About Fathers

Perspectives on fathers and their children.

Things lost when families dissolve

A marital separation nearly destroyed baseball's most famous photograph.

A divorce can offer opportunity, but it almost always involves loss. Loss of the kids. Loss of the house. Loss of friends, loss of a familiar routine, maybe loss of a job.

Sometimes the things that are lost are oddly sentimental, or of emotional value only to the person who loses them. On rarer occasions, unique and truly valuable items can sadly disappear.

That's what happened to Rudy Mancuso, who took one of baseball's most famous photographs (above) and never received proper credit. It was taken on Oct. 3, 1951, during the final playoff game between the Brooklyn Dodgers and the New York Giants, the game that included the home run known forever after as "the shot heard round the world."

As my friend Josh Prager beautifully recounts in the Wall Street Journal, Mancuso was unable to sell the photo the next day, and he quickly fell into obscurity. A year later he and his wife separated. The priceless negative disappeared. And as the years drifted by, even his family came to doubt whether he had taken the picture. It became a "family legend," Prager reports.

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In January, Mancuso's wife's sister died. While her nieces were sorting through her possessions, they found an envelope marked "baseball." Inside was the negative. They gave it to Mancuso, who was 89 years old and had not seen it for 57 years.

Mancuso transferred ownership to his sons, hoping it would provide for them. (Josh's story includes the photograph.)

It was timely; Mancuso died on May 10th.

When Mancuso lost his wife, he also lost the tangible record of the crowning accomplishment of his professional life. Happily for him and his family, he recovered it before he died.

Journalist Paul Raeburn is the author of Do Fathers Matter? to be published by Scientific America/FSG in June, 2014. He is also the author of the Fathers and Families blog.


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