This is without a doubt the most over looked and potentially valuable aspect of the evaluation process. I detest the phrase “photo matching” as I think it does collectors a disservice by offering a false sense of security. Many collectors will “match” their jersey to a picture they find, but in actuality, it works the other way around. It may seem like semantics, but it is not. The picture represents (no pun intended) a snap shot in time. If the jersey in the photograph is the same one the collector has, then everything in the photo should be found on the jersey. This does not work the other way around as a team repair could have been made after the photo was taken. Some collectors might say that there is “no photo match” because the repair does not show up in the picture.
Get out of the mindset of “matching” and get into the process of analyzing the image or images at which you are looking. To help provide some form of framework, I break imagery analysis down into three categories.
Category One: Photographic Reference. This involves using the image as a source of information.
To ensure you get the most out the time you spend looking at photographs, be sure you have a single purpose in mind when doing your research. By that I mean if you are looking at crests or numbers, then crests or numbers are all you should be looking for. Between the thousands of images of one form or another I have in my library, I find myself going back through them all the time looking to answer a select set of questions. When doing this sort of imagery analysis, I recommend that you scan the image from bottom to top and from right to left. This is because we have been conditioned to read and look at things from top to bottom and left to right. Forcing yourself to work back “against the grain” will help counter the tendency to skip over things.
Here are some examples of what I am talking about using The Golden Age of Baseball 1941-1956 by Bill Gutman:
Uniform Styles: Page 28 shows the St. Louis Cardinals wearing road button down uniforms in the 1944 World Series versus the commonly accepted zipper style of the period.
Tagging: Page 83 shows a late 1930’s picture of Lou Gehrig wearing a road uniform manufactured by Spalding. When you focus your attention on the back of the collar where you would expect to see the tagging, you can see the circa 1929-42 white variation Spalding label.
Player Identification: Page 142 shows that Harmon Killebrew’s spikes have been marked with “KILLE” on both outer tongues.
Category Two: Photographic Comparison. This involves using the image to compare with either another image or an actual object. I am not trying to insult anyone’s intelligence, but this is often done incorrectly. I am referring to when folks “photo match” a uniform they have with a photo.
People will take their shirt and find things that are the same in the photo. Is should actually work the other way around. Look for some distinguishing characteristic in the photo and see if it can be found on the shirt. This is critical when looking at “event significant items.”
In the most basic sense all you are doing is asking if the item in the picture is like the one you are looking at.
Style (number of holes)
Alignment and Placement with Respect to Lettering or Numbering
Logos, Lettering, and Crests:
Designs Such As Pinstripes:
Width of Pinstripe
Width of Space Between Pinstripes
Fabric, Manufacturers or Period Characteristics:
Wool Flannel Blend
Dureen Side Pannels
Cotton Elastic Underarms or Crotch Vents
While some may debate the ability to discern fabric from a photo, it can be done. This requires a bit more experience than some of the other aspects, but is doable none-the-less. It requires that the person examining the fabric understand nuances of the actual texture or thread content of the fabric and how they reflect or absorb light.
Category Three: Photographic Extrapolation. Mensuration involves using an object of know size to ascertain information about objects in a picture. For instance, a military imagery analyst might use the known length of the wingspan of an aircraft to add scale to everything on same relative plain in the picture. For example if the wingspan of the plane is 150 feet long, then everything else in the picture can be measured against that scale. He can use this information to determine how far the plane is from the hanger or what the distance is between the inner and outer security fences. This is not rocket science, but basic math as it relates to proportions.
I used this category when I was asked to authenticate the jersey Roger Maris wore when he broke Babe Ruth’s single season home run record in 1961. I used the baseball (2 ¾ “ in diameter) in the locker room picture with Sal Durnate to provide scale for both the NY crest and the custom sleeves. It is important to remember the item you are using must be within the same relative plane and proximity to the other object. Another great reference you can use is the center brand logo of Hillerich & Bradsby (H&B) bats. From roughly 1921 to 1979, that logo remained a relatively constant 4 “ as measured from left to right across the center. When you have an item such as the H&B center brand, you can use that point of reference to figure out the overall length of the bat, the size of lettering as well as numbering and crests in the picture.
In every instance when utilizing these techniques, you must exercise great care with your measurements. Since you are using a smaller scale when dealing with photographs, be sure to try to minimize distortions by making your annotations with a small lead mechanical pencil. Here is how you do this:
– Enlarge area of the image you are working with.
– Take a piece of graph paper and mark the left and right limits of the object of know size. This establishes the scale for the picture.
– Mark the limits of the object for which you are trying to determine the size on the graph paper in the same manner as well.
– Establish your findings using simple scale and proportions.
The same center brand in the aforementioned example, can allow you to determine the approximate length of the bat as well. For example, if it takes nine increments of the H&B center brand (4”) to cover the length of the bat, then you are looking at a 36” bat (9 x 4). This point highlights the need to use an enlargement and graph paper. You can reasonably expect errors ranging from 1/8” to 1/2 “ depending on any number of factors.
Patches that were common to teams or leagues can be used for the same purposes:
Year – Patch – Team – Top to Bottom – Left to Right
1939 – Centennial – MLB – 4” – 3 5/8”
1943-45 – Stars & Stripes – MLB – 3 ¾ “ – 3”
1951 – 50th Anniv – AL – 4 ¾ “ – 3”
1969 – 100th Anniv – MLB – 2 7/16” – 2 5/8”
1976 – Centennial – NL – 3 ¾ “ Diameter
Team Crests: I like to use team crests because they remain consistent in size since they are made from patterns. They are valuable to use for years when no specific patch can be found. They are also helpful in identification for events that feature more than one team such as All Star Games and the World Series.
The St. Louis Cardinal’s uniforms feature just such a team crest in the form of the embroidered bird on the chest. This image has changed in size and shape over the years, but appears to have remained consistent within each given style. In using the Cardinal logo, the points of measurement change with the style of the bird. For flannels:
1941-1947: Small Bird (From tip of beak to tip of tail: 5 3/8”)
1948-1950: Large Bird Upright (Top of head to tip of tail: 6 1/8” )
1951-1955: Large Bird W/Tail Feathers: ( Top of head to tip of tail: 6/18”)
1958-1971: Small Bird W/ Tail Below Bat: (Top of head to tip of tail: 4 5/8”)
(Another excellent team crest reference is the Chicago Cubs crest: 1941-1956: 5 ½” in Diameter)
Home Plate: In 1900, the rules where changed governing the size and shape of home plate from a 12” square to a five-sided shape that is 17” wide. What this permits you to do is gauge the approximate size of the shoes that a player would have worn. It also gives scale to such things as catchers’ mitts, masks or other items found in close proximity of the plate.
The point is to begin to build your own library of objects of a know size that you can later use as reference points. Consider cataloging various aspects of items in your own collection. I am trying to do that with my flannels and will share that information in this forum in time.
In intelligence collection, we use a concept called queuing. This involves using one set of sensors to alert you to look at a particular area. Film analysis serves this same purpose to larger degree. There are some problems with film as well, depending on the medium of projection. For instance, it is often difficult to isolate the image you are looking at. The idea is that if you can find a film example, you can most likely find a still shot showing the same thing.
You will be amazed at the things you can see in film if you are looking for them. Back when I was doing my first guide on Cincinnati Reds Game Used Uniforms, Bats, and Equipment 1970-1979, I was trying to confirm that Wilson manufactured the road knit uniforms for the Reds. I was also interested in knowing if it was possible to date these uniforms by the location of tag. Wilson provided some help conveying that they changed their manufacturers label twice during the 1970s.
With this in mind I started my search accordingly. I had to focus on finding situations that would involve the ability to see the tag, which is not easy since the tag is inside the uniform. If you think about situations that involve a player’s jersey becoming un-tucked, two things come to mind. Those two sets of circumstances involve periods of great exertion such as sliding or diving and those of a player getting dressed or undressed.
In reviewing the 1972 World Series highlight film on VHS, I was able to note that in Game 3, Tony Perez stumbles while rounding third and then slides into home. In the course of this event, Perez’s shirt comes un-tucked, and as he is getting up you can clearly see the Wilson label in the left front tail of his uniform. I used this as my queuing. I found, on page 178 of Hal McCoy’s The Relentless Reds from the 1975 season, an image that shows a locker room shot of Pedro Borbon in which you can see the stitching outline of the Wilson tag (by size and shape) on the inside of the jersey just to the rear of the side seam on the left side.
You will have your own specific questions you will want to address. These examples are only meant to provide you with an intellectual and physical process to get to that point. This information has been available for years to anyone looking for it, you just have to know and how and where to start looking.
Other Aspects of Imagery Analysis
Frequently when researching with wire photographs and older film, you will find that you are dealing with black and white images. Even though colors such as blue and red will both appear dark in a photo, you can still differentiate the difference based on contrast or the ‘degree of darkness’ of each color. The same holds true when looking at home and road uniforms. Both white and gray will appear lighter in respect to the rest of the items that are blue, black, or red. This is important to note if you are looking for date specific shots. An example would be a batter at the plate with the shot showing only his back, with the front of the jersey not visible (home or road design) and the catcher’s jersey covered by chest protector. In instances like this, focus on the color contrast of the pants. In some cases this is made even easier because some teams uniforms featured side piping or trim on the home pants but not the road pants.
Cropping refers to the practice of physically isolating a desired portion of a photograph to accommodate print size for publication. In many of the photographs contained in the player files at Cooperstown, you will notice these cropping marks or annotations on the pictures. In many “victory celebration” shots taken in the locker room, some of the most valuable information was left out of the published photo. This information may involve the ability to see player identification stitching in the tail, manufacturers tagging in the collar, or even the quantity of uniforms in a locker near the player in question. Since you are reading this on-line, I would suggest this easy drill to demonstrate exactly what I mean.
1. Go to: Corbis Images at http://pro.corbis.com/
2. Type in a search for: Hank Aaron Locker Room
Notice what can be seen on the un-cropped image # BE051096. You can clearly make out that the jersey, which Eddie Mathews is wearing and is un-tucked reveals:
a. Jersey was manufactured by Wilson
b. The style of the Wilson manufacturer label
c. Mathews jersey size is 44
d. There is a separate laundry instruction tag below the Wilson tag
e. Player identification is sewn to material below the laundry instructions
3. Now try this search: Yankees Locker Room
Image # U1282943INP
Yankees home jersey with player identification, year, and player number sewn in left front of the tail from the 1955 season
4. Try this search: Baseball Locker Room
Image # DM 2737
NY Mets April 1962 reveals that the home jerseys were manufactured by Spalding
5. Try this search: Gil Hodges 1949
Image # U917025ACME
This example is important to note for two reasons, first, always be sure to consider what you do not see. In this case, part of that not seen is the other player in the photo besides Hodges. Note that nothing appears on the outer tail of the jersey. Second, take a look at the player in the left of the photo. The reason for certain things being “cropped” out of photographs should now be readily apparent.
It is an old adage that “a picture is worth a thousand words.” I would offer something even more valuable, “the right picture viewed in the proper manner and with a specific purpose in mind, could be worth thousands of dollars” in terms of what it will save you or permit you to purchase with greater confidence.
When thinking about using photographs to support your research think “PHOTO”
P: Know the Purpose for your analysis.
H: Have no preconceived notions, look at all images with a fresh perspective.
O: Obtain a variety of photographs and angles whenever possible.
T: Take your time
O: Organize, record, and analyze your findings
(and do not Photo Match…)