Photographer Charles Conlon’s images of the golden age of our national pastime is a unique visual record of Major League Baseball in the early part of the 20th century that gave us legends including Ty Cobb, Babe Ruth, Lou Gehrig and Shoeless Joe Jackson.
The rich Charles Conlan Photographic Archive of 7,462 negatives, dating back to the glass plate era, is now up for sale on August 27-28, 2016 though Heritage Auctions as part of Platinum Night sports auction. The value of the entire collection is estimated at one million dollars.
This photo of Ty Cobb of the 1909 Detroit Tigers stealing third base from New York’s Jimmy Austin is considered Charles Conlon’s most famous image. Conlon later said he had no idea he got the shot. Only when he developed the glass plate did he realize what he had.
Here’s a sneak peek at Conlon’s photos.
Conlon’s baseball photography started when the Evening Telegram in New York asked him for portraits of the New York Giants for the era’s famous “Spalding Guide.”
This photo of Christy Mathewson of the 1904 New York Giants, at the Polo Grounds is said to be Conlon’s first portrait and comes from a plate glass negative. The jersey depicted in the photograph is one being offered in the same auction as the Conlon archive.
Conlon went on to capture a wealth of baseball photos in his more than 38-year career, dating from 1904 to 1942.
Babe Ruth’s wife Helen holding their adopted daughter Dorothy is seen with Nick Altrock of the Washington Senators in 1925. At this time, the Ruth’s marriage was in shambles due to Babe’s philandering and drinking.
Altrock sports his iconic crooked cap, a look that made him well-liked by fans and his fellow players.
Joe Tinker and Frank Chance, 1923 Boston Red Sox.
As teammates for the Chicago Cubs, the duo helped the team rocket to four World Series appearances between 1906 and 1910. This shot is one of the last meetings between Tinker and Chance. Chance died a year later.
Lou Gehrig, 1936 New York Yankees, during his second MVP season.
Many of Conlon’s portraits were seen on baseball cards and in the Sporting News newspaper.
Benny Bengough, 1932 St. Louis Browns. In 1933, this photo appeared on card #1 of the first baseball bubble-gum card set ever issued.
The Conlon archive was owned by the Sporting News after the photographer’s death in 1945. Its purchase by a private collector in 2010 is what led to it being made available for auction.
Eddie Cicotte, circa 1913, of the Chicago White Sox is credited with inventing the knuckleball. He later admitted Eddie “Kickapoo” Summers helped as well. Both were farmed to Indianapolis in 1906 where they both developed the famous pitching style.
Perhaps Ruth’s most famous portrait, Ruth stuck his wad of chewing gum on the top of his baseball cap.
Lefty Gomez, 1937 New York Yankees. A rare photograph for Conlon in that he rarely snapped shots of pitchers winding up for a pitch.
Tony Lazzeri, 1927 New York Yankees.
Lazzeri was a second baseman who had to work as a boilermaker with his father during the off season to make ends meet.
Ty Cobb circa, 1918-1920
For more information about the auction on August 27-28, 2016: Heritage Auctions