Imagine having high quality photographs of some of the greatest players in Major League Baseball history, names like Babe Ruth, Lou Gehrig, Rogers Hornsby and Jimmie Foxx. For good measure, let's say some of them are autographed as well.
Ohio native Julia Whitaker doesn't have to daydream about a collection like that, because it's exactly what she had handed down to her from her father. All told, she estimates she has around 100 16x20 photos along with 70 negatives of true baseball legends who roamed the diamond during the first half of the 20th Century.
The pictures were taken by her late dad, Forrest Yantis. When not running his own insurance company, he dabbled in photography and enjoyed shooting the Cleveland Indians and their opponents, as well as making treks to Cincinnati for the National League players.
According to Whitaker, Yantis was able to get some of his subjects to sign the photos simply by offering them prints of their own.
“I don't know how he got on the field," Whitaker said to the Dayton Daily News. “But he took his pictures mostly during batting practice. He returned home, developed the pictures (either at a nearby store or by himself) and drove back to Cleveland. He'd give one print to the player and have another for the player to sign."
Whitaker also said she initially had difficulty convincing a local store to make copies of the photos for her because they believed they were professionally done. She had to produce the negatives in order to back up her claim that they were not.
Steve Verkman of Clean Sweep Auctions told the Daily News that the photos could bring $100,000 if sold, but it's possible that figure is actually too low. A check through recent auctions held by Robert Edward Auctions found that top quality photos of Ruth and Gehrig have sold for thousands of dollars alone, and that's not taking into account for any that are signed.
Whitaker plans to make prints of the photos for all four of her children before deciding what to do with the collection. The Indians and the National Baseball Hall of Fame have expressed interest.