Takes Close Look at Collecting Vintage Baseball Photography of Charles Conlon

Rosemary McKittrick's weekly collecting column is a great source of information and entertainment.

Santa Fe, NM, April 15, 2006 --( From the turn-of-the century to World War II, Charles Conlon captured in black-and-white film the Golden Age of baseball. Both the heroes and the heartaches of the game were revealed in his telling photos.

Think of Conlon as the baseball photographer. He supposedly put his camera away once the World Series ended and didn’t unpack it again until Opening Day.

Conlon’s thousands of photos are more than surface studies. They’re time capsules full of baseball’s superheroes.

“In photographing ball players, you run into a lot of difficulties. Some can’t be snapped in action, some won’t be, mainly because they’re so superstitious,” Conlon said. “The toughest pitcher to snap was Dazzy Vance. He used to bury his head in his chest as he finished his delivery and most of the time you got some strange-looking effects.”

From his position behind the camera Conlon remained anonymous to most of the public.

That’s one of the reasons why a collection of Conlon’s work was the centerpiece of a baseball exhibition at the National Portrait Gallery of the Smithsonian Institute in 1984.

• The collection was comprised of 66 images deemed to be the best of Conlon’s work. The images were printed in the early-1980s directly from Conlon’s original glass negatives under the supervision of Sporting News.

• Most Conlon reproductions were produced from replacement negatives and safety film, not originals. That’s what makes this group especially desirable. The collection included Ruth, Cobb, Gehrig, Mack, Hornsby, and Conlon himself.

• This same Baseball Immortals Collection: The Photography of Charles Martin Conlon 1905-1935 went on the block Aug. 19 at Hunt Auctions in Exton, Pa., and sold for $96,800. It was a rare opportunity to own a collection of baseball folklore. author Rosemary McKittrick has been writing weekly about the art, antiques and collectibles field for 16 years. McKittrick is co-author of “The Official Price Guide to Fine Art,” a 1000-page book published by Random House and co-author of four volumes of “McKittrick’s Art Price Guide.”

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Rosemary McKittrick