Many people have played baseball, and many have been photographed in the act (or in the studio). One can generally tell, however, when a photo is “serious,” as opposed to a photo of neighborhood kids playing stickball. Particularly with turn of the century cabinet photos, there are tons of photos that have survived the years, depicting ballplayers in uniform, often taken right in a photography studio.
The hobby occasionally wreaks havoc on these photos. Initially, when a ballplayer walks into a photography studio, he has a name. He gets his photo taken, plays a few more seasons, then lives his life. He marries, has kids, maybe grandkids. Eventually he passes away, and is remembered by the people who loved him.
Unfortunately, though, over the years his belongings spread out among his descendants, and perhaps they wind up at an estate sale. Eventually, the baseball photo finds its way into the hobby. In the process, however, the player gets separated from his name.
Allow us to introduce you to William Saunders.
Saunders was a second baseman for the Bain Wagons baseball team of 1898, the “Woodstock Bains” of the Class D Canadian League.
This outstanding image and beautiful mount led us on another one of our fun research projects – identifying the player.
Based on the information printed on the mount, crediting the photo to A. Spinks of Woodstock, Ontario, we were able to trace the cabinet to Alfred Spinks, a photographer in Woodstock who bought out his business partner/brother in 1894, and operated his photography business until 1908. From there, we were also able to identify the player’s team – a factory team, from the Bain Wagon Company. Bain was a large business that operated in the city of Woodstock and surrounding areas between 1884 and 1926, that could, according to the Woodstock Museum, produce 50-60 wagons per day.
Once we encountered the Woodstock Museum website, though, we discovered ateam photo of the Bain Baseball team, from 1898. Seated on the far right, with the bat leaning against his lap, was one William Saunders, the team’s second baseman, and the subject of this beautiful cabinet photo we present to you today.
The Woodstock Bains were a team in the Class D Canadian League of 1899, the only season the team existed. Saunders is credited as having played 13 games behind the plate for the Bains, hitting just .140 with 7 hits in 49 at bats. Saunders was teammates with Bill Cristall, who pitched 6 games with the 1901 Cleveland Blues, and Frank Hemphill, who played 14 games with Chicago and Washington in 1906 and 1909. The big star of the Canadian League that season, however, was a 19-year-old outfielder named Sam Crawford. Crawford hit .370 for the Chatham Reds before moving to Columbus of the Western League, and eventually the Cincinnati Reds in 1899. Crawford, of course, would go on to become a Hall of Fame outfielder with the Detroit Tigers.
Of course this is not Sam Crawford, this is William Saunders, but he is nonetheless a ballplayer with a name, who lived in Ontario, Canada and was photographed in the late 1800s by Alfred Spinks while wearing his Bains baseball uniform. And the photo is beautiful, in outstanding condition with excellent image quality. The gorgeous, ornate white mount is in fantastic shape as well, slightly worn with some foxing at the top of the mount and some wear and dirt on the reverse. Still, an outstanding document of pre-1900 Canadian baseball.