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Charles “Teenie” Harris, Group portrait of eleven Little League baseball players, T Dodgers team, with player in Braves uniform in center, and fan of baseball bats, possibly on Kennard field, c. 1948-1955, Carnegie Museum of Art, Pittsburgh: Heinz Family Fund
There are 11 of them, all smiling, the boys of summer.
We don’t know much about the youth baseball players posing for their team picture, except that the image was taken sometime between 1948 and 1955, possibly at Kennard Field in Pittsburgh’s Hill District.
The image from Carnegie Museum of Art’s Charles “Teenie” Harris Archive is one of hundreds involving baseball by the famed Pittsburgh photographer, who had a personal passion for the national pastime. Harris was a player and founding member of the Pittsburgh Crawfords, one of the premier teams in the Negro League. His baseball portraits included famous stars such as Josh Gibson as well as unheralded youth teams like the one featured here.
Besides capturing an adorable moment, Harris’ portrait offers an important counternarrative to common perceptions of life in Pittsburgh’s largest Black community, says Charles “Teenie” Harris community archivist Charlene Foggie-Barnett. Not only is it an integrated team, reflecting greater diversity than the neighborhood is typically known for, but there’s a carefree nature among the boys that contrasts with more negative stereotypes of violence and poverty in the Hill.
“At a time when there was still segregation and a lot of negativity toward African Americans, this shows joy in the African American community,” says Foggie-Barnett.
Foggie-Barnett says youth baseball was an important part of children’s lives in the Hill District, providing an organized activity into which kids could channel their energy. There is a kineticism in the picture, too, as though the boys are struggling to contain nervous energy before a game. One player standing in the back row holds a ball as though he’s about to slam it into his glove. Another kneels in the front row, reaching behind himself to fiddle with his right shoe. All of them wear crisp Dodgers uniforms, an exception being a boy in front with a Braves jersey.
The Braves player avoids looking directly into Harris’ camera lens. He kneels, resting his chin on his hands wrapped around the grip of his bat. He stares off into the distance, seeming to be lost in a daydream, imagining a long fly ball he’ll hit to center field, over the fence.
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