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The Big Show: Charles M. Conlon’s Golden Age Baseball Photographs

Fans of vintage baseball photography are licking their chops over a new book featuring more photographs from the archives of Charles M. Conlin.

Conlon turned out massive quantities of striking black and white images from the first half of the 20th century.  His work has been the subject of books, baseball card sets and obsessive hunts by collectors looking for first generation images.

Charles Conlon Big ShowConlon took about 30,000 baseball photos from 1904 to 1942.  In The Big Show: Charles M. Conlon’s Golden Age Baseball Photographs, what the publisher describes as “soulful, striking shots of Babe Ruth, Joe DiMaggio, and hundreds of other major leaguers are paired with captions meticulously based on contemporary reports and quotes from the players themselves”.

In their own words, colorful characters spill the beans about famous scandals, divulge quirky characteristics, and tell little-known stories.

Conlon’s photographs were first celebrated in book form in 1993 when Baseball’s Golden Age was published. Research in the Conlon Collection of the Sporting News later more of his work.  The new book puts little known players, together with Hall of Famers, management, trainers, ballboys, fans and others to create a window to the world of baseball as it was before air travel became common place and color photography took over.

“Conlon took photographs of everybody- those up for a cup of coffee as well as the players he saw every year. If the negative was sharp, that seemed to have more bearing on whether that print was published, than how important the player was,” wrote one reviewer.  “How much you enjoy this book may depend somewhat on whether you have an affinity for trivia on arcane figures from baseball’s past.”

Another writes, “In these pages you will find pictures of the well-knowns, like Babe Ruth, Joe DiMaggio, and Rogers Hornsby, and those you have likely never heard of before, like Buddy Gremp, Al Spohrer, and Jackie Hayes. Most are players, but there are also umpires, managers, and a traffic control officer at a Yankees game. You will find Kid Nichols at the end of his career, Amos Rusie in a picture from after his career had ended, and DiMaggio as a rookie.”

“One of my favorite parts of the book is how the subjects on facing pages often complement each other. Several times we get a set like on pages 66 and 67, one of a young Hank Gowdy in 1911, the other of a veteran Gowdy in 1936 as a coach. We also get sets of Vince DiMaggio and brother Joe on facing pages, both from 1937. There’s Herb Pennock in 1916 facing a Pennock from 1934. And, another favorite, the Bob Feller of 1937 across from the Walter Johnson of 1916. Sheer joy.”

The book is written by Neal and Constance McCabe with a forward by Roger Kahn.  The Big Show: Charles M. Conlon’s Golden Age Baseball Photographs was published by Abrams.  You can read more about it–and order it–here at Amazon.com.
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