2021 Burdick Award Winner

Doug McWilliams photographing Padres manager Dick Williams in 1983.

The Awards Subcommittee thanks everyone who made nominations for this year’s Jefferson Burdick Award. Last year we listed the finalists before announcing the winner. A large part of this was to demonstrate the breadth and variety of nominees. Due to the overlap in nominees between this year and last year as well as the fact that we consider anyone who’s been named a finalist to always be a finalist, we’ve chosen to not feature the finalists this year and just cut straight to the big reveal.

So without any further ado, we are pleased to announce that the 2021 winner for the SABR Baseball Committee’s Jefferson Burdick Award for contributions to the baseball card hobby is photographer Doug McWilliams.

Doug’s work as a baseball card photographer speaks for itself. All of us have seen his work. All of us own his work. He even donated 10,000 negatives to the Hall of Fame,* creating a huge digital collection of color images of all kinds of players from the 60s, 70s, and 80s.

*Why yes, you can search his archives there.

If you’ve ever held a baseball card from the 1970s in your hand, you’ve likely admired the impeccable artistry of Doug McWilliams’s work. His brilliant use of color, unsurpassed mastery of light, and natural rapport with his subjects made for thousands of unforgettable and classic cards, each miniature masterpieces of the genre.

—Tom Shieber, Senior Curator
National Baseball Hall of Fame and Museum

What makes him award-worthy though is his willingness to pull back the curtain and show us the process of how photographs end up on cards. Doug has been very generous giving interviews to both the Hall of Fame as well as this blog. These interviews are a treasure trove of information about what kinds of photos Topps wanted and the technical requirements that they had.

That cards are essentially cheap, mass-produced photos makes them a visual record of photographic technology. Being able to read about what kind of film, cameras, and lenses he used is invaluable in grounding our understanding of cards as part of that visual record.

Doug’s comments about Topps’s technical requirements on the other hand are a fascinating look at how corporate workflows and standards shape the final products in ways that most of us don’t understand. Much of the Topps “look” that we’re used to is explained by these standards which dictated what kinds of lighting and what kinds of film were to be used.

While there’s a world out there of photographs that he wanted to take but wasn’t allowed to, the photos he did take have formed an indelible part of all of our lives and we’re so much richer for him sharing the process with us. Congratulations and thank you, Doug!

Author: SABR Baseball Cards Research Committee

This account is used for official Committee postings.

10 thoughts on “2021 Burdick Award Winner”

  1. It’s just terrific that the anonymous artists who snap these great photos for baseball cards are now just a tad less anonymous. It has always bothered me that the photographers of cards do not get a photo credit somewhere on the card. There is no way for the average baseball card fan to properly appreciate the work of the artist who snapped a particular photo. Congratulations Doug!

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  2. Doug is a stellar choice for this honor. His body of work and artistry is truly remarkable, and a better person you will not find.

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  3. Thank you to whoever is responsible for this. I had no idea I was being considered, until very recently ! Very nice writeup.
    It is a wonderful surprise for for this old Photographer.
    Cheers, Doug

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    1. Doug, we are so proud to have you as our second ever honoree. My co-chair Nick and I will be in touch as things get a bit closer to ensure the virtual ceremony is a big success. Jason

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  4. Doug McWilliams is an inspired choice for the Burdick Award.
    Doug got his first baseball card for free during Casey Stengel’s tenure with the Oakland Oaks and he’s acquired a few more since.1948. Doug has brightened countless SABR hot stove meetings and PCL reunions by displaying items from his collection, presenting his Topps Cactus League portrait photography, and talking baseball with players, old timers and fans. Doug is a 5-tool person.

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  5. Doug McWilliams got his first baseball card for free at a gas station as a boy in Berkeley in 1948 when Casey Stengel was managing the Oakland Oaks and is still collecting and sharing his treasure with modern day baseball kranks at hot stove SABR meets and players reunions today. Congratulations on being awarded the Burdick Award, Doug.

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