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Let’s bring pictures of some old St. Louis baseball greats to life

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I used that weird new tool to animate some old photos.

Branch Rickey.

You’ve likely seen the new technology from genealogy site My Heritage, which they call “Deep Nostalgia.” It takes an old photo and animates it, so the subject appears to move around, open and close their eyes, etc.

Seeing these faces from long ago come to life evokes a visceral reaction. Depending on your sensitivity to The Uncanny Valley, your reaction will likely fall somewhere between “that’s amazing” and “kill it with fire.”

The idea is for anyone to be able to animate their ancestors from long ago, but of course folks have used it for everything from old baseball cards to that creepy Ronaldo statue. I wondered what this could do to some old St. Louis baseball greats.

Branch Rickey

I haven’t found an exact date on this photo, but judging by the uniform it’s likely from 1913/1914 when Rickey managed the St. Louis Browns.

There is of course ample film of the older Rickey - the one who GM’d the Cardinals and Dodgers - generally in a 3-piece suit, pontificating on this or that. But this is the young Rickey, just a few years after the end of his own playing days and in the earliest days of his time as a coach / front office type. His eyebrows - while substantial - have not yet taken over his entire face.

What’s Mr. Rickey watching here? I posted this on Twitter, and the early front-runners are:

Watching Matt Adams play left field.

Ozuna’s belly flop off the outfield fence.

Jack Flaherty pinch running.

Cool Papa Bell

This is not my first spin through playing with old photos. Back in November, I played around with Photoshop’s new neural filters to colorize some old photos. This is one of those colorized pics of James “Cool Papa” Bell, dated 1922.

Given I colorized and animated this myself, I can safely say this is the only color deep fake video of a young Cool Papa Bell you are likely to find anywhere. Hashtag Exclusive.

The Deep Nostalgia software apparently matches each photo to one of several videos of actual people in its library. In this case, it’s done a great job of capturing the quick, youthful energy one would expect from a young Bell. Is that a coincidence, or are the machines smarter than we imagined? Are they already rising up, Terminator style? Who’s to say?

Charles Comiskey

Let’s really crank up the way-back machine now and look at some figures from the Browns of the 1880s, the first St. Louis baseball dynasty. As I mentioned in that photo colorization post, many of the best surviving pics from that era are actually the studio-produced images that were used for the Old Judge Cigarette cards.

Old Judge Cigarettes: Welcome to Flavor Country.

Comiskey was the 1st baseman, captain and manager for those Browns teams which won four-straight pennants and two world championships.

In this video, he appears to be trying to avoid eye-contact with Owner Chris von der Ahe, who is likely droning-on about his financial troubles and the stunts he has planned to sell more beer at the games.

And that brings us to...

Chris von der Ahe

The German Beer Baron who brought championship baseball to St. Louis is here, alive, in all his glory. This - virtually the only surviving photo of von der Ahe - also came from an Old Judge cigarette card.

In that time, the St. Louis newspapers would often offensively write about von der Ahe mimicking his thick, German accent. If they were to see this AI-generated deep fake video of the Browns owner, they would likely caption his thoughts as:

“Vhat is dis? Beer? Did zomeone say beer? Vhere is dee beer und bloodvurst?”

Deeply, deeply offensive.

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Anybody else try this Deep Nostalgia software on some St. Louis baseball greats? Post them below.