In the early 1890s, entrepreneur Harry Stevens changed the way fans watched live baseball games by inventing the scorecard (also known as a roster card), which identified each player by numbers on a grid. Programs containing these scorecards soon followed, offering teams more space to crow about their accomplishments on the field.

Tobacco companies, banks, and other businesses quickly realized that having their ads on the same piece of paper that fans were staring at for three hours at a stretch might be a very good idea, so they bought advertising space on the cards. Programs offered even more room for these advertisers.

One of the more interesting niches for baseball-memorabilia collectors are vintage programs and scorecards published in the first half of the 20th century by Ivy League colleges. Many or these documents printed for games played by Harvard, Princeton, Yale, Brown, and Dartmouth were nothing more than scorecards, but sometimes full-fledged programs were published. In the 1930s, the going rate for these programs was usually a quarter.

Another subset of baseball programs are those printed for Negro League games played between the world wars. Negro League ephemera is quite rare and highly sought-after, both by sports fans and historians, who prize such printed materials for the details and statistics they offer scholars.

Among professional teams, Yankee programs and scorecards are always in demand, thanks to the team’s large fan base and legendary roster of players, from Babe Ruth to Mickey Mantle. Other former-New York teams, the Giants and Dodgers, are also collected, owing to their roots in the Big Apple, as well as their new fan bases in San Francisco and Los Angeles, respectively.

Programs printed for season openers are usually more sought after than those from the rest of the season, while special programs published for an All-Star Game or World Series are most valuable of all.

One of the many interesting aspects of baseball programs is the way in which the graphics on their covers changed with the times. For example, programs from the 1920s resemble nothing so much as political campaign posters, especially those that were designed as jugates, with one player framed on the left and an opposing player framed on the right...

During World War II, patriotic imagery was often incorporated into the design of the program—a flag, soldiers listening to a game on the radio, etc. Programs from the 1950s tended to be illustrated, while many of those from the 1960s had a Mid-century Modern look to them. By the 1970s, color photography and bold graphics had largely taken over.

About our sources | Got something to add?

▼ Expand to read the full article ▼

Best of the Web (“Hall of Fame”)

Old Cardboard

Old Cardboard

Check out this well-organized collection of 500 sets of baseball cards, each over 50 years old. Browsable by type a… [read review or visit site]

The Baseball Card Blog

The Baseball Card Blog

Ben Henry's lively vintage baseball card blog, started in January 2006, offers hundreds of great posts on (and pict… [read review or visit site]

Cardboard Junkie

Cardboard Junkie

Dave Campbell's in-depth blog on old baseball (and some football) cards lives up to it's motto: 'do cards, not drug… [read review or visit site]

Baseball Cards 1887-1914

Baseball Cards 1887-1914

Roll up your socks for this Library of Congress collection showcasing hundreds of players on colorful early basebal… [read review or visit site]

Baseball Hall of Fame

Baseball Hall of Fame

A home run for baseball collectors, this site features special online exhibits, ranging from a baseball-uniforms da… [read review or visit site]



Other Great Reference Sites

Most watched eBay auctions    

1916 World Champ Boston Red Sox Baseball Program Babe Ruth Pitches Vs Ny Yankees1951 Brooklyn Dodgers Orig. Baseball Game Program Hosting The Pittsburgh Pirates1916 Nl Champion Brooklyn Robins Baseball Program Vs Boston Braves-stengel Wheat1955 Dallas Eagles At San Antonio Missions Texas League Baseball Game Program1946 World Series Program At Feway Park Boston Red Sox Vs Cardinals1957 Dallas Eagles At Austin Senators Texas League Baseball Game Program1958 World Series Program Milwaukee Braves Vs. Yankees Hank Aaron Mickey Mantle1955 New York Yankees Orig. Baseball Game Program Hosting The Chicago White Sox1959 Vintage Baseball World Series Program La Dodgers Vs Chicago White Sox1956 Shreveport Sports At Austin Senators Texas League Baseball Game Program1952 Oklahoma City Indians At Dallas Eagles Texas League Baseball Game Program1930 World Series Rodeo Program Cowboy & Cowgirl Championships~~nycVintage 1968 World Series Souvenir Program1931 World Series Rodeo Program Cowboy & Cowgirl Championships~~nyc1944 Philadelphia Phillies (bluejays) Vs Boston Braves Baseball Program1939 Selma Al Cloverleafs Vs. Pensacola Fliers Southeastern Lg. Baseball Program1969 Padres Inaugural Baseball Yearbook & 1970 Official Souvenir Program Used2009 Phillies/yankees World Series Official ProgramOriginal 1943 World Series Program St. Louis - Ex Condition Unscored 2015 Baseball Spring Training Programs From The Grape Fruit League(14 Teams)* 1965 Los Angeles Dodgers World Series Souvenir Program1941 Philadelphia Phillies Vs Chicago Cubs Baseball Program1939 World Champion Ny Yankees Baseball Program Vs. Detroit TigersAndre Dawson Hand Signed 1997 World Series Program Psa CoaLot Of Six Chicago White Sox Programs 2005 World Series Msrp $50Original 1947 Major League Baseball All Star Game Program Wrigley Field ChicagoOriginal 1957 World Series Program Milwaukee - Near Mint ConditionAustin Braves Baseball Game Program-texas League-stats-info-scored-pix-fn1940 Selma Al Cloverleafs Vs Meridian Ms Bears Southeastern Lg. Baseball Program1937 World Series Rodeo Program Cowboy & Cowgirl Championships~~nyc1976 World Series Program, Reds Vs. Yankees, Unscored2004 Major League Baseball World Series Program (cardinals Vs. Red Sox)2014 World Series Program Kc Royals Edition1963 World Series Program Los Angeles Dodgers Vs. New York Yankees ExOriginal 1951 Major League Baseball All Star Game Program Detroit Ex Cond1970 Montreal Expos Vs San Francisco Giants Baseball Program Mays Marichal ++1989 Official World Series Program - Oakland Athletics San Francisco Giants Exce1962 Original Mlb Baseball Program Pittburgh Pirates Yearbook! "great Shape"1988 Mlb Baseball All-star Game Program - Cincinnati Reds Great Condition!World Series 2009 (yankees & Phillies)program Major League Baseball Book