Bob Feller Signs His Final Contract – 1956

60 Years Ago Today Bob Feller Signs His Final Playing Contract

Indians pitcher Bob Feller (l) and catcher Jim Hegan (r) sit between GM Hank Greenberg as they sign their 1956 contracts - February 9, 1956

Indians pitcher Bob Feller (l) and catcher Jim Hegan (r) sit between GM Hank Greenberg as they sign their 1956 contracts – February 9, 1956

Bob Feller was one of the greatest pitchers in baseball; certainly many of his contemporaries thought so like Ted Williams who said that Feller was the fastest and best pitcher he ever faced. Feller’s career record of winning 266 games while losing just 162 was just one facet of his dominance. His blazing fastball helped him earn 44 shutouts, throw three no-hitters and 12 one-hitters.

Feller became the first American professional athlete to enlist in World War II by volunteering Continue reading

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Old New York In Photos #59

Looking West Towards Sixth Avenue On 42nd Street – 1890s

42nd St looking west from Fifth Ave Dr. Parkhursts Church Horse Trolley 1889 ph HN TiemannWe are looking west along 42nd Street towards Sixth Avenue in a photograph taken sometime during the last decade of the 19th century.

A cropped version of this photograph appeared in the must own book New York Then & Now 83 Matching Photographic Views from 1864-1938 and from the 1970s by Edward B. Watson and Edmund V. Gillon (Dover) 1976.

42nd St looking west from Fifth Ave close up photo HN Tiemann

close-up of trolley

When published in the book the date was given as 1900, but on the original photograph (seen above) taken by the firm of H.N. Tiemann, the caption says 1889 and lists the church as Dr. Parkhurst’s. This is definitely incorrect as Parkhurst was presiding at the Madison Square Presbyterian Church. The building next door, the Spalding Building was not constructed until around 1890, so there is doubt as to the true date of the scene.

Rapid transit is on display in the form of a couple of horse drawn trolleys and the Sixth Avenue Elevated’s 42nd Street station in the background.

West Presbyterian Church 1897 photo Byron & Co via MCNY

West Presbyterian Church 1897 photo Byron & Co via MCNY

On the north side of the street is the West Presbyterian Church (built 1862, demolished 1911) Continue reading

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Mayor La Guardia’s Homeless Solution – Arrest Them!

New York City Mayor Fiorello La Guardia’s 1942 solution for homelessness: Get to work or we’ll arrest you!

Bowery bums told to leave by LaGuardia 1942Rounding ’em up

New York City – “The Bowery Bum must go!” decreed New York’s Mayor La Guardia in his latest drive for municipal purity, and police squads promptly invaded the habitats of New York’s human derelicts and piled their collection into patrol wagons. Photo shows a group of the hapless men climbing into the “pie wagon”.  The mayor predicted that 30 days in the workhouse would cure them of their gutter-sleeping habits. (photo credit Acme) 11/18/1942

In 1942 some of New York City’s homeless population were comprised of families, but it also had a great deal of what were termed derelicts, vagrants and bums. These were the denizens of New York’s infamous street of despair, the Bowery.

That November, under the orders of Chief Magistrate Henry H. Curran and with the blessing of Mayor Fiorello La Guardia, the order to clear the Bowery bums off the streets or be arrested was given. It may sound harsh, but then it was how the city felt they could best deal with the undesired population inhabiting the streets of the Bowery. Mayor La Guardia claimed he had received complaints from several mission societies and churches along the Bowery about the actions of the homeless on the street. Continue reading

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Classic Hollywood #49

Gene Tierney

Gene Tierney with hat

There is a lot that can be written about Gene Tierney (1920-1991), but I’ll keep it brief because her life has been well documented and Gene wrote her autobiography Self Portrait in 1979 which candidly told of her many ups and downs.

One thing most film aficionados agree on is that Gene Tierney was one of the most beautiful stars to ever grace the silver screen. During the height of her film career in the 1940s she adorned the covers of hundreds of magazines. She wasn’t just beautiful, she was stunningly drop dead gorgeous. Continue reading

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Old Photos Of New York City & Snow

A Big Snowstorm In New York? Not a Big Deal In The Past

Some vintage photos of snow in New York City and thoughts about how we cope with it

1905 Fifth Avenue & 27th Street after a big storm

1905 Fifth Avenue & 27th Street after a big storm photo Detroit Publishing

New York City is getting some snow on January 23, 2016. Possibly a lot of it. You know what I say to that? It’s snow, it’s not a big deal.

On January 3, 2014 just days after taking office as mayor of New York, Bill De Blasio blundered in panicking and declaring a disaster before any snow had fallen. The big predicted blizzard that shut down the city including the schools: it ended up being five inches of snow.

1935 snowstorm effects on midtown Manhattan. Life goes on.

1935 snowstorm effects on midtown Manhattan. Life goes on.

The media in its 24 hour news cycle has to generate ratings and viewers. It broadcasts “news” that conveys sheer panic every time New York is slated to receive almost any amount of snow above three inches. Then the mayor or governor gets on TV surrounded by a bunch of sycophants who just stand there and in somber tones take turns assuring viewers that everything will be all right.

1908 horse drawn trolley trudges through New York's snow covered streets

1908 horse drawn trolley trudges through New York’s snow covered streets

This phenomenon of turning every single snowstorm into some crisis is ridiculous and what’s more: it never used to happen. Approaching snowstorms now start a vicious circle by both media and politicians of fear, seriousness and over-protection in the name of safety. We have become a society that seems to be having a hard time dealing with snow, let alone nature.

1908 Snow at night on Riverside Drive Viaduct photo NY Edison Co.

1908 Snow at night on Riverside Drive Viaduct photo NY Edison Co.

Continue reading

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Possible Oscar Boycott Ignores Other Underrepresented Actors

Time To Put A Stop To Hollywood’s Casting Bias – Microcephalics Insultingly called “Pinheads” Get The Shaft in Oscar Process

microphely 1

Everyone is now aware that for the 2016 Academy Awards no African-Americans were nominated for Academy Awards in the major acting categories. This has led to some people calling out the racist members of the Academy saying they will boycott the Oscars and things “have to change.”

microphely 2 zipBut there are so many groups not represented with nominations. If we’re going to go through with this diversity campaign let’s go full tilt.

In this country where we strive for equality the question arises – is it fair to single out the omission of only African Americans?

There is one group of entertainers that has been far more glaringly ignored in the Oscar process since the Academy’s  founding, and yet no one is standing up for them.

Microcephalic actors have not been recognized by the Academy – ever. Disparagingly called “pinheads” by sideshow aficionados, these people have been thoroughly neglected by the Hollywood elite and the Academy.

Schlitzie in Tod Browning's Freaks

Schlitzie in Tod Browning’s Freaks

Director Tod Browning was the only filmmaker brave enough to break the stigma of using people with microcephaly prominently in a film with his 1932 classic Freaks.

Since then, I know of no film that has featured a microcephalic actor with any prominent role. Therefore there have been no microcephalic actors nominated for an Academy Award.

True, Dan Akroyd and Jane Curtin starred in 1993’s The Coneheads, but they were only actors who looked like people with microcephaly and they were not nominated for anything either.

How can we let this obvious oversight and discrimination continue? When will we see a fair representation of this unrecognized group of people?

Beetlejuice - An Academy Award winner if given the chance?

Beetlejuice – An Academy Award winner if given the chance?

Besides Beetlejuice from the Howard Stern Show and Patrick from Spongebob Square Pants, where are microcephalics being represented in entertainment? Continue reading

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The Average Woman – 1908

The Average American Woman Is…Ungainly, Has An Appalling Lack of Symmetry, Is Inactive and Badly In Need Of Exercise

Ungainly FigureCharles Merriles penned a three part article for Physical Culture Magazine entitled The Average Woman which ran from the July – September 1908 issues. He offers a scathing indictment against the average woman as being generally disproportioned, out of shape and defective.

Today an article like the one Charles Merriles wrote would be savagely attacked and he would probably be apologizing on social media. But this was 1908 and it was a very much a man’s world.

Physical Culture Magazine described itself as “devoted to health, strength, vitality, muscular development, and care of the body”

The publisher of Physical Culture, Bernarr MacFadden, was a man driven by perfection, physical fitness and fame. His belief of natural cures and strength training was forward looking. but his many detractors considered him to be an obscene, health-nut.

Later in the 1920s MacFadden founded the New York Graphic newspaper which was ahead of its time for its use of composite photographs called composographs featuring “photoshopped” scenes that did not exist. The New York Graphic also presaged the National Enquirer and other publications of that ilk by its use of lurid and sleazy stories thus earning the nickname “the New York Pornographic.”

Merriles’ article was one of the surefire ways MacFadden’s Physical Culture liked to attract readers with scantily dressed women. To illustrate his article, Merriles advertised for regular looking women that he could photograph in athletic garb that would display their figure.

The photo captions alone are cringe worthy. To say Merriles was critical in his assessment of his models and the state of womanhood would be an understatement.

Chest Too FlatHere are some excerpts and photographs from Merriles’ article:

The average woman of today has nothing to boast of from the standpoint of mere physical attraction. When stripped of her furbelows and fancy frills we usually find a startling contrast. In but few cases has she anything to be proud of under such instances. Between the corset, false hips, busts, padding here and there to fill out, even the leanest woman is at times able to make what might be termed a fair appearance. And a woman who is suffering from too much avoirdupois can pull in the waist line to an extraordinary degree and thus add to her attractions, so she thinks.

The body to be beautiful must be strong. No unsightly angles should be apparent, all its outlines should be made up of curves. For instance, from the neck to the shoulder, there should be a gradual sloping away until one part merges into the other. There should be an appearance of symmetry, harmony, one part with another, which is the one necessary
characteristic of a beautifully formed body. There should be no large, prominent muscles, there should be no bulging bust, or large, massive hips.

Figure Fair Hips too largeThey are so ugly that they might almost be called vulgar. Then again, there is an entirely false conception of the form of women that has been produced largely by the habit of corset wearing. 

Though every woman cannot possess features that might be termed beautiful, I believe that my opinion is borne out by the facts when I state that practically every woman can have a finely-developed body. This means, in conventional parlance, a superb form.

Entire Body Too Thin Continue reading

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Los Angeles’ First Snowstorm – 1932

The First Time It Snowed In Hollywood (and Los Angeles)

Hollywood First snowstorm ever Jan 15 1932Hollywood woke up early yesterday morning (Friday January 15)to welcome the first real snow storm in Southern California’s history. Judith Wood, Paramount screen player who is recovering from an automobile accident, forgot the doctor’s orders and dashed out into the storm shortly after five o’clock. (photo – Paramount, January 15 1932)

Los Angeles Times Jan 16 1932 (click to enlarge)

Los Angeles Times Jan, 16, 1932 photo coverage of storm (click to enlarge)

When you think of snow, you usually don’t think of Los Angeles. But 84 years ago today Los Angeles residents awoke and were shocked to discover a city covered in snow.

The surprise snowstorm began at 5:00 a.m. and continued for over two hours. The Los Angeles Times said it was “the first official snowfall recorded in the United States Weather Bureau’s fifty-four year existence in the city.”

Snow had fallen before in Los Angeles but never in measurable quantities. Claude Luce, a Los Angeles resident since 1875,  said he remembered one inch of snow falling in 1880. Continue reading

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The Domed Stadium That Would Have Kept The Dodgers In Brooklyn

The Unbuilt Brooklyn Dodgers Domed Baseball Stadium – 1956

Model of the proposed domed all-weather sports stadium planned to house the Brooklyn Dodgers is unveiled at the Dodger offices. photo Bob Laird February 6 1956

Model of the proposed domed all-weather sports stadium planned to house the Brooklyn Dodgers is unveiled at the Dodger offices. photo Bob Laird February 6 1956

There are many “might have been’s” in baseball. One of the greatest has always been what if the Dodgers never left Brooklyn?

This photograph of what looks more like a kiddy pool with a baseball diamond in it, is a low-tech model of the proposed all-weather baseball stadium the Brooklyn Dodgers wanted to build. The Dodgers proposal was made ten years before the Houston Astrodome, the world’s first domed sports stadium made its debut in 1965.

For years before they moved to Los Angeles in 1958, Walter O’Malley, the Dodgers owner, had complained about the functionality of Ebbets Field in Brooklyn. The ballpark had character, but  O’Malley considered it old and too small with only 32,111 seats and parking for 700 cars.

In 1955, O’Malley enlisted architect R. Buckminster Fuller to design a domed stadium to possibly replace Ebbets Field. The stadium would be in the form of a large bowl and seat approximately 55,000 people. Over the stadium, supported on a light-weight aluminum truss structure, would be a thin plastic dome 750 feet in diameter. The dome would be 300 feet high at its center and it would weigh only 500 tons. Up to that time the largest dome ever built was the 365 foot diameter Dome of Discovery at the Festival of Britain in 1951. Continue reading

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Old New York In Photos #58

Panoramic View of Columbus Circle – 1904

Columbus Circle Trolley 1904 photo: National ArchivesThis phenomenal panoramic street level view of Columbus Circle comes via the National Archives. On their website it is misidentified as Eighth Avenue Trolley, (true – Eighth Avenue changes names to Central Park West) Downtown (which it certainly is not.) Click the photo to greatly enlarge.

We are looking north from 59th Street (Central Park South). The Columbus monument is not visible, but would be to the extreme left near where two gentlemen are standing in the street. Directly behind them are two subway kiosks for the entrance and exit of the soon to be opened New York City subway system.

Besides the subway, the new metropolis is emerging in other ways. An automobile is heading east towards Central Park South. To the left of the automobile, a trolley makes its way up Central Park West. To the left of the trolley is one of many horse drawn vehicles traveling up and down Broadway. Continue reading

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