#Shortstops: Bluejackets and Baseball
As manager Joe McCarthy searched for the team’s previous photographer, named Francis Burke, he instead came across George’s studio in the Chicago phone book. Seeing that the studio was just a 15-minute walk from Wrigley Field, McCarthy invited George to become the team’s official photographer, igniting what would become a distinguished baseball photography career.
After the end of the 1941 season, which he spent with the Boston Red Sox, Pytlak suspected his imminent draft into the military, so he did what any athlete would do: He called up Lt. Mickey Cochrane at Great Lakes and asked to join the athletic division.
Pytlak joined the division in April of 1942, spending the summer as a Bluejacket and batting .319 in 40 games. Early on in 1943, Pytlak transferred to Buffalo, where he would remain until the end of the war in 1945. Though he rejoined the Red Sox upon being discharged, he was only able to play nine games before the season ended, and in the following 1946 season he only appeared in four games. In August of 1946, when Pytlak was 38 years old, the Red Sox released him.
The George Burke photographic materials collections documents the careers of many wonderful players from the early history of the game. In the cases of those players who served on the Great Lakes Naval baseball team, Burke often captured players who would soon be at the end of their baseball careers. Furthermore, these photographs provide a unique perspective of baseball outside of the major and minor leagues.
These pictures freeze in time the moments where players were both within and outside of the world of baseball, as their service to their country and their passion for the game came together to fuel their participation in both. As it intertwines with the history of the Great Lakes Bluejackets and the lives of its players, George Burke’s legacy as an amazing baseball photographer is solidified and the collection demonstrates its value as an essential part of the Hall of Fame’s photographic archives.
Mickey Lanning was the 2019 photo archives intern in the Hall of Fame’s Frank and Peggy Steele Internship Program for Youth Leadership Development