Baseball BeatAugust 20, 2006
Follow-Up to Foto Friday
By Rich Lederer

I put up a post on Friday along with a photo that illicited a number of comments from readers who were charged with the responsibility of naming the players, the year, and the location. I added the following comment: "If you can pinpoint the actual month and day, that would be herculean."

Well, DXMachina, who played an important role in tracking down critical information on photos displayed at Humbug Journal, named the players (Hank Aaron and Jim Gilliam) and narrowed down the year in question to 1954-1958 in the first two comments. Shaun P. identified Milwaukee's spring training site in those years as Bradenton, Florida shortly thereafter. Spike then found a couple of fabulous photos of Bradenton showing the same "white house with the angled roof" that appears between Aaron's right elbow and body in the original photo. Moments later, Marc Ronan introduced a third photo of McKechnie Field in Bradenton along with a history of its spring training tenants.

Justin followed up the numerous early comments a few hours later by suggesting that "March 13, 1958 looks promising. Dodgers vs. Braves in an exhibition game in Bradenton, Florida." He checked the archives of the Los Angeles Times and determined that this date was the only one in which the Dodgers and Braves played each other that spring. Justin also noted that "the article mentioned it was raining pretty hard the night before" and adds "the ground [in the photo] sort of looks wet, so I'll buy that."

Very interesting indeed. As it turns out, my Dad wrote the following in his game story (which appeared in the Long Beach Independent, Press-Telegram on March 14, 1958):

Bombed by Braves

Rough Day for Podres

(I, P-T Staff Writer)

BRADENTON, Fla. - Johnny Podres didn't have his stuff Thursday. The Milwaukee Braves found his offers as soft as the rain-soaked turf in Braves Field and pounded out six runs in the first two innings en route to an 8-2 Grapefruit League victory over the Dodgers.

A downpour that dumped 4.9 inches of rain on Bradenton Wednesday made some spots in the outfield as mushy as a bowl of grits. But a warm morning sun and some fast work by the ground crew made the field playable and the show went on as scheduled before 3,024 fans.

Despite all the trials and tribulations, I don't believe there is enough evidence that we can conclude with 100% certainty that the March 13, 1958 date is correct. You see, the Dodgers and the Braves played one game in Bradenton the following spring. As such, it is possible that the photo was taken on March 23, 1959. The Dodgers won, 10-6. Gilliam, in fact, went 3-for-5 in that game whereas he didn't play in the 1958 match between the Dodgers and Braves. (According to the box score, Aaron went 0-for-1 with a RBI in the 1958 game but wasn't mentioned in Dad's article about the 1959 contest and no box score accompanies the write-up.)

I can hear a reader or two bellowing, "How can it be 1959? The Dodgers' road jerseys had red numerals on the front." That is correct. The Dodgers added the numbers in 1959 but, as RevHalofan asked, "Any chance that the Red Uniform numbers on the Dodger jerseys were added at the commencement of the actual 1959 season and that the Spring Training uniforms were from the previous year?"

The short answer is "yes." It was customary practice in those days for teams to wear the previous year's uniforms during spring training. In fact, there is a photo of my Dad talking to Ron Fairly wearing a 1958 road jersey that appeared in the newspaper on March 2, 1959. These uniforms were then handed down to the minor leaguers and used in subsequent seasons.

If forced to pick one date or the other, I would choose March 13, 1958. Dad, unfortunately, only wrote the following on the cardboard frame of the slide (which the photo was reproduced from): "Hank Aaron - Jim Gilliam." No date or place.

Great job everyone. Kudos for some great sleuthing. I hope you enjoyed this project as much as I did.

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Here is a bonus special of Hank Aaron taking batting practice, circa 1958-1960. However, in this instance, Aaron is in his road grays and the background clearly indicates that the location is Holman Stadium in Vero Beach.

Hank Aaron Batting Practice.jpg

Check out Hammerin' Hank's batting form. This is great proof of Aaron hitting off his front foot--a style he made famous--with his back foot off the ground at impact.

Note: All photos are copyrighted and intended solely for the private use of Baseball Analysts. Any reproduction, re-creation, download or use of the photos or content herein without the express written consent of Rich Lederer is prohibited.


Notice his hip turn. He has already made contact. This is split seconds after contact. At contact his weight transfer was happening from back to front. Back foot was probaby was still contacting gound at contact. Foot is just coming up at time picture was taken. Aaron new how to swing his bat.

Here is another photo of a young Aaron taking batting practice. His back foot is off the ground. I realize that he has already made contact but it is still interesting to note Hank's unusual form.

In Aaron's own words:

I had a unique hitting style. I believe that my style was developed by batting against bottle caps as a kid. I never swung the bat like other power hitters. Most of the great home run hitters - like Mickey Mantle, Reggie Jackson, Mark McGwire and Barry Bonds - hit with their weight on their back foot. But I was the opposite. I had my weight on my front foot. I got my power from lashing out at the last instant with my hands.