Tag Archives: newspapers

Google’s news archive a treasure for baseball researchers, fans

 

New York Giants' 1913 Opening Day lineup at the Polo Grounds

For the baseball fan and the baseball researcher, the Google News Archive is a dream come true. Point your browser to news.google.com/archivesearch and at your fingertips you have access to an unimaginable bounty of newspaper and magazine clippings on the grand old game, not to mention just about any subject you might care to pursue.

You can follow any team almost day by day through any year – the New York Giants in 1913, for example, shown above on Opening Day at the Polo Grounds. They madeĀ the World Series that year, only to lose to the Philadelphia Athletics.

I became aware of the Google archive a couple of years ago because the newspaper at which I work was one of the early members of the News Archive Partner Program. Newspapers agreed to work with Google to get their content online, and Google is scanning and indexing newspapers going back to at least, as far as I can tell, the early 20th century.

It’s a gold mine for historical information on baseball. In just a few searches today, I found the following:

  • A June 29, 1921, story from the Berkeley (Calif.) Daily Gazette about the opening of the fabled “Black Sox” trial in Chicago.
  • An AP story in the Schenectady (N.Y.) Gazette on Christmas Day in 1925 about how Babe Ruth would undergo a rigorous exercise regime to help him stage a comeback in 1926. (I never knew that Ruth had a “failed” season like ’25, when he hit just .290 with a mere 25 home runs.)
  • An AP story about the Cleveland Indians that appeared in the Reading (Pa.) Eagle on Jan. 21, 1965, a few days after the Tribe had reacquired Rocky Colavito in a three-way deal with the Chicago White Sox and Kansas City Athletics. (The trade was the biggest news of my life to that point when I was a kid in Cleveland!)
  • A UPI story in the Pittsburgh Press on Oct. 20, 1969, carrying a report from the Chicago Daily News that the Seattle Pilots would move to Milwaukee the next season.

Think of anything you want to know about baseball – the feuding between Reggie Jackson and Yankees’ manager Billy Martin, speculation on how Willie Mays would hit as Candlestick Park opened in San Francisco in 1960, or Branch Rickey signing Jackie Robinson to a contract with the Brooklyn Dodgers and assigning him to Montreal of the International League in 1945.

The possibilities – not to mention the box scores – are endless.

RIP George Steinbrenner, one of the last great black-and-white figures

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As the world knows by now, George Steinbrenner died today. The longtime owner of the New York Yankees was 80 and leaves behind a legacy of championships.

This afternoon I put together a gallery of Associated Press photos showing Steinbrenner over the years. What struck me was that roughly half the images of Steinbrenner were in black and white, half in color. It’s increasingly rare for a celebrity to die whose career is marked at least in part in black and white images.

Compare Michael Jackson, whose death last year was commemorated almost exclusively in color photos. But Steinbrenner made his mark in sports beginning in the 1960s when he took control of the Cleveland Pipers basketball team. That was toward the end of the black-and-white era in the media. Even through the 1970s, most of the images Americans saw in newspapers were black and white.

Then, in the early 1980s, along came USA Today. The national daily splashed with color essentially forced most American newspapers to begin printing in color. I was working in Wisconsin at the time, and I recall editors and publishers saying that adding color was in no way a response to USA Today. I never believed them for a minute.

Steinbrenner’s remarkable career straddled the black-and-white and color eras. Looking back on those B&W images, I see more impact in them because they are so atypical of the digitally delivered profusion of color images that we take for granted today.

Each of those B&W images came from a roll of film souped in a darkroom, often in the dank underbelly of some aging stadium in Detroit or Cleveland or Chicago. Only the best images were printed.

Through it all, Steinbrenner stood out, a leader so brash he ended up as a caricature character on one of the most popular situation comedies of all time, “Seinfeld.”

As someone who’s lived most of his life in American League markets outside New York, I’ve spent most of that time rooting against and occasionally cursing the Yankees. But as with Reggie Jackson, we only defied Steinbrenner because he was a winner. The respect was grudging, but it was respect.

A not-so-fond farewell to 2008 from the newspaper industry

Another newspaper press gone silent in 2008

Another newspaper press gone silent in 2008

The year is drawing to a close, and I daresay for most of us in the newspaper industry it’s time to say “good riddance” to 2008. According to the trade journal Editor & Publisher, the U.S. Department of Labor estimates that 21,000 newspaper jobs disappeared over the past 12 months. That report totals 3,000 jobs lost at Gannett, 2,500 at McClatchy and more than 1,000 at Tribune, which is now in bankruptcy proceedings.

These cuts decimated newsrooms, back shops and virtually every department in between. That 21,000 figure doesn’t take into account others who have fled the industry on their own, scattering to academia, public relations and other fields, or early retirement.

In tribute to our departed colleagues, I post the photo above of my “PRESS” cap sitting on the control panel of a newspaper press that was decommissioned a few months ago. My wife bought the cap at an industry meeting a year or two back, which in retrospect seemed like the good old days.

It’s doubtful those “good old days” will return to the newspaper industry, at least if you consider only its ink-on-dead-trees incarnation. Newspapers are evolving online, however, and here’s hoping that 2009 will bring better results.

Barack Obama, president-elect and Chicago White Sox fan

Here’s some great exposure for a baseball cap: President-elect Barack Obama wearing a White Sox cap. See more examples of how the photo played at the Innovations in Newspapers blog.

The newspaper cap and a changing industry

San Jose Mercury News cap, circa 2002

San Jose Mercury News cap, circa 2002

This post is a tough one. As a journalist, I’ve accumulated several newspaper caps from hundreds of visits to newsrooms and industry conventions. Collectively, they are among my favorites because they represent the vitality and pride of my profession.

But the newspaper industry is in decline, severely so in towns deep in the clenches of economic recession and stagnation. The handsome black cap above, which I picked up at a California Society of Newspaper Editors convention, is from a happier era at the San Jose Mercury News.

During the dot-com boom of the 1990s, the Merc was rolling in money — and spending it like crazy. In that decade, the most vexing question for newspeople was whether they should follow some of their colleagues to Internet operations that flowered in the spray of venture capital in Silicon Valley and the San Francisco Bay Area.

Jerry Ceppos, executive editor at the Merc for many of those high-rolling years, would slyly refer to the Merc as a “poor suburban daily.” At the time, the paper had the highest classified ad lineage in the nation.

Today? The Merc and so many other dailies have watched their classified revenue crater under the two-sided siege of a severe economic downturn and the proliferation of online advertising ventures.

I photographed my cap against a backdrop of the July 21, 1969, San Jose Mercury that loudly proclaimed man had landed on the moon. The industry was vastly different then, as most big cities had two or more dailies. In the two decades ahead, many papers would fold and many would combine as the Mercury eventually did with the San Jose News.

The industry is contracting again, and it’s distressing to see so many dedicated and talented colleagues losing their jobs, bolting for other industries or succumbing to despair.

For centuries, newspapers have charted the ups and downs of industries and institutions. We newspaper folk are not immune to those cycles, and I think many journalists lose sight of that. No industry is immune to change. Nothing — no business, no job — is permanent.

We journalists are most energized pursuing the hot story, a time of rapid change and even danger. We’re unwittingly in the midst of such a story in our own industry. We need to draw deeply from the well of principles and ideals that got us into this business so we can re-invent and perpetuate it, no matter what form it takes.

The Yankees as Evil Empire

For days I’ve been putting off this post, but with news of the Tigers trading Pudge Rodriguez to the New York Yankees, I can hold out no longer.

The Yankees are the Evil Empire of baseball, an eternal force against which all others must contend. The Yanks are the archetype of the invincible. If they didn’t exist, we’d have to invent them.

At right is the Yankees helmet my son picked up as a freebie on helmet day at the Big Stadium in the Bronx. It was a day game in 2003, and the Kansas City Royals crushed the Yankees 15-3 or something close to that.

With a pair of free tickets in hand, we took the No. 4 train from Midtown to the ballpark, a total urban experience. I’ve driven to plenty of ballgames and hiked in from parking lots, but for me nothing beats the thrill of riding a train or subway packed with fans to and from the game.

Having spent a good five years working at Rockefeller Center, I’ve soaked up thousands of tabloid baseball headlines on the backs of the Daily News and New York Post. Over the years I’ve formed temporary allegiances to the Mets and even rooted for the Yanks, indulging in a healthy respect and admiration for them and their fans, maybe the most passionate in the game.

So any victory against them — and one is never expected — is all the sweeter.

Below is another view of the Yankees batting cap, and I dare anyone not to liken it to the helmet of Darth Vader.

My first cap

MLB replica caps were scarce when I was a kid in the 60’s. They weren’t mass-produced as they are today. I’ll have to comb through the hundreds of slides my father took to find the earliest evidence I can of my wearing a ballcap. I’m guessing I probably had a small-billed cap with a “little league” (pun on small) kiddie outfit when I was a toddler. At one point I had a “wishbone C” Indians’ cap when I was in grade school, but I can’t remember how I came by it.

I do, however, distinctly remember getting my first “real” baseball cap. It was handed down to me by Butch Lowrie, a neighbor and the father of my friend Bobby Lowrie, who lived down the street from us. Mr. Lowrie worked at the Cleveland Press and played on the company baseball team. He gave me one of his Press baseball caps, which quickly became one of my most treasured possessions.

It was the real deal: a fitted wool cap with a leather sweat band. The cap was black with a red block “P” on the front, similar to a Pittsburgh Pirates cap.

I wore the cap everywhere, all day long, so much so that I can remember adults and other kids warning me that if I kept wearing it, I’d go bald. (I did not.)

That cap presaged two of the great loves of my life: baseball and newspapers. I carried the Press for several years in my neighborhood, and I eventually would make newspapers a career. The industry is in lamentable straits today, and I see many troubling signs reminiscent of the last years of the Press. It gamely tried to innovate and then merely to survive before succumbing to The Plain Dealer and the reality of late 20th Century journalism, which pitilessly decreed that only one newspaper could survive in a market.

This 21st Century will likely determine whether any newspaper can survive in any town.