Charles M. Conlon: born 1868 became the world's most famous baseball photographer quite by accident. By profession, he was a proof-reader for the New York based, World Telegram. Prior to 1904, Conlon had been an amateur photographer, taking photographs as a hobby. The story goes something like this: Conlon made the acquaintance of a man by the name of John B. Foster, who was, at the time, a sports writer and editor at the Spaulding Times.
While in a pinch for some photographs for an upcoming issue, Mr. Foster asked Conlon if he'd take some snapshots for him of ball players. (Mr. Foster was privy to Conlons' passion for taking pictures.) His photographic career had been launched. Conlon continued taking baseball photographs until 1942.
From 1904 until 1942, Conlon Conlon took photographs of almost every famous major league ball player including:
His most famous photograph was taken as Ty Cobb slid hard into third, knocking over the baseman, Jimmy Austin. It is still considered by many to be the best baseball action shot ever taken. Today his work is fetching top dollar at auction houses. In 1996, Christie's, sold hundreds of Conlon's prints. They can be found on eBay as well, but they're expensive there too. Smaller prints are going for nothing less than $100.00, with others taking thousands to purchase.
Pitcher, Christy Mathewson was Conlon's first subject, but McGraw was, "the greatest of them all..." To quote Conlon Conlon: "While on the subject of those heroes, Matty was the best pitcher, Wagner the best infielder, Cobb the outfield marvel. Ruth was a grand guy, always obliging. But strictly a specialist in the home run. Not a Cobb all around. Chase was the greatest first baseman."
What made his first photographs so striking was the fact that he would get on the field to take them. Following a Giants, Cubs game and an argument over whether the umpire called a play correctly or not, using Conlon's shot of the play as evidence, the power's that be forever banned cameramen from the field once the game had commenced. Photographers would have to take their shots from the sidelines, or stay at home.
Unlike the baseball cards of today, with their flashy style, Conlon's photographs used on baseball cards focused on the players' faces. Whether it be a close-up, or an action shot, the player's face is in clear view. It was his feeling that to get to know a player, you had to look into his face. Conlon's work can be found on Amazon.com in book format, "The Golden Age of Baseball". These photographs will transport the reader back to a different era, back to the days when players played because they loved the game and had families to feed, not because they had million dollar contracts. Back in the day, players didn't really make big money, team owners did, but the only player that was ever considered to be paid well was Babe Ruth. Although most of the baseball card photos credited to Conlon Conlon were black and white, because color film was not invented yet, colorized versions of his cards are available.
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