The Screwball: More Fun With Old Photos

Willie Mays just turned 84, and could probably still hop on one foot for grins. (via John Brenneis, Getty Images)

Willie Mays just turned 84, and could probably still hop on one foot for grins. (via John Brenneis, Getty Images)

Another pop quiz, for the discerning baseball fan:


This guy is:

  • A) The vice president of the Creepy Neighbor Club.
  • B) The opening act for the Gloomy McGrim Quartet of Doom.
  • C) Attempting to set fire to the studio using only his mind.
  • D) Not at all pleased.

This player is:

  • A) Wearing his pants backward, definitely.
  • B) Good at buttoning buttons, but only when they come in pairs.
  • C) Destined for slow-pitch softball.
  • D) Playing Eve in the summer stock production of Eat This Apple, Adam!

This third baseman is:

  • A) Lucky that no one is behind him, because he’s terrible at mooning.
  • B) Unaware that horizontal stripes make his forehead look fat.
  • C) The acting president of the Stupendously Awesome Mustache Club.
  • D) Experiencing some soreness in his left hand.
Arthur Irwin and Tommy McCarthy, Philadelphia Quakers

This infielder has:

  • A) Mistaken the photographer for a future German leader.
  • B) Always enjoyed landing ballet leaps in his spare time.
  • C) Hidden a giant cupcake beneath his cap.
  • D) Decided to signal “safe,” for some reason.
Arthur Irwin and Tommy McCarthy, Philadelphia Quakers

This baserunner is:

  • A) Testing the new Memory-Dirt Mattress.
  • B) Also testing the new Slap-To-The-Face Pillow.
  • C) Determined to play that base-shaped bongo.
  • D) An early proponent of “planking.”
Arthur Irwin and Tommy McCarthy, Philadelphia Quakers

The outfielder on the right is:

  • A) Responding favorably to the ballpark’s Seance Day.
  • B) About to be unmasked by meddling kids as the custodian, Mr. Jones.
  • C) Known outside the ballpark as “The Vanishing Hitchhiker.”
  • D) A slow runner but a fast stander.

This guy is:

  • A) Determined to line up the putt, even if he’s not holding a putter.
  • B) Manning the bottom level of an otherwise invisible cheerleader pyramid.
  • C) Trying desperately to break free of his patented button sleeves.
  • D) Good at making fart noises with his hands.

These players are:

  • A) Mistaking the photographer for the umpire, obviously.
  • B) Developing an early form of knee-replacement surgery.
  • C) Demonstrating that there is more than one way to look at things.
  • D) Doing everything wrong.

This infielder is:

  • A) Just now realizing that the photographer witnessed the murder.
  • B) Also realizing that the photographer needs to be next.
  • C) About to tell the photographer, “Look, it’s nothing personal, but…”
  • D) Going to forget to destroy the photographic evidence.

This player is:

  • A) Welcoming his new spherical overlord.
  • B) Hoping that someday a word or logo will identify which team he plays for.
  • C) Creating a total eclipse of the ball.
  • D) Choosing to ignore the drought conditions behind him.

This player’s name is:

  • A) Troy.
  • B) T-Roy.
  • C) Cookieduster McMustache.
  • D) Barnum & Bailey’s Convincingly Mustachioed Woman.
Deacon McGuire, Philadelphia Quakers

This player is:

  • A) Posing in the world-famous Pretend You’re Lobbing A Grenade Studios.
  • B) Getting rid of this poisonous potato by any means necessary.
  • C) Intent on literally killing two birds with literally one stone.
  • D) Pretty sure that black is the new black.
Arthur Irwin, Philadelphia Quakers

This guy is:

A Hardball Times Update
Goodbye for now.
  • A) Guilty of wearing the wrong outfit to the church picnic.
  • B) Not going to turn around, no matter how stern the admonishment.
  • C) Confused as to the dynamic of relay throws.
  • D) Practicing for his first prostate exam.

Philadelphia Athletics second baseman Joe Battin is:

  • A) Proposing a game of Pick Up The Hat Before I Hit You.
  • B) Fiercely protecting his bowtie.
  • C) Uncertain about the concept of the batter’s box.
  • D) Often described as “playing second and battin’ sixth, heh-heh….”

Pirates shortstop Honus Wagner is:

  • A) Guiding a gondola along the canals of Venice.
  • B) Churning butter.
  • C) Attempting to set an American record in the pole vault.
  • D) Testing the summer sausage for firmness.

Brooklyn Suberbas shortstop Ray Mowe is:

  • A) Attempting to coax a cuddly brown bear (not pictured).
  • B) Applauding an early prototype of long-bladed Astroturf.
  • C) Doing an early version of the Neutron Dance.
  • D) Unaware of the garage sale behind him.

Pitchers Eddie Plank (left) and Big Ed Walsh are:

  • A) Attempting to steal each other’s pocket watches.
  • B) Playing a game called Pretend Not To Notice The Glove On The Ground.
  • C) Not yet aware that Elmer’s Roll-on Glueodorant is permanent.
  • D) Comparing trapezius muscles, as is the custom.

The Yankees’ Roy Hartzell has:

  • A) A warm neck, for sure.
  • B) Posed for other sweater catalogues, probably.
  • C) Always wondered what it’s like to wear a heavy sweater and no pants.
  • D) Just encountered a photographer who’s not familiar with the rule of thirds.

Brooklyn outfielder Zack Wheat is:

  • A) Terrible at the one-man limbo.
  • B) Good at making everyone else look the other way.
  • C) Field-testing the new Exterior Jockstrap.
  • D) Destined to suffer a lot of bunt-related groin pain.

Tigers shortstop Donie Bush is not:

  • A) Sure what thing is, but he ain’t gonna let it get any closer.
  • B) Accustomed to chants of “Do-nie! Do-nie!”
  • C) Prepared for the phenomenon they’re calling “The Wave.”
  • D) Comfortable taking bunting practice with mob boss Vito Adamo watching.

Tigers outfielder Ty Cobb is:

  • A) Exchanging pleasantries with the opposing dugout.
  • B) About to be assaulted by a well-dressed ruffian.
  • C) Making his shadow resemble the South American continent.
  • D) Turning his head and coughing, for some reason.

Giants first baseman George “High Pockets” Kelly is:

  • A) Trying, but failing, to lower the height of his pockets.
  • B) Comparing separate methodologies of self-administered knee massage.
  • C) Performing history’s least enthusiastic Charleston.
  • D) Manning third base, somehow.

Detroit’s Harry Heilman (left) and Red Wingo are:

  • A) Still not sure how the didgeridoo works.
  • B) Enjoying a casual game of tug-of-peace.
  • C) Thrilled about the chocolate bat with the Golden Ticket.
  • D) Easily amused.

Yankees second baseman Frank Truesdale is:

  • A) Not pleased with this newfangled tubular bat.
  • B) Unsure of his plans for St. Patrick’s Day.
  • C) Resigned to the fact that he’ll hit .212 this season.
  • D) Already jealous of Robinson Cano, somehow.

These Cubs are:

  • A) Winning the Lean Casually On Your Bat Contest.
  • B) Winning the Everyone Look In A Different Direction Contest.
  • C) Winning the Nonchalant Use Of A Bat-Shaped Metal Detector Contest.
  • D) Just now realizing that their franchise is probably doomed.

Giants pitcher Carl Mays is:

  • A) Competing in the Tri-State Area Watusi Contest.
  • B) Tilting at windmills, whatever that means.
  • C) Hoping to catch on with the Queens Quasimodos.
  • D) Failing to bring rain.

The 1918 New York Giants are:

  • A) Being ridiculed, from behind, for arriving underdressed.
  • B) Still confused about the definition of “sepia-toned.”
  • C) Not convinced that measurements of 4-16-18 would constitute a “giant.”
  • D) Pretty much convinced that 4562 minus 7 equals 4555.

Washington catcher Muddy Ruel has:

  • A) Nothing up his sleeve, as you can see for yourself.
  • B) Blocked the plate many times before, but never from a photographer.
  • C) A habit of telling fish stories while wearing catching gear.
  • D) Long depended on charity, but hopes to trade his mitt for an alms bowl.

New York pitcher Urban Shocker is:

  • A) Hosting a new show titled Mr. Shocker’s Neighborhood.
  • B) Always divided between the Yan and the Kees.
  • C) Pleased that he snuck his own snacks into the ballpark.
  • D) Saying to the photographer, “Guess which hand my other hand is in.”

The boy behind Babe Ruth is:

  • A) Diogenes of Providence, last of the great Stoics.
  • B) A young Val Kilmer.
  • C) Kind of scary.
  • D) Late for school.

The player facing the camera is:

  • A) Trying to ignore No. 30’s massive rear end.
  • B) Still expecting a huge crowd, somehow.
  • C) Wondering where the catcher’s head is.
  • D) Glad he got a brown “B” instead of a scarlet “A.”

This St. Louis Browns baserunner is:

  • A) Safe.
  • B) Out.
  • C) Wondering why he’s levitating.
  • D) Trying to stamp out a small tornado with his left foot.

The Yankees’ Tony Lazzeri (left) and Joe DiMaggio are:

  • A) Excited about their new end table.
  • B) Amused that Lazzeri inadvertently shouted, “Hip! Hip! Wahoo!”
  • C) Tickled that they still can’t figure out the three-legged race.
  • D) Delighted that Lefty Gomez literally gave them the shirt off his back.

Red Sox slugger Ted Williams is:

  • A) Enjoying Spring Break ’41!
  • B) Just trying to keep warm, dadgummit.
  • C) Auditioning for Beach Blanket Single, the prequel to Beach Blanket Bingo.
  • D) The most modest ballplayer in the Nudist Divisional Series.

These Dodgers are:

  • A) Early adopters of the Captain Morgan pose.
  • B) Terrible at imitating Cerberus.
  • C) Hoping to win the six-legged race.
  • D) Comparing foot sizes, for some reason.

Yankees outfielder Mickey Mantle is:

  • A) Confused about this “jumping the broom” ceremony.
  • B) Hoping to impress the East German judges.
  • C) Engaged in a modernist reenactment of the Assumption of Mary.
  • D) Posing for the FTD logo.
Image via John Brenneis, Getty Images

Image via John Brenneis, Getty Images

Giants outfielder Willie Mays is:

  • A) Inventing the “moon walk” in front of thousands of appreciative fans.
  • B) Leading a particularly recalcitrant group of aerobics students.
  • C) Posing for a super-funky crosswalk sign.
  • D) Hopping up and down on one foot, just for grins.

Baltimore’s Russ Snyder is:

  • A) Testing the new Moet Shampoo.
  • B) About to realize that they should have spelled it “Champoo.”
  • C) Completing Part 1 of his hydrology thesis.
  • D) Not worried about tests for scalp alcohol content.

Ted Williams and Joe DiMaggio are:

  • A) Laughing at two completely unrelated events.
  • B) Reacting to the suggestion that the 1970s will be the decade of “disco.”
  • C) Acknowledging that it doesn’t matter who dealt it, as both have smelt it.
  • D) Just now getting the joke about the talking dog in the talent agency.

Dodgers outfielder Willie Davis has:

  • A) Grown weary of d-Con’s new Outfielder Trap.
  • B) Decided to never again wear an iron jockstrap in a magnetic ballpark.
  • C) Never gotten over his debilitating fear of baseballs.
  • D) Other.

John Paschal is a regular contributor to The Hardball Times and The Hardball Times Baseball Annual.
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All of the above

What do I win?


S**t, sorry everyone, forgot to put ***SPOILER ALERT***. That’s really my bad, well, damn, this is embarrassing. Let’s all just move along.


Picture used for 4,5,6:

The outfielder on the left is:

A) desperately waiting to use the bathroom.
B) attempting to fix that kink in his back himself.
C) not having any of your sass.
D) demonstrating an early version of the Macarena.

Joe Joe
Joe Joe

Not the Macerena as he is Michael Flatley, Lord of the Dance. He also scares the bejesus out of Chandler.

(the other) Walter
(the other) Walter

Love these….and clearly Willie Davis is auditioning for SpiderMan!

Paul G.
Paul G.

*applause* You, sir, are a master of your craft. Which does not mean you did not miss anything. Philadelphia Athletics second baseman Joe Battin is: E) actually Leonardo DiCaprio posing for a publicity photo for Gangs of New York. F) wondering what disgusting thing they are going render behind him with the green screen this time. G) seriously considering willing his ascot collection to a young Fred Jones. H) completely unconcerned that his pants’ legs are not the same length. At some point you should try to do an A through Z selection for one very content rich photo. Mr.… Read more »

Paul G.
Paul G.

As to the “total eclipse of the ball” guy (that is just brilliant):

This player is:
F) still not quite getting the concept of how make a ninja costume, probably.
G) ,thanks to his super-mime powers, holding up an invisible Leaning Tower of Pisa.
H) not enjoying tetherball nearly as much as he expected.


Good stuff as always, John. I’m still waiting for Netflix to pick up reruns of Mr. Shocker’s Neighborhood. Amazon? Hulu? Somebody?

Paul G.
Paul G.

And I must now compulsively nitpick. Diogenes (of Sinope) was actually a Cynic, not a Stoic, though Diogenes did inspire Stoicism. The Stoic greatly values self-control. To say that Diogenes did not practice self-control is somewhat of an understatement as he made it a point to be an outrageous jerk to protest things of which he disapproved and he disapproved of a whole lot. He was the ancient world’s equivalent of an Internet troll. If Diogenes of Providence acted like his namesake, the main question is how many and which kinds of steaming piles of bodily emanations the cleaning crew… Read more »


How about this for the second picture in the quiz?

E. Vladimir Putin offers to lob a pitch to anyone willing to go to bat against him.

John Paschal
John Paschal



I think it’s interesting that some of these are clearly intended to look like action shots, but probably had to be staged in place because of how long cameras had to be exposed back then, which makes it really obvious they aren’t action shots.

John Paschal
John Paschal

Absolutely. In some of the 19th-century studio photos, you can see the string holding up the ball.


Terrific stuff again, John! My combination of vintage base ball and optics knowledge leads me to rule Joe Battin’s pant legs are the same length.

John Paschal
John Paschal

All right! We have a ruling: It is hereby decreed that Mr. Battin’s pant legs are of the same length. Now let us put this contentious matter behind us and move on to a more significant debate regarding Bryce Harper’s latest hairstyle.

(Thanks, Mr. Simons!)