Of all the major professional sports, baseball is the one that most readily and ably lends itself to photography. Maybe it’s the leisurely — killjoys might call it glacial — pace of the game, punctuated by moments of intense drama, that allows photographers the time and space to chronicle the action. Or perhaps the cozy relationship between the national pastime and picture-taking is the natural result of the two endeavors coming of age at virtually the same time, in the mid-19th century. But whatever the reason, classic baseball pictures possess an evocative power that images of, say, football or basketball or even the beautiful game of soccer often lack.
On the 75th anniversary of the National Baseball Hall of Fame in Cooperstown, N.Y., and on the occasion of the Hall partnering with the Google Cultural Institute for an online version of the exhibition, Picturing America’s Pastime, TIME celebrates the game in photos.
Here are major league legends (Mickey Cochrane, Babe Ruth, Jackie Robinson), passionate amateurs, die-hard fans and long-vanished ballparks. Here, in a nutshell, is a fond glimpse of a sport that — in the words of the great photographer, Charles M. Conlon — “seems to breathe the restless spirit of American life.” Let’s play two!