Baseball’s Hall of Fame added some new members on Sunday and while thousands turned out to welcome the 2019 class, there will never be another like the one inducted 80 years ago when the Cooperstown shrine was new.
When that first group of baseball legends posed for a group photo in June of 1939, it was a moment for the ages captured by several photographers who had made their way to the tiny hamlet that would become world-famous. You’ve probably seen them before, but those $10 photos available online are usually modern-day reprints. RMY Auctions is offering an original version created for newspapers 80 years ago.
The 6 1/2″ x 8 1/4″ photo is slightly different from the more commonly seen image, perhaps taken a couple of seconds earlier in that Walter Johnson isn’t looking at the camera. The photo bears the news service stamps on the back along with a hand-written archive date of June 14, 1939–two days after the famous inaugural gathering at the Hall.
Babe Ruth, just four years removed from retirement, is joined by Honus Wagner, Grover Cleveland Alexander, Tris Speaker, Larry Lajoie, George Sisler, Walter Johnson, Eddie Collins, Connie Mack and Cy Young. As the caption on the back notes, Ty Cobb didn’t arrive in time for the group photo shoot and his photo was inset into the larger image when it was published.
The inaugural Hall of Fame election results were announced on Feb. 2, 1936 with Cobb, Johnson, Christy Mathewson, Ruth and Wagner making up the first group of inductees. After 20 more members were elected in balloting conducted in 1937, 1938 and 1939, the first ceremony was held at the newly built facility. All 11 living electees were present in Cooperstown. Lou Gehrig is recognized as a member of the Class of 1939, but his election didn’t come until late in the year after he retired from the devastating impact of amyotrophic lateral sclerosis.
The photo is one of more than 1,000 sports, news and entertainment photos in the online catalog. Bidding runs through August 3 at RMYAuctions.com.