Charles Conlon took pictures of baseball’s biggest stars more than a century ago. While he’s best known for images of Christy Mathewson, Ty Cobb, Babe Ruth, Lou Gehrig and other luminaries, Conlon captured players anyone who was a baseball fan would know.
The RMY Auctions Photo of the Day is an original Conlon photo of one of the deadball era’s fastest—and smallest—players.
Tommy Leach stood about 5’6 and not much more than 135 pounds when he hit in front of Honus Wagner on the great Pirates teams of the early 1900s. By 1910, he was in the latter stages of a 19-year career. Conlon snapped a strong image of Leach taking a cut during batting practice, his flannel uniform showing the dirt and grime that came with his aggressive style. Teammates watch in the background as the speedy Leach puts one in the air.
The 7 3/4 x 9 3/4″ photo has only minor imperfections and includes Conlon’s hand-written identification on the back. It’s one of over 1,000 photos at auction in the online catalog sale, which wraps up Saturday night.
Often referred to as “wee Tommy”, Leach accumulated 2,143 hits. Attesting to his speed (and the quirks of defenses and ballparks of the day), 49 of his 63 career homers were of the inside-the-park variety. Leach was an expert at knocking the ball over the heads of outfielders who played him shallow.
Leach lived a long life, passing away in 1969 as the last surviving player of the first World Series in 1903. He was one of the old-timers interviewed in the 1960s by Lawrence Ritter for the classic Glory of Their Times.