If your interest is in an image of a major league player or manager, a good starting place would be the SABR/Baseball-Reference Encyclopedia. Search for the specific player or manager whose image you seek. When you get to his biographical data page, click on the link that says “Pictures.” This will reveal to you a description of one or more known images of the player or manager. In some cases, these images may be resident online, so you may be able to link directly to them. In other cases, the catalogued descriptions may provide pointers as to where you may locate them. About 97 percent of all major league players and managers will be covered by pictorial descriptive entries in this encyclopedia, so it is the most comprehensive single resource you’ll be able to access.
Another useful source for finding images for certain major league players is the book 2000 Cups of Coffee, by Marc Okkonen. This book is downloadable from the Research Resources page of the SABR website. The book contains images of players whose major league careers lasted for ten or fewer games during the 1900-1949 era. The advantage of this book is that it contains the images themselves. The disadvantage is that the images aren’t always of the highest quality, but that’s a problem to be expected with such obscure players.
Individual photos can, of course, be purchased. The photo studio which has the most comprehensive collection is Brace Photo in Chicago. Its website address is http://www.bracephoto.com. George Brace and George Burke before him took photos in Wrigley Field and Comiskey Park from the late 1920s until the 1990s and photographed almost every Cub and White Sox and visiting player. Both Brace and Burke are deceased now, but Mary Brace (George’s daughter) still operates the studio and makes prints from the exhaustive supply of Burke and Brace negatives in the collection. The purchase price varies by the size of the print you wish to purchase.
The Baseball Hall of Fame Photo Department is another place to look for photos for purchase. Contact information for the Reference Desk is listed on the following webpage: http://baseballhall.org/education/research/exploring-library
Transcendental Graphics, a firm headed by Mark Rucker, specializes in providing vintage baseball photos for publication in books. Here again, there would be a purchase fee. The website is http://www.theruckerarchive.com/about.html
Corbis is another well-known photo supply house for more contemporary players, as well as for archival images. The website address is http://pro.corbis.com. So is Getty Images, which is located at www.gettyimages.com. A third contemporary photo house is Photo File; their website for purchasing individual photos is at http://www.photofile.com/baseball.html.
At these three photo houses, you are more likely to be getting into color photos, as opposed to the vintage black-and-white photos with the sources previously mentioned.
The Library of Congress has several online photo and other image collections which are available for free. Multiple collections of the Library of Congress can be accessed at: http://memory.loc.gov/ammem/ammemhome.html. The George Grantham Bain Collection can be found at http://lcweb2.loc.gov/pp/ggbainhtml/ggbainabt.html. The Bain baseball photos range from 1908 to 1925, with the large bulk of them having been shot during the 1910’s in New York City. The Library’s baseball card collection can be searched at http://lcweb2.loc.gov/pp/bbcquery.html. Its Harris and Ewing Collection can be found at http://lcweb2.loc.gov/pp/hecquery.html. Many of these collections contain more than just baseball photos, but using “baseball” as the search term will bring you some very rewarding photos.
The Chicago Daily News Collection can be found at http://memory.loc.gov/ammem/ndlpcoop/ichihtml/cdnhome.html. The Daily News collection includes shots at Chicago’s National League, American League, and Federal League ballparks, and covers the period from 1902 to 1933 with greatest emphasis on the 1910s and 1920s.
For contemporary players, MLB.com or Google Images may bring you an online image of the player. For the MLB.com website, use http://mlb.mlb.com/mlb/players and enter the name of the player who interests you. You can also get player headshots at MLB Pressbox, which is located at https://secure.mlb.com/pressbox/index.jsp, but you have to register there in order to gain access. Sometimes, major league teams will make available copies of old publicity photos.
There are also specialty baseball photo websites such as 19th century baseball (http://www.baseballresearcher.com/ncbbp), Cuban baseball (http://www.cubanball.com), and ballparks (http://www.ballparksofbaseball.com).
The McGreevey Collection of the Boston Public Library makes for an interesting online browsing site for Boston baseball photos from 1875 to 1916. Michael McGreevey was a tavern owner who was close to the baseball players and had an opportunity to amass a nice collection of player photos. The website is at: http://www.flickr.com/photos/boston_public_library/sets/72157604192772559/
The New York Public Library has a digital gallery on its website. The address is: http://digitalgallery.nypl.org/nypldigital/index.cfm. The digital gallery has several baseball related categories, including players, managers, fields, cards, training, and umpires. Some rare Negro League photos can be found under the category Players.
Nostalgic for photos which appeared in old magazines? You can find an archive of Life Magazine hosted by Google at http://images.google.com/hosted/life and use “baseball” or a player’s name as a search term. Google Books also allows you to read past issues of Baseball Digest. While not heavy on photos, there are some interesting ones on the front, back, and inside covers. A webpage where you can get started is http://tinyurl.com/lhbzjp and you can browse all issues of Baseball Digest from there.
While The Sporting News’s photo archives are no longer housed in St. Louis and, even more disappointing, are no longer open to outside researchers as in years past, they still maintain a superb collection of historic images and make them available through a third-party representative, Zuma Press. The contact point is sales@ZUMApress.com or by phone at (949) 481-3747. The authority of Zuma Press with regard to The Sporting News photos is for editorial use only, such as granting permission to publish in books, and is not for commercial licensing.
Another source of photos can be defunct newspapers whose collections have been left to local institutions. The following are some examples. Archives of The Cleveland Press reside at Cleveland State University. Collections from The St. Louis Globe-Democrat can be found at the University of Missouri in St. Louis. Look for The Philadelphia Bulletin in the Urban Archives Collection in the Paley Library at Temple University in Philadelphia. The Martin Luther King Jr. Library in downtown Washington would be the place to find the photo collection from the defunct Washington Star newspaper. Archives from The Boston Herald reside in the main Boston Public Library. This is not an exhaustive list. It always pays to check with the local library in the town where the player of interest may have been located.
If you want to know whether the player who interests you appeared on a baseball card, then you probably ought to consult a copy of the BECKETT BASEBALL CARD ALPHABETICAL CHECKLIST. It is reasonably good at listing all the known baseball cards for every player who appeared on a baseball card.
You may want to acquire photos from eBay or from auction houses. In many cases you can obtain a perfectly valid photo this way, but sometimes the seller is mistaken with the identity of the player when he labels the photo. Books and websites can get the captions wrong as well. It’s beneficial to you to have more than one image of a player so you can make comparisons whenever possible. It’s also helpful to start networking with others who have interest in the world of baseball images so that you can learn where mistaken captions have been found. You can do that by linking up with members of SABR’s Pictorial History Committee, for example.
When a player has had such an obscure career that his image is nearly impossible to find, you will need to go to a special effort to try to locate a photo of him. This may entail contacting his relatives, a library or historical society in his home town, or the chamber of commerce in his home town. It will be useful to learn as much about the player as you can. Sometimes you may be able to locate online census data about him from Heritage Quest, which is available on line via some public libraries. In other cases, you may be able to find out something about him via Google Books or The Baseball Index. Sometimes what you learn about the player is that his post-baseball occupation brought him more fame than his sports prowess and consequently his photo appeared in a newspaper or book at a later date in his life.
There is also the world of baseball pictorial books which might prove useful to you. Some books concentrate solely on the work of a single photographer like George Brace, Charles Conlon, or Walter Iooss. Others are compendiums of a variety of photos assembled by photo collecting specialists like Donald Honig, Marc Okkonen, and Mark Stang. Still others are in the Arcadia Publishing series which tend to concentrate on baseball in particular cities and are written by a variety of authors. Arcadia’s website is located at: http://www.arcadiapublishing.com. Just use “baseball” as the keyword in Arcadia’s catalog search and you’ll get nearly 200 results.
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