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Dear Matthew Alice:

In a set of postage stamps in the "Celebrate the Century" series, there's a stamp bearing an illustration of a baseball player representing the first World Series in 1903. He appears to be a batter awaiting a pitch. He stares over his left shoulder with his bat over his right.... Since I'm a rightie, I place my left hand at the nub at the end of the bat and my right hand above my left. If you examine what appears to be a right-handed batter on the stamp, he has his hands reversed! My friend suggested that maybe he's a leftie who has just finished his swing, but if that's the case, wouldn't he be looking the other way, in the direction in which his bat just finished its arc, watching the ball sail over the fence? So what gives?

-- Fred, San Diego

The Postal Service's stamp division hires photo fact-checkers, just to protect themselves from such anomalies. So here's the official word from all concerned. The stamp illustration, they claim, is based on a baseball-card photograph of a Chicago Cubs right fielder named Fred "Wildfire" Schulte. Schulte batted left-handed. The stamp artist copied the pose, while the photo researchers gathered details about an appropriate uniform, since the Cubs didn't play in the 1903 World Series. When objections to the odd grip surfaced, the researchers took pics of their friends swinging a bat left-handed and declared the pose at least anatomically possible. It is, as your friend says, a left-handed batter completing his swing. As for the direction in which he's looking, in the 19-aughts, they say, a batter's swing was not a thing of beauty or power.

The elves did some snooping and couldn't find a record of a 1903 baseball card for Frank Schulte. In fact, Schulte's first year in the majors was 1904. He did appear in a series of cards put out in 1908, but those were drawings, not photos, and the company was so cheap they used a bunch of generic faces and just stuck them in the appropriate uniform and put the player's name underneath it. Anyway, out of all the katrillions of baseball cards in the world, you still gotta wonder why they picked one that would raise this kind of question, even if the pose is legit.

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