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To anyone who has ever put on a Little League uniform, played catch with a parent, or tuned into a transistor radio to their favorite team, then Picturing America's Pastime – Historic Photography from the Baseball Hall of Fame Archives is a must-read.
I can tell you this with certainty, my copy, all 300-plus pages of Picturing America's Pastime has found a permanent home on top of my living room coffee table.
If there were a single suggestion to the Hall's team that assembled the incredible visuals that take's readers through the history of baseball is – I found myself wanting more. Much more. I was left, after looking at a group/team picture of ballplayers snapped in Seattle (circa 1915) of hoping a volume two is in the planning.
Selecting the finalists, the photographs that made the book, was no easy task.
One informative email from Tom Shieber, the Hall's senior curator earlier this week, and my questions on how Picturing America's Pastime came to be were answered.
"I did the initial selection of photographs for the book, a daunting process given that the Hall of Fame's collection includes approximately 350,000 unique images preserved through negatives, photographs, slides, and digital images," says Shieber. "I then presented my selection to a group of eight colleagues, laying out the photographs on a number of tables in a large room for their review. We ultimately ended up with just under 150 photos that made the book, nearly three times the number of images featured in the physical exhibit."
Picturing America's Pastime is made of the highest-quality paper. The adventure offered through the game's history is magnificent, page by page. There's no arguing Shieber's conclusion that baseball and photography grew up together, with each becoming more refined and gaining in popularity during the mid-19th century.
To those that have visited the Hall (www.baseballhall.org), many of the photographs in Picturing America's Pastime are familiar. Among my favorites appears on page 79. The 1962 image snapped at Chicago's Wrigley Field of Cubs third baseman and future hall of famer Ron Santo signing autographs for a group of young fans captures the essence and innocence of the times.
Seeing a smiling Buck O'Neil fill up page 87 brings to mind so many possible game day scenarios, I find my imagination running wild. O'Neil, like the Santo picture was taken in 1962 and appears in black-and-white, became the first Black coach in Major League Baseball. Snapped on a sunny day at the ballpark, this photo screams happy times.
Women in baseball is another topic included in Picturing America's Pastime. Page 43 features a group of four players from the 1947 AAGPBL's Grand Rapid Chicks and manager Johnny Rawlings. One quick stare at the uniforms, and the 1992 film A League Of Their Own comes to mind. These are the real players.
Hank Aaron, Babe Ruth, Ted Williams, Tony Perez, and Roberto Clemente , are among the many greats featured ( in black-and-white and color) in Picturing America's Pastime. One image appearing on page 56 is as unique as you could get, and only the Hall of Fame can deliver.
A makeshift ball field constructed by US soldiers stationed at Port Lyautey, Morocco, with a made up Yankee Stadium sign hung on the backstop says a thousand words, despite not having a single sentence above or under the image.
This is the Hall of Fame in Cooperstown, New York. Unique. Exciting. Addictive. All these qualities are wrapped neatly between two covers in Picturing America's Pastime.
Don Laible is a freelance sportswriter living in the Mohawk Valley. He has reported on professional baseball and hockey for print, radio, and on the web since the 1980's. His columns are featured weekly at WIBX950.com. Don can be contacted via email at [email protected]
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