New-York Historical Society's Bill Shannon Dictionary of New York Sports

Category Archives: Cards

Sy Berger


Sy Berger (Cards.  Born, New York, NY, July 12, 1923.)  Known as the father of the modern baseball card, Seymour Perry Berger was actually much more than that.  Berger did not invent the baseball card (cards were known in the 19th century), but in his hands it was transformed into a modern sports phenomenon.  After service in the Army Air Corps during World War II and graduation from Bucknell, he joined the Topps Company of Brooklyn, manufacturer of chewing gum, in 1947.  Though trained as an accountant, Berger went to Topps as a sales promotion executive.  His best promotion started in 1952, when he and artist Woody Gelman designed a series of baseball cards on a kitchen table.  Berger signed the players to contracts, arranged for the photos, and wrote the copy for all 407 of the cards.  The first series was issued with 310 cards, followed by the less successful “high numbers” 311 (Mickey Mantle) to 407 later in the season.  These cards were the first to contain a facsimile signature, team logo, and statistics lines for each player.  In 1954, Topps introduced hand-painted portraits of the players for the cards.  Within a few seasons, card collecting reached heretofore unknown proportions as baby-boom kids avidly assembled sets of their favorite players.  Berger was to remain with Topps as an employee for 50 years (1947-97), a consultant for another five, and a board member for eight.  He was a vice president for 27 years.  As the card field expanded, Berger, encouraged by the Shorin family (principal owners of Topps), added the A.F.L., N.F.L., N.A.S.L., and other sports lines to the card catalogue.  He continued to serve as the primary liaison between the players, teams, and leagues and the company until his eventual retirement in 2003.  Berger’s creation had long since become an American institution known to generations of fans.

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The Bill Shannon Biographical Dictionary of New York Sports is an open database of sports biographies maintained by Jordan Sprechman and Marty Appel. We welcome public and scholarly contributions and suggestions.

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About Bill Shannon

A prolific author, wire service sports reporter, long time Major League Baseball official scorer, football statistician, sports museum founder, theatrical agency owner and public ... read more

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