Shieber: The Pride of the Yankees (or Seeknay)

From SABR member Tom Shieber at Baseball Researcher on February 3, 2013:

Ever hear the story about the classic movie “The Pride of the Yankees” and how director Sam Wood turned the hopelessly right-handed actor Gary Cooper into a believable version of lefty baseball legend Lou Gehrig? Here’s how Jeffrey Meyers related it in his biography of the Hollywood star, Gary Cooper: American Hero:

Since Cooper couldn’t hit left-handed, the technicians devised an ingenious method of getting around the problem. They reversed the number on his uniform, had him run to third instead of first base and then reversed the print of the film.

Seems like a plausible way to solve the problem, but an awful lot of work. Like a complicated conspiracy theory, every aspect of the plan would have to have been carefully planned out and perfectly executed:

  • every other player in the shot would also have to don backwards uniforms
  • the second baseman, third baseman, and shortstop would all have to be left-handers and wear gloves on their right hand
  • as for a catcher, they’d have to track down both a left-handed mitt and a lefty to wear it and look believable  behind the plate
  • the running lane halfway down the first base line would have to be removed, and a mirror version placed down the third base line
  • every shot would have to be carefully set up so that, when reversed, there would be nothing to belie the trickery: no outfield advertising, no ballpark features that non-symmetrical, etc.

So, did it really happen? We’ll see. First, let’s examine what the newspapers of the day had to say about the story.

Read the full article here:

Originally published: February 4, 2013. Last Updated: February 4, 2013.