UNLOCKING THE SECRETS BEHIND A
HISTORICAL BASEBALL PHOTOGRAPH
In 2001 David Beattie received a copy of a vintage baseball photo as a gift. Immediately curious about its origins, he set out to learn more about it, a quest that proved unexpectedly challenging and rewarding over many years. Solving the puzzle led him down untrodden paths, introduced him to fascinating people, and gave him a wider appreciation of baseball's history and its appeal to North American society.
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A vintage baseball photograph, arresting in its stark simplicity and the intensity of its action. A frozen moment from a Major League Baseball game played long ago. Two players occupy the foreground: a runner identified as Babe Ruth is sliding hard into third base, while an unidentified infielder crouches to apply a tag.
When David Beattie received a copy of the photo as a gift, questions sprang to mind at once. Who was the infielder? Where was the game played and when? Why were the distant left-field bleachers nearly empty, if that’s Babe Ruth? Was Babe going to be safe or out?
A longtime fan but a novice to baseball research, Beattie set out to crack the photo’s mysteries. A few answers came easily, but others were more elusive. Out of thousands of old baseball photos, this one turned out to be one of a handful that have defied full identification even by dedicated experts.
As so often happens, there were unforeseen complications and surprising revelations; there were side trails to follow and broader contexts to explore. Embracing all these has enriched the experience and has helped to elucidate why baseball occupies a special place in the fabric of North American society.
The story will appeal to baseball fans and to anyone who enjoys the challenge of solving a historical puzzle, savouring the serendipitous en route.
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OSSIE & THE BABE has been enjoyed and praised by many readers.
Scroll down for a selection of reviews by baseball historians and experts.
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CRITICAL ACCLAIM FOR OSSIE & THE BABE
"David Beattie has pursued his curiosity about a photo of Babe Ruth down the labyrinthine back alleys of baseball history, and in so doing has stumbled upon some beautifully arcane bits of information. He's a stand-in for every fan who has ever stared at a box score, a photo, or an old card, and wanted to know more. The game is peculiar in the riches it offers those who sleuth into it, and in his stubborn efforts to uncover the facts, Beattie has struck upon its great charm – the fascinating history and strange circumstances present deep within baseball's dense substrate."
– Andrew G. Forbes, sportswriter and author of The Utility of Boredom
"The ‘Sherlock Holmes’ prize for deduction and solving the mystery of an archival baseball photo must surely go to David Beattie. His keen observation, attention to the smallest details of the photograph from the early years of baseball, plus his considerable intellect and sleuthing skills will fascinate the reader. Like any good mystery, he unfolds his story slowly and lets the reader savor additional details about the early era of baseball — like the creation of scorecards and the first electrical scoreboards, the (then controversial) subject of Daylight Saving
Time and its impact on the game, the history of Washington, D.C. baseball parks and the Negro Leagues. Thoroughly researched and artfully constructed, Ossie & The Babe is a must read for baseball fans interested in the early history of baseball."
– Wilor Bluege, co-author of A Life in Baseball: Ossie Bluege, Gripped by the Game.
"To call your work comprehensive would be a huge understatement ...
And you improved our files along the way. A great day for baseball research.”
– Dave Smith, founder of retrosheet.org