Life Magazine has some never before seen photos of Babe Ruth’s last appearance at Yankee Stadium, two months before his death. They’re in color and, unlike some of the more well known pictures of the latter-day Babe, they give a striking view of just how frail he was.
Black and white photography is wonderful in its own way (and of course was, at one point in time, the only game in town), but there’s an artificial distancing from the present and romanticism to it that we often ignore. It’s hard to think of Babe Ruth as a mere mortal, partially because of the legend that surrounds him and his own exploits, but also because most of our images of him are in black and white. On some level he may as well be Abraham Lincoln or a lovingly-rendered sketch drawing or something.
There’s a human tendency to elevate the past and to say that the world is going to hell in a handbasket today. I suspect much of that is a function of us simply not knowing the past as clearly as we could. Mostly because of the disappearance of living memory, some because of ignorance and — maybe just a tiny bit — because we just don’t see it in full color, both literally and metaphorically speaking.