In what is easily the best piece of baseball research – and possibly motion picture research – this year, Senior Curator Tom Shieber of the Baseball Hall of Fame dispels one of the most enduring myths of both fields: That the right-handed Gary Cooper donned a backwards-lettered Yankees uniform and ran the wrong way around the bases to enable filmmakers to flip the negative and make him look like the left-handed Lou Gehrig in “The Pride Of The Yankees”:
A) Proves the shot of Cooper above is not a reversed image and he didn’t hit the ball and then run down the third base line;
B) Proves that such movie-making sleight-of-hand would not have been necessary;
C) Proves the one instance – in a pre-Yankee scene from the Gehrig biopic – in which they really did let Cooper do things righty and then flipped the image to make him look lefty;
D) Nails the explanation of how this one instance was blown out of all proportion and turned in to the backward film legend by a very venerated but very overrated sportswriter;
E) Proves the involvement in the making of the film by two of the game’s great characters, Babe Herman and Lefty O’Doul.
F) Notes and explains why the rightfielder in some of the shots appears to be playing about 20 feet behind the first baseman.
It is, as I say, terrific research terrifically explained.
I can add only one detail to it – something that had always bothered me about the ‘then he ran down the third base line’ legend. The human face is not symmetrical. We know this so intuitively that we don’t usually even think about it. But you know when a picture of you has been reversed, or you’re looking in a double mirror.
On the top is Gary Cooper as Gehrig, in a still frame that Shieber has determined is an original, unflipped image. Below is Gary Cooper as Gehrig, in a still frame that Shieber can prove has been flipped. Look carefully at the features of his face – they’re not in the same places in each shot. It takes a little work, but it’s worth it.
This is not as exact a science as Shieber’s analysis of stadium backgrounds and fly buttons and all the rest, but it’s of supportive value. And except in this one scene, Gary Cooper looks like one Gary Cooper all the way through the film. As
‘another’ Gary, Garry Shandling, used to say, ‘no flipping.’
Then in this one scene at first base comes this bizarre image of a guy who looks enough like the Cooper we’ve seen throughout the flick to be his twin – but it is not an exact match. The nose breaks in the opposite direction (just a little bit). The veins on one side of the neck now match the ones on the other side of the neck. It’s all subtle, but it’s all the photographic equivalent of circumstantial evidence.
And it puts a little P.S. on some superb detective work. Bravo, Tom Shieber
There wasn’t a lot of principle flying around in the winter of 1994-95.
Honestly, they could’ve called first.
…the archivists believe that the clip dates to 1928. Perhaps it is the World Series, which might explain the full stands and long shadows.
CROWD OF 85,265, BASEBALL RECORD, SEES YANKS WIN TWO;
Largest Gathering in Game’s History Overflows Stadium– Receipts Are $115,000.
100,000 ARE TURNED AWAY
Shirt-Sleeved Throng Cheers as New York Regains Lead From Athletics.
FANS WAIT TWENTY HOURS
Three Start Their Vigil Early on Saturday Evening–Mayor Walker Receives an Ovation.
Yankee Stadium Too Small. Receipts Set a Record. Crowds on Apartment Houses.
85,265 SEE YANKEES WIN AND TAKE LEAD 50,000 Linger Outside. Seventy in Line at Midnight.
This is not a knock against Derek Jeter, who has been a credit to his franchise and the game since 1995, and who has never been anything but courteous and professional in his dealings with me (and everybody else I knew). This is not, in fact, about Jeter.
I’ve often been accused of being contrarian just for the sake of being contrarian, but I don’t know that I’ve ever gone this far.
As if he were worth of being alive, Keith; of sharing the status of “human being” with Lou Gehrig. Manny Ramirez should have declined all offers of oxygen, on this day, and on every other day that is an anniversary of a day on which Lou Gehrig was alive.
For shame, for shame, baseball fans. You should all be standing in line to forfeit your mindless baseball entertainment, on account of there having been rule-breaking in that industry, which is devoted primarily to occupying the minds of 30-something lawyers with expense accounts, middle-aged journalists and college kids making fictional “trades” at 3 in the morning while eating week-old pizza slices they found in their closets. Why, oh why, don’t you brainless masses boycott this farce in favor of a more wholesome, ethical and Gehrig-approved entertainment option?
I would argue further: that no one not named Gehrig should ever again be allowed to play baseball, even Strat-O-Matic. And that Manny Ramirez should be tasered every night for a year. And that the fans who have cheered for him should be tasered, too. And that Manny Ramirez is, pretty much, the Worst Person in the World. And that anyone who so much as cashes one check paid for with dirty baseball money from immoral cheering fans should be banished from civilized society.
Wait, Keith, why is there an MLB logo on your blog?
Umm… as anybody who reads the MLBlogs knows, baseball has no say over what is written here, by me, or anybody else. And, yes, this particular blog, MLB pays for. Only I don’t get checks to cash. The money gets split three ways: to St. Jude’s Hospital, to the Baseball Assistance Team, and to the education fund for the grandchildren of the former big leaguer and MLB.TV host John Marzano.
When I think of Lou Gehrig, I see him in a hotel room somewhere in the summer of 1938. It is the middle of the night, nearly silent, sweltering in Cleveland or St. Louis or Washington. If there is any air conditioning it is feeble and no match for humidity sitting like a giant sweater on the city.