. We know that because he’s a good ways off from the batter and rest of the players. Unless the guy pitching has a cannon for an arm and he’s afraid of getting hit, there’s no way he can be that far away of the action. So he’s a fielder calling for the ball. Okay, that’s fine. The problem is that he appears to be in the wrong area. Instead of being in front of the batter, he’s actually behind him. Whoops.

There’s another fielder (presumably) on the ground. But let’s be honest – at this point, there’s so much else wrong here that this seems like the least of the problems. Plus, we soon see the reason why he’s there. The fielder is on the ground because he was just run over by a four-legged creature.

Yep, a dog is on the playing field, y’all, and he’s not there for show, either. Nope, he’s there running people over like the aforementioned fielder on the ground and wreaking complete havoc. If you were ever looking for proof that all dogs are not in fact, good, this is Exhibit A.

I don’t know exactly what’s going on here but I’m kind of a fan.

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