Often I come across old baseball photographs and try to find the story behind them, how the teams were playing, how important the game was, whether the players were rookies up for a cup of coffee or seasoned veterans. Sometimes it takes a little forensic work, sometimes the drama is evident. Either way, as I uncover these old gems, I’ll call each of them “A Moment In Time”, fleeting images captured long ago, and now, no longer forgotten.
This first one, above, needs nothing to build up the drama – this was back in the day when photographers used to group around home plate (would be unheard of today) to capture close-ups of batters, or in this case, an exciting play at home. This is one of the most dramatic early home plate action shots that I have seen, and a good way to kick off the series. And be sure to click on the image to link to a very large version of the photo!
The setting is the Baker Bowl in Philadelphia, Saturday, September 17, 1932 (almost exactly 80 years ago), first game of a doubleheader, bottom of the 4th inning, 1 out. With the hometown team already leading 6-1, the Phillies’ Dick Bartell is attempting an inside-the-park home run, baring down on eventual Hall Of Fame Chicago Cubs catcher Gabby Hartnett. The entire crowd is rising in anticipation of the play, and the Cubs are watching from the first base dugout (Phillies were on the third base side until 1934). The result? Hartnett held his ground, and Bartell was gunned down on the play, but awarded a triple for his trouble.
Bartell’s RBI triple ran the score to 7-1, and the Phillies would win the game 9-2. However, the Cubs would rally to take the nightcap, 5-1, putting them up 6 1/2 games in the National League, and they would go on to clinch the 1932 NL Pennant the next Tuesday, at home at Wrigley Field against the Pirates. The Phillies themselves would finish in 4th place. Cubs were eventually swept by the Yankees in the 1932 World Series, but would return to the Fall Classic two more times in the decade.