Coming soon to Rucker Archive historical baseball photographs



JANUARY 11, 2023 — In 2019, SABR received a donation from long-time member Mark Rucker. That donation—one of the most extensive collections of baseball images in North America—created numerous opportunities for SABR to consider. Since then, we have invested significant time vetting out the best path forward as well as how to ensure that the organization has the resources to support this collection for many years to come. I’m excited to write to you today to share the details of how the SABR/The Rucker Archive will soon become accessible to the public as well as a living research project for our members. First, I want to provide you with a few more details about the collection itself.

The SABR/The Rucker Archive contains nearly 80,000 unique images from the roots of baseball in the 19th century up to current major league teams and players. These images represent more than 150 years of the sport and its growth from homemade fields with players wearing no gloves to the global pastime today played by hundreds of millions of kids and adults, from Little League to the Major Leagues.

They encompass a wide variety of categories. Mediums include original and later prints, slides, negatives of various sizes, original and reproduction baseball cards, newspaper clippings, postcards, advertising trade cards, exhibition cards, contact sheets, cigar labels, posters, stereo views, cabinet cards, cartes-de-visite, newspaper sports cartoons, caricatures, and various paper ephemera. There are also copies of photos, cards, programs, woodcuts, artwork, advertisements, magazine covers, and articles.

Photos show all aspects of the sport, from small-town teams to the Major Leagues, journeymen players to Hall of Famers; American major league players, Negro League players, town teams, college teams, foreign teams (such as Cuba and Japan), women’s teams and novelty teams (such as the House Of David). There are thousands of images of Hall of Famers, including Babe Ruth, Lou Gehrig, Henry Aaron, Ty Cobb, Roberto Clemente, Joe DiMaggio, Mickey Mantle, Willie Mays, Jackie Robinson, Ted Williams, Hank Greenberg, Christy Mathewson, Walter Johnson, Wee Willie Keeler, Al Spalding, Cy Young, Nap Lajoie, Yogi Berra, Roy Campanella, etc. Hundreds of other Hall of Famers and important figures are represented as well, including managers, executives, umpires, and others with close associations to the game.

In total, this collection illustrates the sport’s history and personality.

We are digitizing the entirety of the SABR/The Rucker Archive and making the images available as part of the search engine on This will mean that when you search “Hank Aaron” you will find everything our members have ever written about him in SABR publications, along with all of the tremendous images of Hank Aaron that are part of the SABR/The Rucker Archive. This public accessibility will bring thousands of images into view for the broader baseball community for the first time.

Of course, we also want to further our knowledge of the game through this collection. To that end, the cataloging of this collection will be an ongoing member project managed by Pictorial Committee chair Cary Smith and SABR Chicago member Jason Schwartz. The catalog for the SABR/The Rucker Archive will include 27 distinct metadata fields, ensuring that the history contained in these images is recorded to the greatest extent possible. Work to catalog an initial selection of Hall of Fame players will begin soon. Please visit this page to sign up as a volunteer.

We are planning to soft launch the archive on around Opening Day of the 2023 season. This launch will include many images in the collection with a limited set of metadata along with a complete cataloging of the selected Hall of Famers referenced earlier. Over time, the collection will become more robust as we work to catalog the entire collection. SABR also controls the publishing rights to the images in the collection and will make them available for license. More details will be provided on this opportunity at a later date.

I want to take this opportunity to once again thank Mark Rucker for his incredibly generous donation to SABR and for his continued guidance and support on this project. SABR has been greatly enriched by the addition of the SABR/The Rucker Archive to our research collection.

I also want to thank the donors who supported our silent fundraising efforts to digitize this collection and make it available to the public to enjoy. I particularly want to call attention to the support of the Dean Coughenour Trust as our lead donor. Dean Coughenour’s Ag Press in Manhattan, Kansas, printed SABR’s The National Pastime and Baseball Research Journal from 1982-1989. The support of his family through the trust is a tribute to the relationships and enjoyment he gained through this community.

Here is the full list of supporters for this project, to whom I am incredibly grateful:

  • Mark Armour
  • Jeremy Beer
  • Phil Bolda
  • Dean Coughenour Trust
  • John and Sue Dewan
  • Ed and Brigid Edmonds
  • Dan Evans
  • Ed Fong
  • Sean Forman / Sports Reference
  • Vince Gennaro
  • Leslie Heaphy
  • Brenda Himrich
  • Dave Hughes
  • Steve Klugman
  • Todd Lebowitz
  • Allison Levin
  • Dan Levitt
  • Major League Baseball
  • Bill Nowlin
  • Tim Otto
  • Laura Peebles and Ellen Fingerman
  • Jeffrey Wood
  • The Nanar and Anthony Yoseloff Foundation
  • Don Zminda

There will be opportunities in the future to support the ongoing costs associated with maintaining the SABR/The Rucker Archive. But for the moment, I hope you are as excited as I am about this collection being made available and I hope you will help us catalog the images if you are able.

This is an exciting moment for our organization and I can’t wait to share these images with you soon.

Yours in baseball,

— Scott Bush

Originally published: January 11, 2023. Last Updated: January 11, 2023.