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Our holdings include hundreds of glass and film negatives/transparencies that we've scanned ourselves; in addition, many other photos on this site were extracted from reference images (high-resolution tiffs) in the Library of Congress research archive. (To query the database click here.) They are adjusted, restored and reworked by your webmaster in accordance with his aesthetic sensibilities before being downsized and turned into the jpegs you see here. All of these images (including "derivative works") are protected by copyright laws of the United States and other jurisdictions and may not be sold, reproduced or otherwise used for commercial purposes without permission.

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Slagpile Sluggers: 1940

Slagpile Sluggers: 1940

August 1940. Coaldale, Pennsylvania. "Baseball diamond for children with slagpile in background." Photo by Jack Delano, Office of War Information. View full size.

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Now That's The Way To Play Baseball ...

... at least if you were a kid like me 10 years after the above game and before Little League BB ruined a good afternoon for all kids. We had an empty clay field with no houses or roads within a hard hit ball reach.

Two team captains were picked and the bat was tossed to one of them and then the other captain put his hand just above where the first captain grabbed the bat. The captains kept alternating hand positions until the nub was reached and one of the captains could not get his hand around and thus that captain chose second.

Rules were very fluid such as any ball hit on the fly to right field or third base was an out depending on the number of players and four fouls you were out.

If no one volunteered to be ump players were put on the honor system and made the ball, strike and out calls. That worked most of the time but we had all seen pictures and newsreels of Casey Stengel and Leo Durocher arguing the finer parts of the game so we all had to do our impression of MLB managers now and then.

The best part was there were no adults. We worked all details out, had a good time and did not worry if we didn't get a hit for tomorrow was another day and we surely would get the game winning hit then.

Little League has its good points I imagine but not the fun without any pressure we had. Everybody played since getting 18 players was tough and so what if you muffed a play or struck out four times it was a grand time.

Fat Free

Lean, because the times were mean. And because couch potatoes hadn't been invented yet.


Imagine that that was a pile of marble tailings, and the batter hits an outfield (is that the terminology)? Go find the ball yourself, then. Might be hard enough with a white ball in a grayish blackish slag pile. If the ball is still kind of white in the first place.

Another frequent observation, very little body fat in evidence.

Batter Up

As LaviathanRider noted, no one has a glove. I hope sure hope someone's got a ball.


These piles were a prominent fixture around most “coal patches”, and went by various names; in Southwestern Pennsylvania they were called slate dumps. One could also find good coal among the slate and my childhood “patch” had at least one family of “coal pickers” who made a living picking up coal chunks both on the dump and along the railroad spur that serviced our local mine.

Optional Equipment

No one has a baseball glove.

Shale finds

Growing up, I had relatives in another northeast Pennsylvania town. One had a similar slag pile not far from her home. The shale pieces were a good place to find plant fossils.

SHORPY OLD PHOTO ARCHIVE | History in HD is a vintage photo archive featuring thousands of high-definition images from the 1850s to 1960s. (Available as fine-art prints from the Shorpy Archive.) The site is named after Shorpy Higginbotham, a teenage coal miner who lived 100 years ago.

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