The New York Yankees Photo Collection—The Albums that Ruth Built!
Welcome to one of the greatest discoveries in the annals of Yankee photodom. Every picture in this auction section hails from a series of photo albums carefully prepared for posterity in the Yankee front office between the 1930s and 1960s. Our best guess is that the forward-thinking archivalist (to whom we hobbyists now owe a sincere debt of gratitude) was one Ruth Bayline. A switchboard operator-turned-administrative assistant, Bayline worked closely with the team's executives and is present in many of the non-baseball-related images, including several with Ed Barrow. Her ambitious album project appears to have come to its end around the time CBS bought the franchise in the mid-1960s.
From what we can discern, the vast majority of these photos were produced "in house" for reference/library/promotional usage by the era's official Yankee photographers such as Thorne Studios, Cosmo-Sileo and Bob Olen. Thus, they represent the exact photos that the Yankees would have issued to national newspapers and media outlets upon an inquiry for specific player images. Until those publication requests were granted and distribution took place, however, there was simply no need for the Yankees to identify their own photos. As a result, this raw collection is largely unstamped and blank-backed—in contrast to the bevy of dates, codes and copyrights that typically adorn photo reverses. Moreover, even those specimens without a visible forensic link to Thorne or Cosmo still employ the identical paper stock used by those studios. In some instances, additional known copies of these photos do exist in the hobby with the pertinent stamp record—signifying that they were proliferated more widely. In many other cases, the image content here seems quite exclusive to the inner sanctum of the franchise front office, with incredibly fresh discoveries of never-before-seen pictures. Best of all, this inside sourcing provided consistent direct access to the original negatives, which resulted in Type I photos of the highest possibly quality—bar none.
Occasional inclusions do actually hail from outside news-service agencies and thus carry the relevant stampings and/or paper captions. One noteworthy example is a Joe DiMaggio hit-streak photo accompanied by a 1941 Acme Newspictures letter that reads, "Dear Miss Bayline: Please accept with our compliments this photograph of Joe DiMaggio crossing the plate after breaking the record for hitting in consecutive games." Although it's unlikely that her job detail entailed the acquisition or commission of particular photos, the collection gives every indication of having been assembled by Bayline alone with the utmost passion and diligence for her beloved Bronx Bombers.
Bountiful Yankee History
Never before has such a monumental and impressive amount of Yankee photos surfaced together at one time and been made publicly available at auction. Gehrig, DiMaggio, Mantle, Dickey, Berra, Maris, Rizzuto, Ford—all of these Golden Age greats, along with countless lesser-known (and often rare) figures, are represented here in abundance. The historical gravity and visual delights are simply staggering: DiMaggio with the San Francisco Seals, Gehrig's Luckiest Man Speech, Mantle sliding as a rookie, an aerial view of Maris belting number 61, Maris meeting JFK, and World Series match-ups, not to mention non-Yankee cameos by the likes of Ted Williams and Sandy Koufax. There are also intimate spotlights on WWI, Yankee Stadium through its rise and evolution, "Lombardi's Swoon" and the 1955 Japan Tour, as well as decades-spanning themed compilations of Yankee managers, executives, old-timers, season openers, portraits, actions shots, group scenes, candids, you name it. Meanwhile, the expert eyes behind the camera include Charles Conlon, George Burke, Don Wingfield and Herb Scharfman.
Turning to technical details, the meticulous collection is stunningly well preserved. Through a half-century of safekeeping, it has managed to avoid those many trappings of contemporary photos subjected to publication usage, such as heavy creasing, crazing, crop marks, background masks, editorial accents, off-cut sizes, surface paper loss, and "show-through" from reverse-side handwritten notations. In general, condition averages EX to EX/MT with only light, essentially insignificant peripheral wear that has little or no impact at all upon the glossy central image areas. A minute number of photos (less than 1%) show the slightest evidence of perimeter chipping, and more than half bear black-paper album-mounting remnants on the backs that cannot be seen whatsoever upon frontal display. Sizes range mainly from 7" x 9" to 8" x 10" for standard-issue photos and 10" x 11" to 11" x 14 for oversized examples.
Several dozen of the very finest photos are encapsulated as Type I by PSA/DNA and have received professional conservation to seamlessly remove the aforementioned mounting remnants. Make no mistake, however: The remainder (with occasional exception, as noted) could receive the same elite treatment. This is an across-the-board bona fide Type I collection of the highest order. Nearly every single photo was created from the original negative at the time of the image itself. As a result, overall image quality—in terms of clarity, contrast and resolution—is nothing short of extraordinary.
As one can imagine, a great deal of time and energy was devoted to exhaustively researching this collection for the purposes of identification, dating and organization. Our ultimate goal was to isolate the cream-of-the-crop individual lots, and then strategically assemble interesting, attractive and important groupings. By no means should these bulk groups be considered "dealer lots" (although their breakdown value is indeed significant). Rather, their quality is equal to their quantity, and their player rarity—particularly during the War Years and/or in cases of brief pinstripe stints—is often superior to that of their superstar or Hall of Fame brethren. In fact, quite a few photos rank among just 2 or 3 known Type I specimens in the entire hobby.
Yes, this significant "find" truly offers something for everyone, from its iron-clad provenance and pedigree to its unparalleled Yankee pantheon to its Type I originality to its remarkable preservation. Legendary Auctions is proud to share Ruth Bayline's long-lost legacy with the Yankee photo enthusiasts for whom it was always lovingly intended.