Extraordinary Pair of Circa 1914 Walter Johnson "Action" Photos

Sold For: $940

Auction Year: 2010 spring

Lot: 1403

Item Year: 1912

Category: The Golden Age of Baseball Photography

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Two vintage original press photos, culled from The Detroit News archives, each capturing the fabled "Big Train" in action as he displays the pitching form that made him the most dominant hurler of his era. The photos, which appear to have been taken moments apart, picture Johnson warming up on the sidelines prior to a game. Reverse markings on the first photo (6 x 8 inches; right arm behind his head) include two date stamps ("Filed Before June 1919" and "Jun 24 1935") and various period editorial notations, one of which reads "Washington Rookie." Reverse markings on the second photo (7 x 9.5 inches; right arm forward) include two date stamps ("Filed Before June 1919" and "Jul 14 1957") and a few period editorial notations. Despite the notation on the reverse of the first photo indicating the image dates from Johnson's rookie season (Johnson came up in 1907, but 1908 was his first full season), the uniform style depicted here, which is a road uniform, was only worn by the Senators from 1912 through 1916 (according to the Baseball Hall of Fame uniform database). Johnson enjoyed the five finest overall seasons of his career during that span. From 1912 through 1916 Johnson won, respectively, 33, 36, 28, 27, and 25 games, while leading the league in strikeouts each season. He also led the league in ERA in both 1912 (1.39) and 1913 (a career low 1.14). Johnson retired in 1927 with 417 wins (second only behind Cy Young), and a then-record 3,509 strikeouts. Original action photos of Johnson pitching are extremely rare; a related in-sequence set of two as seen here is possibly unique. The first photo displays a horizontal tear and smaller vertical tear (no paper loss), both of which have been repaired on the reverse with brown tape. Both photos have a number of minor flaws common to nearly all working press photos, including light creases, small edge tears, and editorial outlining on the front. Overall in Good and Excellent condition, respectively. Reserve $400. Estimate $800+. SOLD FOR $940

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