In the Field of Play
Bonnie Jamieson tried to tell her father, Putsee Vannucci, that he should put his more than 40 years worth of Little League World Series photographs in an exhibit. But, like many talented-but-reluctant artists, he didn’t put much stock in the idea.
“He would laugh it off and say, ‘Who’s going to show these?’ ” Pennsylvania College of Technology Gallery Manager Penny Lutz said. “But even though he’s passed on now, she (Jamieson) says to him, ‘Look what they’ve done now.’ “
Jamieson spoke during the opening receptions for “In the Field of Play: The Little League Baseball World Series through the lens of Putsee Vannucci, 1947-1990.” The exhibition, which runs until Aug. 30 and was two years in the making, not only features photographs of Little League ballplayers and Major League greats, it also showcases some of the cameras Vannucci used over the years, as well as photos of the man himself and articles written about him through the years (some by the Sun-Gazette).
“Little League was dad’s favorite contract,” Jamieson said in an interview with PCToday. “Little League was dad’s life.”
The show feels like more than a retrospective; it feels like a time capsule. Candid images of kids on and off the field remind us not only of how much Little League Baseball has changed since the late ’40s but also of how life has changed since then as well.
Nothing says the “old days” like audience members dressed in their Sunday best to go see kids play baseball. There also are plenty of objects to educate digital kids about how things used to be, including a telephoto transmitter that Vannuci used to send photos via wire around the world (According to Penn College’s website, this could take up to 30 minutes for local photos and an hour for international).
And gallerygoers will feel privy to precious moments that they’ve perhaps never seen before – a kid practicing his windup in a mirror, another player popping bubble gum in front of his team’s dugout and children from all over the world just sitting together, eating lunch.
In fact, some the best captured moments have nothing to do with baseball.
But there’s plenty for baseball diehards as well – an 80-something-year-old Cy Young speaking with a team representing Connecticut in 1951 is a sight to behold. This photo is alongside shots of Mickey Mantle, Ted Williams, Ernie Banks and more baseball celebs that paid visits to the Little League World Series through the years.
The photographs were selected by Tom Speicher, a video producer and writer for Penn College, from 12,000 negatives that are stored in the Little League Museum.
“The college has a long history with Little League, dating back to the 1950s, when our heavy equipment students helped move the dirt to excavate what is now Lamade Stadium,” Speicher said in an interview with the Sun-Gazette.
The exhibition was scheduled, smartly, to be open during the World Series itself, which begins today at 1 p.m. with Caribbean vs. Latin America. Each team also had the opportunity to participate in a Penn College picnic, during which they could tour the exhibition.
“We have a picnic every year for the Little League World Series teams,” Speicher said. “They come right here before they go to the parade.”
Speicher said that since he’s involved with the media, he’s “partial towards the pictures that show the media throughout the years,” but that he also loves the behind-the scenes photos.
“That one photo of Billy Connors, who went on to be a major league player – he’s now an executive with the Yankees – he’s practicing his windup in the mirror, it’s something … Putsee took amazing photos over the years.”
In order to engage children that come to the show, the gallery set up interactive elements, including a scavenger hunt and a wall on which kids can write what they love about Little League. Some of the amusing answers kids have written so far include, “funnel cakes,” “hitting home runs” and “mud slide.”
“In the beginning, when we were discussing the exhibit, we were trying to come up with hands-on activities so that the kids would be happy here … you can look through a 4-by-5 camera to see what Putsee saw. The image is upside down, so you have to be a pretty good photographer to capture action shots upside down – and to get good shots.” Lutz said.
Well, Vannucci definitely did that. He’s a local legend. And even though he didn’t get the chance to see the impact a show like this would have, artgoers and sports lovers alike are lucky enough to have the opportunity.
For more information about the gallery and the exhibit, visit www.pct.edu/gallery.