Aren't they lovely?

Monday, March 22, 2010

'Babe Ruth Bows Out'

After a long night of serving as a judge for a newspaper contest, I was walking down the corridor at the CUNY Graduate School of Journalism when I was suddenly confronted with images from a bygone era. There on the white walls hung a dozen black-and-white photos taken by Nat Fein of the old New York Herald Tribune. I saw a vibrant JFK on the campaign trail and an endearing Albert Einstein in a tuxedo. But what stopped me in my tracks was the famous photo of Babe Ruth's last hurrah at the old Yankee Stadium in June 1948.

The frail legend is captured from behind, his Number 3 and the Yankee pinstripes so visible, as are the fans packed in the decks and the fellow players standing along the first baseline.

Why, I wondered, did Fein choose to shoot him from behind? What is it about the human form that telegraphs so much from the hunch of the shoulders and the set of the legs? Why did Fein forgo the drama of the Babe's face looking up at the adoring crowd?

A sign posted alongside the image said that Fein won a Pulitzer Prize for the photo. The Babe died two months later. I wondered if either of them had any inkling of the fate that was waiting in the wings for them.


  1. We saw the same photo at the Newseum this past weekend. It is great isn't it. He said he took the photo at that angle because it was about the number 3 being retired, but we thought it was about so much more. Becky

  2. Becky,
    Thanks for the explanation. Makes perfect sense. What a great photo!

  3. He actually took many photos that day as did a whole host of photographers. Most were from the front with the large ,adoring crowd in the background. He felt those didn't convey the emotion of the final NYC goodbye to their icon. So, he said he just went behind, crouched low, and knew it was the shot.
    (paraphrased from the Newseum interview of the photographer)