Monday, September 23, 2013

A Yankee Stadium Mystery: Rare Footage of Babe Ruth and the Puzzling Panorama of a Packed Park

Back in October of 2009, New York Times reporter John Branch broke a story about some newly discovered footage of Babe Ruth. The "never-before-seen" film was found in a collection of home movies belonging to an unnamed individual in New Hampshire and ultimately ended up at Major League Baseball's Film and Video Archive. The folks there suspected that the footage dated from 1928 and, according to archivist Frank Caputo, guessed that "it could be a world series game, could be opening day, maybe a holiday, July fourth?" But, as noted in a video accompanying the Times article, "the archivists are still trying to pin down the exact date of the footage."

Soon after the story came out, I decided to take a crack at solving the mystery.

Of course, it was simple to confirm that the location seen in the footage was Yankee Stadium. Not only do shots showing its structure match perfectly to the well-known stadium, but the Yanks are wearing their familiar pinstripes. That part was a piece of cake.

Next, I needed to establish the correct year of the photograph. Outfield advertisements can often be helpful in dating baseball images. They generally change every season (sometimes multiple times within a season) and can act as chronological "finger prints" that are uniquely associated with a particular year. (Outfield advertisements at New York's Polo Grounds were instrumental in solving a mystery in my blog titled "Take Me Out to the Ball Game Polo Grounds.")

Here is a frame from the new footage showing some of the outfield advertisements beyond the left field bleachers.

Alas, the sun is shining brightly on the walls, washing out many of the distinctive graphics. Still, take a look at the picture below, taken during Game Three of the 1928 World Series and published the following day in the Hartford Courant. While the quality of this halftone image is not great, careful examination shows that the outfield advertisements match those seen in the still from the footage:

While this comparison was helpful, I hoped to find a higher quality photo that would show the exact same advertisements as seen in the footage. I turned my eyes to this magnificent photograph from the collection of the National Baseball Hall of Fame and Museum:

The panoramic image, shot by the Cosmo Foto Service, is actually a composite of three separate photographs, each "seamed" together to make a single, large-format picture. The process is less elegant than the stunning images made by special panoramic cameras (see my blog titled "Nix Flicks Sticks in Box for Sox in Rox"), but it is still an effective way to create a dramatic print.

According to the caption written contemporaneously on the front of the photograph, the image was taken at the 1928 World Series between the Yankees and the Cardinals. Since the outfield ads matched those seen in both the Hartford Courant and the footage, my initial reaction was that the panorama confirmed the year as 1928. But after a closer look, I began to worry ... not about the year, but about the claim that it pictured action from the World Series.

An article in the Washington Post published the day after the first World Series game at Yankee Stadium that season stated that "the grand stand tiers were bedecked in bright bunting and the national colors in much more profusion than ever before." But the panorama showed the famed park devoid of the traditional decorative bunting.

Furthermore, when I examined the player closest to the camera, the right fielder, I saw that he was wearing a uniform inconsistent with what the Yankees or the Cardinals wore during the 1928 World Series:

Note that the player's cap, pants and jersey are light-colored and his stockings are dark-colored with two white stripes. Now take a look at this photograph of Cardinals manager Bill McKechnie and Yankees skipper Miller Huggins posing at Yankee Stadium during the World Series:

New York Yankees History

Huggins and the Yankees wore pinstriped uniforms with dark caps and dark stockings ... quite different from the outfit worn by the left fielder. McKechnie and the Cardinals also wore pinstripes, and their stockings are nearly the opposite of those worn by the left fielder: light colored with multiple dark stripes.

In short, the player in left field was neither a Yankee nor a Cardinal, and the park was not decked out for an occasion such as the World Series. And yet the shot is certainly from 1928, as the outfield ads matched those seen in the 1928 Hartford Courant photo. What was the scoop?

In 1928 only one major league club wore road uniforms consistent with that worn by the right fielder: light-colored uniform and cap, and dark-colored stockings with a pair of white stripes. That club was the Philadelphia Athletics. Here are drawings of the uniform worn by the 1928 Athletics from the National Baseball Hall of Fame's online exhibit, Dressed to the Nines:

For this reason, it seemed likely that the team in the field as seen in the panorama was the Athletics.  Embracing this theory, I set out to see if I could come up with an exact date for the image.

The Athletics played 11 games at Yankee Stadium in 1928. Checking attendance records for each of these games, I found that only one date attracted the astounding crowd seen in the panoramic: a doubleheader played on September 9. On that day a record 85,625 fans packed Yankee Stadium. All signs point to the panorama capturing the scene at Yankee Stadium that very day.

Why did so many fans attend that game? Well, first of all, it was a Sunday doubleheader. And secondly, there was the very real feeling that the Sunday twin-bill (along with the subsequent two games of the four-game series) would have a major impact on just which club would advance to the post-season. The A's entered the day with a half-game lead over the Yankees, but after losing both games of the doubleheader and splitting the last two contests, Philadelphia left the Bronx trailing by 1.5 games. As the Yanks went 10-5 over their remaining 15 games and the A's posted an 8-5 mark in their final contests, one could argue that the four-game set was indeed the difference-maker in the pennant chase.

Taking another look at the mislabeled panoramic, I noted that the shadows were quite short. Thus, the photographs making up the panoramic image were assuredly taken early during the first game of the doubleheader. The second game can also be eliminated as a possibility since lefty Rube Walberg pitched the first 6.2 innings of that contest and the pitcher in the panoramic is right-handed:

With the date and game nailed down, a look at the box score revealed just who was in the field for the A's. On the mound was Jack Quinn who, at 45 years of age, was the oldest player in big league baseball. Catching the veteran moundsman was Mickey Cochrane, who ultimately earned the Most Valuable Player Award that season. Around the infield was Jimmie Foxx at first, Max Bishop at second, Jimmy Dykes at third, and Joe Boley at short. And the outfield featured Al Simmons in left, Mule Haas in center, and Bing Miller (whose stockings were so helpful in researching the photo) in right.

Just why the panorama was misidentified is not known, but I suspect that the folks selling the picture figured it would sell better if they passed it off as a World Series game, instead of a regular season contest.

Having gotten significantly sidetracked clearing up the misinformation written on the front of the panorama, I returned my attention to the newly discovered footage and the parade of batters captured on film.

Early in the footage, a left-handed batter is seen swinging and running to first. The stride and follow-through is unmistakably that of Yankees legend, Lou Gehrig:

The footage then quickly cuts to another unmistakable lefty at the plate: Babe Ruth. Interestingly, in this same scene, we see Gehrig (far left), who had failed to reach base just moments earlier, returning to the Yankees dugout:

However, the narrator of the New York Times video states that "Lou Gehrig waits on deck as the great Bambino strikes out."

Wait a second. How could Gehrig be waiting on deck when he just completed his at bat and is seen returning to the dugout? Here's how: That isn't Lou Gehrig waiting on deck!

Sure, throughout their careers together, Gehrig almost always followed Ruth in the batting order: Ruth batting third and Gehrig batting cleanup. But, in this particular footage, that just wasn't the case.

It's not clear who misidentified the on-deck batter, the folks at the New York Times or the folks at MLB Productions, but even though the quality of the video is rather poor, one can tell the on-deck batter is taller and leaner than Gehrig. More about that fellow in a moment.

At this point I had established that the action in the film took place at Yankee Stadium in 1928 and that Gehrig batted ahead of Ruth. A quick check at the always-useful web site revealed that manager Miller Huggins flip-flopped Gehrig and Ruth in the batting order for a stretch of some four weeks near the end of the season: from August 25 (starting in the second game of the double-header) to September 20.

Here's what was reported in the New York Times the day after the of August 25 doubleheader:

After our boys, in the first game, had given one of the most terrible exhibitions ever seen of bad pitching  puny hitting and general indolence, Miller James Huggins instituted the most drastic shake-up of the last several years.
What Miller James did to the batting order between games was nobody's business. He took it apart to see what made it tick and then threw the pieces together in a very careless manner.
The one and only Babe Ruth was dropped from third to fourth place. Henry Gehrig ascended from fourth to third, Joseph Dugan was made lead-off man, Combs fell to second and Mark Koenig landed with a sickening thud in sixth. To make matters unanimous Tony Lazzeri was benched and [Leo] Durocher played second base.

One of the few Yankees to be unaffected by the line-up reshuffling was the man who batted fifth: Bob Meusel. He remained in that spot during Huggins' late-season switcheroo. Indeed, that's the 6' 3" Meusel seen waiting on deck during Ruth's at bat in the footage, not the 6' 0" Gehrig. Here's another frame from the film, showing "Long Bob" Meusel (at left) leaning on his bat as Babe Ruth stands at home, clearly upset that he was called out on strikes:

At this point, I had made good progress with the footage, determining that it was shot sometime between August 25 and September 28, 1928. I next took a closer look at the opposing team's catcher. Here's a still from the footage:

We can determine the following about his uniform: the crown of his cap is light-colored and his stockings are dark-colored from knee to shoe, possibly with light-colored stripes. This combination of cap and stockings was worn by only one American League club on the road in 1928. That club was none other than the Philadelphia Athletics.

The Athletics played just four games at Yankee Stadium during the time-period noted above: the doubleheader of September 9, and games on September 11 and 12.

Hold on! Is it possible that the film footage was taken on the same day as the mislabeled panoramic picture? Certainly the massive crowd shown in the footage points to that date, but I wondered if there might be a way to tell for sure that they matched. Happily, I found a way.

I decided to overlay a still from the footage (below) on the panoramic picture. Both images show the crowd down the third base line.

Despite the fact that the cameras shot action from significantly different angles, I was able to align the images such that the gates at the bottom of stairways (see arrows) were aligned perfectly:

Note that some of the fans in the front row have draped clothing atop or over the railing. While the still from the footage is much blurrier than the photograph, I was able to match the shadows created by the clothing (see arrows). Take a look:

There's really no question about it. The footage and the panoramic picture were both shot at Yankee Stadium during the first game of a doubleheader against the Philadelphia Athletics on September 9, 1928. In fact, reviewing play-by-play of the game, the action captured in the film fits perfectly (and only) with what occurred in the bottom of the fourth inning. After Mark Koenig led off the frame with a single to left field, Gehrig popped out to second. Ruth then struck out, after which Meusel flied to center. No other sequence in the game matches what we see in the footage.

I found additional corroboration of these findings in a Boston Globe story published the day after the game:

When the Yankees came up again, Koenig snapped out a sprightly single to left but Gehrig popped out to Bishop. Ruth fanned again and Meusel flied out to Haas. The canny Quinn pitched low and outside to the Babe, to prevent a rightfield catastrophe. The Babe was considerably peeved when the third strike was called and threw his bat toward the stands, narrowly missing [New York City mayor] Jimmy Walker.

To bad the footage didn't stay on Ruth a bit longer so we could witness his bat throwing tantrum. Oh, well. At least now the mystery has been solved.

By the way, back in 2009, Keith Olbermann also came to the conclusion that the footage came from the September 9, 1928, doubleheader. Both of our work was featured in John Branch's follow-up New York Times article.

Finally, if you're interested in obtaining a copy of the rare 1928 panoramic image, don't hesitate to contact John Horne in the Hall of Fame's Photo Department (

Tuesday, September 17, 2013

Buy Me Some Peanuts: Elephants Playing Baseball

Back in 2010, as part of his always-entertaining "There's No Service Like Wire Service" series, Paul Lukas of Uni-Watch posted a link to this photograph of elephants donning baseball gear:

I thought I'd research the photo to see what I could learn.

First, I focused on trying to determine the location of the image. Thankfully, the buildings in the background provided a number of clues.

Beyond the right-most elephant's rump we see the words "GOLDE" and the phrase "2 PANTS SUITS." Other signs nearby read "GOLDE CLOTHES." Using these key words, I found a promising lead in "The Catalogue of Copyright Entries for 1923" available at Google Books":

Apparently the Golde Clothes Shop had obtained a copyright on an illustrated sheet (a poster?) that promoted a special offering. This suggested that the building in the background was Golde Clothes Shop in New York, and that the photo was taken sometime around 1923.

Unfortunately, when I researched Golde Clothes Shop, I found that the retail clothier had over two dozen stores across the country in the 1920s. Maybe the photograph wasn't taken in New York City after all.

I next turned my sites toward the building in the background at center topped with the letters "HUDSO." It seemed likely that these were the first letters in the word "HUDSON." Was there a city street somewhere in the country that featured both a Gold Clothes Shop and an establishment with the word "HUDSON" in it's title? Indeed there was.

Take a look at this photograph found at the Library of Congress web site:

Library of Congress, Prints and Photographs Division, LC-D4-500950

The photo is titled "Looking up Woodward Avenue, Detroit, Mich." and is dated c. 1917. While the exact styles of the building advertisements do not match those seen in the elephants photo, the buildings themselves match quite well. The location is identical, but the two pictures were certainly taken in different years.

Here's a detail from the Library of Congress's photograph showing the word "Hudson's" painted atop the building at center and the signage for "Golde Clothes":

... and here's another detail showing the building at far left:

This was Detroit's 14-story tall Majestic Building, built in 1896 and located at the northwest corner of Woodward and Michigan. The following photo of the Majestic Building (at center) shows its proximity to Detroit's City Hall (at left):

Historic Detroit

The photo of elephants was taken just south of the Majestic Building, on the southwest corner of Woodward and Michigan, in front of City Hall. Here's a modern-day map of the area, with the pink marker marking denoting the spot where the elephants made their ball-playing appearance.

With the location of the shot determined, I turned my attention to the elephants.

Believe it or not, as early as the 1910s there were a number of different acts that featured ball playing pachyderms. Here's an image of elephants from the Gentry Brothers Circus doing their act in 1917:

Circus Historical Society

... and here's a 1913 promotional poster for Mooney's ball-playing elephants featured in the Barnum & Bailey Circus:

Robert Edwards Auction

It appears that the elephants in our Detroit-based photograph were Powers' Elephants (sometimes called Powers' Dancing Elephants), a popular act that played for many years at the Hippodrome in New York City, but by 1923 was traveling around the country.

On June 23, 1923, the Titusville (PA) Herald promoted the act as it was scheduled to appear at a local fair in mid-September:

The directors of the Titusville fair ... take pleasure in announcing the engagement of Power's [sic] Dancing Elephants for the entire four days of the fair with exhibitions afternoon and evening.
Those four mammoth, pachyderms have been entertaining hundreds of thousands of people annually from the stage of the famous Hippodrome in New York for the past eighteen years, but owing to the tearing down of the amusement place, the manager of these elephants has taken them on the road this season. The elephants do amazing tricks and their baseball game Is said to be the marvel in its line of animal training.
In the ball game everything is included, even one of the "pitchers" retiring from the box when ordered and the substitute allows the "batter" to make a home run, the elephant runner even "sliding" to the home plate.
And according to an article in the New York Evening Telegram of August 4, 1923,

At the Shadukiam Grotto Pageant, Detroit, the principal feature was the act of Powers' Elephants, under the management of Jimmy Dunedin, a well-known Keith Exchange booking agent. The engagement was by courtesy of E.F. Albee in answer to a request of the Mayor of Detroit, a friend of the Keith executive. The every appearance of the mastodons on the streets of Detroit drew crowds who watched the animals do stunts.
There is little doubt that this photo captured Powers' elephants doing one of their "stunts" in promoting their appearance in Detroit in August of 1923.

Sunday, May 19, 2013

The Diamond Anniversary of a Diamond Gem

On June 10, 1989, the United States Postal Service issued a stamp honoring Lou Gehrig created by artist Bart Forbes.

According to an article in the Chicago Sun-Times of April 16, 1989:

The design of the stamp showing the profile of Gehrig in Yankee pinstripes was taken from a picture owned by Mike Aronstein of New York. The foreground figure of the left-handed slugger is from a 1939 photograph by Herman Seid.

Here's the photo upon which the "foreground figure" was based:

Collection of the National Baseball Library

The photo can also be found at the Getty Images web site. Here is their watermarked version:

Getty Images preview image #82985728

The caption supplied by Getty Images reads as follows:

CHICAGO - 1938. Lou Gehrig whacks a double into left center in a game at Yankee Stadium in 1938. Luke Sewell is the catcher for the opponent White Sox.
So, the Chicago Sun-Times and Getty Images disagree on the year of the image. And the Getty Images caption disagrees with itself, first stating the image is from "CHICAGO," then citing the location of the game as Yankee Stadium. What are we to believe?

First, take a close look at Gehrig's uniform:

Since Gehrig is wearing a jersey with the words "NEW YORK" across the chest (sans pinstripes), this is clearly a road uniform. So the photo is not taken at Yankee Stadium.

Also, a patch can be seen on the left sleeve of Gehrig's jersey. This was a special patch worn by all three New York-based big league clubs (the Yankees, Giants and Dodgers) in 1938 to promote the following year's 1939 World's Fair. Here's a better look at the patch as worn by Lou Chiozza of the Giants:

National Baseball Hall of Fame and Museum online exhibit Dressed to the Nines

Having established that the photo was taken in 1938 with the Yankees on the road, what is to be made of the Getty Images claim that the opposing club was the Chicago White Sox? Take a close look at the catcher's stockings:

According to the Dressed to the Nines uniform database, the White Sox of 1938 lived up to their name and wore all-white stockings. In fact, the only major league club whose 1938 home uniforms featured dark-colored stockings with stripes as seen in this photo was the Cleveland Indians. Here's what their uniform looked like in 1938:

Since the catcher is with the Indians with the Yankees on the road, the game must have been played in Cleveland. Thus, it appears that other than the identification of the batter (Gehrig) and the year (1938), the Getty Images caption is completely erroneous.

So, what can we determine about the photo?

According to the Indians' schedule of 1938, the Yankees visited Cleveland on four separate occasions:

  • May 22 and 24
  • June 21, 22 (doubleheader) and 23
  • August 5, 6 and 7
  • September 13

One of these dates must be the date of the photograph. But which? One clue that may help is the fact that from 1932 through 1946, the Indians played their home games at two different parks: League Park (also known as Dunn Field) and Cleveland Stadium (also known as Cleveland Municipal Stadium). By determining which park is pictured in our photo, we can narrow down the possible dates that it was taken.

Here's a well-known photograph of Joe DiMaggio hitting in his 56th straight game on July 16, 1941. The game took place at Cleveland's League Park. (His record streak ended the next night, but that game was played at Cleveland Stadium.)

Now compare the DiMaggio image to that of Gehrig:

Note the tarp rolled up in the background behind DiMaggio, as well as the gate in the low wall, just to the right of the left knee of Indians catcher Gene Desautels. Though the photo of DiMaggio photo was taken three seasons after the picture of Gehrig, it is clear that they were taken at the same location: League Park.

Of the ten games played between the Yankees and Indians in Cleveland in 1938, just four took place at League Park. These were the games of May 24, June 21, June 23 and September 13. According to box scores of these games, the following individuals umpired home plate and caught for the Indians:

  • May 24: Home plate umpire Harry Geisel and catcher Frankie Pytlak.
  • June 21: Home plate umpire Harry Geisel and catcher Rollie Hemsley.
  • June 23: Home plate umpire Harry Geisel and catcher Frankie Pytlak.
  • September 13: Home plate umpire Joe Rue and catcher Frankie Pytlak.

Here's a close-up of the catcher from the Gehrig photograph:

Now compare this individual's face with that of Frankie Pytlak:

Baseball in Wartime Blog

… and the other potential catcher, Rollie Hemsley:

The Conlon Collection

There's little question that the catcher is Frankie Pytlak, so we can eliminate June 21 from the possible dates.

Now for the umpire:

Is it Harry Geisel?

Or Joe Rue?

Again, it's not tough to identify the umpire as Geisel, so we are now left with two possible dates: Tuesday, May 24 and Thursday, June 23.

Searching newspapers that covered these games, I found the following photo as reproduced in the Cleveland Plain Dealer of June 25, 1938:

Of course the image is not identical, but at first glance it appears that the shot may have been taken just seconds after the photograph used in the stamp. However, despite the graininess of the halftone image, a close look reveals that neither Pytlak nor Gehrig are wearing the dark, long sleeves seen in the other photograph.

Why would the players dress differently for the two games? Take a look at the weather report for the two dates:

  • May 24: 12:30 pm — 46 degrees and partly cloudy.
  • June 23: 12:30 pm — 77 degrees and clear.

It would make sense that long-sleeved undergarments would be appropriate for the May 24th game, not the game of June 23rd. So, all signs point to May 24, though we still have not tracked down the exact same photograph used for the stamp.

As luck would have it, the photograph we're examining is in the photo collection of the National Baseball Hall of Fame and Museum, and was donated to the institution by a gentleman named Carl Seid. Carl was the son of Herman Seid, a longtime photographer for the Cleveland Press. Undoubtedly, the Gehrig photo was taken by Herman Seid. Indeed, a number of sources on the web credit the photograph to Seid, pictured below in 1954:

Cleveland Memory

Just two days before the Gehrig photograph was taken, in an Indians-Yankees game at Cleveland Stadium, the "Iron Horse" had rapped a long double to right-center field in the top of the sixth. As he headed into second, Gehrig felt a sharp pain in his back and thigh. He eventually managed to score, but Babe Dahlgren replaced him in the bottom of the inning. Rain canceled the game of May 23, but Gehrig came back to start on May 24, playing the entire game and going 1-for-3 with a double and two runs scored in a 9-5 loss to the Indians. Just one week later, back at Yankee Stadium, Gehrig played in his 2,000th straight game.

So, the stamp was based on a photograph of Gehrig taken by Cleveland Press photographer Herman Seid 75 years ago, May 24, 1938, at League Park, as the Indians hosted the Yankees.

Sunday, March 17, 2013

"How the Office Boy Saw the Ball Game"

On August 16th, 1906, the New York Dramatic Mirror published the following short note:

The ball players of the New York and Pittsburgh teams of the National League, it is announced, will attend Thursday night's performance on the New York Theatre Roof, occupying the boxes. A new motion picture film, called “How the Office Boy Saw the Game,” will be shown.
As it turns out, the announcement was a bit late, as the event actually took place the previous Thursday, August 9th. Just hours after the Giants topped the Pirates 6-0 in the opening game of a four-game series at the Polo Grounds, the entourage of players made their way to the magnificent theater at Broadway and 45th Street:

Dorothy Parker Mysteries

There, as part of a special "Baseball Night," the Giants and Pirates saw a one-act musical entitled "Seeing New York," enjoyed the celebrated harmonies of Aubrey Pringle, Harry Sylvester, Poodles Jones, and Frank Morrell, better known as "THAT Quartet," and took in a number of other vaudeville skits before viewing the short film that starred members of both clubs.

The movie, fully titled "How the Office Boy Saw the Ball Game," likely had a running time of around 13 or 14 minutes. However, all that remains today is a hodge-podge amounting to some five minutes of footage. Thankfully, the little that has been preserved is readily available on the web at, and on a two-DVD set of selected early baseball silent movies titled "Reel Baseball."

The film was directed by Edwin S. Porter, the early silent movie director who was responsible for the famed 1903 picture "The Great Train Robbery." As summarized by Charles Musser in his book "Before the Nickelodeon: Edwin S. Porter and the Edison Manufacturing Company," the plot of the baseball movie is as follows:

In a small office, the lady stenographer writes a note for the office boy that reads "Dear Teddy: Come home at once. Grandma is dead." The boss accepts the excuse and the office boy has a free afternoon to see the game. The young lady stenographer faints in disbelief when the boss falls for the explanation. The bookkeeper is told to escort her home. Left alone, the broker also decides to take the afternoon off and see the game. The remainder of the film intercuts Teddy on a telephone pole looking through a spyglass with masked point-of-view shots of the game—including a view of the boss discovering the stenographer and bookkeeper in the stands.
Let's take a look at the baseball scenes from the movie as they appear on the "Reel Baseball" DVD.

At 1 minute 21 seconds into the footage, we see an automobile driving on the field at a ballpark. Remember, that all the footage of the game is seen through the office boy's telescope, so these scenes are all cropped within a circle. What I wouldn't give for the original un-cropped footage!

Over the next 20 seconds or so, we see a number of automobiles on the field, each filled with ballplayers.

Note that the wall behind the cars is adorned with bunting, so it is likely that some special event occurred at the park that day. Indeed, the next shots show a band parading across the field ... another indication that something special was going on:

And marching right behind the band is a line of ballplayers:

There's no question that the ballpark is the Polo Grounds in New York City. Comparing some known images of the famous park with some of these movie stills will corroborate this fact. For example, take a look  at this photograph of action from a New York vs. Boston Stock Exchange game played at the Polo Grounds on May 23, 1908:

Library of Congress, Prints & Photographs Division, LC-DIG-ggbain-00475

(For more about these series of stock exchange games, read my blog titled "When Wall Street Occupied the Ball Park.")

Now compare this image with the first movie still seen above. While the camera angles are not quite identical, one can readily see the similar beams (blue arrows) at the corner of the grandstand, as well as the matching building (green arrow) beyond the bleachers down the third base line:

And here's another photograph of the Polo Grounds, this one taken on July 17, 1908, at a fund-raising event for the New York Home for Destitute Crippled Children:

Library of Congress, Prints & Photographs Division, LC-DIG-ggbain-02008

Note that while the advertisements on the outfield walls differ (because the photographs were taken in different years), the distinctive building beyond the outfield walls matches perfectly:

Now look at a detail from the still of the parade of ballplayers:

Though a bit out of focus, we can see that the players are wearing white uniforms with dark caps, dark stockings and, most importantly, jerseys with two lines of text. This matches well with the audacious outfits worn by the Giants in 1906, in which the club proudly proclaimed their status as "World's Champions." Here is a photo of New York's Mike Donlin wearing the same uniform:

Library of Congress, Prints & Photographs Division, LC-USZ62-105851

(For more on Mike Donlin, check out my blog posting titled "A 'New' Role for Mike Donlin.")

With the knowledge that these scenes were shot at the Polo Grounds in 1906, I was able to track down the following series of images published in the New-York Daily Tribune of June 13, 1906:

Not only does the upper picture show the same parade of ball players (even the players who are wearing jackets match up quite nicely with our movie still), but the lower picture shows one of the player-filled automobiles, as well. The bunting on the wall also matches quite nicely with the stills. No doubt these pictures were taken at the very same event: the official raising of the Giants' world's championship pennant on June 12, 1906.

According to the Tribune article:

The stands were profusely decorated with bunting and flags. ... Shortly before 4 o'clock the members of both the New York and Cincinnati teams appeared on the field in automobiles and, after making several circuits, they went to the clubhouse where they formed in two files and, led by the Catholic Protectory Band, proceeded up the diamond, while the crowd cheered and shouted.
Indeed, a careful look at the uniforms of the other club parading in from outfield that day shows that their uniforms match well with those worn by the Cincinnati Reds that season.

As for the Catholic Protectory Band, they were widely heralded at the time as one of the leading bands in the United States and just the previous year had been chosen by President Teddy Roosevelt to lead his inaugural parade.

At 2 minutes 20 seconds into the footage, we see the lady stenographer and the bookkeeper in the stands as they are discovered by their boss.

In this scene, we see the stenographer holding a program in her hands. Here's a closer look of both the front and back of the program:

As one might guess, the program matches that used by the Giants in 1906:

Legendary Auctions

Here's a comparison:

At about 2 minutes and 40 seconds into the film, we see legendary Giants pitcher Christy Mathewson warming up on the mound:

A portion of this particular sequence is also available on YouTube.

Notice that just to the left of the "Hunter Rye" advertisement on the outfield wall, there is an unpainted fence. However, in a still from the June 12, 1906, pennant-raising event, that wall is not seen.

This suggests that the footage of Mathewson was taken on a different date in 1906 than that of the June 12 pennant-raising event. We'll be able to narrow down the dates for this Mathewson footage (as well as some other shots) when we examine some upcoming on-field scenes.

At about 3 minutes into the footage, with the Giants in the field, we see a base runner thrown out at first base.

Note that we once again see the unpainted fence to the left of the "Hunter Rye" advertisement. So, as with the Mathewson footage, this shot was also not taken on June 12.

The base runner's uniform appears to be most similar to the 1906 road outfit worn by the Pittsburgh Pirates, with their distinctive dark-colored collar on an otherwise gray jersey. The blue stockings with a single red stripe also match those worn by the Pirates that season.

So, just when did the Pirates visit the Polo Grounds in 1906? Well, their first trip to New York that year was for a four-game set against the Giants, June 18-21. However, rain postponed the first two of those contests. The club's next visit to New York was the August series in which they attended the movie. Therefore the footage featuring the Pirates had to have been shot on either June 20 or 21, just over a week after the pennant-raising event.

While it is difficult to state for sure, it seems likely that the Mathewson footage was taken on the same day that the play at first base occurred. But Mathewson's only appearance in the abbreviated series came on June 21st. In that game, starting pitcher Joe McGinnity was ejected in the fifth inning (following in the footsteps of his manager, John McGraw) and Mathewson was called upon to finish the contest. Is it possible that the footage of Mathewson was of him warming up in the fifth? Perhaps.

A dozen seconds later, the footage shows a rather strange play. The camera is set up such that the view is straight down the third base foul line, looking towards left field.

A base runner (a member of the Pirates) is on third base and the batter (is that Honus Wagner?) awaits the pitcher's delivery. As the pitch approaches, the base runner breaks for home as part of an apparent squeeze play.

While the exact origins of the squeeze play are not clear (there have been numerous stories as to when it first began and who invented it), it does appear that the play first became popular just one year earlier, as Clark Griffith and the New York Highlanders (later known as the Yankees) started to utilize the daring maneuver. This is almost certainly the first time the play had ever been captured on film.

The batter takes a short swinging bunt at the ball, but rather than running to first base, he quickly moves in the opposite direction, as if he is heading to the dugout.

Meanwhile, the base runner continues towards home, where there is a play at the plate. The runner appears to be out, but when the umpire walks into the frame, he makes no signal.

The two umpires who worked the June Pirates-Giants series were Bob Emslie and Hank O'Day. Though the final movie still above is somewhat unclear, the umpire looks much more like O'Day than Emslie. Here are images of O'Day (top) and Emslie (bottom) for comparison purposes:

SDN-005348, Chicago Daily News negatives collection, Chicago History Museum

The Conlon Collection

But for the squeeze play footage, why is O'Day seen without a mask or chest protector, as one would expect for the ump working the plate? And, come to think of it, why do we not see a third base coach (who we will see later on in the footage)?

Given the strange circumstances surrounding the play, it seems likely that the scene did not take place in an actual game, but was simply staged for the camera man.

However, at about 3 minutes and 30 seconds into the footage, we see a scene that appears to be "the real deal." A Pirates batter awaits a pitch, swings, connects, and heads to first.

Note that in this sequence a third base coach is visible in the background and the home plate umpire wears a mask and chest protector. The shot has all the hallmarks of an actual play from either the game of June 20 or June 21, 1906.

Also, by a careful study of the fans in the background, we can see that this at bat likely took place the same day as the staged squeeze play. While there are fewer fans in the stands for the squeeze play (perhaps it was staged well before the game began?) and the two scenes were shot from slightly different camera angles, certain patterns in the brightness of clothing colors (see blue ovals below) match well between the two shots. These crowd "finger prints" strongly suggest that the images were taken the same day.

Next, we see a few Giants batters take some hacks at the plate. The catcher appears to be a member of the Pirates, but with players warming up in the background, no umpire in sight, and the quick procession of multiple batters to the plate, it appears that we're once again looking at staged footage, not real game action. Still, it is interesting to see the players quickly parading to home for their swings. One of the batters is none other than Hall of Famer Roger Bresnahan:

Following this sequence, we once again see the lady stenographer and the bookkeeper in the stands, just before being discovered by their boss. Clearly this scene is out of order and should have preceded the earlier footage of the office workers at the game.

Finally, the last bit of footage is a shot of a faux scoreboard:

As one might guess, the scores are fictitious, though the Giants are shown to be playing against the Pirates, the opponents we see most often in the available footage from the movie.

Researching what is left of this movie shot over a century ago leaves the interested baseball historian both pleased and frustrated. With moving images from the 1906 season, the movie contains some of the earliest footage of major league baseball known to exist, yet one is left wondering what priceless shots have been lost to father time.