The Blond Viking of Bohemia
Photographer Forrest Yantis caught Joe Vosmik in a playful mood on the road at Tiger Stadium in Detroit, snapping this funny face portrait of Cleveland’s star left fielder. Vosmik’s goofiness stemmed from a comfortable familiarity with his cameraman. A devoted fan of his local club, Yantis repeatedly directed his camera toward Cleveland’s hometown favorite, the burly “blond Viking.”
A first generation American of Bohemian immigrant parents, Vosmik notoriously skipped school over and over again, sneaking into League Park to watch baseball games and fuel his dream to become the next Tris Speaker. Cleveland sportswriters described Vosmik’s baseball school as “sandlots and city parks.” He was selected as one of four top prospects out of the Cleveland Amateur Baseball Association in 1928, one of the few professional players “who bounced from his home-town playgrounds into his home-town major-league line-up.”
Cleveland manager Roger Peckinpaugh described 21-year old “kid” as possessing “the true baseball instinct and in a degree that’s amazing in one who has played as little as he has.” Vosmik batted .320 and drove in an astonishing 117 runs in his rookie year with the team in 1931, taking to the big league diamond “with cocky confidence.” In his best year in the majors in 1935, Vosmik led the American League in hits (216), doubles (47) and triples (20). He just missed winning the batting title when Washington’s Buddy Myer went 4-for-5 in the final game of the year topping Vosmik’s .3483 average with a .3490. Vosmik received a deafening, two-minute standing ovation when he came to the plate at the All-Star Game in Cleveland that season. Over the course of a decade in the majors, he achieved a lifetime batting average of .307 with 1,682 hits and 874 RBI.
Vosmik sat for other, more serious portraits by Forrest Yantis during pre-game warm-ups in Cleveland where the affable, young photographer captured the faces of Cleveland’s star players of the 1930s. Forty-five of Yantis’s player portraits, including Vosmik, are now featured in the online exhibition Pastime Portraits in collaboration with Google Cultural Institute.
Other online photo exhibits
The National Baseball Hall of Fame and Museum features a collection of nearly 250,000 photographs like this one. Reproductions are available for purchase. To purchase a reprint of this photograph or others from the Photo Archive collections, please call (607) 547-0375 or email firstname.lastname@example.org. Hall of Fame members receive a 10-percent discount.
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