Sunday, August 13, 2017

A Photograph in a Photograph in the New York Times

Recently, my good friend Grace Richter alerted me to a brief story at about photographer Marjory Collins’s visit to the New York Times in September of 1942. She was working for the Office of War Information at the time and tasked with photo-documenting how the famous newspaper made each issue. It’s a very cool look at just how complex it was to put together a newspaper some 75 years ago. Collins’s photos from the assignment can also be found at the Library of Congress's web site.

Here is one of Collins’s photographs:

Library of Congress, Prints & Photographs Division, LC-DIG-fsa-8d22707

The photo’s caption at the Library of Congress web site reads: “Photo retoucher touching up a fashion photograph for Sunday paper.” But that’s not a fashion photo at all. It’s a shot of actress Ginger Rogers in the 1942 film “The Major and the Minor,” and it ran in the Screen, not the Fashion, section of the Times on Sunday, September 13, 1942. You can easily see it at the top right of the page:

Neat stuff, but I’m assuming that Grace really wanted to call my attention to a baseball picture found in this photograph that leads the Collins story at

Library of Congress, Prints & Photographs Division, LC-DIG-fsa-8d22746

This photo’s accompanying caption reads “Composing room of the New York Times newspaper. Making up the sport page.” Indeed, that is just what’s happening. But in what issue of the Times did this page appear?

To find the answer, I first zoomed in on Collins’s photograph, distorted it slightly to correct for the keystoning effect, and finally flipped it left-to-right to get this image:

At the bottom of the page there is an image of a baseball:

Though it is a bit difficult to discern, the text inside the baseball reads “DOUBLE HEADER / YANKEES vs. PHILADELPHIA / At Yankee Stadium / TODAY 1:30 P.M.” As it turns out, the Philadelphia Athletics played three doubleheaders at Yankee Stadium in 1942: July 5, August 10, and September 7. A quick check of the sports sections of the New York Times from each of those dates provided a match to the page in question. It is page 23 of the September 7, 1942, issue of the paper:

And here’s a close-up of that little baseball at the bottom of the page:

Of course, it’s no surprise that the September date was the correct one, given that Collins’s assignment took place that month.

Now here’s a comparison of the cropped/de-keystoned/flipped version of Collins’s photo and the actual newspaper page:

And here’s a closer look at the action photo at the top of the page:

The action took place in a September 6 doubleheader in which the Brooklyn Dodgers beat the New York Giants in the first game, 6-2, but dropped the second contest, 4-2.

The title of the photo reads: “A HITTER AS WELL AS A PITCHER.” And the lower caption reads: “[Brooklyn Dodgers pitcher] Max Macon sliding into the bag for a double in the second inning of the first game at the Polo Grounds yesterday as [Giants second baseman] Mickey Witek takes the throw from right field. The umpire is George Barr.”

Macon was a good hitting pitcher. In fact, in 1944 he became a full-time position player with the Boston Braves. Splitting time between first base and the outfield, Macon batted .273: third best on the club. Military service during World War II forced him to miss the next two big league season (1945 and 1946) and he played just one more major league game, pitching the final two innings of a game against the Dodgers on April 17, 1947. The first batter Macon faced that day was a rookie named Jackie Robinson, playing in just his second big league game.

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