Baseball BeatAugust 18, 2006
Foto Friday
By Rich Lederer

Three weeks ago, I posted A Mystery Solved, which included a photo of my older brother and me at Dodger Stadium. With the help of Retrosheet, I was able to identify the date (July 29, 1962) due to the information on the scoreboard in the background.

Baseball Toaster's Ken Arneson was inspired by the above project to start a mystery photo contest on his Humbug Journal. Ken found a bunch of baseball photos in a barrel in a "Recycle Store" while on vacation and has used four of them thus far. Cliff Corcoran of Bronx Banter, Bob Timmermann of The Griddle, a reader by the name of DXMachina, and several others have regularly participated in researching each of the photos to determine the date, the players, and even the actual play. Jon Weisman of Dodger Thoughts even contributed mystery photo #5.

The subjects in the photo below are well known and easily recognizable. Name the players, the year, and the location. If you can pinpoint the actual month and day, that would be herculean. Enjoy! (Photo credit goes to my Dad.)



It's Henry Aaron and Jim Gilliam, taken sometime between 1954 (Aaron's debut) and 1958 (the Dodgers started adding the red number to the front of their road unis in 1959). The Braves are home, but it doesn't look like County Stadium. Where did the Braves train in the fifties?

D'oh! Gilliam is wearing an LA cap, so 1958. (I had this whole line of reasoning figuring out it was '58 because the senior Mr. Lederer worked for a SoCal paper, thus it had to be the LA Dodgers. Then I noticed the cap...)

For comparison, here's an April 1, 1955 shot of Aaron in spring training.

Not that is has to be the same field, but the mystery photo field has a grass infield and that photo shows unlined dirt.

Maybe it's not regular season, but it's at Dodgers spring training in Vero Beach? There's a white building behind Aaron in about the right place and they've probably redone the wall since 1959. The scraggly pine tree in center throws me, though. Doesn't strike me as typical for Florida...

When I saw the background, I thought, maybe its from the old Home Run Derby they did in Vegas in '58 and '59. But I'm pretty sure Jim Gilliam never participated in Home Run Derby . . . so it could be spring training 1958, which the Braves played in Bradenton, FL.

Looks like mountains in the background. AZ, CAL or NV mountains.

The Home Run Derby's were held at Wrigley Field in LA. Gilliam never competed.

If we're in spring training, we're before April 14th, as that was the 1958 opener against Pittsburgh.

No surprise, all the Braves / Dodgers games that year were in County Stadium or Memorial Coliseum. Not sure about the mountains, unless we're in Vegas.

Whoops - the old Home Run Derby was actually played at Wrigley Field in LA . . .

Home Run Derby was filmed at Wrigley Field in LA, and the wall looks wrong (and too low) for Wrigley. Plus, as you say, Gilliam didn't participate.

The Braves trained in Bradenton, FL, in the fifties. I don't see any mountains. The two players look to be standing in front of the first base line. You can see third base just to the left of Hank's elbow.

On second look, I'm missing the mountains. Looks pretty flat save for a few trees and the white building behind Aaron.

(Oh, and it looks to be about 1pm from the overhead sun.)

maybe that's a big tree by Gilliams elbow.
In which case, Bradenton does have big trees.

Time of day is noonish. Very short shadows.

Could be here.......

Braves wind up Spring Training with barnstorming trip to Gardner Park in Dallas for game with "West Coast" Dodgers, Koufax vs. Carl Willey!.

If you look at the Dodgertown historic photos here:

And look at aerial circa 1950's and Boys Camp circa 1950's, you'll see some trees similar to that scraggly pine in the mystery photo.

Looks like a 375 marker in the left field alley, unless that's an advert. Anyone know of a catalog of dimensions for spring training fields?

...except that the Braves are in their home whites and the Dodgers in their road greys. *sigh*

OK, here's something really off the wall.

Apparently the Braves and Dodgers had a barnstorming game (or maybe a couple?) at the end of Spring Training 1958. The game(s) were played at Gardner Park in Dallas, TX. Could we be looking at that? I haven't been able to find any pictures of Gardner Park online yet.

Vero Beach didn't have an outfield fence until sometime in the eighties. Plus, Gilliam would be in home whites, and Aaron in gray.

It's a pity retrosheet doesn't have spring training schedules.

Based on a picture of what is now McKechnie field in Bradenton, FL, the Braves as the home team makes sense. Check out how the left field line leads right to the white house with the angled roof and right-side deck. (Visible on either side of Aaron)

This assumes the Braves used the same field the Pirates do now. (It wouldn't have been McKechnie field then, most likely.) So I'm thinking Braves spring training.

The mystery photo looks like it is taken in the infield, with third base to the right of Aaron's elbow. The building beyond the leftfield fence (mostly obstructed by Aaron) seems to match the builing in this relatively recent photo of McKechnie Field:

Also look at the low chimney-type thing in the crook of Aaron's elbow between the players; it seems to have a match in the digitalballparks photo.

The internets win again. Two more backups for McKechnie:

1) The white house again

2) Note about the Braves using the field from 1948-1962

Anyone know of a spring training schedule source? eBay ticket stubs? :)

Spike, you beat me to it! But to answer your question, McKechnie Field was built in 1923, and here are the Spring Training tenants (in reverse chron order):

McKechnie Field
Bradenton Florida

Today-1969 - Pirates
1968-1964 - K.C. Athletics
1963-1948 - Mil. Braves
1940-1938 - Boston Braves
1936-1930 - Cardinals

So it was the same stadium, and it seems pretty certain that this was at McKechnie.

Guess we've got a range of dates, then, March to April for spring training. That's the month, but unless we can get the games against LA, not sure a date will happen...

I couldn't find 1958 Spring Training game dates, schedules, etc. I'm thinking the only way to find this would be to go to newspaper microfilm. But I'm not that motivated.

March 13, 1958 looks promising. Dodgers vs. Braves in an exhibition game in Bradenton, Florida.

The article mentioned that it was raining pretty hard the night before - the ground sort of looks wet, so I'll buy that.

The headline in the LA Times was:

Braves Deal 8-2 Loss to Dodgers; Podres Blasted for Six Markers; Montemayor Hits 1st L. A. Homer Braves Rout Podres, 8-2

FWIW, a search on the LA Times historical archive for "Bradenton" "Dodgers" "Braves" yields this as the only game played there in 1958.

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?