The Big Show: Charles M Conlon’s Golden Age Baseball Photographs, A Book Review
- Updated: October 6, 2011
While there are strong debates raging today as to what sport should not be considered America’s pastime with football, basketball and baseball all making their sound arguments, there was a time when this was not in doubt. During the first half of the 20th Century, there was really only one choice for the sport that American’s loved the most, it was baseball. Since televisions weren’t around at that time to give fans a real life portrait of the players they read about in the papers, photographs were the main way fans identified with their idols.
While there were many strong photographers of that day, Charles Conlon is considered by most baseball historians to be the most respected and accomplished of those whose main focus was on baseball. In The Big Show: Charles M. Conlon’s Golden Age Baseball Photographs
, a new generation of baseball fans will get to see what Conlon got to witness first hand. These previously never before published pictures run from 1904 to 1942 and feature players from this time period.
Many of these players, such as Al Rosen, Bob Feller or even Babe Ruth, have had a lasting legacy and most likely don’t need the caption next to their picture for fans to know who they are. However, much of this collection is of players of this time who were not so well known, but still have a story to tell. While Walter’s Johnson’s story probably doesn’t have to be retold, this book gives a chance for players such as former Chicago White Sox catcher Johnny Riddle to have their story told.
Accompanying the 224 pages of photographs are brief stories and descriptions of the players depicted in the pictures. Authors Neal McCabe and Constance McCabe penned these excerpts to help tell the story behind some of these lost men of the Golden Age.
This is not the first time an entire collection of Conlon’s photographs has been published. In 1993, acollection of his better recognizable pictures was published in a book entitled Baseball’s Golden Age: The Photographs of Charles M. Conlon
and was said to be perhaps the best book of photographs of our National Pastime ever published.
Most of the pictures in this recent collection were not known to have existed when the first book was published almost two decades ago. After the original work was published, more extensive research was done into Conlon’s personal collection and these photographs were discovered.
Due to the fact that many of the players were not as recognizable as the big names such as Tris Speaker, the McCabe’s had to undergo extensive research to identify those in the photographs and find someone who could tell the story for these former players in a way that would do them all justice.
In a way, the players shown in these pages are the ones who madeAmerica’s game what it is today. These players played through the depression and two World Wars, but continued to provide Americans with a much needed outlet of entertainment in a time before players were paid much more than the average citizen.
Viewing the pictures and stories in these pages can really take a serious baseball fan back to a time when may might say the game was in its purest form. Short of taking a trip toCooperstown, these pages provide one of the best visual stories of what baseball was like during some of its strongest years.
While the book could be a quick read because the amount of text is small and the photographs take up the majority of the work, it is important that the reader take the time to inspect each picture for what story it has to tell instead of buzzing right by. A lot can be missed by the hasty reader in this work.
Total Grade: 3.75/5