Thursday, March 29, 2007

Marc Okkonen

The man who I think deserves the most credit for spreading the knowledge of early 20th century ballparks is Marc Okkonen. He wrote a series of Baseball Memories books in the early 1990's. His "Baseball Memories 1900-1909" had unique aerial view drawings/maps of whatever ballparks the major league teams played in during that time period. He drew these using the old fashioned method of plotting out perspective vanishing points and then laying out old fire insurance maps into that perspective grid. He then drew the buildings up from that base. For the purpose of the book, he was sure to include the angle of the midday and setting sun, knowing that was information any baseball fan would need to imagine themselves at those games. Take a look at this remarkable view of the two Boston ballparks of the day, South End Grounds and Huntington Avenue Grounds.

His books also help put things into the perspective of their time. Included are all of the newspapers of the era and the sportswriters who contributed to them. Also in each book are a couple pages describing the popular culture of the time and a mention of the peculiarities and customs of the game of that era. Oh, and they also have player, manager and owner photos galore. You know that Marc spent a LOT of time poring over all the newspapers of the era.

The only complaint one would have is a biggie, in that most of the reproductions are from photocopies, not photos of the original newspaper clippings. I would assume most of that is from the weak microfilm sources. I curse the day microfilm was adopted. Why couldn't libraries have waited 40 years until true digital technology came about before tossing their bound copies of newspapers away?

I urge anyone with an interest in these old wooden parks to pick up this book through a used bookseller. I've seen a bunch on Amazon through various used book dealers.


John Pastier said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
John Pastier said...

A double coincidence here:
I have a book in print titled Historic Ballparks.
And it has 20 color reproductions of Marc Okkonen's drawings.

It's immense (about 12" x 17"), and profusely illustrated. I don't get any royalties (it was done for a flat fee), so my shilling for it is pure egomania rather than egomania plus greed.

The best (cheapest) source seems to be Barnes and Noble, but even at full price ($30), you'll get a lot of book (256 pages, each the size of Ebbets Field) for the buck.

The illustrations are a mix of old photos, newer photos, old postcards, seating diagrams, old lithographs, engravings, and woodcuts, Marc's drawings, pictures of models and replicas, and a few pics of ballpark memorabilia.

The text for the second part of the book (written by two Englishmen) is the sort of boilerplate that you'd expect in a coffee table book, but my historic essay in the first part has some actual depth and substance.

It also has the most complete and accurate list of ballparks architects.

March 29, 2007 10:51:00 PM EST

Jeff Suntala said...

Thanks for the comment John. I have your book!

I hope a sort of mini community develops here where people can comment and critique to their heart's content.

John Pastier said...

I hope a sort of mini community develops here where people can comment and critique to their heart's content.

That would be nice. IMO, careful and informed graphic documentation of ballparks is more useful than tabulations of dimensions which may or may not be accurate, and which are usually not defined geometrically.

But I wonder how many people are operating within the first category. You, I, Andrew Clem, and Marc Okkonen quickly come to mind. But are there (m)any others? And I don't know whether Marc is fully on-line or whether he just does e-mail.

Off-topic: I wonder what an "a" html tag produces.
Whatever's above is the answer.

Sean said...

$20, when I got it a few weeks back. I love it, and consult it frequently when I'm drafting.

Todd Laveen said...

Is Marc Okkonen still alive? If so, are there plans to publish updated versions of these books? I have Baseball Uniforms Of The 20th Century and I think it is an impressive piece of baseball memorabilia. I'm anxious to see the others.

Nickname unavailable said...

I had an email from Marc just before SABR38 saying that he wasn't coming this year (he was at last year's meeting in St. Louis).

You can usually find his books, though they are getting harder to come by (more expensive), on AbeBooks, which I think has recently been acquired by