Monday, February 27, 2012

Painting 101 (the '50s)

Yup, it’s true.  A number of early cards were actually paintings.  Topps ‘53 and Bowman ‘51, ’52 and ’53 all fit the bill. 

Though photos are probably even more likely to catch our heroes in unflattering lights, actual paintings have plenty of room for problems too.  Believe me.  I used to do quite a bit of painting.  I was no Leonardo, but some of my stuff is located in relatives’ closets all over the United States.  Now, I wouldn’t touch a portrait with a 10-foot brush.  There’s just too many things that can go wrong.  Yeah, I realize these were probably all painted on photos, but still …

So, here they are, the de Koonings and Demoiselles d’Avignon of the diamond (did I mention I had an art history minor?) …

No one’s hat looks like this. 

Let me correct that.  No baseball player’s hat looks like this. 

Go-go dancers from the ‘60s might have worn something like this.  But, then again, only if it was in white leather.

More Ted, right here.

So, either this illustrator had a hard time with faces, or Buddy’s nickname was “Pineapple.”  (Wait, isn’t “Buddy” already a nickname?) 

Classic good-field, no-hit infielder.

It’s called foreshortening.  It’s not apparent on this portrait. 

Unless this guy’s nickname was “Stubby.”  Don’t laugh.  There was a Stubby Overmire, as well as a Stubby Clapp.  Okay, you can laugh at that last one.

Don Kolloway’s real nickname was actually “Cab” (creative, huh?).  Like Buddy, Don was particularly good at fielding his position in the infield, but left something to be desired upon stepping into the batter’s box.

Same problem.  I’d think it’d be even more serious in this situation, though, as Whammy’s a pitcher - and that's his pitching arm.

I have no idea where it came from, but the nickname is a classic.  Despite the card, Whammy's sole year in the majors was with the Pirates.  He was actually blind in one eye (in addition to having the withered arm).

Quite a handsome looking fella, by the by.

More fun with foreshortening.  It kind of looks like somebody chopped off Mickey’s upper torso and propped it up on a dismembered leg.

Mickey Vernon was a pretty darn good player.  He led the AL in batting twice and was an All-Star seven times.  Overall, he played 20 seasons and finished with over 1000 runs and RBIs and almost 2500 hits.  He was pretty much the only bright spot for the hapless Senators during the ‘40s and ‘50s.


Looks like Gail’s got a similar kind of problem.  In this one, though, I think the issue is more dwarfism than dismemberment. 

Gail Harris was a journeyman first baseman who was up for six years in the late ‘50s.  He was given a chance at an everyday job with the ’58 Tigers and smacked 20 homers. 

Sorry about the first name, dude.

This is a mess.  Billy looks both totally two-dimensional and like a hamper of dirty bed linen at the same time.  How does he do it?

Billy’s been here before.  Check out Just Plain Goofy: Up Close and Personal for more.

And here they’ve got Spec Shea twisting himself into a pretzel and looking totally flat all at once.  It takes talent to do that.

Francis Joseph Shea  had a couple of nicknames.  “Spec” was from having freckles.  The “Naugatuck Nugget” was from his being from, er, well, Naugatuck, a small town in Connecticut.

Not to be confused, of course, with the “Naugatuck Flash,” the “Naugatuck Wizard,” the “Naugatuck Nightingale,” or the “Napoleon of Naugatuck.”

Okay, somebody was having a little fun here.  I mean, after 30 of these things, I’d start to get a little bored too.

Illustrator 1: “Hey, I know.  This next guy, I’m going to go all Quattrocento on ‘em.  You like the background?  I’m trying to work some serious sfumato in here.  I consider this guy my Mona Lisa."  (Did I ever tell you I had an art history minor?)

More Howie here and here.

Illustrator 2: “Oh yeah?  Well, how do you like this one, huh?  Yup, you guessed it.  Degas it is.  Can you see the Japanese influence?  I’m actually kind of proud of this one.”

A much less aesthetically pleasing Warren right here.

* - author has this card

And here are some modern masters from the '60s.


  1. HEY. Foreshortening is hard. I've been working on a sketch for a week trying to figure out how to do it right. I wish I could be a cold-blooded gangsta like Rob Liefeld and just draw any old dang thing I pleased.

    Also: Any Warren Spahn card is automatically a masterpiece.

  2. WOW! Go-GO Dancers with white leather hats! What flashbacks that conjures up!

  3. I have to admit it, Spahn is one of the top 5 pitchers of all time. Really under-appreciated.