This story also appears in the July-August issue of the Library of Congress Magazine.
Baseball’s best players come together each summer for the annual All-Star Game, as they will tomorrow night in Seattle. An even greater gathering of stars permanently resides in the baseball card collections of the Library.
The 2,100 cards in the Benjamin K. Edwards Collection, for example, depict many legendary figures from the sport’s first half-century: Ty Cobb, Christy Mathewson, Walter Johnson and Cy Young. To those, the Library recently added over 45,000 cards — most produced by Topps — that illustrate stars of more recent decades.
The cards were collected by Peter G. Strawbridge, who preserved complete sets of every major league team from 1973 through 2019 along with some Boston Red Sox cards from earlier years. His family donated the collection to the Prints and Photographs Division, which recently placed a sampling online.
Behind each card is a story of dreams realized or lost.
Here’s a fresh-out-of-school Derek Jeter, just drafted by the New York Yankees and looking every bit a kid. No one who picked up that card could know what glory lay ahead: Jeter went on to win five World Series and play in 14 All-Star Games, and in 2020 he was inducted into the Hall of Fame.
In his final at-bat of the 1972 regular season, Pittsburgh Pirates great Roberto Clemente doubled to left center and became just the 11th player in history to reach the 3,000-hit milestone. Three months later, on New Year’s Eve, he died in a plane crash while trying to deliver supplies to earthquake victims in Nicaragua.
Early the next year, Clemente was voted into the Hall in a special election, the first Latin American player inducted into the shrine. Around that time, Topps decided to issue the Clemente card now in the Library’s collections — a tribute to one of baseball’s brightest stars, fallen too soon.
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