For 10 years, baseball enthusiasts from all over the country have gathered in Gettysburg, Pa., for the Gettysburg National 19th Century Base Ball Festival. At the event, members of clubs dedicated to preserving the way baseball was played in the 19th century show up draped in vintage garb for a day of competition, nostalgia and fun.
This year’s festival was July 20 and 21, with 24 clubs competing in 47 games over two very hot days. Washington Post staff photographer Matt McClain drove over to Gettysburg to check out the action. McClain has been fascinated by American history and its reenactors for several years. He is also a sports fan, and he felt this would be a great opportunity to meld the two interests.
Here’s what McClain had to say about covering this year’s event and why it sparked his interest.
“Growing up collecting baseball cards was a merging of my love for sports and my fascination with photography. This was long before I had any inclination that I would one day pursue a career in the visual medium. I was especially drawn to cards from the 1950s and early ’60s. The images were not as vibrant as modern-day cards. They had a more muted and painterly quality. The players’ poses were more dramatic and exaggerated. Holding one was like handling a miniature piece of art.
"While covering this year’s National 19th Century Base Ball Festival in Gettysburg, Pa., I decided to do a player portrait series that tried to capture that allure of the vintage baseball cards I remember from my childhood. The tournament provided the perfect setting. Players wear uniforms that hark back to the early beginning of the game. The setting also helps to transport the viewer to another place and time.
"The games are played in a field close to the Gettysburg battlefield. Barns dot the rolling pastoral landscape. One can almost imagine that the participants originated from a nearby cornfield as players did in the movie ‘Field of Dreams.’ All these elements allowed me to recapture a piece of my youth and rekindle that early love of sports and fascination with photography.”
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