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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Jackie Robinson at Pasadena Junior College, 1937

April 14, 2013 § 1 Comment


1937 yearbook photo of baseball player Jackie Robinson

An 18-year-old Jackie Robinson in his first year at Pasadena Junior College

What is now Pasadena City College in Pasadena, California was previously known as Pasadena Junior College, and the 1937 yearbook for the school features “Tech transfer” Jack Robinson (as he is called in the baseball and track sections) in his P. J.C. Bulldog uniform (though he seems to have missed the team photo). The 8-page varsity baseball section also includes brief accounts of the season’s games, an example of which is included below. It is full of charming lingo, such as “horsehiders,” and descriptions like the one of a batter who “swung a mighty bludgeon in this fray, and sent one out over the fence.” Interestingly, it seems the College also played company teams at times — Pasadena’s last two games took place on “the beautiful Emerald Isle of Catalina” (which in those years also served as the spring training home of the Chicago Cubs) against “a strong Firestone Tire team,” with which Pasadena split two games.

Text from the 1937 PCC yearbook baseball section mentioning a young Jackie Robinson's performance

A triple for horsehider Robinson; in the fourth he “cracked a double”

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