Amelie Mancini’s artistic take on traditional baseball cards redefines the cards that baseball fans have been collecting for decades
Baseball Rose creator, Mark Ellingson, meets with Left Field Cards artist, Amelie Mancini, at her Brooklyn studio to learn the secrets behind her industry shaking creations.
By Mark Ellingson
In 1989, I was 10 years old. My daily after-school ritual comprised of watching Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles, Duck Tales, and Chip-n-Dale’s Rescue Rangers. It was around this time that I vividly remember my dad’s obsession with collecting baseball cards. We would make frequent visits to baseball card shops (which were everywhere at the time) and baseball card collector trade shows to find the cards he needed to finish his sets. He collected everything – Topps, Fleer, Score, Donruss, Bowman, and Upper Deck. This was a time when baseball card collecting was at its peak in America.
One of my dad’s favorite baseball cards was a 1989 Upper Deck Ken Griffey Jr rookie card. According to his Beckett price guide, it was worth as much as $90. My dad was really proud of that card.
In the 1990’s, the bottom fell out of the baseball card industry and my dad’s collecting fever started to wane. He was now on to collecting VHS movies for our brand new Dolby Pro-Logic surround sound system. But he still kept all his cards stored away in a closet.
I’m always reminded of my dad’s baseball card collecting days whenever I see new packs for sale at the checkout counters in Wal-mart. I never was a big baseball card collector myself, but I loved watching baseball games with my dad.
In 2012, I saw a Facebook post by the Bergino Baseball Clubhouse (makers of custom-designed baseballs located in Manhattan) that announced a store event for an artist named Amelie Mancini. The picture on their post showed the most artistic looking baseball cards I had ever seen. I click on the link to Mancini’s Left Field Cards Facebook Page to find out more about them.
Left Field Cards stood out from traditional baseball cards because they were sold in packs based on quirky themes – Bizarre Injuries, Marvelous Moustaches, and Edible All-Stars. They were illustrated with bright colors and vaguely resembled the players they were representing – they were fun, expressive, and creative. These were characteristics that were very foreign to me when I thought of baseball cards.
I decided to find out more about Left Field Cards and their creator Amelie Mancini. Mancini is french-born artist that came to the U.S. for her school studies in the mid-2000’s. She fell in love with the city and the friends she met and decided to make Brooklyn, NY her permanent residence. But she had never been to a baseball game or even understood the rules of the game until a 2007 visit to Shea Stadium. The Mets were playing the Phillies and lost, but she was bitten badly by the baseball bug. A fever swept over her that would change her life – her obsession with American’s Favorite Pastime spilled over into her career as an artist. In 2011, she started her own company called Left Field Cards.
Mancini’s work has found a niche in the previously unexplored space between baseball collectible and commercial art. – The Wall Street Journal
In October 2012, I stopped by the home of Left Field Cards to visit Amelie Mancini and find out more about her work and the story behind it. Mancini’s studio was located in a large old warehouse within a very religious orthodox Jewish neighborhood. I felt like I was visiting a completely different country with foreign customs I had never seen before (living in San Diego). The Marcy Houses (the projects where Jay-Z grew up in) were just across the street from Mancini’s studio. It was an area full of deep history and more history was about to be made with Hurricane Sandy arriving the next day.
I walked up the 6 flights of stairs and was greeted by Mancini’s smiling face. She gave me a tour of her studio. I quickly saw her eclectic sense of style in all the interesting furniture she had collected at local flea markets. Her studio alone was like walking into a different world full of exploration and adventure. During my visit, we talked about about each of our businesses. I told her the story of how Baseball Roses began and she showed me the creative process behind her work on Left Field Cards.
Mancini pulled out a box of old baseball cards that were the inspiration behind Left Field Cards. I asked her what was so special about these baseball cards that made her want to create her own.
“They’re just really cool! It’s a little bit like time-traveling. Every card offers you a snapshot of a player’s career, literally and figuratively. A rookie card is a promise of home runs to come, stolen bases, perfect games, great things to be accomplished. And a card of a player at the end of their career sums up everything they’ve ever done on the field, translated into those coded numbers. I also love the cards with the fun facts. And of course. I love the aesthetics of the old cards, reflecting their times through graphic design choices and moustaches, glasses, mullets, afros, tights pants…”
And what was so special about that first night going to Shea Stadium to watch the Mets and Phillies play that sparked her obsession for the game?
There wasn’t really one thing, it was the experience as a whole: the crowd, the foods, the uniforms, the obscure rules, the ballpark, the songs…
Each Left Field Card is carefully produced by hand on a Vandercook letterpress. Mancini starts out by sketching her design on paper and then carving the final drawing out of a linoleum block. Once she is happy with the design, Mancini prepares it for use on a Vandercook letterpress. Each sheet of cards is processed one by one and cut by hand. Finally, the cards are placed in a custom designed vellum pack and hand-sewn shut with red stitching. Mancini is involved with every step of the process.
Living in New York definitely has its advantages when it comes to anything baseball. Through networking connections Mancini has made at local events, Left Field Cards has been getting national attention by the Wall Street Journal, ESPN, and LA Times. The articles have helped to create demand for her work. Mancini and I share some similar experiences with starting our own businesses from scratch. I asked her what the most challenging part was for starting and running Left Field Cards.
When you work for someone else, you stop thinking about work when you go home. Running your own business is a 24/7 preoccupation. I have to force myself to take a night off, go see a movie, go to the museum, and even then, my business is always on my mind. I’m constantly making decisions, weighing options, planning, and I had no idea how exhausting that would be when I started. But of course it’s also what makes it so rewarding and exciting!
I know exactly what Mancini means about never getting business off my mind and spending 16+ hours a day in the office. It is very hard to catch your breath when there are so many things that need to get done.
I’m really looking forward to doing business with Left Field Cards and the possibilies for working together to make both of our businesses more successful. Left Field Cards and Sports Roses both bring new and creative ideas to the sports gift industry. During my visit, I left behind a special Baseball Rose arrangement themed for Mancini’s beloved Mets. I also brought home a case of Left Field Cards to add to the Sports Roses online store. You can purchase Left Field Cards here.
A few more bits of information about Amelie Mancini. Some of her favorite players are R.A. Dickey (but she is very sad he is no longer a Met), Keith Hernandez, and Harvey Haddux (who threw the perfect game that wasn’t for the Pittsburgh Pirates in 1959). Mancini says no to the DH, “they make catchers hit, so why not pitchers?”
Keep a close watch on Left Field Cards, Mancini has many more exciting projects in store for sports fans.