Thursday, August 23, 2012

Great Photos of Baseball's Greats

I think that some people have the idea that baseball a hundred years ago was very primitive and that the players wouldn't be great by today's standards. However, ask people from previous generations who really know the game and they'll generally tell you that baseball players were actually better the farther back you go. I know my dad always felt that way, but he was always quick to acknowledge a great modern day player too. He grew-up watching Enos Slaughter and Stan Musial with the Cardinals and would say unequivocally that the 40s Cards were considerably better than any team they've ever fielded since.

I think there's something about seeing really high quality photographs from the early days of baseball that makes you somehow appreciate the great calibre of play they had back then. I don't know why, it just does. So many of the photos you see from the turn of the 20th century are grainy and just plain poor overall, and I think this somehow causes people to believe this reflects on their play when this really couldn't be further from the truth. So here are some great photos from the golden days of baseball. You can click on most of them to enlarge them considerably.

Stan Musial as a roookie - 1941
Enos Slaughter - 1938
The Cardinals were a great team long before Musial ever joined them though. In fact, Stan came to the club as a regular in 1942, the year after the great Johnny Mize left for new York.
Johnny Mize - 1939

The Cardinals are known for big power hitting 1st basemen, and long before McGwire and Pujols was Johnny Mize. He and Slaughter were great together although the Card's never one a world series with them. (Slaughter did win several alongside of Musial later though.)

And of course before any of them was the old Gashouse Gang of 1934 with the likes of Dizzy Dean (probably the best pitcher of the decade and one of the best ever), Pepper Martin, Frankie Frisch, and of course Joe Medwick. That team had five starting players batting over 300 and won the world series that year. The Cards won five world championships between 1926 and 1934 with many of the players in that lineup. They may have been even better than the 1940s Cardinals. The Cardinals didn't win any championships before 1926, but they still had some great teams and terrific players like Jim Bottomley, Jack Fournier, and Rogers Hornsby.
Rogers Hornsby - 1925

Hornsby was almost certainly the greatest right-handed hitter who ever lived and maybe the best period. He was also one of the best 2nd basemen. He hit over 400 three times and once hit for a 401 average and 40 home runs in the same season—a feat that will likely never be repeated. You might recall that the 1926 world series between the Cardinals and the Yankees was among the best ever recorded. It went the full 7-games and the Cards took game seven by one run. Babe Ruth hit three home runs in one game and hit the longest fly ball ever recorded at the old park. Actually, he kind of blew the series though. He walked in the 9th inning and tried to steal second with two outs but didn't make it, and that was that. He hit two home runs recorded to be over 500 feet in the series though. I would have loved to have lived back then, but this was even before my dad was born.

I found some footage of that series. It's grainy, but it's very cool to see Babe Ruth and Lou Gehrig play against (and lose to) Hornsby, Bottomley and the Cards in a world series.

Here are some other nice photos of some early ball players mostly from the dead ball era:

Babe Ruth in 1914 when he was still a pitcher.

Ty Cobb sliding into 3rd - 1914

Shoeless Joe Jackson -1920

Joe hit 408 as a rookie in 1911. Babe Ruth said he more or less copied Jackson's swing.

Tris Speaker - 1911

What a great stance Tris Speaker had! And what a great hitter. He would be in the top 10 or 20 at least on anybody's list.

Fielder Jones - 1904 with the White Sox