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A Beauty of a Review: “Baseball As Art” Exhibit

By Phil Hecken, with Jimmy Parker

I’ve got another great one for you today, this time a review of the recent “Baseball As Art” exhibit that recently took place down in North Carolina, near where Jimmy Parker (“Beauty of a Game”) lives, and which he had the opportunity to check out a couple weeks ago. If that name is familiar to you, it’s because I recently featured Jimmy who reviewed Neil Leifer’s work, and the wildly-heralded artistry of Jack Davis. If you haven’t had a chance to check either of those out, I wholeheartedly recommend doing so!

Jimmy is back today, this time with his review of the “Baseball As Art” exhibit. I’ve actually profiled a couple of the artists on display there and I hope to get to a few of the others below, as their work is tremendous. Please, sit back and enjoy Jimmy’s review.

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“Baseball As Art” Exhibit
By Jimmy Parker

Located 45 minutes outside of Charlotte, Shelby, NC is a quintessential Southern town of 20,000. Each summer the town goes baseball crazy, ever since being the named the permanent home of the American Legion World Series in 2011. And since 2011, the Cleveland County Arts Council has helped celebrate the National Pastime by hosting a baseball themed art exhibit, “Baseball As Art”.

Over the years, the exhibit has become one of the country’s premier baseball art shows, featuring works by a veritable who’s who in sports art, names such as Graig Kreindler, Sean Kane and James Bennett.

I recently attended the Opening Reception for this year’s exhibit, held Thursday, July 11th, and was glad to see that the 2019 Exhibit was another outing that makes the show a great visit for fans of both the game and its art. CCAC Program and Events Coordinator Allan Potter and the rest of the staff did an excellent job curating this year’s show around the theme of American Legion Baseball alumni with several pieces featuring baseball Hall of Famers who graduated from the ranks of American Legion teams. What follows is a brief look back at just a few of the highlights from this year’s exhibit.

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As you enter the gallery space, you’re welcomed by a huge Satchel Paige portrait by artist Gypsy Oak. The red and grey of Satch’s Kansas City Monarchs uniform stands out beautifully on a background of green.

• • •

Georgia Artist Noah Stokes painted this gorgeous Lou Gehrig piece. Stokes’ style of exaggerated proportions approaches caricature but are done with such detail that it’s easier to think of them as visual depictions of larger than life diamond heroes.

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The biggest piece in the exhibit was this mural by Gypsy Oak. Made up of 24 individual silkscreened portraits, attendees had a great time seeing if they could name all the players depicted. Never one to shy away from lesser known players, Gypsy’s portraits of 18th Century Base Ballists gave most viewers the hardest time.

• • •

Proving that he doesn’t need a large canvas to do beautiful work, Gypsy Oak also was represented by this delightful Ty Cobb piece. One of numerous collaborations between Gypsy and UK artist Paine Proffitt, the layered image depicted Cobb almost showing a smile and it was great to see Proffitt make a cameo appearance in the show.

• • •

Canadian artist David Holden painted this hyper-realistic piece of former Nationals slugger Bryce Harper. Holden packs a ton of detail into his smaller pieces and the vibrant colors make the viewer think he’s watching Harper on a big screen high definition television.

• • •

“The Straw That Stirs The Drink”, Reggie Jackson, stares out at the viewer in this piece by artist James Fiorentino. Signed by Mr. October himself, the painting shows Jackson at perhaps the height of his fame in the iconic Yankee pinstripes.

• • •

Artist John Hanley’s depicted Wade Boggs in the classic Red Sox home whites. Hanley’s technique of layering several different media gives his work an almost dream-like feel. This feeling serves each piece well, as they become remembrances of bygone days.

• • •

Hanley’s technique is in full display in his painting of Mickey Mantle. Set against the darkness of a blurred crowd in the background, Mantle’s Yankee pinstripes and vaunted Louisville Slugger seem to jump off the canvas, much like the ball jumped off his bat in his many tape measure home runs.

• • •

Artist CF Payne has had work in and on a number of magazines and is well known as an all around illustrator. But he’s a sports fan at heart and the exhibit featured two of his pieces. Shown from the side, his depiction of Cardinals hurler Bob Gibson at the apex of his pitching motion exaggerates Gibson’s limbs ever so slightly so that almost each one reaches to the edge of the painting. This ever so slight exaggeration makes Bob appear almost as menacing as he must have looked to opposing batters.

• • •

Unlike the Gibson piece, Payne’s painting of famed A’s hurler Jim “Catfish” Hunter shows the pitcher from the batter’s point of view. But Payne’s technique is no less daunting here, as Hunter’s figure is again exaggerated slightly and the golds and greens of the A’s uniform stand in stark contrast to the background. All the while, a blurred baseball bears down on the viewer/batter in the upper left hand corner.

• • •

Continuing with great images of pitchers in motion, artist Paul Lempa’s painting of Bob Feller uses seemingly every inch of the canvas to dramatic effect. Feller’s kick almost reaches the top edge of the painting as we see him raring back, preparing to deliver one of his bullets.

• • •

But every great battery needs a great catcher and we get just that in artist Mike Kupka’s painting of famed Big Red Machine backstop Johnny Bench. Pacing the wooden planks of a vintage dugout, Bench comes to life donning the tools of ignorance over his classic Reds uniform.

• • •

One of the biggest figures (literally and figuratively) in baseball was Willie “Pops” Stargell. In artist Noah Stokes’ painting, Stargell is shown finishing the swing that powered 475 home runs. Set against an abstract crowd of Pirate gold, Willie’s classic white uniform is bigger than life and his cap beneath his batting helmet is a great touch.

• • •

But no conversation about larger than life baseball players is complete without mention of Mark “The Bird” Fidrych, who captured Detroit’s hearts in the summer of 1976. And again Stokes brings the player to (larger than) life using subtle exaggeration and minimal brushstrokes to depict The Bird’s nest of golden locks and animated facial expression.

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Many lovers of baseball, and baseball art, can trace that love back to baseball cards. And I was glad to see that love given proper recognition with a quartet of pieces by artist Mike Noren, better known as Gummy Arts. Noren’s pieces capture Bryce Harper, Yogi Berra, Willie Stargell and Warren Spahn in iconic baseball card designs and his humorous colored pencil work gives a unique visual twist to each iconic card.

• • •

Artist Anika Orrock pays tribute to the All-American Girls Baseball League with her illustration, “A Lovely Shade of Strawberry”. Depicting one of the league’s players applying lipstick while getting patched up, the piece is a beautiful nod to the women who kept baseball fans entertained during MLB’s WWII years and beyond. Orrock’s muted and minimal background allows the red of the player’s lipstick (and her strawberry) to stand out, reminding us just how tough these ball players truly were.

• • •

In “Madbum” Anika uses nothing but black ink in a style reminiscent of famed illustrator Al Hirschfeld to portray pitcher Madison Bumgarner of her beloved San Francisco Giants. Orrock portrays Bumgarner casually gripping a ball while a shaft of wheat sticks out of his mouth, alluding to Madbum’s down home roots in nearby Hickory, NC.

• • •

Artist Mike Kupka portrays Washington Senators slugger Harmon Killebrew using graphite on canvas. This proves to be an excellent medium to show the natural grey of the Senators jersey, featuring the team’s Senator patch worn in 1959 and 1960. The determined look of Killebrew peeks over his shoulder, hands clenched on his bat ready to unleash one of his ferocious swings.

• • •

In “Yankee Stadium” artist David Holden uses his meticulous brushwork to give us a near perfect view of Yankee Stadium, as the sun begins to go down and the shadows begin to overtake the lush green of the field.

• • •

In “Too Big To Fill” artist Chris Ross fills his vertical canvas with the imposing figure of The Franchise, pitcher Tom Seaver, in his early New York Mets days. Glove poised on his hip, Seaver looks in to get his catchers signs as his white pants bear dirt stains, remnants of his knee repeatedly dragging the ground as he generated the power of his pitching motion.

• • •

With “Ducky Medwick”, “Teddy Baseball” (not pictured) and “Bob Feller” UK artist Tim Godden pays tribute to stars of baseball’s yesterdays with a unique illustration style that alludes to imagery of those days. Godden shows each player in action, breaking out of a circular background, complete with their name on a pennant.

• • •

This was my fourth time attending the “Baseball As Art” exhibit and it’s always a thrill to see in person works from artists both known and unknown. Each year the Arts Council continues to seek out a variety of baseball artists, featuring artwork in a multitude of styles, techniques and media, and they appreciate just how special this exhibit can be. It’s never too early to make plans now to attend next year’s exhibit.

• • • • •

Thanks, Jimmy — tremendous piece, as always. I expect to feature Jimmy again during Paul’s August sabbatical (and trust me, you won’t want to miss the planned feature), so be sure to continue your high praise for Mr. Parker’s efforts, and of course, be sure to follow him on Twitter here.

Marlins Throw Back To Game 7, 1997

To celebrate the, um, 22nd Anniversary(?) of their 1997 World Series Winning Season, the Marlins last night threw back to the unis they wore during Game 7 of that epic series vs. the Cleveland Indians.

It’s actually throwback weekend, so expect two more of these games over the next two days.

Interesting the team chose to do this during a series against the Arizona Diamondbacks, a team that didn’t even exist (well, they did…just not on the field) in 1997. Here’s some shots from the game (I’m sorry, but the D-bax unis just look worse and worse every time I see them):

Note, the team kept its current matte black helmets, but at least they swapped the current decal out for the proper throwback — kinda weak not to go with shiny hats.

I was never a particularly big fan of that Marlins look — yes, the pinstripes and the teal are good enough, but I hate the sleeveless jersey (that’s NOT a vest) look, and the black sleeves and caps. Still, it’s miles better than what they currently wear, and better than their previous set. So, this is addition by subtraction.

Interestingly, Marlins twitter chose to make video clips that attempted to replicate sorta non-HDTV imagery, but I don’t recall my standard def TV being that shitty in 1997. Oh well, it is what it is…

They also treated this as “90s” night, so…well, you can guess the fun they had…

You can see a few more game photos here.

Guess The Game…

from the scoreboard

The game has returned! At least for a trial basis, but I got a lot of positive response to its return, so we’ll see how long we keep this one going.

Today’s scoreboard comes from reader “ojai67.”

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).

If you can read the message on the scoreboard, you probably don’t even need to look at the game being played to get the answer. Still, a fun one!

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, please continue sending these in! You’re welcome to send me any scoreboard photos (with answers please), and I’ll keep running them.

Li’l Help?

Hey guys…

As you’re all (hopefully) aware, Paul is once again scheduled to take his monthlong sabbatical from Uni Watch during August (he’s actually leaving for a real vacation this weekend). As always, I hope to fill each day with new and good uni-content, but sometimes there just isn’t that much uni news. That’s where you guys come in.

I’d love to feature some articles from you, the readers, as I have during past Augusts. So if there is a uni-related subject or topic you feel passionately about, and would like to share with your fellow obsessive students of the athletic aesthetic, give me a shout at Phil (dot) Hecken (at) gmail (dot) com and we can discuss the parameters. Many of you have submitted guest pieces in the past, and some of them have been really outstanding. A couple of you have already contacted me to express interest, but I can always use more — so please HOLLA if you have a uni-related column idea!

OK? OK!Let’s make August a uni-ficent month!

The Ticker
By Anthony Emerson

Baseball News: In 1971, the Pirates’ Al Oliver had his warm-up jacket personalized to read “Scoop” on the back (from Tristan Ridgeway). … With the Phillies throwing back to the Saturday Night Specials tonight, the Braves are also wearing their ’79 throwbacks tonight (from Beth Marshall). … Thursday night’s episode of Pardon The Interruption had some major inconsistencies with which Red Sox logo they used for on-screen graphics. Of course, one of those logos hasn’t been used in 10 years. … The Eutaw Street warehouse got a makeover ahead of a Billy Joel concert at Camden Yards (from Jon Diggs). … The Padres have a simplified version of their 50th anniversary logo on balls used at Petco Park (from @Padsker). … The Marlins are surveying fans about which throwback they want the team to wear next year (from @Sports_Goofs). … The Louisville Bats, Triple-A affiliates of the Reds, wore these Paw Patrol jerseys last night. … The Nashville Sounds, Triple-A affiliates of the Rangers, went through a full redesign this past offseason. They still haven’t exhausted their supply of plastic beer cups with the old logo (from Chris Mycoskie). … The 1940 Topeka Owls, a minor league affiliate of the St. Louis Browns, had Cardinals-ish uniforms, featuring just an owl on a bat (from Michael Malinowski).

NFL & College/HS Football News: When the Browns update their uniforms next year, the helmets will remain untouched (from @_PHG_). …  Marshall has new road unis (from Nicklaus Wallmeyer).

Hockey News: The Devils gave PK Subban a Ric Flair-style robe, complete with NOB and number, at his introductory press conference (from Wade Heidt). … The Coyotes logo and the logo of their new ECHL affiliate, the Rapid City Rush, will be on the hood of NASCAR’s number 77 car at the Gardner 400 this weekend (from Spencer Seaner). … If an NHL 20 screenshot is to be believed, the Blackhawks have gotten rid of their “pope collars”. … The Boston Fire Department’s engine no. 1 has a Bruins logo on the front grille (from Mario Vasquez). … The Danville Dashers of the FPHL have unveiled their new unis (from John Cerone).

NBA News: Here are the renderings of the Clippers’ proposed arena (thanks, Paul and Kary Klismet). … Drake’s fashion company will buy the Raptors’ ad-patch spot when their current deal with Sun Life Financial is up (from @OVOBeachBum). … A Los Angelino has started a petition to get the Lakers to create a special jersey in honor of late rapper Nipsey Hussle (from Jeremy Van Dorp).

College/High School Hoops News: New unis for Saline (Mi.) High boys (from Seth Kinker).

Soccer News: English League Two side Bradford City’s players will each have a “unique heritage number” beneath their kit’s badge. For example, a player with the number “1,234” beneath the crest would be the 1,234th person to ever play a competitive match for Bradford City. I love this idea. The article says that this practice is common in rugby and cricket, but the only example Jamie could find was the Welsh national rugby team. … You can catch Josh Hinton‘s daily download from his Twitter page, including Rangers’ new away kit and a leak of Real Madrid’s alternate kit. … Belarusian team BATE Borisov had NOBs in Cyrillic lettering for their UEFA Champions League qualifying match on Tuesday, going against UEFA’s mandate for NOBs to be in Latin script (from Ed Żelaski). Jamie later chimed in to say that a Georgian team wore Georgian-script NOBs, and speculated that the rule doesn’t apply until the playoff round. … Also from Ed: a GFGS and PFPS away number for Scotland’s most historic club, Celtic FC, has people riled up. … One more from Ed: French side Angers SCO have released their centennial kit.

Grab Bag: French rugby union team ASM Clermont Auvergne revealed a new crest last month, but their recently released kits still have the old one (from Josh Gardner). … Some great roller derby shots in this set (NYT link). … Kenyon-Wanamingo (Mn.) High has new athletic logos (from Kary Klimset). … All Northrop Grumman employees during the Apollo 11 mission received this patch and a gold chain (from @cannolifactory). … Iowa Mennonite School, a K-12 school in, uh, Iowa, will announce a mascot next week. The school had always competed sans mascot (from Kary Klimset).

Comments (25)

    Are we having another Griffins Design Contest this August?! Always my favorite part of the month!

    A nice 2 hour game. Also, Wilbur Wood pitched in this game, he was the WP for the Sox on last Sunday’s board

    Minor typo:
    The NASCAR Cup race this weekend is the Gander 400.
    Here’s hoping the Marlins go with the sleeveless pinstripes/teal undershirts next year – with teal helmets of course!

    I really like the “Baseball As Art” article. Thank you for sharing, and for capturing such great photos.

    Is there a “Football As Art” exhibit anywhere?

    Paul, the use of the word “we” in that Griffins post from Ian Lee tells you what you have built here: a community. Too rare in today’s bowling-alone world of endless anger and outrage. Well done.

    Man, that Topeka Owls jersey is a beaut! Paging Ebbets Field Flannels …

    Attended the Cubs at Brewers game last night. Miller Park has switched to paper straws. My wife got a frozen cocktail in the first inning and nursed it into the fourth, and the paper straw never got soggy and limp.

    I’ll second that comment about the Owls jersey. It would also make a nice “turn back the clock” event for Topeka’s current independent team, the Train Robbers. Or maybe a team with “Owls” as a moniker could do an homage. Here’s looking at you, Florida Atlantic…

    That Marlins jersey is a vest. If you look closely, you can see it bulging around the edge, as a player is moving, creating separation from the undershirt. I also used to have one back in the day.

    I agree with Phil. The Marlins’ uni is a sleeveless shirt, not a true vest like the old Reds, Pirates, Indians and A’s vests.

    Yes, the sleeveless jersey is a separate garment from the black undershirt. Phil’s comment about not considering it a vest is because of the cut of the jersey. A true vest has smaller, tapered material over the shoulders (i.e. larger arm holes), while the sleeveless jersey the Marlins wore had more squared off shoulders/arm holes.

    A “true” vest is a garment for the torso that lacks arms, and typically but not always opens in front with buttons or a zipper. The Marlins wore vests. But it is also true that the 1990s-today cut of baseball vests by Majestic is ugly and ill-fitting compared with the thinner-shoulder vest cuts of yesteryear.

    Worse than the Sounds, the AAC in Dallas hasn’t exhausted the cups with the old American Airlines logo, last used in 2013.

    In the “only so many motifs and colors dept”: The Danville Dashers bear more than a bit of resemblance to the IFL’s link.

    Northrup Grumman was just Grumman when it built the Apollo LM.

    Even though they built fighter planes, the concept that the company that built the LM also built the USPS vans (which they’re still trying to replace) is still hard for me to grasp.

    PROOFREADING: That should be 19th century base ballers in the Gypsy Oak mural in the lede. Good luck on naming an 18th century player!

    Can the Marlins throwback permanently? Their current look causes one the throwup.

    I never liked the 1990s Marlins uniforms at the time after they switched to emphasize the black. But then they keep switching to even worse uniforms, so by comparison their drab late-1990s uniforms look marvelous. Graded on a fixed scale, those 1997 unis were C-minus duds. Graded on the curve of what the Marlins have worn since, those 1997 unis were A-freakin-plus garb.

    A few things…

    That MadBum drawing reminds of an Al Hirschfeld (sp?) work.

    It’s not a proper throwback unless you’re wearing teal batting helmets.

    Just a terrific, interesting entry today. Well done. Would love to visit that exhibit in future years. Great works of art!

    Re the player numbers, most (if not all) major international cricket teams wear a cap (appearance) number under the crest.
    See the list of England Test Cricketers here link and an image of current Test Match captain Joe Root with his number 655 link
    In the 3 forms of international cricket, the players wear the number based on their debut in that format. Using Joe Root as the example, his Test Match cap number is 655, One Day International is 227 and Twenty20 is 63.

    Agreed. There is nothing quite like using a slvt to get off and then throwing cash at her to prove just how dirty of a wh0re she is. I love it.

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