By Phil Hecken
As many of you know, one of the semi-recurring features on the weekend Uni Watch entries is a fabulous section called “Colorize This!,” which features readers (artists, really) who painstakingly and often in excruciating detail, colorize black and white photographs. Sometimes the photographs are of more recent vintage, and the colors are well known. Other times, however, a reader will find a photograph he wishes to colorize for which very little is known — not just the colors, but the story behind the photo.
Reader Gary Chanko, one of two colorizers who has been a major contributing force (and one half of what I call the “G&G Boys”), is one of those who really takes the art of colorization to another level, not only by taking a photo and (as best as humanly possible) getting the color details right, but he also finds the story behind the photograph. Today, we have an example of that. There aren’t enough superlatives to describe Gary’s efforts, so I’ll just say that what follows is really a fantastic mix of talent, historical research, dedication and devotion. I can’t imagine how many hours went into this, but we’re all the richer for it. Here’s Gary. Enjoy — PH
Fat Men, Baseball, and Early Twentieth Century Postcards
By Gary Chanko
Many baseball related postcards from the early twentieth century preserve the history of the amateur and semipro teams prevalent across the country during this time period. Baseball during this era was unquestionably the national pastime with seemingly every community, irrespective of size, represented by a team. There was obviously strong interest in these teams and their more notable players; significant enough for photographers and publishers across the country to market images of these relatively obscure teams and players as postcards. Some of these vintage postcards survived the past hundred years as valued collectibles. Despite their small size and sometimes poor condition they are great candidates for colorization.
I recently discovered this amusing postcard copy of the World’s Largest Baseball Player (below) dating from 1908. The monstrous 450 pound player in the photo played for the Citizens Ball Club of Emporium, Pa., a community in north central Pennsylvania with a population at the turn of last century of only a few thousand. Interestingly, today it still remains a community of only a few thousand.
It seems implausible, or certainly unexpected, that a person from this era would have reached 450 pounds and yet actively participated in a sport that requires some agility. A hundred years ago there were no fast food restaurants, super markets stocked with cheap snack foods, video games to keep you cemented to a sofa all day, or other potential contributors to today’s obesity epidemic. I wonder if any of his Citzens Ball Club teammates were similarly large stock as the note on the back of postcard suggests. Was this level of obesity common a hundred years ago?
Further research turned up almost nothing about the unnamed player or his team. For the colorization the choice of uni colors was mine based on tonal range guesses from the original. The research did, however, provide information to suggest he may not have been the World’s Largest Baseball player at all. In fact there was a whole team of players with a roster that tipped the scales a few pounds short of two tons!
This unusual traveling group of players was known as the Fat Men’s Amusement Co. Ball Team from Waterloo, Iowa. The Two Ton Team toured cities throughout the Midwest during the summer of 1910.
The 3″x5″ postcard original used for the colorization (as I learn more about these early twentieth century collectibles) is categorized as a “Real Photo” postcard, which is a term describing postcards created by exposing a negative directly onto photographic paper. So the post card was an actual B&W photo print. I also discovered it wasn’t until early 1907 that you were permitted to write anything on the back of the post card other than the mailing address! This may explain why many of these postcards have handwritten descriptions on the image.
Unfortunately this postcard has no writing on the back to indicate the location or date of the photo, but almost certainly it was taken during the 1910 tour. The spectators, formal but norm for the day, attire form an interesting part of image and a colorization challege.
For the colorized image I was fortunate to find this short video clip (shown below) that contains an actual uni jersey and discusses the players and team background. The person being interviewed is actually the granddaughter of the youngest player on the team (Earl Holm, first player on the left in the image). Before watching clip, see if you can guess which the players in the image is actually the umpire; his identity is disclosed in the interview.
The June 10, 1910, morning edition of the Hull Index (City of Hull, Iowa newspaper) carried this clip titled “A Big Ball Team” describing the Fat Men’s ball team and their upcoming season:
“Waterloo has one of the most unique amusement enterprises ever organized in this part of the country is to be called the Fat Men’s Bell Team and Amusement company. Frank C. Knee who weighs 450 pounds is to be the manager and Oliver Kimball of Chicago, who is 48 inches tall, is to be the umpire. He is the smallest umpire in the world just as Baby Bliss of Bloomington, Illinois, who is to be the catcher, is the largest man in the world. He weighs 640 pounds.
The other members of the nine are Earl Holm, who is 15 years old and weighs 350 pounds being the largest boy in the world; Wolfgang Schmidt of Nebraska, 426 pounds; E. J. Sheehan of Clermont, Iowa, 390 pounds; M. V. Hinds of Monmouth, Illinois, 400 pounds; Charles P. Van Luven of Osage, Iowa, 375 pounds; Finkey Howrey of Beaver Dam, Wisconsin, 325 pounds; and J. A. Brownell of Manchester, Iowa, 370 pounds.
The total weight of the team is 3,735 pounds. Commencing June 9, the unique team will tour the country giving exhibition games. Despite their large size the players are active and are skilled in the arts of the great national pastime. They will steal bases and slide as gracefully as men of more moderate avoirdupois.”
Not all sports writers were raving about the Fat Men’s traveling road show performance. A Milwaukee Sentinel newspaper article, dated 25 September 1910, termed them Baseball Travesties (far left column, half way down the paper). The article makes note of the lawsuit for back wages by Baby Bliss, the largest player on the team and highlighted in the video clip above. I wasn’t able to determine positively if Baby Bliss is present in the colorized team photo, but he might be the large fellow on the far right. Undoubtedly he was the featured attraction of the Fat Men’s midwest tour that summer. Leonard H. “Baby” Bliss, “world’s largest man,” bicycle showman, and baseball wonder died tragically just fifteen months later as described in this obituary.
Final note, if you find this baseball era interesting check out this link to the full reprint of Spalding’s Chicago Amateur Baseball Annual and Inter-City Baseball Association Yearbook, 1905. It includes the complete Rules of Baseball and Henry Chadwick’s (The Father of Baseball) Advice to Amateurs.
Thanks, Gary. Tremendous, tremendous job, as always.
An interesting note about that article Gary included with his interview — I don’t know if any of you read below the highlighted section, but there is a sub-hed entitled “Grave Charges” which alludes to Hal Chase throwing games(!) — you can read more on that here. Fascinating stuff…all right there in black and white.
Celebrating 75 Years…
On Thursday evening, the Washington Football Club unveiled their alternate uniform for 2012, which Paul covered a bit yesterday. As he mentioned, and as seen on the obligatory Nike photo mocks, it’s pretty tidy — Paul called it “fine, if unremarkable,” and I would tend to agree with those assessments.
At the time Paul posted yesterday’s article, he wasn’t sure who was responsible for the helmet design. UW stalwart, and super-sleuth Chance Michaels believed it’s done by Hydro Graphics Inc. (www.hydrographicsinc.com), who are “Nike’s go-to supplier for custom finishes” according to Chance. (As many of you know, I’m not a helmet guy, so this was news to me.) Nice work.
He was right — you can see more pics of the helmet here, here, and close-ups here, here and here. My only complaint is that they went with a black mask instead of a gray one. You can learn more about the process here — and you can thank (or blame) them for the Ducks Rose Bowl helmets and Notre Dame’s golden dome lids too.
There was also some question as to whether this uniform, which the team will wear twice this coming season, is a true throwback, or a faux-back. We find our answer from the team:
Redskins owner Dan Snyder and his staff worked closely with Nike to create a look that spoke to the club’s unique heritage, while highlighting several key details that helped define the team’s history. The alternate anniversary uniform is a balance between history and tradition, featuring a rich darker color palate and updated numbering system. It is a modern interpretation of those worn back in 1937 — a year signifying the team’s move from Boston to Washington, D.C., as well as their first national championship. The patch on the shoulder is one that was worn in early team history. The design also pays tribute to 1937 QB Slingin Sammy Baugh, who in his first year in the league led the newly relocated Redskins to their first national championship.
So — how’d they do?
Well, color photography of that era is almost non-existent, so we need to rely on historical artifacts for the colors, but we do have black and white photographs from 1937, as well as photographs of the 1937 team. We also have this lithograph of the 1937 uniform. Based on those, I’d say the team has fairly replicated the 1937 uniform.
It’s a tricky era to be sure, as 1937 was the great Sammy Baugh’s rookie season, but numerous images of Baugh exist with him wearing several different uniforms during the leatherhead era, including this color(ized?) photo. While this Shorpy image is dated September 1937, I don’t believe the club ever wore that in Washington (which the Gridiron Uniform Database confirms).
But enough evidence is there to suggest that the uniform to which the team is “harking” back is very close to the one worn in Baugh’s rookie campaign, which was also the year the club moved from Boston to Washington.
I’m pretty happy with the fauxback, which seemed to get all the details, right down to the sleeve patch, correct within the constraints of a modern uniform template. And while I’m still not a fan of the current team keeping their name, I am absolutely pleased they did not remove the sleeve patch which was clearly a part of the ’37 unis. Regardless of whether you agree with me that the current monicker is racist, and their iconography is offensive, I would in no way support them removing it in this instance. It’s part of the historical record, and if we are to accurately recreate the past, we cannot remove images that may be offensive in the name of political correctness. It was wrong for the Tampa Rays to remove the cigar from their Smokers’ throwbacks, just as it would have been wrong for the Astros to have removed the revolver from their Colt .45 throwbacks. For accuracy’s sake, I’m pleased the Washington team kept the patch.
Verdict? I like them (at least from what I’ve seen so far) — obviously we’ll all need to see them in action before a final verdict can be rendered. But they seem to have done a pretty decent job in recreating an historical uniform (sorry, JTH), and I’m real interested to see how that faux leather helmet looks on the field.
Lets hope at least one (if not both) of the games when they’re worn will be nationally televised.
One last thought, and this was mentioned briefly in yesterday’s comments — if you think you’ve seen this fauxback before, well, that’s kind of because you have. In 1994, during the NFL’s 75th Anniversary, the Washington club wore a similar uniform to the one introduced Thursday evening. In that incarnation, it appears the sleeve patch was slightly different from the one which will be worn this year. Also, in 1994, the team simply stripped the decal off the helmet, keeping the gold facemasks, and wearing an old gold (matching the interior number color) for the pants. This time around they appear to have default tan-ish pants and they’ve certainly created a brand new helmet.
We have another new set of tweaks, er…concepts today. After discussion with a number of readers, it’s probably more apropos to call most of the reader submissions “concepts” rather than tweaks. So that’s that.
So if you’ve concept for any sport, or just a tweak or wholesale revision, send them my way.
Please do try to keep your descriptions to ~50 words (give or take) per image — if you have three uniform concepts in one image, then obviously, you can go a little over, but no novels, OK? OK!. You guys have usually been good with keeping the descriptions pretty short, and I thank you for that.
And so, lets begin:
We start with Garrett Ponzi, who has a nice scheme for the
Canes…er, Carolina hockey team:
What if Carolina had kept “Whalers” when they moved out of Hartford?
Next up is Andrew Reilly, who sent in a redesign for the N.O. hoops team — three days before Paul announced his contest, so he was rather prescient — he did submit the design to Paul’s ESPN contest, but I don’t know if there was a writeup on it. So, I’ll feature it here with his writeup:
Since I have been following the renaming process of the soon to be no longer New Orleans Hornets, I thought I’d use my spare time during my final senior semester to create a template for the current fan favorite, the New Orleans Knights. I used the Saints Black and Gold color scheme and also included the fleur-de-lis that has made New Orleans and the Saints recognizable worldwide.
We conclude today with Christian Cisneros, who has few MLB concepts, plus one for the NBA & one for the NHL:
Back with some more tweaks. For part one I have the Clippers, San Francisco Giants, San Jose Sharks, and the Miami Marlins.
Clippers: I added a blue alternate. I think the Clippers should use blue more often.
Giants pt. 1: To be honest, I LOVE the Giants uniforms, but it drives me crazy that they ditched the primary road from last year and put a headspoon on it. But I do love the new alternate. So I for one do think the Giants should stay where they are (except for the primary headspoon roadie) when it comes to uniforms, but I went a little Oakland A’s kinda style with the uniforms.
Home: Everything is the same, except they will always wear the orange billed cap at home.
Home Alt: This is where I went with the A’s style. I took the Giant’s alternate road jersey and made it for orange fridays at AT&T.
Road: Stuck with the design from last year.
Road Alt: Same as the home alt, except with the gray pants and black billed cap, for Friday games.
Giants pt. 2: These are just tweaks for the concepts they have this year:
Home: Same as above
Home Alt: Same as they have now, except with the orange bill
Roads: The alternate that the Giants have now is great, so I made it be the primary and I ditched the primary roads that they have now.
Sharks: All I did here was change the home stripes on the jersey, since it normally goes White Orange Black, I changed it to Black Orange White, and I think it looks a lot better. Everything else is the same.
Marlins: I find the Marlins new designs great. But one thing that bugs me is the white lettering on the road. So I made it black.
Thanks and I will have Part two finished soon!
That’s it for this round. Back with more tomorrow.
by Rick Pearson
Won’t be claiming plausible deniability, will he…
Click to enlarge
That’s all for this fine Saturday, folks. Everyone have a good day.
I like a solution that keeps either the word Red or the word Skin in there. If it becomes the Washington Pigskins or the Washington Red Tails, then stuck-in-the-mud fans for whom it’s really important to their sense of self worth to keep insulting people can go on calling them the Redskins or the Skins or whatever. — R. Scott Rogers