Tuesday, May 25, 2010

1967 Dexter Press Photos - Behind the Scenes with the Photographer!

Shortly after my post on the 1967 Dexter Press Photos / Coca Cola Caps promotion, Jeff Williams left comments on the blog indicating that his grandfather Joe Capicotto was one of the photographers who took the pictures of some of the teams that were part of the promotion. I followed up with Jeff and found out quite a bit about his grandfather and this particular photo assignment.

According to Jeff, Dexter Press contacted Joe Capicotto in early 1967 to arrange for him to photograph 4 teams - the Atlanta Braves, Baltimore Orioles, New York Yankees, and Washington Senators.

Jeff's mother Carole Schacher (who is Joe Capicotto's daughter) has been kind enough to provide a number of scans of her father's correspondence with Dexter Press regarding this photo assignment which gives us a great behind the scenes look at how this set was produced.

First we have a letter from Dexter Press to Joe listing the teams he is to photograph, as well as confirmation of the $75 fee he is to receive for each team he shoots and information about the sales rep that he will be working with (click on the letter to see a larger version):

The next letter from Dexter Press to Joe outlines what is needed from each photo shoot. Each player is to be photographed in proportion to a 5 1/2" x 7" post card and each photo is to have a name plate showing the player's name for identification with the name plate being out of the cropping area for the photo.

So when you see this picture of Joe Torre that Joe Capicotto took

Joe Torre is most likely holding a name plate just below where the photo is cropped, which explains why all the pictures appear to have the players in the very same pose with their arms down by their sides and not showing their hands as we see in the complete set of Senators photos that Joe also shot:

They are all holding a nameplate down around their waist which is why they all have the same pose.

The other part of Joe's assignment was to get 3 autographs from each player in black ink to be used on the cards.

The next letter tells Joe that his sales contact from Dexter Press is John Cryns, or "Johnny from Holland" as he is known to the trade!

Next, we have a letter from Mr. "Johnny from Holland" himself to Joe outlining the dates that have been set up with each team for the photo shoots:

Apparently at this point Joe Pepitone had not signed his contract according to Johnny, but it looks like they were able to get things resolved:

The American League Office was even involved, as letters like this went to each team introducing Johnny Cryns to each team's PR director to explain the promotion and asking for their full cooperation:

There is great irony to the line from the AL Office asking the teams to help Mr. Cryns with his assignment "which is of benefit to us all." Actually, it ended up being just the opposite in terms of the owners. The Players Union was the group that signed the deal with Coke through Marvin Miller, and the money from this agreement was used to help get the union on its feet financially which ultimately led over time to the union gaining significant bargaining power which eventually resulted in doing away with the Reserve Clause and ushering in Free Agency.

Joe kept the original list of players to be photographed not just from the 4 teams he was assigned to shoot, but from some of the other teams that were scheduled to be photographed as well:

Its interesting to note that they added special notation for "outstanding players" on each team.

This list includes the California Angels, who ended up not being photographed except for one player - Paul Schaal who was photographed as a personal favor to Paul.

As the teams are listed alphabetically, it appears a page is missing as we jump from the Chicago White Sox to the Minnesota Twins (since Joe didn't photograph any teams from that page its likely he wouldn't have kept it):

I'm not sure why most of the Yankees were crossed out (other than perhaps Joe crossed each one out after he shot their pictures), but it is interesting to note that Mickey Mantle doesn't even rate as an "outstanding player" at this point.

The St. Louis Cardinals are also listed, but ultimately were not photographed. The total number of teams that were included in the promotion ended up being 18 of out the 20 teams that existed at the time.

Joe also has the list of the players that were going to be used in the 12 card All Star set:

Joe's files include information on the Spring Training locations and hotels for the AL teams he was shooting

which I'm guessing came out of the 1967 American League Red Book

as well as the information on the Braves (likely from the National League Green Book):

When Joe's work was completed, he received this letter from Dexter Press thanking him for his efforts:

These letters provide a fascinating glimpse into what seems to have been a somewhat rushed job to get these photos taken in order to get the cards ready in time for the Coke promotion. For example, this ad ran April 5, 1967 which was just about a month after Joe's last photo shoot:

so it looks like this all came together very quickly, with the end result being a great looking set of cards covering almost every team.

About the Photographer:

Joe Capicotto was born in 1919 and got his start in the photography business in the late 1930s working for a studio in Newburgh, NY. Enlisting during WWII in 1942, Joe was assigned as a Combat Photographer in the 8th Army Air Forces, Europe.

His primary mission was to fly in B-17s and take reconnaissance photographs of the German targets to be bombed by allied forces.

After the war, Joe settled in Miami, FL where he went to work for Valence Photography.

In 1955, Joe bought Valence Photography and started Color Ads Productions (a play on the first three letters of his last name).

Joe had a reputation for being a good photographer with Dexter Press during his Valence days, and that relationship continued with his own business. The majority of his work with Dexter was in the form of post cards. Joe did shoots of everything from hotels to the Seminole Indian Reservation in Southern Florida:

(note the photo credit in the bottom left and the publisher info for Color-Ads in the middle of the postcard, as well as the Dexter Press Logo on the bottom)

Joe’s relationship with Dexter prospered through the 50’s and into the 60’s; he was even named color photographer of the month by Dexter, and several of his postcards were featured in Dexter catalogs.

As Joe kept everything he had ever done, there was lots of his work which he shared with his family. Joe was especially proud of the Dexter baseball shoot and more so that he got Mickey Mantle’s autograph during the shoot. Joe worked in the business into the late 1970’s when he finally decided to retire and move to Denver, CO, although he did continue to work for Dexter in sales and reproduction on a part-time basis until 1984 when he retired completely. Joe enjoyed his retirement as he went back to school first to get a degree in Art and then to teach Art at Denver Community College. Joe passed away in 1996.

To give an idea of some of Joe's work outside of the Dexter Baseball photos, Jeff sent me a few examples of some of the post cards that Joe's company produced for some Florida restaurant chains which are fun to look at:

The Burger Castle Giant sign is a classic!

I would like to thank Jeff Williams for originally contacting me and for his generosity in sharing the information about his grandfather and allowing me to share his story on the blog, and Carole Schacher for scanning and sharing her father's documents which really provide some great background about how this set ended up being produced. Thanks to both of you for your time and for providing this great material.

I would also like to thank Joe Capicotto himself for taking such great photos (especially of my favorite team the Orioles!), and for keeping such great files so that we can look back at how this all came about over 40 years later.

Finally, I'd also like to acknowledge the great Uni Watch site, and in particular Phil Hecken who published the post about Uni Watch contributor Jerry Adams (The Taxman) who was reminiscing about the "wonderful 5 x 7 glossy MLB photos" from 1967 that got this whole project started with Jerry's comment wondering about where these came from when he asked "Maybe our friends at the Fleer Sticker project would have a clue?" Thanks for asking the question Jerry, as its been a lot of fun tracking down the answer!

Wednesday, May 19, 2010

Interesting Items from the Topps Vault

The Topps Vault has recently had a number of interesting items up for auction which have caught my eye and that I'd like to pass along to those who may not have seen them.

To get things started, here is an original negative for a photo of Warren Spahn from 1965 in a Mets uniform taken at Shea Stadium:

I don't think I've ever seen a picture of Spahn as a Met as he was purchased by the Mets from the Braves in November 1964, and was shown in a Braves uniform without a cap on his 1965 card since apparently Topps didn't have a chance to get a picture of him as a Met in time:

Spahn only appeared in 16 games for the Mets in 1965, and was released by the team in mid July that season, so I don't imagine there are that many pictures around of him as a Met which makes this a somewhat unique photo.

Speaking of the Mets, there are also negatives for some great unused pictures of Hall of Famers Duke Snider

and Willie Mays up for auction recently:

Note the scoreboard behind Willie. Now take a look at this picture:

Notice anything different? The Mets logo is missing from the scoreboard in the Chico Ruiz photo from 1964 as this must have been taken shortly after the stadium opened as the large square screen on top of the scoreboard was originally intended to be a video screen as seen here:

Apparently the video screen didn't work all that well, which is why it was soon replaced by the Mets logo. I like the picture of Chico because of the rare picture of the original videoboard in the background, and the white Reds batting helmet with Chico's number in the middle of the "C":

Speaking of batting helmets, here is a picture showing George Scott morphing from the Brewers to the Red Sox for his 1977 Hostess card (which was created by Topps):

These partial airbrush shots are always fun to look at. That sure is a bright red batting helmet!

Moving from the batting helmet to the baseball cap, Topps is auctioning off this classic picture of Don Zimmer featuring the very unique Padres cap with the oversized yellow front panel that stretches around to the back of the hat which was used on his 1973 Topps card.

Topps had previously auctioned off another version of this picture taken from a different angle which was first spotted by a Uni Watch reader in October of last year:

From a behind the scenes perspective, this is an interesting item as it shows how Topps created their 1983 card design as they simply took the smaller head shot photo and laid it over the larger action shot before adding the borders around the pictures:

For an even more behind the scenes item, how about the file card that Topps used to keep track of payments to Jim Palmer and his gift purchases through the Topps Catalog:

It looks like Jim picked up a color TV back in 1966 and added a pool table in 1974!

We also have a chance to see some of the original photos that were ultimately used on cards, such as this Mike Schmidt picture:

Since its NBA Playoff time, lets see what the Zen Master Phil Jackson looked like back in his playing days with the Knicks:

Here are some great unused action shots of my favorite basketball player as I was growing up - the amazing Dr. J from his last year in the ABA:

and finally, here's a nice shot of Bill Walton:

Oh how I miss those Bullets uniforms!

Back to Baseball, here are a few shots of guys in uniforms you usually don't associate them with:

Denny McLain:

Pete Rose:

To wrap up this look at some recent goodies from the Topps Vault, here are a few unused photos of some Hall of Famers:

I really hope someone at Topps is documenting all this material before it goes out the door as it is truly amazing the amount of sports history that they have documented. While its great that this material is making its way out to collectors, it would be nice if there was a way to have all of these great items cataloged and available to research.

Just like with the Life Magazine photo archives, it would be so much fun to view something similar with all of the images that Topps has had in its possession over the years.