Between 1957 and 1966, a series of 12 instructional booklets titled The Finer Points of Baseball For Everyone offered baseball insights and hints for little, junior, midget, and Babe Ruth players. They had copyrights attributed to Vital Publications, Inc. and later WM. C. Popper & Co. and were promotional products that provided advertising on the back for their clients.
My Introduction to The Finer Points of Baseball For Everyone
I discovered these baseball instructional booklets from my hunt for their basketball-related cousins. However, I can’t remember if it was this Mile High Card Co. auction from 2017 of an opened 1968 Topps Test Pack with a How to Play Better Basketball booklet or this auction from REA for a 1963 Hood Dairy Bob Cousy How to Play Better Basketball Booklet Collection that prompted my jump into this hobby niche. I’ll write more about the 1963 How to Play Better Basketball booklets soon; for now, if you’re interested in them, check out VintageBasketball.com.
To this day, I’ve been unable to secure a single basketball booklet, but in looking for them on eBay, I noticed the baseball ones and picked up a trio with a 1965 Copyright and Hood Ice Cream advertising on the back in May 2023. I hadn’t given them much more thought until the 2023 National in Chicago; when closing a deal on some pre-war strip cards, I noticed the dealer had a complete set of 12 from 1958 with Fleet Wing Gasoline advertising on the backs, so I included them in the deal. The set was priced at $150, but I believe I got them for $100. Here are the covers and backs to all 12. I’ve also included scans of every page of the How to Play First Base booklet at the end of the article.
After that pickup, I had to learn more!
The Finer Points of Baseball For Everyone Overview
There’s not much out there about these advertising booklets, save for this page from KeyMan Collectibles and a few notes from MyComicShop. But between those references and some eBay/Auction sales, we can piece a lot of the details together.
First, the 12 booklets are ~ 3 3/8″ x 4 5/8″ in size. Each has 16 pages if you include the front and back covers. Ten are positional, or action “How-to” guides, another has rules for umpires, and one has finer points for everyone. Each has a cartoon drawing on the cover and the words “Hints for Little, Junior, Midget, Babe Ruth Players.”
Here’s the checklist:
- Baseball Finer Points for Everyone
- How to Catch
- How to Pitch
- How to Bat
- How to Run Bases
- How to Play First Base
- How to Play Second Base
- How to Play Shortstop
- How to Play Third Base
- How to Play The Outfield
- How to Use Baseball Signals
- Rules for Umpires
They’re full-color printings in a newspaper-like material saddle-stitched like a magazine.
The differentiation comes from the copyright on the inside front cover and the advertising on the back. I’ve noticed that the early years show a copyright attributed to Vital Publications, Inc., while the later years show WM. C. Popper & Co. Unfortunately, I haven’t found any details about these companies or if it was the result of an acquisition, but they’re both referenced to New York.
As I wrote in the intro, the booklets were used as promotional products. KeyMan wrote that “for the most part early books were used as a premium for meat companies like White Seal Franks, Neuhoff’s Franfurters, Essem Hotdogs, and Hydride’s Wieners. Other ads that show up are Kids Does, Reed Candy Company, Fleet Wing Gasoline, and Stop & Shop Supermarkets.”
I’ll have to take his word for it, and he shared quite a few advertisements, but I didn’t find a lot of meat company examples in my research for the early copyright years.
He continued writing that “By the 1960s, an array of advertisers began using the baseball books, including; local banks, and car dealerships, Mr. Softee, Baseball on NBC TV/DX Oil, Sealtest Foods, All Star Dairies, International Harvester, Weaver Potato Chip Co., Country Kitchen Restaurants, Hood Ice Cream, Horn & Hardart Automats, Holland Popsicle, and Manny’s Baseball Land, located across from Yankee Stadium.”
Finer Points of Baseball for Everyone Yearly Breakdowns
Utilizing KeyMan Collective’s, MyComicShop, and eBay/Auction listings, I’ve managed to categorize a lot of the advertisers by years; there are likely many others. I’ve sometimes taken a listing’s title as truth, but I’ll note that below when a scan of the copyright page wasn’t included.
First, booklets exist without any advertising; perhaps they were used by the publishers as samples through the years, like this 1957 example set.
Reed Candy Company
Stop & Shop Super Markets (no copyright scan)
Fleet Wing Gasoline – See the photos I shared above.
Garden Gate Margarine
MyComicShop wrote that International Harvester Company had a 1960 release, and Heritage Auctions sold a lot of them attributed to 1960 (plus a handful from a few other years that sold for $264 in June 2018), but I don’t have any copyright page scans.
MyComicShop wrote that Sealtest Foods had a 1961 release, but I haven’t found any scans that include a 1961 copyright. But this is as good a time as any to share another advertisement KeyMan shared for Holland Popsicles that included a book in each 12-pack.
Sealtest Foods and Carstens Hygrade (No Copyright Images)
I haven’t found any examples referenced to 1963.
MyComicShop wrote that Twin City Federal Savings & Loan sponsored a set, but I don’t have any examples of that one.
Hood Ice Cream
National Bank and Trust Company
I found a few other examples that I don’t have dates for.
Weaver Potato Chip Co.
Conclusion and Further Reading
The Finer Points of Baseball Instructional Booklets booklets stand as a testament to the enduring allure of baseball, both as a sport and as a collector’s treasure trove. If you made it this far, you might also be interested in these articles that highlight other hobby library-related collectibles:
- Inside the Baseball Card Business: Insights from a 1966 Topps Baseball Point of Sale Order Booklet
- The Topps Home Run Books and the 1981 and 1985 Topps Games that Won Them
- Tipps from Topps Booklets and 1968 Bazooka Baseball Boxes
And don’t forget to subscribe to The Post War Cards Newsletter for more.