It is likely that these children smiling at us from a century ago are no longer with us. The image comes from a collection of large format negatives in the Tribune library. They were enclosed in a 1950s era Telegram-Tribune window envelope, labeled “Mrs. Leonard.” The images however are decades older.
Two of the collection’s fourteen images are of the Santa Manuela school where Lopez Lake is today. That school building was constructed in 1901 and in the photos the site looks established but still relatively new. Only one image in the collection is dated, 1908, another is from the Arroyo Grande flood of 1914 and three appear to be from San Francisco at the time of the 1915 Panama-Pacific International Exhibition.
The clothing looks like early 20th century so lets guess around 1914. All the boys sport hats, most wear suspenders. The inscription reads “Dunnigan’s Grammar School Baseball Nine.”
I am not aware of a Dunnigan school locally though there was one near Woodland, CA that closed February 5, 1934 after 67 years of operation. It could be that Dunnigan was the name of one of the kids or the coach. Most look like late grammar school age, or early high school for the older boys. Let’s guess that this is from the Arroyo Grande area.
There are 10 boys visible and one more hiding behind. At least four fielders have stubby blobs of gloves with tiny mitt pockets to catch the ball. The only baseball bat has all the elegance of a wheel spoke.
The catcher wears a scowl and pounds his mitt as if to challenge a base runner to score on him.
Today a team picture would include a coach or two and perhaps a team mom. Kids wear uniforms and most games have league sanctioned umpires and often have league officials organizing candy drives or some other fundraiser. These kids played the game for the love of the game, without the added burden of adult structure and egos. If they did travel to play a game it wasn’t in an SUV with cartoon stickers of family members and pets. No juice boxes or water bottles are seen littering the field.
Baseball season has begun again at college and high school.
If you recognize any of these players of the National Pastime please post a comment.