It used to really bother my wife and kids when they would see me getting excited about finding locker room shots. I had to do some serious explaining when they heard me exclaim once, “ this is great…Mantle has his pants off!” I have often written about the value of collecting images for a reference library. Over the years I have picked up a number of wire photos that were taken in locker rooms. The thing I have found about these types of images as opposed to “traditional” action shots is that they are taken from closer range and provide incredible detail if you look past what the photographer was trying to capture. The other thing to consider is that these images are in fact action shots as opposed to staged or posed photographs.
The other thing I have enjoyed about these types of images is that they are usually cheaper to acquire than images of the same player or players on the field because of the apparent collector preference for those. I thought I would spend some time showing some of these examples of valuable locker room shots as well as offering some hints on what I look for and what it helps me do. Here goes:
IMAGE 1: This image is from the 1950 World Series and the star of the shot is Joe DiMaggio. The Yankee Clipper is being congratulated for winning Game 2 of the Series with a home run in the 10th inning. For me, the star in the photo is player to DiMaggio’s right. Notice the “51” on the tail of the jersey. This supports what I have written about in the past about teams wearing a next season’s uniforms in the post season.
IMAGE 2: This image is from 1952 and features NY Giants Bobby Thomson and Sal Maglie. At first blush, you might say “this doesn’t show me anything.” The fact of the matter is you are both right and wrong. It does not show anything stitched in the outer front tail of these jerseys which does in fact tell you something…these jerseys by this manufacturer do not have player or year annotations in the tail.
(Dave Klug, these next two are for you)
IMAGE 3: A wonderful shot of the Milwaukee Braves from 1953. This was the first year after the team had left Boston, yet it would appear that the Braves still maintained a relationship with the east coast manufacturer before adopting a more mid-western flavor. You can also see that the jersey Eddie Mathews is wearing includes player name and year identification sewn to felt swatch below the manufacturers tag.
IMAGE 4: Fast forward to 1956 in Milwaukee and you will now see that the Braves road uniforms are a Wilson product and that the manufacturers tag is a yellow variation. Included in this jersey are separate tags for laundry instructions (blue variation that includes instructions not to cleaning fluids or a hot iron) as well as the player identification sewn to felt swatch.
IMAGE 5: NY Yankees home jerseys from 1955. Notice how the player and year identification are sewn to the outer front tail of these jerseys. Most likely Spalding products.
IMAGE 6: While the focus of this picture of “The Mick” from 1956 might be on his matinee idol smile, I always looked that the H&B branding and labeling stampings. It appears that the “d” in Powerized looks almost backwards or that the tail of the “d” is very bold compared to the rest of the letter. The point here being not so much that this may or may not be a new branding variation, but rather shots like these show details you just don’t see in photographs taken from a distance. The bat is so clear because of its proximity to the focus of the image, that being Mantle’s face.
IMAGE 7: This one of Jackie Robinson from January 1957 has always puzzled me. The image shows more nothing than anything else. This jersey has no apparent identification in the tail or the collar area. If this were a Rawlings or a Spalding Dodgers home jersey from 1956, I would have expected to see the manufacturer’s label and player ID in the tail. What you can’t tell from an image however, is if there were ever signs that these things were ever affixed or sewn to the jersey.
IMAGE 8: The 1962 New Mets celebrating what appears to be one of their rare 40 wins in that inaugural season. First year jerseys for older clubs are tough to come by and the Mets are certainly no exception. It is always nice to be able to identify a manufacturer for uniforms that never seem to show up.
IMAGE 9: Paul Horning in 1965. What images like this permit you to see is the overall length of the jersey. The nice thing about this shot is that it affords you images of other points of comparison as well such as the front numerals, shoulder “T.V. numerals,” and the width of the sleeve banding.
IMAGE 10: Broadway Joe from 1968. This image provides insight into a couple of things. Those being helmet suspension style and the style of the team travel bags. I have seen this photograph in other places and the items on the shelf have been cropped out. This is another benefit of wire photos in that they are actually a more raw image. If you have been to Cooperstown and looked through player files, you will notice many cropping marks on images with pen, pencil, or grease pencil.
IMAGE 11: Johnny Unitas from 1969. Locker room shots like this or with uniforms hanging in lockers often permit you to see and study details such as font style and size.
IMAGE 12: Alan Page from 1971. Often with football uniforms you will find them with the crotch piece either cut out or left in place. This is probably an issue of personal player preference and comfort. Locker room images provide a glimpse into things like personal player preference as they have long considered the locker room a personal sanctuary.
IMAGE 13: Willie Mays with the 1973 Mets. Although it is no secret that Mays used both Adirondacks (signature models) and H&B products (block name models), I threw this one in there in order to try to get folks to begin to look past the player into the locker.
IMAGE 14: Pete Rose and Joe Morgan at Riverfront Stadium in 1976. We know this image is from 1976 given the presence of the Bicentennial patch on both the home and road jerseys of Rose. The Reds, like other teams featured a different supplier for their home uniforms (Rawlings) and road uniforms (Wilson). What you can see from the jerseys in the picture is that the tail cut is different. This is easier to see when compared to Rawlings and Wilson products from the same era. Knowing something about the Reds ordering preference and what to look for with respect to manufacturers characteristics’ may help you identify or exclude the manufacturer of jersey in an image when you don’t have examples to work with.
IMAGE 15: Lou Brock in 1979. Often I will hear people say that a player did or did not mark his equipment in a certain way. What you have to realize is that these markings are not always done by the same person so there will be variations. The key is to look for and find as many photographic examples as possible.
IMAGE 16: Willie Stargell in his final season of 1982. Pops looks tired to be sure. The important thing is not to let your eyes get lazy or you may overlook small details. While the image is not clear, it does appear to be some form of swatch or tag in the area circled. This is not likely a uniform number since there appear to be two digits on the swatch and the uniform number is the single digit “4.”
I hope that this article has given you both a new reason to look for and obtain locker room shots as well as an appreciation for how valuable they can be. I would have been better off explaining this to my wife and kids before I told them I was looking for pictures of grown men on E-Bay with their pants off. I hope you have learned something in all of this…I know I have.
MEARS Auth, LLC