Eighty-four years ago this week, the Baseball Hall of Fame opened its doors in the tiny village of Cooperstown, NY. The event included the Hall’s first induction ceremony, one that brought some of the biggest names in the first four decades of the 20th century to town to accept their plaques in front of a large audience of fans, writers and community minded local residents who saw the Hall as a potential boon to the local economy.
It was rare indeed that players like Cy Young, Honus Wagner, Ty Cobb and Babe Ruth could be found in the same place. Now, an original news photo of 11 living inductees taken that Monday in 1939 headlines the newest online catalog from the photography specialists at RMY Auctions.
The 6 1/2 x 8 1/2-inch World Wide Photos image still has the original caption on the back and the file date of June 13, 1939, the day after what could be described as the biggest day in Cooperstown’s history.
Among those seated for the photo are Ruth, Young, Wagner, Grover Alexander, Tris Speaker, Larry Lajoie, George Sisler, Walter Johnson, Eddie Collins and Connie Mack. As is noted on the back, Cobb was late arriving and missed the photo. The back also references Abner Doubleday, who at the time was still credited with “inventing baseball” even though later research laid rest to that claim involving the one-time area resident.
Some of those Hall of Famers are well represented in the auction, which includes over 1,000 lots.
There’s a photo of Ruth at home in New York, autographing an oversized photo of himself for Hank Greenberg, who was about to begin the final year of his own Hall of Fame career with a lengthy caption on the back and another from that February 1947 meeting of Ruth gripping a bat as Greenberg grabs the barrel.
The same image seen on Greenberg’s 1934-36 Diamond Stars baseball card is also in the sale. The well-known image is original to the era.
Another of the more than three dozen photos featuring Ruth dates to his more robust days as an actor. He’s shown taking a cut with his big bat with a cigar hanging out of his mouth while filming a movie in 1932.
There’s a photo of a young Joe Jackson with catcher’s gear on, another from 1913 that shows Olympic sensation Jim Thorpe signing his contract to play for the New York Giants, another showing Red Grange in his first pro football game, a 1924 news photo of golf legend Bobby Jones and a wide shot of Game 5 of the 1915 World Series at the Baker Bowl that shows Hall of Famer Tris Speaker on the basepaths.
There are modern era photos, too, topped by a 4×6″ shot of Ken Griffey Jr. at bat for the Seattle Mariners on April 15, 1997, wearing jersey number 42 that’s been encapsulated by PSA as a Type 1 image by Stephen Counsel.
It was Griffey whose decision to honor Jackie Robinson on the 50th anniversary of Robinson’s debut that began the tradition of players wearing number 42 on that day each year.
Numerous photos of Michael Jordan and even two signed images of a young Tiger Woods also highlight the auction, which is now underway and runs through June 17 at RMYAuctions.com.