John Rogers has had a compelling interest in baseball history ever since he was a young man, but his strides in addressing that interest over the last decade have been nothing short of sensational.
The John Rogers Photo Archive, largely developed over that span, now includes upwards of 32 million images, including a good chunk of some of the most important sports images produced in the last century.
I was able to talk to Rogers – whom I first met more than 10 years ago at the famed Barry Halper Collection Auction at Sotheby’s in New York City – at the National Convention in Baltimore earlier this summer.
Among all the intriguing things he told me about the staggering accumulation of the archives was his unqualified assurances that, with the addition of the Sporting News archives, he has plans to ultimately restart the famed Conlon Collection baseball card series that was stalled 15 years ago.
That acquisition was added to a roster that includes the archival files from the likes of the Denver Post, the Detroit News, the Chicago Sun-Times and Sport magazine, along with collections from other legendary photographers like Don Wingfield, Arthur Rickerby and Barney Stein.
But for even casual card collectors, the name Charles Martin Conlon rings with an immediate reverence, since another well-known hobby figure from decades past, Steve Juskewycz, had showcased thousands of those remarkable black-and-white images in card issues created by his Megacards company from 1991-95. Coincidentally, I also ran into the amiable Juskewycz at the National in Baltimore, but talked to him a day or two before Rogers gave me the news about his plans for the collection.
For fans of that acclaimed Megacards series, which ran to 1,430 cards in all – roughly half of what had been hoped for in a planned Homeric undertaking of 10 years and 330 cards created from Conlon’s original glass negatives.
It certainly wasn’t Juskewycz’s fault that the project was halted after five years; there was a baseball strike in 1994 that exacerbated the emerging effects of an oversaturated new-card market, and thus an undertaking even as worthwhile and even noble as the Conlon Collection was one of the casualties.’
I can’t tell you how thrilled I was when Rogers barely hesitated when I asked about the idea of restarting that remarkable card set. “That’s what we’re gonna do,” he said without batting an eye. “They had a great thing going, and we plan on restarting it, even continuing the numbering (from where it left off in 1995 at 1,430 cards).
“It was an unfinished product,” he continued, conceding that there were a lot of factors involved with such an effort, making it impossible to attach any kind of timetable to the plan. “We’d love to pick it back up,” he added.
That’s good enough for me. With a 134 full-time employees and a 24-7 operation underway with all the digitizing of those tens of millions of images, the thought of Rogers and his crew as heir apparent to the sterling Megacards stewardship of the Conlon legacy is pretty exciting.