Baseball Before Double-Knits -- Brace's Photos Show `Game That Was'

Before baseball became double-knits and designated hitters, it was flannel and fun.

In the era when photographer George Brace worked ballgames with a camera and an eye for the eye-catching, players were only too happy to pose for him, sometimes serious, sometimes clowning around.

Beginning in 1929, Brace wandered the fields with his camera, shooting everyone from sluggers to mascots, clubhouse boys to ticket takers.

"Anything in uniform," he said. "If it was baseball, we photographed it."

The result was thousands of pictures from a different time in baseball. A selection of Brace's vintage work from the 1930s, '40s and '50s has been collected in "The Game That Was," a nostalgic look at the sport before the game-face, corporate mentality moved in on it.

This is a baseball family album that covers the subjects Brace found intriguing.

The photographer's portrait of a smiling, relaxed Lou Gehrig pleased the slugger so much he ordered copies to sign and send to fans. He didn't charge for them, either.

Brace caught a curious sideways glance by Satchel Paige, perhaps checking to see if anybody was gaining on him. Babe Ruth looked happy as he held a bat and posed with his wife, Claire, for the cameraman. And Tommy Lasorda was a kid, a winless left-hander far removed from his decades-long run as manager of the Dodgers when Brace's camera found him.

On the first day of the 1940 season, Brace posed in the Cleveland dugout with Bob Feller and Jeff Heath. Then Feller went out and pitched the only Opening Day no-hitter in baseball history.

When they planted ivy at the outfield wall in Wrigley Field, Brace recorded the defining moment in baseball gardening history.

Brace dressed pudgy Paul Dominick, the Cubs' mascot in the 1930s, in catcher's gear for a fun picture and shot the Comiskey Park clubhouse boys, brothers Art and Ephraim Colledge, who shared a single, unexplained nickname of "Sharkey."

The nickname origin of usher Joe Murphy, though, was simple. Whenever he was asked to estimate Wrigley Field's attendance, he'd say "40,000." Thus, he became "Forty Thousand Murphy."

Dominick moved from baseball to Hollywood and the "Our Gang" series. The two Sharkeys and Forty Thousand Murphy faded into obscurity, their enduring link to baseball history found in the darkroom of a photographer who found them interesting and took their pictures.