Nat Fein’s photo of Babe Ruth’s final moment at Yankee Stadium in June of 1948 is considered to be not only one of the greatest baseball images ever taken, but one of the greatest photos of the 20th century. The frail looking Ruth is artistically captured from behind with the giant stands of Yankee Stadium looming above while current members of the team stand in reverence along the baseline.
The New York Herald-Tribune photographer won a Pulitzer Prize for it.
It’s a great photo, but there’s another—taken from a similar angle by another photographer—that’s been overlooked. Harry “Chunky” Harris was working for the Associated Press that day, standing very near Fein. He, too, captured Ruth at virtually the same moment, albeit from a slightly different angle not quite as wide. An original 8×10 copy of that photo is among the headliners in RMY Auctions’ May Collectors catalog.
Like Fein’s “Babe Bows Out,” Harris’ photo was also given a title: “Farewell to No. 3” which is pasted onto the back. A 1949 file date is also stamped on the reverse.
“This is the ONLY example of this photo from Harris that we have ever seen that is both off the original negative and within the right time frame, making it an important piece of baseball photography,” RMY states in its auction description.
Harris was 35 years old at the time, just a few years removed from duty covering World War II where he documented the Battle of Normandy and the liberation of Paris. In a tribute to Harris’ work last year, the AP published many of his famous photos and some comments associated with those moments. He would enjoy a long career with the Associated Press and was on hand at numerous historic events starting in the 1930s. Thirteen years after capturing Ruth’s farewell, he was there for Roger Maris’ 61st home run in 1961. He took a well-known photo of Hank Aaron belting his 715th homer in 1974, an image captured with a zoom lens from his position just beyond the outfield wall.
Harris’ Ruth photo is a tighter image and the Yankees’ championship flags fluttering in the breeze along stadium facade are more clearly visible.
Harris, who died in 2002 at age 88, loved his work:
People ask the same question many times. Many times. Do you really get paid to go to these ballgames and World Series and all? They pay you to go? And just the thought of it, I… You never think of it while you’re working. But as you look back, you have a ticket to the world. You go anywhere and do anything and on top of that, why, if you happen to come off with a good run of pictures there, you have a satisfaction that you can’t get any other way. It’s just a great way of life.
The photo is one of 588 historic images from news, sports and entertainment that are part of the auction, which continues June 5 at RMYAuctions.com.