Results tagged ‘ Tom Shieber ’

Gary Cooper Did NOT Wear A Backwards Yankee Uniform

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”:

GaryCooperI’ll let Tom Shieber take you step-by-step, with a kind of gentle meticulousness that even I could understand, through the evidence that:

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.

Gary Cooper, real

Gary Cooper, real

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

Gary Cooper, reversed

Gary Cooper, reversed

‘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

 

 

Performance Enhancing Drugs – In 1894?

What’s fun about turning over baseball’s rocks is that it often turns out that beneath them there are…other rocks.

The rediscovery here of photographs of the preparations of the New York Giants before the final game of the 1894 Temple Cup inside the pages of The Illustrated American magazine led the Hall of Fame’s Senior Curator Tom Shieber to an unexpected and startling conclusion: as they swept the Orioles in the closest thing that era had to the World Series, two members of the Giants thought they were using PED’s:

Two of the Giants
made the telling plays in the Temple Cup games, just as they did two weeks ago
in Chicago. …  “You wish to know why these two particular men, and
how they did it? This is the solution.” The speaker held between his
finger and thumb a diminutive three-cornered blue phial. He continued:
“May be, you all do not know that R—- … is a pretty good doctor.
… When we got to Washington he asked W—- and myself to go with him one morning
to call on a doctor who is supposed to be thoroughly up in Isopathy. The visit
was most interesting, and when we left, R—- and W—- had promised to test the
virtue of the elixir contained in these little bottles. The opportunity
occurred in Chicago September 18th. The score was 1 to 1, each team having
tallied in the sixth. R—- was now up, but before taking the bat I saw him pass
something to his mouth and then look up for quite two minutes. His eyes
brightened and the veins across his temples and the arteries down his neck
knotted like cords as he stood at the plate. … R—- met the ball … and he put
his 230 pounds in the lunge he made; … the ball was bound for the outer world,
and would not have stopped if the fence had been twice as high. Three runs were
tallied, and, as it proved, they were just about the number needed…They used
the Washington physician’s elixir in every Temple Cup game, and I tell you that
is the secret of the Giants holding that trophy to-day. R—- and W—- will both
tell you so.”


Shieber goes on to source what the miracle “Isopathy” elixir was supposed to do (provide accelerated heartbeats and thus an instantaneous surge of strength), what it was supposed to be made of (mashed up ox brains), what it actually was (nitroglycerine), and who apparently used it (Amos Rusie and John Montgomery Ward).

A cardiac specialist friend of mine says it must’ve been 100% placebo, or, maybe even pure luck that it didn’t kill either of the 1894 Giants. Patients given nitroglycerine for heart-related chest pain are urged to lie down immediately because blood pressure drops.

Still, psychology tells us that placebos often work – and in the 1880′s and 1890′s when “glandular extracts” from animals were supposedly the cutting age of medicine, this might’ve been more true than at other times. Ironically, while Rusie and Ward were very-forward thinking in terms of supplements, they should’ve looked backwards. In 1889, future Hall of Famer Pud Galvin openly enrolled in “medical experiments” in Pittsburgh testing the efficacy of testosterone drawn from monkeys.

A good moment to pause for illustrations:1895Temple.jpg

That’s the cover of the scorecard from Game Four of the 1895 Series, supposedly the one owned by Orioles’ right fielder Wee Willie Keeler. One thing you’ll notice right away, that helped doom the Series. Baltimore finished first in the regular seasons of 1894 and 1895, but were upended in the Temple Cup by the second-place Giants in ’94 and the second-place Cleveland Spiders in ’95. Yet the Orioles, and their fans, still considered themselves the NL champions – and put it on the front cover of the scorecard for the series that was supposed to determine the champions!
This would be the only game the O’s would win in either the ’94 or the ’95 Series (they would win in ’96 and ’97). Here’s the scorecard itself:1895TempleScorecard.jpg
The hero for Baltimore was their third starter – the equivalent of a fifth starter today – Duke Esper. He threw a no-hitter for four and ended up with a five-hit shutout, winning 5-0 while the faithful Orioles fans pelted the Spiders with projectiles ranging from rocks to eggs. There were no fewer than seven Hall of Famers in this game, including the O’s first four hitters (John McGraw, Keeler, Hughie Jennings, and Joe Kelley, plus catcher Wilbert Robinson, Cleveland left fielder Jesse Burkett, and home plate umpire Tim Keefe). An eighth, Cy Young, had one of his few days off. There were five games in the 1895 Temple Cup, and Young pitched and won three of them!
Much of the program is devoted to very formal, very professional photographs of the Baltimore players. Most pictures of the great McGraw show him as the aged, even pudgy manager of the Giants. He’s only 21 or 22 here…1895TempleMcGraw.jpg

Outfield Defense – Again!

OK, I might have to completely revise my assessment of the Yankees. In the Bronx last night, in one of the ten best baseball games I’ve ever attended, the New York club tied it on Rodriguez’s homer, benefitted from a horrible call in rightfield, staved off bases loaded and none out on Robertson’s pitching, and got the winning run on Teixeira’s parabola off the top of the left field wall.

But they won it because Nick Swisher proved me a liar with a beautifully executed play on an inattentive Carlos Gomez in the fourth inning, and because of how A.J. Burnett pitched in the litmus test for his post-season reliability. As Delmon Young busted it for home on Matt Tolbert’s single, Gomez over-ran second, Swisher threw a dart behind him, and he was retired before Young could cross the plate with what would have been the game’s first run. Burnett walked five and hit two – but wriggled out by giving up only three hits and stranding eight of the runners. My 11-year old nephew, attending the first post-game season of his life, stated with confidence after Burnett got one of his six strikeouts, “that was some slider!”
So the Yankee outfield defense already exceeded expectations in terms of plays back to the infield or the plate, and Burnett probably did the same. Meanwhile the Twins’ chances are not only bad enough, but what is wrong with Joe Nathan?
Saturday I would expect the Cardinals to avoid elimination (and perhaps as my pal Joe Magrane suggests, rally to beat the Dodgers behind the second starts of Carpenter and Wainwright) and the Rockies and Phillies continue to move to their inevitable fifth game back in Philadelphia.
BABE RUTH FILM UPDATE
I’ll go into this in a future post but it appears the Hall of Fame agrees with me, that film is from the A’s-Yankees doubleheader of September 9, 1928, with more than 85,000 in attendance (and probably filmed more for that reason, than for the presence of Ruth).
Some additional notes: I got it wrong, the Yankees began to wear numbers not in 1931 but 1929, thus 1928 is also the latest the film could be. And MLB Productions got it wrong, that is 
not Lou Gehrig following Ruth to the plate, but the lankier, righthanded hitting Bob Meusel. And even the Hal was wrong. Photo ID whiz Tom Shieber was also inspired to look at a panoramic photo that has always been marked “1928 World Series” that, like the Ruth film, showed no holiday or Series ceremonial bunting hanging anywhere in the ballpark. As of now they have re-marked it to date to the A’s-Yanks doubleheader – Shieber also notes that the socks of the visiting players in their picture don’t look like those worn by the St. Louis Cardinals in 1928, but like the A’s.
Socks. And you think I’m nuts.
The Times may be doing more on this little bit of historical sleuthing. In the interim, everybody wanted to correct an impression that MLB Productions was “stumped” by the film – it was more that they were looking to open up the archaeology dig to fans.

AND FINALLY:
Yes, it’s true. Bill O’Reilly and I in the same place at the same time, in the Yankee suites restaurant, and then three rows and seven seats apart. No one was injured, and everybody had a good time.
And to everybody who’s asked about my Dad – thank you, and he thanks you. Got in several hours with him before the Mental Vacation in the Bronx, and several late tonight. They keep throwing him spitballs and curves and he fouls them off as adroitly as Richie Ashburn in his prime. His main issues have all but been resolved, it’s now just a sequence of complications. But he keeps fouling them away and hanging in there. 
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