By Phil Hecken
Several months ago, I featured colorizer Matt Olbert (who goes by @FenwayPhotoshop on the Twitter), which you can read about here. At the time, I conducted an interview with Matt and in that he noted he’d only been doing colorizations since January(!) of this year. Clearly, he was a quick learner, and you could see the improvements in the progressive efforts. It turns out Matt is also quite prolific at photoshop colorizations, as he has done dozens since that February article.
I don’t know how many of you are fans of the comic strip Calvin and Hobbes, but I read it every day when it was in print. One Sunday I saw an episode that instantly hit home: I totally related to Calvin and his six year old mindset. The artist, Bill Watterson, totally got it (in more ways than one), and I often reminisced about my own days as a carefree six year old when I read his strips. This one, in particular, really struck a chord…
It was one of those moments where you say to yourself, or perhaps even out loud, “YES!” I thought then, as I do now, about how almost every photograph we see from the early years of the twentieth century (and some later years too), is in black and white. And how I wish they were in color. Perhaps that is why I enjoy colorizations so much.
Yes, there is a certain beauty in a black and white photograph — back when I was in grad school, for a photojournalism class, I even did a project featuring Paul (and based on a New York Times project) in which I shot black and white photographs. However, there is something about seeing old photographs in color that really appeals to me. And I love those talented artists who can work digital magic to almost “bring the past” alive hit my own personal sweet spot.
So, without further ado, allow me to reintroduce you to Matt Olbert as he returns with more early baseball colorizations (click to enlarge).
By Matt Olbert
The evolution of the game’s greatest player over time, these four photos of the Babe are from 1918, 1922, 1926, and 1934. I had a little bit of trouble dating these but was very grateful to receive some assistance from John Thorn, a.k.a. the most knowledgeable baseball mind in the world (because why not go straight to the top, right?). I love the first image here of Ruth in that beautiful early Red Sox uniform looking awfully svelte. These photos took an incredible amount of time to color because of one specific reason: pinstripes.
A rarely-seen photo of a well-known moment, Lou Gehrig’s “Luckiest Man” speech, July 4, 1939 at Yankee Stadium. I think it’s so cool to take an image or a moment that we all know so well from a certain angle, usually up close, and find it presented in a way that really feels like you are there in the stadium, watching from the cheap seats.
Giants Manager John McGraw, 1932. I’ve been really getting into coloring portraits lately, partly because they take less time and I am lazy, but also because it really feels like you get to “meet” these people from the past, which is how I feel about McGraw here. I never realized that the Giants wore their now-famous orange & black so far back. Also, hey Uni Watch, can we get some info about teams in the early 30’s wearing white caps because I kind of love it.
Satchel Paige, Harlem, 1941. Easily one of the coolest photos of any baseball player I’ve ever seen. One person on Twitter commented that “only Satchel could pull of that suit with white socks!”, which is nice to hear, especially because the reality is that I just simply forgot to color in his socks. My limited research deduced that he’s sitting on a 1940 Packard 120, but I’m sure a car expert will swoop in any second now to correct me.
Yogi Berra leaps into Don Larsen’s arms after the final out of Larsen’s perfect game in Game 5 of the 1956 World Series. Another photo I’d never seen of a moment I know very well. I love how Yogi kept his mask on the whole time.
Casey Stengel, New York Giants, 1923. Look at this face! How could you not love this face? And how could you not love these red-on-white Giants caps?
Al Simmons, Philadelphia A’s, 1924. One of the simplest photos I’ve ever done but quite possibly my favorite. Simmons as a fresh-faced rookie, freckles & all, and his eyes looking right out at you. I’m still trying to achieve in my more-recent photos the level of photo-realism that I think I reached in this one.
Honus Wagner, 1914. Probably the most famous photo of Wagner, who is one of my favorite subjects to color. I had tried to color this back when I first started but I wasn’t ready yet, so I came back later to finish it once I honed my skills a little bit more. I had a hard time determining the colors for Wagner’s sweater so I used Graig Kreindler’s beautiful painting of this same shot as a reference (@GraigKreindler on Twitter, the GOAT baseball artist). Thanks Graig!
Babe Ruth & Ted Williams, 1945. Two of the greatest hitters of all time, I’d give anything to listen to the two of them discuss their approach at the plate. I’d never colored a photo taken inside before, and nothing close to resembling the lighting of a camera flash, so the colors were completely different than what i was used to. I did the most research I could to try to get Ted’s uniform right, but if any WWII or military uniform experts can offer some feedback, I’d be happy to adjust the colors to get it exactly right.
Jimmie Foxx crosses home plate, Fenway Park. Some of the photos featured here are from a few weeks/months back but this is the most recent photo I’ve finished coloring. Jimmie Foxx is another one of my favorite subjects, partly because I think he’s underrated historically & partly because I think he makes those Red Sox uni’s look damn cool. The lighting in this one was unlike anything I’d ever done with that warm, low sunlight beaming in, but I’m really happy with how it came out.
Wow! Thanks again, Matt. Wonderful stuff. Readers? Your verdict?
Classic Ballpark Scoreboards
Our scoreboard creator Gary Chanko, after a long hiatus, has returned to grace us with “Series V” in the set of Classic Ballpark Scoreboards. This feature will occasionally appear on weekends.
Here’s Gary (click on image to enlarge):
Classic Ballpark Scoreboards – Series V
by Gary Chanko
In Series I of Classic Ballpark Scoreboards we visited Crosley Field and it’s new (1957) scoreboard with the familiar Longines clock. For this return visit to the Queen City we’ll look back at the original Crosley Field scoreboard.
Crosley Field (a.k.a Redland 1912-33)
Baseball Home of: Cincinnati Reds (1912-72)
First Game: April 11, 1912
Last Game: June 24, 1970
Art Deco Scoreboard
The illustration depicts the art deco styled scoreboard as it appeared during the mid 1950s. The scoreboard was still a manual operation except for the strike-ball-out and hit/error indicators. Note the AT BAT markers that operated through the lineup.
The scoreboard depicts the pre-game lineups from a July 1956 matchup with the Phillies – a game completed in a seemingly impossible 1 hour and 38 minutes.
Meet Matty Schwab
The scoreboard was originally designed by Crosley Field’s innovative head groundskeeper Matty Schwab. When Crosley Field (then Redland) was built in 1912, Matty’s original scoreboard design pioneered the display of players’ names and positions, balls and strikes and scores of other NL games. He also designed scoreboards for other major league teams – Yankees, Dodgers, Boston, Pittsburgh and Philadelphia. Read more about Schwab’s remarkable 60 year career is this SABR article.
First Gruen, then Longines
During its heyday the Gruen Watch Company was one of the largest US watch manufacturers. The company was based in Cincinnati and had a strong affinity with the Reds and baseball in general. So it was natural that in May 1940 Gruen closed the deal to have their watch appear above the Crosley Field scoreboard. You can read the announcement in their in-house publication G-MEN. (scroll to May 1940 issue, page 11). Ebbets Field, League Park, and Briggs Stadium are among the ballparks that featured the Gruen scoreboard clock.
But in 1957 when the Reds were ready for a new scoreboard, the Gruen Watch Company was in process of being sold and broken up into new enterprises. Enter Longines.
One of the first things you may notice on the scoreboard is the home team’s nickname appears as REDLEGS. So what’s up with that?
From 1954 to 1958 the team name was changed from the Reds to Redlegs to avoid any perceived association with communism (aka the Reds). It was during this time a fear of communism (termed the Second Red Scare) dominated American political and cultural life. An interesting side note is Redlegs was a derogatory term for a group of white folks. You can read about this and the name change here.
A Few Things to Know
• The brick buildings lining the streets beyond Crosley’s outfield walls provided convenient advertising space. The illustration recreates the billboard ads for two notable Cincinnati businesses:
Caproni’s – a nationally recognized Italian restaurant than served Cincinnati for 89 years before closing in 1975. The billboard accents, Spaghetti Gabriele -a menu specialty named after chef and later owner Gabriele Di Motolo. (Any readers remember dining at Caproni’s?) And,
CONEY Island Amusement Park – opened in 1886 and still providing summer fun for the Cincinnati area.
• Matty Schwab, our scoreboard designer, lived right behind the scoreboard at Western Avenue and York Street
• Adjacent to the right of the scoreboard in centerfield wall was a gate opening that allowed fans to exit the ballpark. In front of the gate was a barrier wall stretching from the scoreboard to the centerfield wall. The ground rule painted on its wall states batted balls staying inside the barrier result in a double; balls bouncing out remain in play.
It’s believed that Crosley Field was the only major league ballpark having ground rules painted on outfield walls.
Want to know more about Crosley Field history? This article will get you there.
For those who don’t wish to click the links, Graig paints baseball heroes (and regular guys) from the past, and is an immense talent.
Occasionally, I will be featuring his work on Uni Watch.
Here’s today’s offering (click to enlarge):
Subject: Roger Maris, 1961
Medium: Oil on linen
Size: 38″ x 52″
This is the first – and so far, only – painting I’ve done of Roger Maris’ famous home run in 1961. It’s also one of my favorite images of the moment. Sure, the poetry of the powerful swing is appealing, but for me, this one is all about the light and color. And I mean that as it pertains to the original black and white photograph too, as it was really easy to imagine how this would look on canvas in full color.
I guess it’s just easy to imagine Yankee Stadium in October on a sunny day: the blue sky with very few clouds interspersed throughout; the shadow of the triple-decked ballpark creeping across the diamond; cigar smoke wafting through the stands, the courthouse looming in right-center – seemingly endless motifs.
In this case, with the home run taking place in the fourth inning, Roger has been engulfed by the shade. And because of the angle of the photographer who took the photo, we see the first few rows of the third-base side bathed in that afternoon sun, creating a nice contrast between his silhouette and the action in the stands. Keeping the latter relatively high-key, comparitively warmer, and softer on the scale of edges, the cool notes of that bluish shadowed figure really work in giving the viewer an illusion of space. The fact that Roger is the tightest part of the painting doesn’t hurt either.
Like so many baseball fans, the footage of him doing the deed is so ingrained in my psyche, and despite the fame and scrutiny that it brought Roger, it’s refreshing to see it in a different light.
Thanks, Graig! You can (and should!) follow Graig on Twitter.
Click to enlarge
And now a few words from Paul: Hi there. In case you missed it on Friday, my latest ESPN column looks at the past, present, and possible future of powder blues (including 1980 and ’81, when a record 11 teams wore them, as shown above). Check it out here.
• The Syracuse Chiefs have revealed the full details of their Brannock Device Night promotion, which will take place on May 31 (with yours truly throwing out the first pitch). Full details here.
• If you want to make a derby pie for today’s Kentucky Derby, here’s how to do it.
We now return you to your regularly scheduled Phil phantasmagoria.
By Anthony Emerson
Baseball News: I think we’ve seen this before, but just in case: here’s Cecil Fielder in a Blue Jays helmet and a Tigers jersey during the 1990 Japan Series All-Star Game (from Max G.). Zack Wheeler picked blue jerseys for his third consecutive start last night, marking the first time the Mets had worn blue at home this season (from Brian Erni). … Aaron Judge apparently has a personal logo now, as seen on his compression sleeve here (good spot by @bombersbeat). … Check out these (bizarre) Kentucky Derby-themed jerseys from Carolina League’s Potomac Nationals. … Pirates prospect Pedro Vásquez got to make his Double-A debut with the Altoona Curve dressed like Han Solo as part of the Curve’s “May the Fourth” promotion (from Jerry Wolper). … More Minor League May the Fourth fare, from Triple-A Omaha StormChasers (from Jonathan Jaworski). … The Tennessee Smokies went with some gorgeous tequila sunrise-inspired jerseys yesterday (from Will Albrecht). … Woah, check out the awesome sleeve patch on Fred Green’s University of Houston jersey from 1961 (from Ignacio Salazar). … Alt rock legend Jack White played a club baseball game on Thursday, and both teams looked great (from Charlie Eldred). … The Yokohama BayStars have unveiled “spangle-textured” jerseys meant to evoke the “Starlit skies of Yokohama shining like spangles” (from @bigdaddy45_1969).
NFL News: The Jets have a logo for minicamp (from Matt Shevin). … The Niners rookies have received their camp uni numbers (thanks, Brinke). … Sports Illustrated photoshopped Shaquem Griffin into a Seahawks uni next to his brother Shaquill, depicting them with “SM. Griffin” and “SL. Griffin” NOBs respectively (from Ignacio Salazar). … Check out the old-school facemask Mike McGlinchey is rocking in the first days of Niners minicamp (from C. A. Bells).
Hockey News: Classy Humboldt Broncos tribute from the Canadian national team at the World Championships, depicting their helmet decal in green and gold instead of red and black (from Steven Woj). … The Russian team at the World Championships are using almost identical sweaters to the “Olympic Athletes from Russia” used in the PyeongChang Olympics three months ago, just with the OAR name and front number replaced with the coat of arms of Russia and “Росси́я” (from Wade Heidt). … Some sort of technical difficulty resulted in the wrong flags being displayed for each country in the World Championships on TSN’s website (from Adam Sadinsky).
NBA News: ESPN used some dated pictures in a promotional image posted to their Twitter account last evening, with James Harden in a non-Nike Rockets jersey and Donovan Mitchell in a Jazz summer league jersey (from @Manzerd)
Soccer News: Julian Weigl of Borussia Dortmund unveiled his club’s 2018-19 home shirt in a tweet yesterday (from @hashalance). … While the Dortmund kit is nice, its new number font is not. … Bayer Leverkusen has released their new away kit yesterday. … Two major clubs had their home kits leaked: Bayern Munich and Paris Saint-Germain. I really like the sublimated diamond designs on Bayern Munich’s, but PSG’s reminds me of a heart-rate monitor. … Liverpool had their away kit leaked yesterday, too. … Other leaks yesterday include Hoffenheim and Lyon (from Josh Hinton). … NPSL side Stockade FC released their new kits yesterday (from Ed Żelaski). … San Francisco Glens have released their new kit as well (from Josh Hinton). … Anyone ever seen this crest for the US Soccer Federation before? It’s printed on both of these books, dated 1996 and 1998 (from @AVKingJames).
Grab Bag: Our own Jamie Rathjen has some cycling news for us: “At stage 1 of the Giro d’Italia, cycling world time trial champion Tom Dumoulin had, in addition to his world champion’s rainbow jersey, a helmet in the same pattern and a rainbow-striped bike.”