How to Read the Back of a Baseball Card

By Michael Black
Baseball cards have almost as long a history as the sport itself.

Baseball cards are more than just collectible objects, they also have a great deal of information about the player whose image adorns them. From a short blurb about the player to a list of his career statistics, baseball cards can teach the fans a lot about the game of baseball. Different types of cards, however, have different types of information in different places. The best way to learn to read the back of baseball cards is to examine several different varieties of baseball cards.

Make sure you are looking at the back of the card. Most of the time this is as simple as looking at the opposite side of the card as the player's photograph, but occasionally--as with checklist cards--this is not so simple. The card number is always located on the back of the card, usually at one of the top corners.

Examine the number on the back of the card. Most of the time, the number is a numeral between one and a few hundred (sometimes greater than 600). Sometimes special cards are marked by letters. Exactly what these letters mean differs from set to set, but they usually designate the card as a part of a special subset.

Find the year the card was made. This is usually found in small print near the bottom of the card. If you cannot find a date, you may be able to figure it out by looking at the last statistical year represented on the card and assuming the card was printed during the following year. This method is not foolproof however.

Read the blurbs. The blurbs on the back of a baseball card can be written in a number of ways, including paragraph format and bulleted list. This information is generally about a player's on-field accomplishments, but sometimes a card has personal info here as well. The player's height and weight are often listed here as well.

Look at the statistics. The year is usually the first number on the left followed by the team the player played for. Sometimes the statistics are abbreviated. The most common batting abbreviations are G (games played), AB (at bats), R (runs), H (hits), 2B (doubles), 3B (triples), HR (home runs), RBI (runs batted in) and SB (stolen bases).

Tip

Hobby shop or baseball card shop owners can usually help you identify what year your card is if you are having trouble. Common pitching statistics are abbreviated ERA (earned run average), IP (innings pitched, H (hits allowed), ER (earned runs), BB (base on balls), SO or K (strike out), S (saves), W (wins) and L (losses).

About the Author

Michael Black has been a freelance writer based in South Central Pennsylvania since 2010. He graduated from York College of Pennsylvania with a Bachelor of Arts degree in professional writing. He has written music- and writing-related articles for various websites.