Don Larsen, of the New York Yankees, talks to the press after Game 5 of the 1956 World Series, against the Brooklyn Dodgers, Oct. 8, 1956. Larsen, who had an otherwise nondescript career, pitched the only perfect game in World Series history.
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New York's Don Larsen talks to the press after hurling a perfect game against the Dodgers in the 1956 World Series, Yankee Stadium, Oct. 8, 1956.George Silk—Time & Life Pictures/Getty Images
Don Larsen, of the New York Yankees, talks to the press after Game 5 of the 1956 World Series, against the Brooklyn Dodgers, Oct. 8, 1956. Larsen, who had an otherwise nondescript career, pitched the only perfect game in World Series history.
Milwaukee Braves' Lew Burdette shares a moment with his son, Lewis, after a game. Lewis is excitedly reenacting one of the pitches his dad threw during his stint on the mound, Aug. 1, 1956.
Willie Mays, October 1954.
Jerry Coleman takes a long drag from a cigarette in the locker room of Yankee Stadium, New York, New York, April 1952, after learning that he has been called to active military duty for the Korean War. Coleman was a Marine pilot who had previously served in World War II.
Jackie Robinson looks exhausted and dejected in the locker room after a game, May 12, 1955.
Carl Yastrzemski, left, and Joe Foy horse around in the Red Sox locker room, May 1, 1968.
Sandy Amoros (with cap), Pee Wee Reese (on trunk), and Duke Snider (with beer) joke around after a game, May 13, 1955.
Ted Williams of the Boston Red Sox, left, talks with teammate Gordon Windhorn about batting in the locker room during spring training, Sarasota, Florida, 1956.
Yogi Berra (l.), who caught Don Larsen's Oct. 8, 1956, perfect game and the Dodgers' losing pitcher, Sal Maglie, chat afterward in the Yankee Stadium locker room. Between Berra and Maglie, clutching a can of beer, is the Yankees' long-time public relations man, Jack Farrell.
Dale Long, of the Pittsburgh Pirates, eats a sandwich in the locker room at Forbes Field in between two games of a double header against the New York Giants, Pittsburgh, Penn., May 30, 1956
Cincinnati Reds manager Birdie Tebbetts, the Baseball Writers Association Manager of the Year, talks on the phone in the locker room during a Labor Day doubleheader against the Milwaukee Braves in 1956.
Brooklyn's Gil Hodges smokes and talks to the press in the locker room after a World Series game, October 1956.
Cleveland's Larry Doby -- the second black player in the major leagues and the first in the American League -- gets a rubdown in July 1955.
Yankees manager Casey Stengel reads in the locker room, September 1953..
Mickey Mantle grins in the locker room after a World Series game, October 1952.
Brookyln Dodgers Property Manager John Griffin sitting in the locker room, 1955.
Orlando Cepeda gets dressed in the locker room in June, 1958.
Sal Maglie wipes his brow, Sept. 1951.
Baseball player Frank Howard, center, sits in the locker room during the winter league season, December, 1959.
Roger Maris smokes a cigarette in the locker room at the 1960 All-Star Game in Kansas City.
Minnie Minoso, of the Chicago White Sox, in the locker room, August, 1955. Minoso played in major league games in five different decades and single minor league games in a sixth and a seventh decade, overshadowing his seven All-Star appearances.
Elroy Face, Pittsburgh Pirates, celebrates a win against the Yankees, October, 1960.
Dodger Don Newcombe enjoys a beer in the locker room after Dem Bums won their first (and only) World Series in Brooklyn, October 1955.
New York's Don Larsen talks to the press after hurling a perfect game against the Dodgers in the 1956 World Series, Yankee Stadium, Oct. 8, 1956.
George Silk—Time & Life Pictures/Getty Images
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LIFE in the Locker Room: Pro Baseball

May 20, 2013

Maybe it's just our imagination, but photographers working years ago seemed to take better, more intimate (i.e., more casual, not so perpetually, consciously posed) pictures of ballplayers in their locker rooms than photographers do today.

Maybe it's a question of "access" — that catchall term more often employed in the world of celebrities than in big-time sports. Perhaps it has something to do with class — or more specifically, cash. After all, in the 1940s, '50s and '60s, very few ballplayers could be called rich. Many of them worked during the off-season to make ends meet. Most of today's players, meanwhile, reside in a universe of entitlement and wealth impossibly removed from the day-to-day existence of the vast majority of the journalists covering them.

Or maybe it simply has to do with gender: it wasn't until the mid-1970s, after all, that women reporters began to conduct locker-room interviews with pro athletes. And even then, it was hardly smooth sailing. In the mid-'80s Dave "Kong" Kingman famously sent a rat to sportswriter Susan Fornoff, to let her know she wasn't welcome (by him and others of the same mindset, at least) among the boys.

Whatever the reason, old-school pictures from the locker room feel a little more raw, a little more real than those we see today. Here, LIFE.com offers some of the best made by LIFE's photographers across several decades.

Hell, you can almost smell the Barbasol. . . .

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