Diamond Visions: Baseball’s Greatest Illustration Art, Part 3

Catcher, JC Leyendecker

Catcher, J.C. Leyendecker

As the heading indicates, this is Part 3 of a five-part series. I encourage you to view the first two parts if you have not already done so, as that will clarify some of my criteria and admitted bias. Here is another caveat: while I wished to represent all the acknowledged great American illustrators who occasionally worked in baseball, I expended no great effort to select the very best work by each. Instead, I have chosen an important effort by Rockwell or Leyendecker or Penfield or Shepard–in code, the one that tickles me–rather than a perhaps more fully developed virtuoso work. Consider this five-part series as the beginning of a long discussion rather than its end. Last, I encourage you to join a Facebook group devoted to Baseball Arts in all its forms–painting, sculpture, illustration, cartoons, and graphics: https://t.co/JGmP4lyjZb

[Clicking on a photo below will enlarge it, in one or two screens.]

11. Base-Ball ABC, back cover, McLoughlin 1885

11. Base-Ball ABC, back cover, McLoughlin Brothers, 1885

Every page of this children’s book is a stunner but I have selected its back cover as a particularly brilliant instance of the 1880s fascination with Japanese and “Aryan” design. If Whistler had painted a children’s book, it might have been this one. The entire book may be viewed or downloaded here: http://goo.gl/Yn3NhZ.

The McLoughlin Brothers (1828-1920) firm was preeminent in color-printed children’s books, toys, and board games. Baseball-game collectors will know the name McLoughlin especially for the gorgeous Game of Base-Ball and Home Base-Ball (both from 1886).

12. The National Pastime cover, 1988, Nap Lajoie, Mike Schacht

12. The National Pastime cover, 1988, Nap Lajoie, Mike Schacht

My dear departed friend Mike Schacht, a graphic artist by day and a painter by night, combined his two passions brilliantly to produce an unmatched portfolio of striking posters, graphics, and paintings. Apart from his baseball art, Schacht was also the publisher and editor of “Fan,” a quirky literary and art quarterly with an elite subscription list. At the time of his death in 2001, he and I were collaborating on a book with a working title of PLAY: The Art of Mike Schacht.

13. Calvert Litho, 1895; full sheet base ball poster no. 281

13. Calvert Lithographing Co., 1895; full sheet base ball poster no. 281

The Calvert Lithographing Company was founded in Detroit and continued as an independent business into the 1960s. One of the largest color printing firms in the country, it specialized in cigar labels and theatrical posters. Its forays into baseball appear to have been few, but this 1895 image (marketed as “Base Ball Poster No. 281,” with text to be supplied by the customer) is certainly a keeper.

14. Great Base Ball Match ... with the Leading Players of the Principal Clubs (Jim Creighton Memorial), Leslies, 1865

14. Great Base Ball Match Between the Atlantic and Eckford Clubs of Brooklyn … with the Leading Players of the Principal Clubs … (Jim Creighton Memorial), Leslies, 1865

On November 4, 1865, Frank Leslie’s Illustrated Newspaper featured this remarkable two-page woodcut illustration depicting both a game-in-progress scene and images of the top players from all of the New York, Brooklyn, and Newark clubs. All the players are named, including the crepe-draped Jim Creighton, three years in the ground. Henry Chadwick is by this point, evidently, so well known that he requires only the names of his outlets, the newspapers spread beneath his visage. My biographical essay on Creighton may be read here: http://sabr.org/bioproj/person/2d2e5d16.

15. Collier's, J.C. Leyendecker, 1907

15. Collier’s, J.C. Leyendecker, 1907

For connoisseurs, the competition for the laurel as greatest of all baseball illustrators is between Edward Penfield and J.C. Leyendecker. I would not disagree.

Illustrations 16-20 tomorrow!


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