Frank Chance by Paul Thompson

June 4, 2013 § Leave a comment


Vintage portrait of first baseman Frank Chance of the Chicago Cubs, 1910

Frank Chance of the Chicago ‘Nationals’ (Library of Congress)

Frank Chance was, of course, the first baseman in the famous Chicago Cubs’ double-play trio of Tinkers to Evers to Chance. He was also the team’s manager from 1905 to 1912, and in fact his winning percentage of .667 is still a franchise record.

This circa 1910 photo — part of a series of portraits used for a set of baseball cards issued by the American Tobacco company in 1911 — was done by New York freelance photographer Paul Thompson. According to a 2009 article by Harry Katz on smithsonianmag.com, not much is known of Thompson: “Even such basic biographical information as the dates of his birth and death is hard to establish. But some two dozen of his player portraits survive in the Library of Congress, bringing to life the subjects’ determination, their enduring passion for a physical game and the ravages of a lifestyle that predated the luxury travel, sophisticated equipment and personal trainers of today.”

It is a striking image. Thompson had a studio at 10 Spruce Street, but according to Katz, he took the photos “against rough wooden backdrops at New York’s ballparks. With a shallow depth of field and an unsentimental lens, he brought out in sharp relief the players’ leathery faces and steel-eyed stares, capturing their pride, their toughness and the effects of extended exposure in the field. The rough dignity of his portraits survived the translation into color prints on cardboard.”

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