By Phil Hecken
If you aren’t familiar with reader and frequent contributer to the Uni Watch cause, Larry Bodnovich, you will soon be. He is a collector of McFarlane as well as other football figurines (and has posted many pictures of his collection), and Paul featured a small portion of his fantastic screen grab sets in a recent column. As if this weren’t enough, Larry possesses another extraordinary talent we’re going to take a look at below, a talent which I have the pleasure of introducing you to today: the colorization of old sports photography. I first noticed Larry’s talent for colorization when he posted a few pictures of old football photographs he had done, so I asked if he’d like to try his hand at old baseball photographs. Well, he agreed, and today I am pleased to present to you the first batch of his efforts.
Before we begin, I wanted to let you know a little more about Larry and his work. A quick Q & A follows:
Phil Hecken:: How long have you been colorizing pictures, and what can you tell me about it?
Larry Bodnovich: I have been colorizing old family and football pictures for a year or two. The quality of the original picture has a lot to do with the final result. The sharpness or lighting is important.
PH: I first saw your work with old football pictures. Did you work from old programs or did you know what colors the uniforms were?
LB: For some old football some educated guesswork is needed. I have studied Ohio State’s uniform history as well as I can, so I kind of know the colors to use.
PH: What program do you use?
LB: I use a program called “Recolored.” I found out about it a few years ago when I was trying to figure out what colors certain Ohio State uniforms were in the 1910’s.
PH: You’ve done family photos too, right?
LB: For my family pictures my 81 year old mom has a amazing memory on what color her clothes were even from when she was a kid.
PH: How, exactly, do you work this magic? Is there any special technique, or computer wizardry you use? And can you sort of share this with the readers?
LB: Basically, you choose a color and use the mouse to sort of trace in the selected area. I use trial and error and after I select a color I hit colorize and see how it looks. Then I move on to the next area. I am learning now to use more saturation or less depending on what looks better. Also there is a warmify that sometimes enhances the look.
PH: So, do you start from a certain ‘colorscheme’ (or lackthereof) as a base and work from there?
LB: For the most part I just use gray or grayscale for the background. Depending on how much detail is around the subject. Bottom line is I try and try until I get a look I think is ok to me personally.
Cool stuff. For today’s post, I sent Larry a bunch of old time base ball photographs, and included with them the “Dressed To The Nines” (Marc Okkonen drawings) graphics to assist with the colorization. What follows are the first batch, plus a couple of “bonus” renderings Larry provided me with. Enjoy!
We begin with this 1903 portrait of Cincinnati Reds player Joseph James Kelly. A trip to Dressed To The Nines shows us the Reds of this vintage wore blue road uniforms with red lettering. Larry worked his magic to show us how the 1903 Cincinnati Reds would have looked had we seen the uniform in person.
The New York “Americans” in in 1903 (they weren’t yet called the “Highlanders” and certainly not the “Yankees”) looked like this, according to Marc Okkonen. After Larry went to work, we can see that the 1903 New York Americans would likely have looked like this.
Next up is this 1916 portrait of New York Giants pitcher Christy Mathewson, whose Giants had one of the most unique uniforms in all of baseball — according to Okkonen, their uniforms were almost purplish, with plaid striping. Historians may disagree on the shading, since I believe it was closer to blue than purple. Unfortunately, the portrait is only a headshot, so the wonderful sockage wasn’t visible. Nevertheless, Larry’s come up with this vision for the 1916 New York Giants. For a future post, I will try to find a full-body, high quality shot of the Giants in this uniform, so Mr. B can have a go at the whole kit and kaboodle.
Moving along, we find John McGraw and Frank Chance, from 1911, of the Giants and Cubs, respectively. That season, the Giants dressed like so and the Cubs donned these bad boys. Thru Larry’s handiwork, here’s what the 1911 Giants versus Cubs would have looked like.
You may recall my post from a few weeks ago featuring teams who won the World Series the previous season. One of those whose picture I used was Bill Wambsganss, second sacker for the Cleveland Indians. In 1921, the year they wore that uniform, the Indians dressed themselves in this getup. In living color, here’s how the 1921 Cleveland Indians looked.
In 1916, the Brooklyn Dodgers also sported one of baseball’s more unique looks. In black and white, here’s how Chief Meyers, Manager Wilbert Robinson, and Rube Marquard & Chief Meyers appeared. Those same photographs of Chief Meyers, his faithful manager Wilbert Robinson, and Rube Marquand & Chief Meyers in color, look simply amazing. Oh, to have been alive to see that game. (Those photographs all appear to have been taken on October 7, 1916, during the World Series of that year between Brooklyn and the Boston Red Sox.)
In addition to the National and American Leagues, a third league, the Federal League had a couple years of competition (which would eventually lead to one of the more famous and seemingly ridiculous statutes in existence today, baseball’s antitrust exemption — which, if you are not familiar, is a good, quick read). But in 1914, a player for the named Hughie Miller played for the St. Louis Terriers (notice the “FL” or “Federal League” patch on the sleeve). Through the magic of colorization, here’s how the 1914 St. Louis Terriers would have appeared.
I also asked Larry to try his hand at this 1919 picture of Cincinnati Reds player “Hod Eller” (that’s the way the photograph was identified when I found it, although I have my doubts as the name on the picture says “Allen” — a quick perusal of the Reds roster indicates a catcher named “Nick Allen” was on the team, so I’m going to assume that’s who it is). Be that as it may, the 1919 Reds looked like this. So, if this gentleman were standing before you today, here’s how he would appear in his 1919 Cincinnati Reds uniform.
In the year of 1916, the Big Train, Walter Johnson, was pitching for the Washington ball club (who did apparently carry the nickname “Senators” at that time). Here’s what those Senators wore in 1916. The colorization completed by Larry yields the Big Train of the 1916 Washington Senators looking like this. Magnifique.
That concludes the first batch of photos I sent to Larry. But he sent me some additional colorized ones that are also incredible. Check out this tremendous job of Rogers Hornsby in his 1919 Chicago Cubs attire … Larry wasn’t entirely certain who this is, but he believes it’s Nap Lajoie from the 1903 Cleveland team … finally, from Shorpy, here’s Babe Ruth in his Boston Red Sox days.
As you can see, the quality of the photograph has a LOT to do with the quality of the colorized print. I’ll continue my search for additional sports photographs for Larry to continue his efforts upon, and I’m sure with each one, his results will get better and better.
My special and heartfelt thanks go out to one of UW’s finest posters, “LarryB,” for all the time and attention he has already devoted to this ongoing and important project.
This and That: Did the Sharks and the Kings really participate in one of those “Pink at the Rink” deals? No, they didn’t, but thanks to the lighting, it sure looks like it … Obviously trying to keep a low profile, 3rd round co-leader Angel Cabrera likes to blend in with the azelae at the Masters … First the good news: they’re removing the corporate name “Alltel” from the Arena in Little Rock — the bad news? It’s going to be the Verizon Arena now … Goggle alert! … Take a good look at this leaderboard, because it’s probably the largest scoreboard in any sport you’ll ever see that has not one drop of advertising — beautiful … For footy buffs: City set to kick ManU’s ass … “We suck” … “Yeah, but at least Rbk fixed our socks” … and in Frozen Four hockey, the team wearing red and white won … Are the pants sponsored by H&R Block? … All kidding aside, curling doesn’t get enough UW love, but I’ll give some love to Team Canada’s shirt — that is a cool design (if, of course, you can picture it without the Timmy’s ad and the Ford ad) … Well — the new Bosox away unis made their debut — complete with blue socks — so what’s the verdict? … They don’t look so bad from this angle, but those blue numbers on back — hmmm … I still say this is one of the best sweaters in the NHL … Talk about a a tough call up — everyone wants a shot in the show, but there are better ways to gain a roster spot … Yesterday, I ran this photo showing A’s players pausing in a moment of silence for the slain Oakland PD officers at Friday night’s game — and wondered if the A’s were wearing black socks — Paul got in touch with Steve Vucinich who (thankfully) confirmed that the leggings/stirrups where indeed dark green, and not black … Beuffy the
vampire Detroit Cougar slayer (and, for those of you not participating in Rbk’s “Where’s Waldo” promotion for the Winter Classic — he was “Waldo”) got the game winner for the Hawks — the Red Wings wore their Winter Classic throwbacks, leading some readers to wonder if the Blackhawks will don their throwbacks in the back end of the home and home today … Play soccer or join a gang? Tough choice, but now there is a choice … What’s the best way to attract 50,000 fans to your spring practice? Start by not mentioning you went 3-9 last season … How can something that looks this bad from the back look this good from the front? — well, they could still excise the beveled numbers and “DC”, but it looks so much better than this did … Johnny Okray posted a good observation in last night’s comments: “Dave Bush hit Cubs backup catcher Koyie Hill on his foot during his first at bat. The next time up, there was a huge hole in Hill’s shoe with his toes sticking out. I don’t know if he fixed it or got new spikes later in the game. But doesn’t that got to feel weird to have a hole in your cleat? Nice New Balance kicks though.” … And finally, from UW Prexy Paul Lukas, Corey Wimberly fans have a new hero to champion — that’s pitcher Josh Outman, and goddam those are some beautiful lower leg stylings! Thanks Paul.
Enjoy your Sunday, especially for those of you for whom this is the holiest of Holy days — Masters Sunday, of course.