It is not an exaggeration to say that I visit Baseball Reference nearly every day. During the season, I’m typically checking on something whether it be Yankees related or just wondering how random player X on the Brewers is doing.
However, even in the offseason, I end up on their website a lot. As you may have noticed, I tend to write about historical games, players, and events quite a lot. The various features they have are extremely valuable for someone who needs to look up historical stats and box scores.
One feature on the site is that whenever you go to a page for a team’s particular season, they have the top 12 WAR leaders for that particular team in that particular year listed via headshots at the top of the page. For example, if you go to the 2021 Yankees, you get the most recent headshots for Aaron Judge, Gerrit Cole, and the rest of the WAR leaders for last season.
You might think that this is only for recent years, but oh no, it’s not. They have compiled a pretty impressive database of headshots that dates back quite a ways in baseball history. Even the very early Yankees’ teams, back in the Highlanders’ era, has them for seemingly most players.
As you might expect for pictures from, say, 1908, a lot of them are kinda funny when viewed through a modern lens. With that in mind, here is a collection of some of the best Baseball Reference Yankees/Highlanders’ headshots from the early days of franchise history.
Barney Wolfe played one and a bit seasons for the Highlanders when they first came to New York in 1903-04. The picture B-Ref has unearthed of him could double as the only known photo of a turn of the century attempted presidential assassin.
A little more than 15 years before the famous Babe Ruth sale, the Yankees fleeced the Red Sox for the first time in 1904, when they were called the Highlanders and the Americans respectively. Dougherty had been a key player for Boston, but New York got him for utility infield Bob Unglaub, whose name sounds like an onomatopoeia. As for Dougherty, this picture seemingly caught him at a bit of a bad moment, leaving him looking like an upset person in a silent movie.
Kid Elberfield was one of the first stars in franchise history, and had a disastrously bad stint as a player-manager in his career in New York. This picture of him resembles the portrait of a European royal family member who dies at age 20 of some extremely old-timey disease.
The name only adds to this one as Slow Joe Doyle here appears to have the picture of an out west outlaw.
Red Kleinow’s picture has a weird, vaguely modern quality to it. It feels a bit like one of those things where someone computerizes statues and paintings from the Renaissance era and says “Here’s what (historical figure x) would’ve looked like in real life!”
Poor Otis Johnson here appears to have been turned to stone.
Comedian John Mulaney has a joke about a friend of his who stole antique family photos from people while at high school house parties. Anyway, this one of George Mogridge looks like a picture of someone’s great-great grandfather that would’ve been stolen.
I cannot emphasize enough that there are many others that could’ve been included in this post. Old-timey baseball can be very amusing.