If you were part of an overflow crowd that turned out to watch the New York Yankees (before they took on that moniker) in 1908, there’s a good chance you could hear every word the players were saying. There’s also a decent chance a foul ball came screaming at you from 15 or 20 feet away. When not everyone could fit in the stands, your local softball league had more distance between players and fans than Hilltop Park.
The RMY Auctions Photo of the Day captures a remarkable moment 111 big league seasons ago at the home of the Highlanders. The sweeping image of a game in action at the ballpark on Amsterdam Avenue near 165th Street is taken from the stands but shows a crowd of spectators gathered directly behind home plate, tight against the left field foul line and sitting on the field of play behind the outfielders.
From the action of the left fielder, it appears as if a shallow fly ball has been hit in the game believed to be between New York and the Philadelphia Athletics. The scene is more reminiscent of a church picnic game than one in which a number of Hall of Famers are undoubtedly part of the contest. It’s not known exactly when the photo was taken. Men in straw hats and women in long dresses can be seen throughout the photo. One woman sitting behind home plate has her arm draped around a man sitting next to her.
Fans were often allowed to sit or stand on the field close to the diamond during the earliest days of baseball when the stands held a much smaller number of spectators but photos of game action that showcase large numbers of fans on the field are fairly rare.
On the back of the photo is a pencil notation written sometime afterward and a stamp from Brown Brothers, the nation’s first stock photo agency that had launched its business just four years earlier.
The 6 ¾” x 9 ¼” photo is among the featured items in RMY’s current auction, set to run through August 3.