Like all of America, Southern California first caught baseball fever in the 19th Century. The sport that writers dubbed the National Pastime spread to every part of the Southland, from Santa Monica to Long Beach to Pasadena and beyond. Members of Riverside’s Cahuilla Indian tribe played ball, Issei immigrants from Japan played besuboru, Mexican American kids played béisbol. In the 100-plus years since, that fever has not died down.
Photography and baseball have been inextricably linked since the invention of the daguerreotype process in 1839. Professional baseball players were among the first athletes to be photographed extensively (usually in studio portraits). Gradually, as innovations in camera, lens, flash, and film technology caught up to the speed of athletes in motion, photographers produced black-and-white and then color action shots of baseball’s most exciting and memorable moments on the field.
The Los Angeles Public Library’s vast photo collection supplied the images for this exhibit and the accompanying book. Many of the pictures seen here were originally published in the Valley Times and Herald-Examiner newspapers. Others came from the groundbreaking “Shades of L.A.” project of family photographs. Together, they capture every aspect of our national pastime up until the early 1990s: famous players and anonymous weekend warriors; changes in uniform style and ballpark architecture; and the timeless essence of a game roiled by social change. Play Ball!
Journalist and Board Member, Photo Friends