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Tuesday, 6 September 2011

The Game


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A baseball game at the Resettlement Administration Rimrock Camp near Madras, Oregon: photo by Arthur Rothstein, July 1936

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Spectators at a baseball game, Washington, D.C.: wives, sweethearts and children of the players; passersby and regular fans: photo by Marjory Collins, July 1942

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Baseball game at the annual field day of the FSA farmworkers community, Yuma, Arizona: photo by Russell Lee, March 1942

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Watching the baseball game at the annual field day of the FSA farmworkers community, Yuma, Arizona: photo by Russell Lee, March 1942

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Saturday morning baseball game, FSA camp, Robstown, Texas: photo by Arthur Rothstein, February 1942

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Saturday morning baseball game, FSA camp, Robstown, Texas: photo by Arthur Rothstein, February 1942

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Baseball game, Huntingdon, Pennsylvania: photo by Edwin Rosskam, July 1941

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Baseball game, Huntingdon, Pennsylvania: photo by Edwin Rosskam, July 1941

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Baseball game, Atlanta, Georgia
: photo by Marion Post Wolcott, June (?) 1939

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Watching a baseball game, Atlanta, Georgia: photo by Marion Post Wolcott, June (?) 1939

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Watching a baseball game, Atlanta, Georgia: photo by Marion Post Wolcott, June (?) 1939

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Baseball game, schoolyard, homestead school, Dailey, West Virginia: photo by Arthur Rothstein, December 1941

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Baseball game during afternoon play period, homestead school, Dailey, West Virginia: photo by Arthur Rothstein, December 1941

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Baseball game, homestead school, Dailey, West Virginia: photo by Arthur Rothstein, December 1941

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Baseball game on Saturday afternoon, Terrebonne Project, Schriever, Louisiana: photo by Marion Post Wolcott, June 1940

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Baseball game on Saturday afternoon, Terrebonne Project, Schriever, Louisiana: photo by Marion Post Wolcott, June 1940

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Spectators at a Sunday baseball game, Greenbelt, Maryland: photo by Marjory Collins, May-June 1942

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Watching a baseball game, central Ohio: photo by Ben Shahn, Summer 1938

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Baseball game at recess, San Augustine grade school, San Augustine, Texas: photo by Russell Lee, April 1939

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Baseball diamond for children with slagpile in background, Coaldale, Pennsylvania: photo by Jack Delano, August 1940

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Baseball game, Tulare migrant camp, Visalia, California: photo by Arthur Rothstein, March 1940

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Watching a baseball game on a Sunday afternoon, Tulare migrant camp, Visalia, California: photo by Arthur Rothstein, March 1940

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Spectators watch the baseball game on the Fourth of July at Vale, Oregon: photo by Russell Lee, July 1941

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Spectators at the baseball game on the Fourth of July at Vale, Oregon: photo by Russell Lee, July 1941

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Japanese-Americans have a baseball game, Nyssa, Oregon: photo by Russell Lee, July 1942

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Baseball game, Sunday afternoon, the town of Rice vs. Perry, Texas: photo by Dorothea Lange, June 1937

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Night baseball, Marshall, Texas: photo by Russell Lee, April 1939


Photos from Farm Security Administration/Office of War Information Collection, Library of Congress

14 comments:

vazambam said...

Great series--I am reminded of Williams' "The Crowd at the Ballgame."--thanks for the reminder.

ACravan said...

There is an epic poem in these or, rather, these are an epic poem. It may seem a silly observation, but I can't believe you were able to find all these and assemble this collection. Curtis

Lally said...

Amazing selection/collection and thank you for it. Brings up lots of sweet memories (and some not so). But what struck me this morning and always does when I see photos from those times is how rare obesity is. Most on the field and in the crowds are in the kind of shape people have to go to the gym and/or practice strict diets and/or have some kind of trainer or operation or etc. to achieve. Back then it was just "natural" (and I assume the result of less processed food and more regular daily labor, as well as budgets that didn't allow for any excess).

ACravan said...

The observation concerning the better physical shape of the population is fascinating and I'm sure all the cited factors are correct. However, I also wonder where stress fits in. I recognize, of course, that there's always been plenty of stress, but the current quality of enervation (viewed, at least, through the selective and narrow scope of my own knowledge and experience) seems to be worse and more dreadful than it was when I and the world were younger. Curtis

kent said...

Tom, for once I'm speechless. I can only say that the reuniting-in-progress 1965 Michigan Little League State Champs have been instructed to look over your shoulder at the gathered wisdom of your vision. (Hope this doesn't disturb long-time TC patrons as you might detect greater interest in the national pastime from your emerging fan base.)

TC said...

Grateful to hear others found this cultural retrieval project engaging. The kind voices help make all the crazy work (almost) make sense.

I worked at baseball parks in the mid 1950s, and thus, in close proximity with the players, was able to see that they were for the most part as skinny as the majority of the general rural populace, from which they largely came.

Coincidentally I have just remarked to my captive inhouse audience upon the astonishing slenderness of the aptly nicknamed Harry Franklin "Slim" Sallee (1885-1950), a pitcher for several National League clubs, who was six foot three and can't have weighed much more than a long willow stick.

He is featured, as it happens, among diverse other players of the game, in today's sequel:

The Players

Thanks to Vazambam for providing us a text which might provide a perfect segue thereunto:

The crowd at the ball game
is moved uniformly

by a spirit of uselessness
which delights them —

all the exciting detail
of the chase

and the escape, the error
the flash of genius —

all to no end save beauty
the eternal -

So in detail they, the crowd,
are beautiful

for this
to be warned against

saluted and defied —
It is alive, venomous

it smiles grimly
its words cut —

The flashy female with her
mother, gets it —

The Jew gets it straight - it
is deadly, terrifying —

It is the Inquisition, the
Revolution

It is beauty itself
that lives

day by day in them
idly —

This is
the power of their faces

It is summer, it is the solstice
the crowd is

cheering, the crowd is laughing
in detail

permanently, seriously
without thought

The Crowd at the Ball Game by William Carlos Williams, from The Dial, August 1923

Issa's Untidy Hut said...

What is striking, too, is how baseball was a true spectator sport, and how engaged these folks are by the game.

And, oh, some of those mighty, mighty swings!

TC said...

Don,

Those barefoot ragamuffins Arthur Rothstein photographed at the FSA camp in Robstown, Texas might be said to be "swinging out of their shoes" -- that is, if they had any.

These wonderful photos remind me, too, that the participant/spectator gap was once much, much smaller than it is today.

Players and watchers were once close enough to rub shoulders, or to trade mitts and run out into the field and (as in my memory of sandlot games, in which short sides often meant a no-right-fielder-so-fly-balls-to-right-are-automatic-outs rule) take up a position in the outfield... and drop a flyball... all part of the joy.

(I grew up on Austin Boulevard in Chicago, not too far off there was a rough diamond at Columbus Park, summer days meant showing up early and staying until dark, choosing sides by the fists-around-the-bat-barrel method, getting by with one bat till it cracked, one ball till it unraveled, and everyone who owned a mitt leaving it in the field between "ups" for a player on the other team to use. But we did have actual shoes, of a sort. And mothers whose sons were missing all the livelong day, and thus out of their hair, were probably well suited by the entire ragtag arrangement...)

Issa's Untidy Hut said...

Yes, these are shared memories, like those mitts we all shared - days with 5 on a side or days with 13 on a side.

One very special memory from Jersey was of an adult, whom everyone called Uncle Ray. He always brought a good couple of bats and balls, he oversaw the organizing of sides (hand over hand on bat, clinging desperately to the tip of the knob if you wanted to get on the same side as your best friend) and he pitched for both teams for the entire game. Never batted. He made sure everybody played, nobody got picked on or left out. His pitching was adjusted to each batter - those too young for overhand, got it underhand.

And some of those were great games. It was as close to organized little league as it got for some kids and it was a thrill. We played till we couldn't see the ball, and then played a bit more.

My, these photos and thoughts have stirred memories from long ago ...

Wonderful.

Lally said...

Wonderful indeed. And just this coda, from things my father (God rest his soul) said to me later, it's clear that stress levels were just as high or higher at the end of the Depression. What was simpler (among many things) was demands on your attention. We listened to the big fights on the radio and music and some baseball, but you could drift in and out without a flickering screen demanding your eyeballs full attention. There were some readers around, but mostly people socialized, sitting around on stoops and porches while the kids ran around or played games including not just sandlot baseball but around my way something we called box ball, which was pitching to a strike box chalked on a wall or the side of a building (no catcher necessary) using one of those pink, what were they spalding? rubber balls and the batter had a broom stick or some other skinny stick. Simpler times.

Issa's Untidy Hut said...

Box ball was stick ball in Jersey and we played it night and day ...

STEPHEN RATCLIFFE said...

Tom,

After looking at all these, Johnny just said, "Kids who used to go to games are now grownups who play games". . . .

9.9

light coming into fog against invisible
ridge, black shape of black pine branch
in foreground, wave sounding in channel

which is still, object this
described in terms of

things, not reflection, nor
aware of circumstance

grey white of fog against top of ridge,
pelican gliding to the right across it

TC said...

Johnny is as always too right, mate.

Oh, Mike and Don, don't get me going!!

Boxball me into the Next Cosmic Incarnation, s'il vous plait!

I'm on the brink of going all Ed on everybody by sharing my memories of that particular form of the game, though in Chicago we never had a name for it that I recall.

In one wondrous abandoned schoolyard the wall on which the Zone was chalked was so high only the rare mile-high "foul" popup was lost forever upon the roof.

(Not that we did not attempt to clamber up there, risking life and limb, not to mention arrest, for one of those pink spaldings, if it was the last one... which it always was.)

The wire fence surrounding the schoolyard was, it seemed, so remote as to require a Ruthian clout to lose a spalding over it. Another positive feature.

And best of all, no windows to break.

In the apartment-block alleys behind our residences, conversely, the cramped circumstances posed no end of problems.

(The breaking of windows of righteously infuriated citizens who had the misfortune to dwell adjacent to any impromptu urchin stadium was a constant hazard... and in fact one such upstairs tenement resident, whose back porch abutted on a much-used back-alley-turned-ballpark, came down one time and -- he was an ex-Marine who could legendarily do 100 one-arm pushups -- kicked our wee urchin butts. And we had no complaints, knowing we so richly deserved it, and further that a butt-kicking would probably avert the dreaded phone call to the parents of the guilty.)

Mike, I think that the slow-going rhythms of baseball on the radio were indeed conducive to a more relaxed up-growing or grown-upping, as the case may have been.

But really, no cell phones, blackberries, pagers, texters or other forms of being linked in 24 x 7 to the idiot beehive electronic mothership -- the freedom from all that, permitting us to actually tune in on an immediate non-virtual environment, whether fruitful or fraught, was a blessing we were necessarily unable to appreciate at the time.

But looking back now -- after a night experience of terrible urban stress on the bus, a silly white girl slanging a black bus driver for being late to a stop, the imbroglio accelerating to one of those intense, suffocating little suppressed race-wars which make urban life such a constant nightmare -- all I can say is... thanks for the memories.

michael baker said...

Note Ohio pic by great artist ben shahn. A wpa project i assume