No sport lends itself to historical conjecture like baseball. The what-ifs and might-have-beens are almost as much a part of our collective consciousness of the sport as the actual games. Among the highlights of The Baseball Book, a newly published, rich visual journey through the history of the game from Sports Illustrated, is a composite photo representing SI's answer to the question, If you had to fill a roster with the best players of all time, whom would you take?
This all time team of 25 players, plus a manager and two coaches, was chosen by a panel of 22 baseball experts that included SI senior writers Rick Reilly, Steve Rushin and Tom Verducci; former SI baseball writers Robert Creamer and Ron Fimrite; and analysts Peter Gammons, Bill James and Keith Olbermann. The image, created by photo illustrator Aaron Goodman, required not only the latest in digital technology but also two months of meticulous research to get the period details right. Stylist Allyson Vieira painstakingly assembled historically accurate uniforms: For jerseys and pants, she turned to throwback impresarios Mitchell & Ness of Philadelphia; she had 28 different sets of stirrups custom-made by Twin City Knitting in Conover, N.C.; she had caps produced by CooperstownBall Cap Company in Cooperstown, N.Y.; and she tracked down most of the gnarled pairs of spikes on eBay. Goodman, meanwhile, scouted the dugouts of major league parks seeking the perfect backdrop, but opted for the old-school setting at The Ballpark on the campus of St. John's University in Queens, N.Y.
Then Goodman studied the body types of the 28 greats, sorted them into 10 categories and brought in 10 models to stand in for the players. The same model portrayed Ty Cobb, Rogers Hornsby, Stan Musial and Warren Spahn. Casey Stengel required a doppelgänger all his own—whose name, by the way, was Sy Young. Goodman photographed the models in his New York City studio, then digitally placed them in the dugout and superimposed the players' faces, taken from historical photos. Says Goodman of the process, "It was like being in a museum, only you could touch everything."