Play Ball

Play Ball

Play Ball

Above: Typical 'Play Ball' trading card.
The cards measure 2.5" wide x 3.25" tall.


PLAY BALL was a promotional game issued by the Atlantic Richfield Company in 1968. This was a collect-and-win game with instant winners. Cash prizes ranged from $1 to $2,500. The game consisted of a paper game piece given to customers each time they visited a participating Atlantic gas station. When the perforated tabs on the game piece were removed, two baseball trading cards were revealed.

Each card has a 'Player Number' printed on the front. This is a pretend batting order number. To win a prize you needed to collect certain combinations of player numbers - in the same league - according to the following prize table.

Collect These CardsIn This LeagueWin This Prize
Player #1, Player #2 and Player #3National$2,500 (Player #2 is the Key)
Player #4 and Player #5National$100 (Player #5 is the Key)
Player #6 and Player #7National$10 (Player #6 is the Key)
Player #8 and Player #9National$5 (Player #8 is the Key)
Player #10 and Player #11National$1 (Player #11 is the Key)
Player #1, Player #2 and Player #3American$2,500 (Player #3 is the Key)
Player #4 and Player #5American$100 (Player #4 is the Key)
Player #6 and Player #7American$10 (Player #7 is the Key)
Player #8 and Player #9American$5 (Player #8 is the Key)
Player #10 and Player #11American$1 (Player #10 is the Key)

The baseball cards are printed such that the backs of the cards are the visible part of the unopened game piece. One side of the game piece shows the name of the game and an action scene. The other side shows the printed rules. Thus, the baseball cards are referred to as 'Action Back' or 'Rules Back' depending on the position in the game piece. This is inconsequential to the function of the game but it does matter to baseball card collectors.

Since the game pieces are loosely regarded as baseball cards, they are slabbed by the major grading companies. Even common cards in high grade sell at a premium.

Play Ball - Rules Back

Above: Front and back of a typical 'Rules Back' player card.


Play Ball - Action Back

Above: Front and back of a typical 'Action Back' player card.

Fifty different baseball players are featured on the cards. If the printing was random, all fifty players will have an 'Action Back' and 'Rules Back' version for a total of 100 different cards issued in the game. It is unlikely that a complete set could ever be assembled because the key, high-prize winning cards may no longer exist.

The rules refer to "INSTANT" prizes and "Special Prizes." I am unsure what these prizes are. On the PSA card grading website, they show that they have graded one card that they call an 'Instant Winner Card' and one card that they call a 'Special Gift Award' card. If anyone can email a photo of these cards to me, I'd sure appreciate it. Thanks!

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