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Babe Ruth's final appearance at Yankee Stadium

Aug 16, 2010, 3:58 PM EDT

Life Magazine has some never before seen photos of Babe Ruth’s last appearance at Yankee Stadium, two months before his death.  They’re in color and, unlike some of the more well known pictures of the latter-day Babe, they give a striking view of just how frail he was.

Black and white photography is wonderful in its own way (and of course was, at one point in time, the only game in town), but there’s an artificial distancing from the present and romanticism to it that we often ignore. It’s hard to think of Babe Ruth as a mere mortal, partially because of the legend that surrounds him and his own exploits, but also because most of our images of him are in black and white. On some level he may as well be Abraham Lincoln or a lovingly-rendered sketch drawing or something.

There’s a human tendency to elevate the past and to say that the world is going to hell in a handbasket today. I suspect much of that is a function of us simply not knowing the past as clearly as we could. Mostly because of the disappearance of living memory, some because of ignorance and — maybe just a tiny bit — because we just don’t see it in full color, both literally and metaphorically speaking.

  1. Glenn - Aug 16, 2010 at 4:34 PM

    Craig, you are on the money about the past. You can find “the world is going to hell in a hand basket” stories from 100 years ago. Bill James had one article mentioned in one of his abstracts talking about the decline of the young, modern ballplayers and it was from 1915 or something. I’m a teacher and I hear of the golden age of the 50’s when everyone was an angel, education was respected, and public schools worked. No one mentions the over 50% drop out rate from that era. We sugarcoat and romanticize the past but forget that the past includes outhouses, killing your own food, dying of appendicitis, etc.

  2. Reflex - Aug 16, 2010 at 4:49 PM

    “The world is going to hell in a hand basket” has existed far longer than that. They have found similiar sentiments on tablets in Sumeria, with rants about the direction of the future, the morals of the young, and how nobody appreciates the sacrifices of their preceding generations. The end of civilization has been predicted since the rise of civilization, which is why I always laugh when someone uses that as an argument for or against something.

  3. mrfloydpink - Aug 16, 2010 at 5:22 PM

    Don’t forget also that the famous Dead Sea Scrolls were the work of people–the Essenes–who believed the world was going to hell.

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