Pastime Portraits: Photos by Forrest S. Yantis To Open Saturday at Baseball Hall of Fame

Collection Features Black-and-White Images of Many of the National Pastime’s Greatest Stars of the 1920s and 1930s

May 15, 2012
Yantis' personal collection covered every square inch of his office. (Courtesy of the Whitaker Family)

COOPERSTOWN, NY – The faces belong to another era, but the timelessness of the images remains seven decades after young Forrest S. Yantis snapped photos of his favorite ballplayers in a series of intimate, bust-length portraits.

Soon, these unique and inspiring fan photos will hang in Cooperstown as part of the new Pastime Portraits exhibit at the National Baseball Hall of Fame and Museum.

The Hall of Fame will officially open the new temporary exhibit, made possible by a generous loan from Yantis’ descendants, the Whitaker family, at 11 a.m. on Saturday, May 19, during a ribbon-cutting ceremony on the Museum’s third floor. Pastime Portraits will remain on exhibit throughout 2012 and is included with admission to the Museum.

Yantis, an insurance salesman from Troy, Ohio and ardent Cleveland Indians fan, pursued his passion for baseball by photographing more than 200 players between 1928 and 1938. Yantis used the negatives of his shots to produce poster-sized black-and-white prints of his favorite images, then returned to the ballpark to present the photographs to the players while securing autographs for copies for his own collection.

Yantis’ work captured future Hall of Famers like Jimmie Foxx (looking youthful with his cut-off sleeves in his Philadelphia A’s uniform), Walter Johnson (during his stint as Cleveland Indians manager) and Jim Bottomley (at the end of his career with gray hair at his temples). But Yantis also trained his camera on unheralded major leaguers like Clint Brown (who is caught showing off his gold teeth in his brilliant smile) and Joe Vosmik (with his freckles clearly visible on his sun-splashed face).

Pastime Portraits features 50 prints, including several printed by Hall of Fame staff photographer Milo Stewart Jr. from the original negatives – necessitated by the fact that no prints made from those negatives are known to exist. The new prints show the modern influences and differences of photo printing, contrasted against the earlier prints of the 1920s and 1930s.

“Forrest Yantis’ striking photographs are moments in time frozen by a fan whose passion for the game comes through the camera and onto the paper,” said Erik Strohl, the Museum’s senior curator of exhibitions and collections. “When fans see these pictures, they are transported through time to stand with Forrest Yantis, when he aimed his camera and captured these heroes of the diamond. We are honored to exhibit these historic images in Cooperstown.”

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