Friday, December 11, 2009

Programs from the Past: 1950

Click image for larger version

The cover of the 1950 yearbook is a dramatic shift in style from previous editions, and while it may seem a little boring at first, it's actually an impressive piece of modernist art that was well ahead of its time.

First, the pitcher's mechanics are nearly dead-on, which is rare in a baseball illustration (you could argue that the seams of the ball wouldn't really spin that way, but you're forgetting about the knuckleball). Second, the textured blue background is tastefully done. And third, the concept of having the ball flying at the viewer is quite innovative. No camera in the world could have captured this kind of real-life image in 1950; shutter speeds simply weren't fast enough. The artist, then (whom we know nothing about other than the "Shepard" tag at the bottom right corner of the drawing) was working entirely from his or her imagination, and not from an actual still-shot.

Whoever "Shepard" was, we raise a toast to her/him/it, and encourage you to click the link for the rest of the 1950 program.

As always, you can click each image to view a larger version.

Page 1

Page 1 features half of the scorecard and an ad for Main Drug Store (for all your "noonday luncheon" needs). It also informs us that gambling is strictly prohibited and that all violators will be ejected. Multiple fans have told us, however, that this rule was seldom (if ever) enforced.

Page 2

Personally, I'd vote for Sandy Robinson based on the picture alone.

Page 3

Page 4

I'm intrigued by Lash's Butcher Shop's "scientifically-aged" steaks. Also, if you're wondering, the "DH" next to some Cubs home games stands for "Double-Header." Remember when they used to deliberately schedule those? If you read carefully, you'll notice that Cubs doubleheaders in 1950 began at 6:30 PM. That's a long, late night of baseball.

Page 5

To our knowledge, Hires Root Beer is no longer around. We might suggest that their tagline, "For Real Root Juices," may have had something to do with that. But we shouldn't judge.

The "Cubs in the Hall of Fame" list, meanwhile, reminds us that despite their reputation as a perpetually losing franchise, Chicago had a number of true greats during the late 19th and early 20th Century. Anson, Spalding, Tinker, Evers, Chance, Hornsby, Waddell, Alexander...that's an impressive list of early baseball legends.

Finally, one thing that always intrigues me about mid-20th-Century ad copy is the insistence on placing "quotation marks" around seemingly random "words." The Mi Place ad on this page is a prime example. Does anyone care to explain why the word "Try" needed quotes around it? Does anyone else care to tell me that I'm a massive, massive nerd who needs to find much better things to worry about? Right. Moving on.

Page 6

Back Cover

The program's back cover features an eye-catching ad with an eye-catching promotion. Ironically, by featuring a television ad on their program, the Visalia Cubs were promoting an invention that would soon take a huge bite out of their own attendance and popularity. It's no coincidence that the rise of television paralleled the falling of gates at Visalia home games over the next decade. The attendance record of 1947 would stand all the way until 2009, due largely to the fact that television gave Visalia citizens something else to do on a Summer night besides going to the game, and allowed them to watch baseball that wasn't played at Recreation Park.


  1. So any idea if Sandy Robinson emerged victorious?

    Also, you should check this blog out for modern day misuse of quotation marks:

    Great post, as always...


  2. Ben,

    I had to check with Visalia historical guru Terry Ommen, who informed me that yes, Sandy Robinson won the election that year, and would win re-election several times over. He served as Sheriff through 1966. So there.

    Also, your link is brilliant. It's one of those things that makes me furious I didn't think of it first.