Monday, June 10, 2013

"Whattaman" and Wife, 1931

This Acme wire photo gives us another look at Charles Arthur Shires, also known as Art "the Great" Shires, also known as "Whattaman" Shires. Shires was profiled by Paul Tenpenny three years ago, but this photo is new to us.


PHOTO SHOWS – First photo of Art "the Great Shires" in the uniform of the Milwaukee (Wis.) Brewers with whom he will play during the coming season. The former big league ball player was photographed with Mrs. Shires at Hot Springs, Ark., during his initial practice with the minor league team.
Art is looking pretty sharp in his pinstriped 1931 Brewer uniform. I also love the cloche hat Mrs. Whattaman is wearing; very Jazz Age. She was Elizabeth "Betty" Greenabaum, an 18-year-old student at the University of Wisconsin. They were relative newlyweds when this picture was taken, having been married the previous November 7th in Los Angeles, where Shires was spending the off-season working as an actor.

Shires had been traded from the Chicago White Sox to the Washington Senators during the 1930 season, but the rowdy ways that sent him out of the Windy City also caused him trouble with Clark Griffith. Washington sold him to the Brewers on December 1st, 1930, for a reported $10,000. "Shires," Griffith was quoted as saying, "is the best ball player I have ever sent back to the minors."

If they were hoping that marriage would settle him down, early indications weren't promising. After the ceremony, Shires joked around with the reporters covering him. "Now, I've got a wife, and I'll need more money. Guess I'll have to be a hold-out next spring." He called his courthouse wedding "batting practice", suggesting that "there will have to be a church wedding later, although I’d rather face that great pitcher 'Lefty' Groves [sic] than do this over again."


The photo itself is fascinating; it has been manually touched up to enhance some elements. The most obvious are the shadow above Shires's right shoulder and the white space behind the former Miss Greenabaum. What might not be so readily apparent is the re-drawn pinstipes on his jersey and an outlining on the left half of the jersey's Milwaukee "M". When the light strikes the photo just right, the outlining takes on a calligraphic quality, almost like Japanese brush strokes:

A lost art, replaced by the impersonal hand of Photoshop.

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