Monday, February 8, 2016

Two Panoramic Photographs of Babe Ruth and the New York Yankees


On September 19, 1920, in a special screening at Madison Square Garden in New York City, Babe Ruth made his major film debut in a silent film titled "Headin' Home." But Ruth and his Yankees teammates were unable to attend, as they were nearing the end of an extended road trip to the western cities of the American League: Cleveland, Detroit, Chicago, and St. Louis.

On September 22, 1920, Babe Ruth and the Yankees played an exhibition game against the Indianapolis Indians of the minor league American Association at Indy's Washington Park. A fantastic panoramic photograph taken prior to the game can be found at the Indiana Historical Society's Digital Image Collections web site:


Indiana Historical Society

Panoramic Photographs

Today, most smart phones are equipped to take panoramic photographs. But in the past, photographers employed special cameras to create these dramatic images.

The Bretzman Photograph Studio run by Charles Bretzman (the first official photographer of the Indy 500) took the above photo of the Yankees and Indians using a Cirkut panoramic camera, the most common such camera of its day. You can learn more about the camera at The City of Vancouver Archives Blog.

In the case of the above image, the photographer placed the camera and its tripod on the ballfield and arranged the ballplayers in an arc in front of the grandstand such that each individual was the same distance from the camera's focal plane. In other words, while it appears that the players were standing in a (somewhat) straight line, each was actually positioned on the arc of a circle, with the camera at the circle's center.

After loading the camera with film and winding the gears, the photographer aimed the camera toward the left side of the player lineup and started the mechanism. Unlike the traditional method of taking a photograph where a shutter opens and closes in a split second, the aperture of a panoramic camera remains open and the camera "pans" across the scene. Meanwhile, the film inside the camera moves in perfect synchronization with the rotating camera. By this method, the panorama is captured on film, with the left side of the photo taken many seconds before the right side.

One of the humorous tricks one can play with a panoramic camera is known as the "Pizza Run." In the case of our photo above, the individual at far left (Yankees coach Charley O'Leary) decided to perform this photographic joke. When the photographer first started the camera in motion, the players on the left side of the scene remained motionless, because any movement would cause the subject to appear blurry. However, once the camera rotated such that the players on the left side were no longer in the field of view, they could relax. But O'Leary did not. Instead, he quickly ran out into the field, around the camera and back into line at the far right side of the group, before the camera had rotated around to the end of the lineup. Thus, O'Leary appears in the photo twice: on the left and the right of the group photo:



Interested readers may enjoy seeing a short video showing the "Pizza Run" in action at the Library of Congress's web site. And the story of another interesting baseball panoramic photo is related in one of my earlier blog postings: "Nix Flicks Sticks in Box for Sox in Rox."

The Great and Only Babe Ruth

According to an article in the Indianapolis News the day of the Yankees-Indians exhibition game, special bleachers were erected in order to accommodate the expected crowd of some 15,000 fans, each eager to see the "great and only Babe Ruth."


Indianapolis News, September 21, 1920

Ruth entered the exhibition contest having already clouted 49 home runs, 20 more than his previous season's big league record of 29 homers. The Bambino ultimately ended the 1920 campaign with 54 round-trippers, the second of three straight years in which he would set a new home run mark.

Besides his outstanding home run total, Ruth was posting other outrageous stats. For example, two days prior to the Indianapolis game, Babe had scored his 148th run of the season, eclipsing Ty Cobb's 20th century record of 147 runs, set in 1911. Ruth went on to notch 158 runs that year, a total that has since been surpassed just four times: twice by Ruth and twice by his future teammate, Lou Gehrig.

The New York Yankees and Indianapolis Indians

Take a close look at the Yankees uniforms. Most are adorned with black armbands on the left sleeve. The club had donned the memorial markings ever since the tragic death of Cleveland shortstop Ray Chapman, who had been beaned in a game against the Yankees on August 16 and passed away the following morning. At least seven other big league clubs also honored the memory of the beloved player in the same fashion: Cleveland, Boston, and Detroit in the American League, and Cincinnati, Brooklyn, Chicago, and New York in the National League.

The individuals in the long line in front of the grandstand included Yankees (left to right) Charley O'Leary, Rip Collins, Hank Thormahlen, Chick Fewster, unidentified, unidentified, unidentified, Bob Ferguson, Joe Lucey, Aaron Ward, Lefty O'Doul, unidentified, Sammy Vick, Fred Homann, Ernie Shore, Wally Pipp, Babe Ruth, unidentified; Indianapolis Indians (left to right) Butch Henline, Pug Cavet, Sam Covington, Jack Hendricks, Johnny Jones, Ralph Shinners, Dick Gosett, Jimmy Smith, Duke Reilley, Wally Rehg, Jesse Petty, Hank Schreiber, Dutch Stryker, unidentified, Clint Rogge(?), Art Kores, Dutch Zwilling, and unidentified; and, at the far right, as noted, a second appearance of Yankees coach Charley O'Leary.

Another Panoramic Photograph

Now take a look at another photo from the collection at the Indiana Historical Society's Digital Image Collections web site:



The minimal description of the picture reads as follows: "Washington Park Baseball Field, Indianapolis, Indiana, Circa 1920." But careful research now shows that this is a second photograph of the late-September Yankees-Indians exhibition game. Note that the on-deck batter is wearing a black armband on his left sleeve, just like those worn by the Yankees in the first panoramic photo:



And the right fielder is wearing the same uniform worn by the Indianapolis players in the first panoramic photo:



To further confirm that both photos were taken at the same event, one can even match up fans in both images. For example, below are details from both photographs, highlighting particular fans in the front row just to the left of the third base dugout.


A Fire and St. Mary's Band

Let's briefly flash back to the beginning of the 1919 season, when Babe Ruth was still a member of the Boston Red Sox. On Opening Day in New York, Ruth homered (of course), scoring twice, and driving in three runs as the visiting Red Sox routed the Yankees, 10-0. The following day, a fire broke out at St. Mary's Industrial School for Boys, the school that Ruth attended as a youth in Baltimore. The story of the fire was detailed in the July 1919 issue of the "Quarterly of the National Fire Protection Association":

Story of Fire.
During the day of April 24, 1919, a tinner had been at work on the east end of the tower building repairing a portion of the roof and cornice. In order to accomplish this work, it was necessary to expose a goodly portion of the roof sheathing. A high wind blew over the charcoal pot which the workman was using and scattered the burning coals over the exposed roof surface. The tinner claims to have collected all of the coals placed them in the fire pot and left the roof about 3.30 p.m., bringing the charcoal pot and his overalls, which had been burned, with him.

Some of the scholars discovered the fire about 4.30 p.m. in the vicinity of the roof referred to above. The private fire brigade, consisting of the scholars and their instructors, was immediately called into action and the various standpipes throughout the buildings placed in service. After fighting the blaze for about twenty minutes, it was discovered that the water supplies were extremely low and that no headway was being made. A telephone call was sent to the Violetville Volunteer Fire Department, and at practically the same time an outsider turned in a fire alarm through the Baltimore City fire-box in the vicinity. Upon the arrival of the Chief on the third alarm, the entire roof of the central portion was burning. A strong west wind, reported as blowing thirty miles per hour, carried the fire to the extreme east end of the building. The large amount of water being used from hydrants Nos. 1 and 2 made it impossible to secure a hose stream which would reach higher than the second story. Two hose lines of 2000 feet each were then connected at hydrant No. 3 and hydrant No. 5, each being supplemented by a fire department steamer. Due to the great distance, it was necessary to pump this water, and also owing to the fact that these hydrants were considerably below the level of the fire, these streams were of little value. Finally two good hose streams were secured by running a fire department steamer down a 15-foot bank and pumping water from a stream crossing Wilkens Avenue, about 2200 feet east of hydrant No. 2. This steamer pumped the water to a second steamer about 1000 feet away, which in turn relayed the water to the hose being used in an effort to get the fire under control and save the adjoining property.

Loss of Life.

About 8.00 p.m. the floor of the west section of the main building collapsed and buried about forty firemen. Thirty-six of these men were injured, the majority of them receiving broken arms and legs. Two fire department lieutenants were killed.

Property Loss.
The entire group of buildings of ordinary construction are practically a total loss, while the chapel of fire-resistive construction is damaged by smoke and water. While some statuary and paintings were removed from various buildings which were damaged, the contents are also practically a total loss.
The next year, in early September of 1920, Ruth had St. Mary's School Band travel with the Yankees for the final weeks of the season in an effort to raise money to rebuild the school's destroyed buildings. For the extended road trip, the musical entourage was known as the "Babe Ruth Band." In the second panoramic photo, we see the boys of the band sitting in foul territory, just to the left of the first base dugout, each wearing a navy outfit and a white sailor's cap:



Compare their outfits to those seen in this photograph of Ruth and the band taken at Philadelphia's Shibe Park just a few days later, as the Yankees played their final series of the season:


Getty Images #71989167

The Ball Game

In the game at Indianapolis, Ruth played first base (as he generally did in exhibition contests), collected three hits (no homers), and stole a base. The game itself began as a lop-sided affair, with the Yankees holding a seemingly comfortable 6-1 lead after seven innings. But then things got interesting. Here's the scoop as retold in the Indianapolis News the following day:

Incidentally the Indians beat the Yanks, 7 to 6 by making a Garrison finish. When the eighth inning opened, the score was 6 to 1 in favor of the Yanks. Three singles and a double mixed in with a couple of poor throws gave the Indians three more runs in the eighth at the expense of [Yankees starter Bob] Ferguson. [Rip] Collins was sent to the mound in the ninth and the Indians made three runs after two men were out. [Sam] Covington walked and [Wally] Rehg, [Dutch] Zwilling and [Butch] Henline singled in a row.
We n know that the second panoramic photograph is of the September 22, 1920, exhibition between Indianapolis and New York Now. Happily, that panoramic has one more gem to reveal. Leading off of second base is the unmistakable figure of our great and only Babe Ruth:



As would be the case with most every exhibition game in which Ruth ever took part, the game was secondary to the appearance of the Bambino. The final sentence of the Indianapolis News article truly sums up the Ruthian phenomenon: "The crowd was there to see Ruth and he gave the fans a real outing." Indeed.

Saturday, February 6, 2016

Baseball in the Movies: Hidden in Plain Sight


There have been hundreds of movies in which baseball has played a prominent role, and countless others in which baseball makes a cameo appearance, but I get a special kick out of watching a movie and stumbling across a brief glimpse of baseball that is easily overlooked. In the past I have blogged about a number of movies that contain these instances of baseball "hidden in plain sight."

In "The Stuff That Dreams Are Made of", I examine the appearance of a baseball photograph in John Huston's film noir classic "The Maltese Falcon." And in "You Know How to Whistle", I research a photograph hanging on the wall of a room in the unforgettable Bogey and Bacall drama "To Have and Have Not."

Most recently, I found a baseball picture literally hanging out in the "The Sting," the winner of the Best Picture award at the Oscars in 1974. In the scene in which Henry Gondorff (Paul Newman) argues with Doyle Lonnegon (Robert Shaw) following their poker game, there is a picture hanging on the wall of the train compartment.



The picture is a hand-colored version of A.B. Frost's illustration titled "The Critical Moment." The full-page drawing was originally published in the May 16, 1903, issue of Collier's magazine:



Here's how they match up:



Recently, my friend and baseball researcher extraordinaire, Mark Armour, reminded me of another instance of baseball in the background of an otherwise non-baseball movie, Gene Kelly's incomparable musical "An American in Paris." In the opening sequence in which the three main male characters are first introduced, we peer into the room of pianist Adam Cook (Oscar Levant). On the wall in the background are four baseball photographs:



I first noticed these pictures a few years ago when I purchased the movie on DVD. And while I've spent a good deal of time researching the images, I have yet to make any significant headway. I did manage, however, to determine that the distracting poster of the pin-up girl at far right was published in 1946 by artist Billy De Vorss and is titled "Pose Please":



Here's how that poster and movie still match up:



I wonder how much the movie's set decoration was influenced by Levant himself. For example, the baseball images not only help establish the character Adam Cook as an American, but also connect with Levant's obsession with the game. According to his UPI obituary, Oscar Levant "was devoted to baseball and first became nationally known outside the musical world for his appearances on the radio show 'Information Please' as a walking encyclopedia of baseball statistics." And wouldn't it be wonderful if the photo of the dancer seen to the left of the pin-up girl and just below the bookshelf was actually a picture of the longtime wife of Levant, June Gale, who began her career as a dancer?

Of the four baseball pictures on the wall, the one at the top seems the most familiar to me.



The pose is certainly similar, but by no means identical, to ones I've seen of pitching legend Christy Mathewson. For example, here's a well-known portrait of Mathewson:



An overlay of the above image on our movie still shows that it's "close, but no cigar":



Not only is the pose slightly different, but the uniform and backgrounds also fail to match. Nevertheless, it suggests that the player pictured in the still may indeed be of Christy Mathewson.

The bottom three photos (a player throwing, a close play at third base, and a scene in the dugout) are each tantalizing, yet so small and out of focus that I am unable to determine much, if anything, about them.

I encourage my readership to take a close look and see if they can help solve this mystery.


Monday, February 1, 2016

Jackie and Mickey


Recently, my friend Marty Appel shared a wonderful photo on Facebook. Take a look:



That's Brooklyn's Jackie Robinson (#42) playing first base and the Yankees' Mickey Mantle (#7) right by his side. The iconic numbers, the idyllic setting, the casual poses. It all makes for a simply beautiful shot.

I got to wondering: What can I learn about this image? So I set to work.

A few key clues were quickly apparent. The palm trees in the background made it quite clear that the Dodgers and Yankees were playing one another during a spring training game. Since Jackie preceded Mickey to the big leagues by four years, the earliest the photo could have been taken was Mickey's first spring training with New York: 1951. But in that year (and that year alone), the Yankees held spring training in Phoenix, Arizona. In fact, there's a famous image of Mickey taken at Phoenix's Municipal Stadium in 1951. It's his Bowman rookie bubble gum card:



Compare this card to this shot of Mickey at spring training in Phoenix.



And here's an overlay of the card on the photograph:



Sure, the Bowman artist took some liberties with the photo, manipulating the background trees and poles, and slightly shortening Mantle's bat, but the card was obviously based on the photograph.

By the way, careful observers will notice that while almost all of Mantle's uniform number is not visible, he most certainly is not wearing a "7." That's because the highly touted rookie was originally given uniform number 6, which is indeed the numeral he is wearing in both the photo and bubble gum card.

Additionally, take a close look at the end of Mickey's bat and you'll see that he's not holding a Mantle model. (Did one even exist in at that time?) Instead, he grabbed the bat of teammate Joe Collins:



Returning our attention to the photo of Jackie and Mickey ... With the Yankees over 2,000 miles away from Brooklyn's training facilities in Vero Beach, Florida, we can safely eliminate 1951 as a possible year that the photo was taken. Furthermore, since Jackie retired following the 1956 season, we can now feel confident that the photo was taken in spring training sometime between 1952 and 1956.

Now take a look at another photograph, this one found at randombaseball.tumblr.com:



Clearly this photo was taken within a few moments of the first picture, but here we see a bit more of the park and, most importantly, a Dodgers pitcher wearing uniform number 49. For our known time frame of 1952 through 1956, only one African-American pitcher for Brooklyn wore that number: Joe Black. And since Black was traded to the Reds in the middle of the 1955 season, we can eliminate 1956 as a possibility for the date of our photo.

One other clue jumps out from both of these photographs. The Yankees are wearing their home pinstripes and the Dodgers their road grays. Thus, New York was the home team for the contest.

Though spring training home games are sometimes played at neutral locations, a reasonable first guess is that the photo was taken at the Yankees facilities at St. Petersburg, Florida, where they trained every spring from 1924 to 1961 (except for the war years of 1943-1945 and, as noted above, 1951).

Now compare both of these photos of Jackie and Mickey to this old postcard of the Yankees' home field in St. Petersburg, Al Lang Field:



While the postcard shows the ballpark without light standards, the bleachers down the left field line and the palm trees in the background match up quite well. There is little doubt that the photographs were taken at St. Petersburg's Al Lang Field.

The next step in attempting to learn more about the photograph is to determine on which dates the Yankees and Dodgers met at Al Lang Field during spring training of 1952, 1953, 1954, and 1955. A check through old spring training schedules provided the answers:

  • April 2, 1952
  • March 29 and March 31, 1953
  • March 26, 1954
  • March 25, 1955

For these five games, only one featured Jackie Robinson playing first base, Mickey Mantle participating in the game, and Joe Black pitching: March 29, 1953. That's our game.

On that date, a record crowd of 8,809 fans packed Al Lang Field to see a rematch of the two pennant-winners that met in the previous season's World Series. The game was an exciting contest, with the Dodgers holding a slim 1-0 lead entering the bottom the ninth. Here's how sportswriter Louis Effrat described that final frame in the following day's New York Times:

Then came the ninth and [Yankees manager Casey] Stengel had three pinch-hitters ready.

[Joe] Black, only one run ahead, was called upon to face Mickey Mantle, Yogi Berra and Johnny Mize. One could do it and a combination could win it. When Mantle walked on four pitches the crowd, already thrilled, did not budge.

Berra slammed the ball over the right-field fence, but it was a foul homer. Then Yogi bounced to the mound. Black turned and threw to second. It was a low, wide toss, but Pee Wee Reese made an excellent grab, stepped on the base and relayed to Robinson, who was the first baseman in this game, for the double play. Mize then popped foul to Bobby Morgan and the Dodgers were home free.
Another note in the Times explained Jackie's unusual position for the game:

"There will be a place in the line-up for Robinson every day," [manager Chuck] Dressen said. "Only an injury will keep Jackie out." Putting two and two together, this means that Robby will be shuttling between first and third.
As it turned out, in 1951 Jackie shuttled between left field (75 games) and third base (44 games), handling the duties at first base in just six games all season long.

Finally, a quick check of the box score in the Times fills in the final piece of the puzzle.



Here we see that the first base umpire, who appears in both photographs, was Bill Jackowski. Jackowski, who ultimately fashioned a fine, 17-year career as a National League umpire, may be best remembered as the home plate umpire for Game Seven of the 1960 World Series. Of course, that's the classic game in which Pittsburgh's Bill Mazeroski hit his Championship-winning, walk-off home run to top the Yankees.

In summary, the photo shows Dodgers first baseman Jackie Robinson and Yankees base-runner Mickey Mantle at first base as umpire Bill Jackowski looks on. There are no outs in the bottom of the ninth inning of this spring training game played at St. Petersburg's Al Lang Field on March 29, 1953.