By Phil Hecken, with Jimmy Parker
If the art in today’s splash photo looks familiar — it should. It was done by John Burton Davis, Jr., better known as Jack Davis. While Davis is known for his advertising art, magazine covers, film posters, record album art and numerous comic book stories, he also was prolific in his sports art. He may best be known as one of founding cartoonists for Mad Magazine when it premiered in 1952.
I’m back today with my buddy Jimmy Parker (follow him on Twitter here), who you may remember worked with me recently on the Neil Leifer book, Ballet In The Dirt. Today Jimmy is back with a look at the art and artistry of another legend, Jack Davis. You’ll enjoy this one! Here’s Jimmy!
The Mad, Mad, Mad, Mad (Sports) World of Jack Davis
By Jimmy Parker
If you happened to grow up in America in the 1960s, 70s or 80s, you’ve no doubt seen the work of artist Jack Davis. Best known for his work on MAD Magazine, Davis’ art permeated American pop culture in so many ways, it’s arguable that he was at one point the country’s most well-known artist. Over the course of a more than 60 year career, Davis’ illustrations appeared on or in countless magazines, comic books, movie posters, ads – even on the backs of baseball cards.
Davis grew up drawing, contributing illustrations to his high school newspaper and yearbook. Following 3 years in the US Navy, Davis attended the University of Georgia on the GI Bill, becoming a Bulldog for life. After working briefly in Atlanta, Davis set his sights on New York City, moving there in 1949.
In New York, Davis’ work caught the attention of editors at EC Comics, then publishers of a large roster of horror comic books, with titles such as Tales From the Crypt, The Vault of Horror and The Haunt of Fear. Davis’ style fit perfectly in the horror comics and the artist’s unusual speed made him a go-to for EC editors.
Throughout the early 1950s Davis contributed artwork to virtually the entire line of horror comics, including the classic “Foul Play”, a story depicting a baseball game played with a human head as a ball and arms and legs used as bats. Following public backlash and Senate hearings on comics’ role in juvenile delinquency, the comic book industry instituted strict publishing guidelines that ended EC’s line of profitable comics. The only book left was a relatively new comic that parodied all aspects of American life – MAD.
Davis had worked on every issue of MAD since its inception, using a looser, more caricature-like artwork style for parodies of movies, tv shows and even Ernest Thayer’s famous poem, “Casey at the Bat”.
In 1955, after 23 issues, the comic book was converted to a full sized magazine. The move gave its contributors more room for artwork and placed its content outside the strict guidelines of the Comics Code Authority. The result was soaring readership as MAD Magazine became a rite of passage for postwar American youth. Davis remained a regular contributor, known affectionately as “the usual gang of idiots”, for most of the next 5 decades.
With the increased popularity of MAD Magazine, Davis’ work caught the eye of Woody Gelman, art director at Brooklyn-based Topps Chewing Gum. Over the next several years, Gelman would assign Davis work on several sets of non-sports cards distributed with Topps gum. Needing illustrations for some 500 cards in each years’ baseball and football card sets, Gelman also tapped Davis to contribute artwork used on the backs of sports cards. In the late 1950s and early ‘60s countless kids unwittingly viewed Davis illustrations while chewing gum and reading statistics of their diamond and gridiron heroes.
By the mid-1960s, as early fans of MAD had started joining the professional ranks, art directors began assigning Davis freelance work illustrating everything from magazine and album covers to movie posters and advertising campaigns.
In the early 1970s Davis and fellow MAD contributor Nick Meglin created SuperFan, a comic strip that ran in Pro Quarterback magazine for several years. The comic gave Davis and Meglin a platform to parody the world of professional football, both on and off the field, at a time when the NFL was beginning to overtake MLB as America’s most popular spectator sport. The strip was later compiled into two paperback publications, with a forward by legendary sportscaster Howard Cosell.
Beginning in the 1960s Davis did artwork for several movie posters, including It’s a Mad, Mad, Mad, Mad World, Kelly’s Heroes and The Long Goodbye. But perhaps his greatest accomplishment in the world of cinema was his poster for the 1976 Walter Matthau film The Bad News Bears. Davis’ depiction of Morris Buttermaker and his chaotic band of batsmen is the perfect visual representation of the film.
Davis also had a prolific career in advertising, contributing artwork to ad campaigns for everything from RAID insect spray to Slim Jim beef snacks. Davis had a long relationship with sporting goods manufacturer Spalding, illustrating ads for several of their sports equipment lines. Perhaps best remembered is his 1977 “Streetball” ad for
Spalding basketball, featuring Dr. J and Rick Barry, which ran on the backs of comic books for several years in the late ‘70s and early ’80s.
In the mid 1980’s, Davis illustrated the covers of the popular book series, The Baseball Hall of Shame. The series initially comprised 4 books, each with different cover art that is typical Davis. The “Hall of Shame” franchise eventually spun off to include other sports including football and basketball, with most volumes sporting Davis artwork. Almost 1,000,000 copies of the books were sold and in 2012 the authors returned with “The Baseball Hall of Hame 5”, once again with Davis providing the cover art.
In the late 1980’s, with merchandising revenues climbing for virtually all sports, Davis did a series of team “mascots” posters. However, these weren’t illustrations of the Phillie Phanatic or San Diego Chicken. Instead Davis illustrated a caricature, either at bat or on the pitching mound, for each team’s namesake, drawing an astronaut pitching for Houston, an actual angel with wings pitching for
… and a pirate, clenching a sword in his teeth, taking a swing for Pittsburgh. The series was so successful that later versions were created with NFL, NBA and even college football teams.
Through it all, no matter where he was or what he was working on, Davis was always a University of Georgia Bulldog at heart. He rarely missed Georgia – Florida college football games and was a faithful supporter of the school since his days on campus. Davis’ professional relationship with the university’s athletic department began in 1948 when he illustrated the front and back covers of that
year’s football media guide.
Over the next 7 decades, Davis’ work graced countless programs, guides, posters, t-shirts, buttons and other items in support of a variety of UGA athletic programs.
In the 1990’s Davis and his wife moved from New York to St. Simon’s Island, GA. The move gave Davis a slower pace of life but was by no means a retirement. Thanks to his stature in the world of illustration Davis remained an in-demand artist, continuing to work in a wide variety of media.
During these years Davis began to receive awards and accolades befitting such a lengthy and diverse career. In 1996 he received the National Cartoonists Society’s Milton Caniff Lifetime Achievement Award. In 2002 Davis had a career retrospective exhibit at New York’s Society of Illustrators and in 2005 was inducted into the Society’s Hall of Fame.
On July 27, 2016 Davis passed away at age 91 due to complications from a stroke. Americans had lost a friend who helped them laugh at themselves for over half a century. But sports fans had lost a fellow fan whose unique visual perspective captured and reflected a variety of sports throughout popular culture.
Nice job with that Jimmy! Thanks for the in-depth look at Jack Davis.
Dolphins To Wear White Throwbacks
Great uniform news yesterday!
The Miami Dolphins will wear throwback white uniforms for their Week 2 game against the New England Patriots, according Tom Garfinkel, the vice-chairman, president and chief executive officer of the Dolphins.
The past several years, the Dolphins have worn their beautiful aqua throwbacks, with everyone from their fans to players to (pretty much everyone on) Uni Watch calling for them to be made their permanent primary uniform. While yesterday’s news on the white throwback is indeed welcome, there were no other announcements made, such as whether the new throwback will replace the aqua throwback, be worn in conjunction with it, or whether the aqua throwback will become the teams primary home uni.
Here’s the Dolphins tweet, which shows a bit more of the uni:
— Miami Dolphins (@MiamiDolphins) May 18, 2019
Note the lack of any “NFL 100” logo or patch on the uniform (which means it’s probably just a mock up at this point). For those of you who
living in a cave may have missed it, all NFL teams (except da Bears, who will wear a jersey patch) will wear NFL 100 Logo on the jersey collar this year.
According to the Dolphins, the team last wore the white throwback jerseys on Thanksgiving Day in 2003 when they faced the Dallas Cowboys and won 40-21 that day. This jersey looks slightly different (aside from being a different cut and manufacturer), with different stripes, but they’re both pretty similar.
With this being the NFL’s 100th Anniversary Season, I wouldn’t be surprised to see lots of throwbacks being brought out, especially for teams who won’t have an issue with helmet shell colors. This could simply be a one-off throwback (worn to commemorate the 100th Anniversary) or it might be a replacement for the current throwback (lets hope not); the best of all worlds, of course, would be to have this new jersey be a new alternate, with the current aqua throwback being moved to “primary” status (but I wouldn’t hold my breath on that). Either way, we should all be pretty excited at this development, even if there were many hints this would be happening over the past several months.
Stay tuned. The NFL could be good looking with celebratory throwbacks this fall!
For those who don’t wish to click the links, Graig paints baseball heroes (and regular guys) from the past, and is an immense talent.
Occasionally, I will be featuring his work on Uni Watch.
Here’s today’s offering (click to enlarge):
Title: “New Blood”
Subject: Lou Gehrig, 1925
Medium: Oil on linen
Size: 16″ x 20″
The Yankees were in trouble. Their 1925 season was only two months old, and the team seemed to be giving up already. By June 1, they were 15-26, good for seventh place in the American League. A year prior, at that time, their record was almost exactly reversed, with the team holding strongly onto the top spot of the league.
Their problems seemed to focus around their top drawing card and all-around greatest asset, Babe Ruth. During that time, the slugger’s private life was in shambles. With his womanizing becoming the stuff of legend, his marriage to Helen Woodford was falling apart. Ruth was seeing a woman who would later become his second wife, though it is possible that he had many more relationships going on at that same time. Towards the beginning of spring training, with his habitual drinking adding to the mix, the Babe began suffering from horrible stomach cramps and high fevers. During an April 7 stop in Asheville, North Carolina, he completely collapsed in a bathroom. Newspapers in London reported that he had died. His diet being the main culprit in his illness, writers referred to his episode as “the bellyache heard ‘round the world.”
It was discovered that the Babe was suffering from an intestinal abscess, and on the 17th of that month, he went into surgery. Upon his return to the team, Babe was still feeling the effects of his spring training ailment, as he was 30 pounds lighter, and appeared gaunt and wobbly-legged. Many writers felt that the Yankee slugger was through. At thirty years of age, and as a result of his life of consumption and over-indulgence, many felt that he seemed older than Ty Cobb and Walter Johnson did at that same age. They feared he was no longer able to continue being the same kind of player he was in the late 1910s and early 1920s.
The rest of the team fared no better. Their regular third baseman, Joe Dugan, was playing on a bad knee. Everett Scott, who had recently broken his consecutive game streak of 1307 games, seemed to be completely sapped of his strength. Both Catcher Wally Schang and second baseman Aaron Ward were having poor years, and were at the end of their tenure with the club. Wally Pipp, the first-sacker, was batting .244 with only three homers and twenty-three runs batted in. In fact, his average over the last three weeks of May was an anemic .181. Manager Miller Huggins thought it was time for a shakeup, possibly hoping that the threat of the regular starters losing their jobs would encourage better play and more hustle.
Facing the Washington Senators on Tuesday, June 2, he saw his opportunity. Ward’s second base was surrendered to Howard Shanks, while Benny Bengough took the mask and chest protector to behind home plate. And, with lefthander George Mogridge on the mound, Huggins put in the young Columbia University fence-buster Lou Gehrig to play first. Contrary to popular belief that Pipp was benched due to a headache, it was actually because of his ineffectiveness against lefties throughout that season.
It was the first starting job for Gehrig, though up to that point he had been under the club’s wing for two years. On April 18 of 1923, the same day that the Yankees opened their brand-new stadium, Gehrig was pitching for his university team against Williams College. Despite registering a loss, he struck out seventeen – setting a school record – and hit both a single and double. During that season of nineteen games, he hit .444, with six doubles, two triples and seven home runs. The tale of his homers became somewhat legendary at the school, where people said one of his blasts broke a window in Hartley Hall, while another flew 450 feet to smash a sundial dedicated by the class of 1885. He was thought of as “The Babe Ruth of the Colleges.” Yankee scout Paul Krichell had been interested in Gehrig’s bat and was the man responsible for the young man’s signing with the Yankees midway into that season. With Babe Ruth’s power driving New York, finding someone who could augment that was a no brainer. Such an offensive tandem could only mean better draws to the stadium.
Over the next two years, he flourished in the eastern league with the Hartford Senators, hitting .369, with thirty seven homers, thirteen triples and forty doubles in 1924. However, in September when he was called up to New York, he saw very limited playing time as a pinch-hitter. Huggins still had a very reliable veteran in Pipp. And, as long as he felt that the Yankees had a shot at the pennant – which they most certainly did in 1924 – he would play it safe. Very early during the 1925 season, there were even talks of Gehrig being traded to Boston for Phil Todt, another veteran first sacker.
But on that afternoon in June, because of Huggins’ need to shake things up, Gehrig finally seemed to get his chance to become more of a regular in the Yankee lineup. That day, he had two singles and a double in five chances, and was one of the main reasons the Yankees snapped their losing streak with a 8-5 win. Only three regulars from the prior year – Dugan, Ruth and Bob Meusel – started the game.
Pipp worked with Gehrig before each game there-after, helping him improve his technique around first base. He held out that he would win his job back eventually, but almost a month after sitting out, his hope was gone for good. On July 2, he was hit in the head by a Charley Caldwell high and inside fastball during batting practice. He spent a week at St. Vincent’s Hospital with a fractured skull and played very little for the rest of the season.
The Yankees finished the season with one of the worst records their franchise would ever produce, good for second to last place. Attendance at the stadium also fell off to 697,000 – over 30 percent off from the prior season. With all of his injuries and squabbles with Huggins, Babe Ruth only played in 98 games. He batted .290 and hit twenty-five home runs, and though those numbers would be aberrations for any mortal, it was Babe’s worst season in the majors.
Lou Gehrig, soon to be twenty-two years old, continued to play, and began to flourish as a starter. He played in each of the next 113 games, hit twenty home runs, hit .295, and batted in 68 runs.
Wally Pipp, now thirty-two years old, was traded to the Cincinnati Reds before the start of the 1926 season.
The Yankees had their new first baseman.
Thanks, Graig! You can (and should!) follow Graig on Twitter.
After being dormant for a while, the Uni Tweaks/Concepts have returned!
I hope you guys like this feature and will want to continue to submit your concepts and tweaks to me. If you do, Shoot me an E-mail (Phil (dot) Hecken (at) gmail (dot) com).
I received the following e-mail from Ian Lee, who has some NHL “Stadium Series” concepts to share:
I was thinking that it would be cool to design concepts for the 2020 Stadium Series game between LA and Colorado at the Air Force Stadium. They both have some subtle military references- the Avs have their uniform based on the hockey alternate jerseys of the Air Force Academy (at least according to Wikipedia, so take that with a grain of salt) and the LA Kings logo is based off the emblem of a local Air Force Base and has five sleeve stripes (3 heathered grey with 2 silver in the middle) to symbolize five branches of the American Military. Have a great Saturday!
Thanks Ian. OK readers (and concepters). If you have some tweaks or concepts, shoot ’em my way with a brief description of your creation and I’ll run ’em here.
from the scoreboard
Well … that was quick. Got a lot of positive response to returning the Guess The Game (From The Scoreboard), and even got a couple of new submissions. Today’s comes from Gary (Blue Hen).
The premise of the game (GTGFTS) is simple: I’ll post a scoreboard and you guys simply identify the game depicted. In the past, I don’t know if I’ve ever completely stumped you (some are easier than others).
I’d say this one is fairly easy as well — probably a 2 on a scale of 1-10 difficulty.
Here’s the Scoreboard. In the comments below, try to identify the game (date & location, as well as final score). If anything noteworthy occurred during the game, please add that in (and if you were AT the game, well bonus points for you!):
If you guys like this, and want to have this as a weekly feature, let me know in the comments below. And if anyone wants to send me any scoreboard photos (with answers please), I’ll keep running them.
Uni Watch News Ticker
Baseball News: “I am sure this has already been addressed,” writes Steve Haynes, “but Nigel Tufnel, in the last scene of Spinal Tap, is wearing a Sadaharu Oh jersey. A move well ahead of its time. Apologies if repetitive, but made my evening.” Now, I’ve seen Tap more than 100 times and can quote it by heart, so I can never get enough of this, but for you younger kids — this is one of the 10 best movies ever made. I cannot recommend it highly enough. … The Richmond Times Dispatch ran an article yesterday about the seamstress who takes care of the double A Richmond Flying Squirrels jerseys, especially talking about putting on nameplates (a first submission[!] from Adam). … Reds players wore 3 different caps during warm-ups for Saturday’s game, notes Joanna Zwiep. For those scoring at home, Pitcher Sonny Gray in the road game cap (even though it’s a home game), Pitcher Michael Lorenzen in the Armed Forces Day game cap, and Coach Caleb Cotham wore the pre-game/batting practice cap. … Not just color vs. color in the Greenwood Little League Single-A division Saturday. Navy tops and gray pants for both the Tigers and Braves (from Blaine Williams). So cute tho. … Maybe this isn’t so cute: “In our league, every team wears the EXACT same uniform,” says Josh Sandin. … Fortunately, Johnny Memphis has the solution: “We had this in one of our little league games, so we broke out our Braves red jerseys.” … You guys know I love a vertical team name down placket right? RIGHT! (from Jim Nicar). … Check out these photos of John Candy as Babe Ruth on SCTV in 1981 wearing a zipper front #4 Yankees uniform (from Michael Berry). No doubt Jimmer Vilk approves. (And Ruth wore #3 — that’s a Gehrig — although Candy has Ruthian physique, sort of). … A German Tourist gave a very humorous reply when asked about his Orioles cap on a train in Japan (from our own Anthony Emerson). … Not a big deal (in college or pros) but Alabama and Georgia went color vs. color in their season finale (from Griffin Smith). … Same thing for LSU vs. Auburn (from DG). … Tweeter Craig W has ranked his top 5 MLB caps. … Of course, that prompted Jimmer Vilk to tweet out his own top 5 MLB caps list. … Tip of the uni aesthetic cap to the Washington 3A State baseball playoffs teams, all of whom (apparently) wore high cuffs and stirrups (from Morten Orren). … Yesterday, Texas A&M softball was wearing 1980s throwbacks for elimination game vs. Texas. Tweeter Chris Mycoskie adds, “While more accurate this way (since they likely didn’t wear SWC mark back then), surprised they don’t have SEC patches.” … I wasn’t gonna give the camopander (Armed Forces Weekend) stuff any mention at all, but yesterday teams not only wore the camo caps, they also wore a special jersey patch (h/t Gershon Rabinowitz), and of course, the Brewers added olive colored helmets with camo BiG stickers, making that a wretched looking combo. … And then there is this, FFS (thanks, I think, to Adam Vitcavage). … Um. So, did you ever want to see a picture of Garth Brooks wearing a Ben Roethlisberger Pirates jersey? Yeah, me neither, but there you have it (from Noah Castroll and Matthew Farrier).
NFL News: Yesterday, the NFLPA held its 25th Annual “Rookie Premiere” (ugh, I hate the sound of that, but at least it’s not the Tostito’s Rookie Premiere or something like that) — and as such we saw a bunch of players in jerseys, looking somewhat happy (flashing signs?), and of course, that meant some up close and personal looks at the new NFL 100 logo which will be worn by all NFL teams (except da Bears) this upcoming season. … Da Bears, of course, are celebrating their own 100th Anniversary and have their own special logo they’ll wear on their chest (from Chris Jolly). … Several readers/tweeters pointed out that Ravens rookies were wearing the black alternate and wondering if that will be moved up to the primary. … Fans of the New England Patriots, Dallas Cowboys, Pittsburgh Steelers and other NFL franchises should keep an eye out for nods to Captain America, Guardians of the Galaxy, Spider-Man, Venom, X-Men and a ton more, as Marvel has created NFL helmets for every “team” (from Vicious Sid). That article’s dated February, but I don’t recall seeing it — apologies if it’s a repeat. … Would a powder blue and white, pillbox-style, Houston Oilers hat be one of the more random things come across in an antique store? Kade Witten thinks so.
College Football News: With the NFL’s “Color
Rush Rash” being such a success (TFPIC), you know it would be great if all the college teams decided to go the rash route too, right? No? Well, just in case you’re one of the few who might, here are some Color Rash concepts for a bunch of College teams. … “Although NCAA rules state that FBS/FCS teams aren’t required to wear the #CFB150 patch,” writes James Gilbert, “this [article] indicates that all those teams ordered them and it is assumed all D-I teams will wear the patch.” … The Nebraska Cornhuskers are “going with the super-sized anniversary patch as well,” says Brett Baker, who adds. “That jersey is busier than Paul’s laminate machine on Purple Amnesty Day.”
Hockey News: When players from the First Nations Elite hockey program take took the ice in Pierrefonds this weekend for the AAA Montreal Meltdown Hockey Tournament, they are making a fashion statement — all to fight racism. Their brand new red jerseys were made just for this tournament. They have the slogan “#ItsNotOK” written across the back. The bottom of the jersey has a bold, red bar across the word “racism.” … The Charlotte Checkers were wearing Calder Cup helmet decals last evening (and during the playoffs). From Mark Grainda. Sure looks a lot like the Leafs vs. Canes too!
NBA News: OK, here’s a real random jersey sighting: “Disneyland, land of all jerseys, has a guy in a L.A. Chargers Melvin Gordon basketball jersey,” says Mandy Lopez. Yeah, it’s gonna be hard to unsee that. … Good spot by Jakob Fox who notes the “Curry-Parents Watch continues for Game 3. Split logo hat as well as both Golden State Warriors and Portland Trailblazers logos on their jackets.”
Soccer News: In yesterday’s FA Cup Final, Man City wore “Choose Etihad” rather than “Etihad Airways” as the kit sponsor/advertiser. Submitter Josh Hinton adds “Also, the club are not wearing an FA Cup patch on their sleeve, which is consistent with what they’ve done throughout this cup run. This is because the FA Cup title sponsor, Emirates Airlines, is a direct competitor to the club’s chief kit sponsor, Etihad Airlines.” … Manchester United’s new away kit leaked and fans say ‘disgusting’ design is ‘tribute to snakes in dressing room.’ It is a beige color with a black trim that is reminiscent of a snake skin design. … Manchester City, on the other hand, paid homage to their 1969 FA Cup winners (and 50th Anniversary) with a beautiful jersey they sported for warmups. … FC Schalke 04 in Germany’s Bundesliga with the black armband to remember two former players who recently passed (from Wayne Jones). … The San Francisco Glens (a USL League Two team) have new kits, including a BFBS third kit (from San Francisco Glens). … Now that the Premier League’s season has ended, planet football has compiled a list of new kits, leaks and announcements for next season’s uniforms.
Grab Bag: Apologies if this has been run before, but Daniel Schwanger writes, “As a Duquesne University alum I was shocked to see a different Duquesne “D” logo show up on my ESPN favorites (yesterday) morning. As it turns out, this is part of a complete “rebranding” that seems senseless to me. I find it interesting that Nike had something to do with this, though I’m not surprised.” He continues, “There is even a new custom “Bluff” font for the lettering, named after the location of the university in the city, which students and alumni endearingly call “the Bluff” overlooking the Monongahela river. Seems to me to be a bit of a stretch.” Here’s an shot of the original D that is still used for official university business but has since been replaced in the athletics program with something more angular. … Do we have any “Survivor” (the TV show) fans here? Well, you’re in luck: here’s a look at the logos for all 38 ‘seasons’ of the show (via Paul). … We don’t seem to get much tennis coverage on UW (unless it’s from my doubles partner, Brinke), but Blake Fox notes that Spiderman did the coin toss at the Italian Open. … Not quite uni-related, but “St Mary Parish in Hudson has had the longest streak of parish sons becoming priests. It’s been 7 straight years! They even made shirts!” (from Jimmer Vilk).