Entries Tagged as 'Baseball'

Becoming Dewey

Anyone who gets drafted by a major league baseball club is clearly gifted far beyond most of his peers. If he defies all odds and actually makes it to The Show, he’s proven that he’s one of the best several hundred baseball players on the planet at a particular moment in time, no matter how he ends up performing at that level. Surely there’s some solace in that for those who don’t stick around for very long, or even for those who do but never quite meet the potential they were blessed (or cursed) with. Yet darkened corners of taverns and the internet are filled with people who often ruminate on what might have been, what could have been, what should have been. Fulfilling the American stereotype of living a life without a second act; beating on, boats against the current, borne back ceaselessly into the past.

Dwight Evans made his major league debut as a 20-year old with the Boston Red Sox late in 1972 after winning the International League MVP at Triple-A Louisville that season; a tall, rangy prospect with a great glove, a cannon arm, and some pop in his bat. He spent the rest of the decade trying to fulfill the promise his potential, living up to it in stretches, but battling inconsistency at the plate and a string of various injuries that kept holding him back. But even as he struggled with his hitting, his defense always shined, most notably when robbing Joe Morgan of a home run in the 11th inning of Game 6 of the 1975 World Series, then immediately whirling to fire a throw to first to double up Ken Griffey, keeping the game tied as it headed towards its stunning climax.

By the turn of the decade, Evans had settled into a solid if unspectacular career, winning 3 Gold Gloves for his work in Fenway’s vast right field, averaging 15-20 home runs a season and batting around .260 every year, give or take some percentage points. He was 28 years old in 1980, his closest contemporaries in terms of performance being the forgettably serviceable Sixto Lezcano and Rick Monday. After a particularly brutal start to that season, Evans was batting a paltry .194 with 5 home runs and 22 RBI by the All-Star break, eventually being platooned with Jim Dwyer in the process. He needed a change, and to his credit, he sought one out and embraced it.

Red Sox hitting coach Walt Hriniak, a disciple of famed hitting guru Charlie Lau, taught Lau’s theories to Evans: incorporating a balanced stance through rhythm (in Evans’s case, a toe tap), followed by a dramatic weight shift mid-swing, then ensuring full arm extension through the swing by releasing his top hand as he finished.

The change in approach worked, and Evans improved his .613 first-half OPS to 1.001 for the second half. He kept this torrid pace going right on into 1981, tying for the league lead in home runs with 22 during that strike-shortened season and finishing third in the MVP race. As important as tinkering with his hitting mechanics was, Evans also began utilizing a more patient approach at the plate, leading the league with 85 bases on balls (the first of three times he’d take the title that decade), setting him on the path of becoming not only a slugger but an OBP machine. This relatively rare combination of skills led to him batting leadoff at times throughout the mid-to-late ‘80s, including an at-bat where he crushed the first pitch of the 1986 major league baseball season for a home run on Opening Day.

His continued to dazzle in right field as well, winning 5 more Gold Gloves throughout the decade (bringing his total to 8), not to mention staking several claims to the unofficial Runners Held crown, so foolhardy it was to test his howitzer arm by trying to take an extra base on a ball hit to him.

He seemed ageless, racking up 100+ RBIs in 1987, ’88 and ’89 as he cruised into his late thirties. But back troubles began to hamper him during this time, gradually sapping his power and reducing his world-class range in right, necessitating a shift to first base and DH as his career began to wind down. After a lackluster 1990 campaign in which he hit .249 with 13 homers with 63 RBI, he was unceremoniously released by the Red Sox at the age of 38. Wanting to go out on his terms, Evans signed with the Orioles and turned in one season for Baltimore, retiring at the conclusion of 1991.

Gone are the heady days and neon nights when Evans roamed the vast acreage of Fenway’s right field, Tom Selleck ‘stache making the ladies swoon as he crushed first pitch fastballs into the bleachers, trotting the bases with that crouched gait. High above the patch of grass that Evans patrolled so magnificently without peer hang the numbers the club has seen fit to retire; ironically, his is not among them, even though it should be (certainly more than Fisk’s or Boggs’s, although number retiring is not a zero-sum game).

There was hope that Evans might receive some long overdue credit once he reached eligibility for the Hall of Fame in 1997. He was not close to being a slam-dunk candidate by any means, but it was possible to envision a slow and steady climb up the ballot over a period of years, culminating in election sometime in the mid-‘00s. You could make a strong case that he was the best player in the American League for the entirety of the ‘80s, to say nothing of the X-factor his game-changing fielding provided. Bill James, among others, has championed Evans’s Hall of Fame credentials. Alas, he dropped off the ballot after 3 years, peaking with a paltry 10.4% of the vote on his second ballot in 1998, a victim of the burgeoning steroid era and his own late start in shifting his career to a higher gear.

Yet here was an American life that had a second act, however improbable it may have seemed. That old-timer at the end of the bar can take heart in a living example of someone who actually Turned It Around, and therefore rightfully hope for the possibility of it happening again with someone else. Maybe even to himself. Anybody can do anything, as long as you decide you want to. And follow Charlie Lau’s theories. And look like you should be wearing a Hawaiian shirt and driving a red Ferrari in the process.

Time Lapse Videos

Part of my ongoing efforts to bring back Big Beat techno, one time lapse drawing at a time.

Making these also afforded me the opportunity to cross off the white whale of my Bucket List: planning, shooting, editing and mixing my own movies.

Ever moving forward.

(I need to work on that white balance while shooting, though, I know. Color temperature is too warm.)

Exit the Warrior

Hiding behind the double-knits, cored-out earflap and lazy wrist twirl was the harsh reality that man is mortal and everything is going to end.

Carl Yastrzemski’s immediate predecessor, Ted Williams, lived some kind of charmed life where he could accomplish whatever he wanted to through the sheer force of being Ted. He was a 6’ 3” live wire, a bulldog Picasso or Hemingway with a bat. Yaz? He was you or me, some guy who wouldn’t get two glances on the street, but was somehow able to push himself to the very limits of what he could do and live out there in that ether for 23 years. If Ted Williams was Superman, some freakish alien life form given powers by the yellow sun, then Carl Yastrzemski was Batman, a human residing on the edge of his own capabilities because that is what he was driven to do. Williams left us by hitting a home run in his last at-bat, still lifting that car as effortlessly as he did on the cover of Action Comics #1. Yaz, on the other hand, bore the visible scars of battle, ones dealt not only by foes on the diamond but by time itself. And because of this we identified with him all the more.

I was 12 when Yaz’s Batman avatar began to pixelate and break down, revealing its ugly underneath, a marker of the passage of time. Here he was during the summer and early autumn of 1983, playing out his last season and leaving me to wonder what rooting for the Red Sox would be like without him. At that age, my fanhood was based solely on the identification with the players. The laundry hadn’t really come into focus yet because the turnover rate in my short window of rooting for the Sox was minimal; I was too young and disconnected to feel the pain of Tiant and Lee leaving, and merely impotently aware of Lynn’s and Fisk’s departures. At the same time, I was a virgin to the delicious thrill of a pennant race (I was only 7 in 1978 and couldn’t appreciate the story being spun out of that season at the time). What else was there but to root for this man who had embodied not only being a Red Sox, but also represented the honor bestowed in the fight itself, as opposed to the outcome? The funny thing is that for all my anxiety over Yaz’s impending retirement, it wasn’t like I was seeing anything remotely resembling his prime, as if I knew what I’d be missing. It’s just that he had Always Been There. Not just for me, but for my father. Particularly for my father. This worrying about my father’s feelings about any outside developments whatsoever was a shaky new concept. He was a sophomore in high school the spring that Yastrzemski made his debut, for Chrissakes, surely some bell must have been tolling in his consciousness. And if #8 was getting too old to hack it, then maybe so was my Dad, and then so would I at some point down the road. These aren’t things you want to think about when you’re 12.

Yaz occupies a curious spot in the Red Sox pantheon. A first ballot Hall of Famer who may have been an accumulator more than anything else. Owner of a Triple Crown and a multiple Gold Glove winner, but a reclusive and somewhat aloof person who did little off the field to endear himself to the fandom. Very few kids my age even liked him during his playing days, as they thought he was some old fart whose presence was somewhat comical in contrast to that of Lynn and Rice, and later on, Evans. You look at some of his years and it’s not surprising, these sentiments: .254 with 15 home runs in 1971? .264 with 12 home runs in 1972? His renaissance perhaps coincided with the position change to first base, or with the rising fortunes of the team after its post ’67 doldrums, but as the ’70s progressed he became cagey veteran. Mortal or not, no man was more fearless and determined once he put on that uniform. He was the original Dirt Dog.

The Yaz story that most defines him for me is one from the last-gasp winning streak at the end of the ’78 season which ultimately forced a one game playoff with the Yankees. On Sunday, September 24th, one game into said winning streak, the Sox had forced the Blue Jays into extra innings at Exhibition Stadium. Balor Moore had been pitching for 2+ innings, and in the top of the 12th Moore struck out Rice to bring Yastrzemski to the plate. Moore got a little cute and sailed a fastball up and in on Yaz, who sprawled to the ground to avoid being hit. He got up, slowly collecting himself, and stood in the batter’s box awaiting the next pitch, which he promptly launched for a triple. Blue Jays manager Roy Hartsfield yanked Moore from the game, and once they got to the dugout he dressed him down: “Pitching to Yaz is like being in a gunfight, only if you miss with yours, he never misses with his.”

Yet for all of that, he never won a ring, and to add insult to injury, he made the last outs of the ’75 and ’78 seasons, both with the Sox behind by a mere run (and in the case of ’78, with Remy on third).

The Kid had the same “didn’t win it all” collar around his neck (and had lesser numbers in what would be considered the “clutch” times during his career), but he is not cast in the same light. To me, Ted was Zeus, hurling lightning bolts from on high. Yaz? He was Sisyphus. I learned about the myth of Sisyphus in 11th grade English and I immediately thought of Yaz. Then I extrapolated it out to simply being a Red Sox fan. But then again, none of us were actually rolling that rock up the hill. Yaz was.

In John Updike’s famous essay “Hub Fans Bid Kid Adieu,” he sums up Ted quite nicely as he observed that Ted didn’t tip his cap after his career-ending clout, despite the impassioned pleas of the few thousand who were in the stands that day: “Gods do not answer letters.”

On the other hand, Yaz took a lap around Fenway Park the day before his last game, exchanging high-fives and handshakes with anyone lucky enough to be sitting in the first few rows. A far more stoic man than Ted ever was, he nonetheless placed himself into the open palms of Boston and said, “This is what I can offer you as thanks.” On his last day, as he walked off the field for one last time after being pulled during the top of the 9th, he unbuttoned his jersey and gave it to a boy in the front row behind the dugout before he descended down the steps for good. Carl Yastrzemski was not Superman or Zeus. But he showed us that a man battling against that which limits him — whether it was his own physical attributes or the unyielding opponent of time itself — is as compelling as any myth, while displaying far more honor.

The Burden of Dreams

I went back to school to get my degree in the late ’90s after a lapse in enrollment of 8 years. I ended up becoming pretty friendly with a girl who was in a lot of my classes, she was an older student as well (not as old as I was, but in her mid-twenties), so we started a lot of study groups together because it wasn’t like we were doing cool college kid things like getting drunk and going on road trips or anything.

In getting to know her, I gradually found out that she hadn’t enrolled in college right out of high school because she had moved around the country a lot and never really knew where she was going to end up in any given year, so she would pick up a class or two here and there and that was it. I assumed that maybe she had been in the military, or perhaps her husband or boyfriend was, but I didn’t get too much into it because I figured she’d talk about it if it were relevant.

Toward the end of our last semester (spring 2001), during one of our classes I mentioned I had visited Memphis — a  friend of mine moved there for a while, somehow it was germane to the topic — and this girl commented that she lived in Memphis for about a year because her husband played baseball there.

“Who, the Chicks?” I asked, referring to Memphis’ Triple-A team.

“Yes. Well, no… they changed to the Redbirds the year he was there. But yes, the same team, basically.” I hadn’t been aware of the change.

“What’s your husband’s name?”

She told me*.

*I don’t want to print his name here, for a variety of reasons, but mostly because I don’t want to single him out. There are millions like him, and his story is symbolic anyway.

I nodded my head in an I-didn’t-know-that fashion, not that I’d have had any reason to know (I had never heard of the guy). She was married, I was soon-to-be engaged, but neither of us talked about our significant others. I didn’t ask any further questions about her husband, because I knew he hadn’t played in the majors by that point, and if she was going to Framingham State College full time I assumed his baseball career was over.

I looked up his stats online the next chance I had. It was a little more difficult to find minor league statistics back then, and I had to go to a few different sites to gather enough info to come close to a complete picture, but a couple of things jumped out at me.

Second round pick out of high school.
28 HR, 106 RBI in High A in 1997.
27 HR, 83 RBI in AA & AAA in 1998.
Then he fell off the table 1999, and was out of baseball after that season (an abortive comeback in Nashville hadn’t happened yet). In looking at his other stats it was clear the guy never hit for average and whiffed a lot, but man, that’s a lot of home runs for the minors.

With this sparse information, I began envisioning some unfortunate injury history, or a backstory that the stats would never illustrate. I sure as hell wasn’t going to ask my friend about it, I’d have felt uncomfortable doing so. We both graduated that spring and kept in touch via email for a little while, but I haven’t had contact with her in quite a few years. But I always remembered her husband’s name, because to me it’s become symbolic for all of the failed careers of former prospects.

As the web became more saturated with information and search engines became more efficient, this guy’s picture came into sharper focus based on the available numbers alone. Two seasons spent in rookie ball, two in low-A. He was 22 before he ever even got to high-A, which was his breakout season. The dude was obviously a hulk (6’3″ and either 210 or 290 lbs, depending on what site you trust most), but given the level of competition and his age I guess it wasn’t that alarming he hit 28 home runs that year. He did make the leap to Double-A and Triple-A the following season as a 23 year old and hit 27 home runs, but racked up 179Ks in doing so. Without seeing so much as a single highlight clip of his, my immediate assessment was that I bet he couldn’t handle breaking pitches. Either that or he had no bat control whatsoever; if he was lucky enough to hit it (regardless of pitch), it usually went out of the park, but hitting it was the tricky part.

It goes without saying that steroids weren’t nearly at the forefront of my mind 9 years ago as they are now. Looking at his stats today, that’d be my first guess, fair or unfair. His power numbers dropped severely his last season in Triple-A, and he was essentially out of baseball after that. Maybe after having two pretty good years on ‘roids, he got off of them, thinking his own talent would make up the difference, only to discover he was wrong. Or maybe he was clean, but did have an injury, one that sapped his power; a bad back, wrist trouble, knees. Maybe he ate his way out of the game… Baseball Cube lists his weight as 210, but B-Ref lists it as 290.

Or maybe he just couldn’t hit a curveball.

But he had two pretty good years in the minors for someone with his skill set… he was never going to be Tony Gwynn, but he might have had the chance to be Rob Deer or Pete Incaviglia. Whatever the reason, he was good, but just not good enough. And while there’s failure in that, I wonder if he looks back and thinks for a summer or two he had it… no matter what he’s doing now or who he has become, he had it, and I wonder if that makes him feel satisfied or empty.

A wise and thoughtful man once said (and I’m paraphrasing), “Those who are blessed with just an iota of talent are actually cursed.” I mean, better not to be talented at all, if your iota isn’t going to be enough to actually take you where you want to go. All that iota does is make you aware of your own shortcomings. The untalented stroll around in ignorant bliss. The truly talented shoot across the sky like a comet and the in-betweeners look up at them from back porches, beers in hand, faint smiles on faces.

I’m an HR recruiter, and one of the more fascinating things about my job is to see what brought people to where they currently are, professionally speaking. Partly because it’s my job, but mostly because it’s a story. I see dozens of stories each day. Often I have but a piece of paper from which to discern the clues, but occasionally I meet the most qualified of these folks and get to chat with them about their story. I’d do this for free (ask some of my friends, they know this all too well), but getting paid for it is one of the few instances of my own professional life dovetailing with my wants. Hearing these stories gives me hope. Why? Because they are usually haphazard. They are not meticulously planned, even those that are among the most successful. We are not drones, organisms born from hexagonal chambers and shuffled off to our destinies from the moment of birth.

The biggest quirk to these stories? Oftentimes, what we are best at is not what we are paid to do. Or rather, maybe we are better at getting paid well for something heretofore unconsidered. Nobody grows up thinking, “Someday I’m going to make people think I’m really indispensible,” or, “I’m going to network with the best of them.” It’s bullshit work and should hold no value in a decent society, but it is a valuable skill nonetheless. As valuable as showing up every day and showing up on time, things anybody should be able to do. But not everyone can, and fewer people do.

Hitting straight fastballs thrown by go-nowhere pitchers three years younger than you? Writing navel-gazing drivel on a blog? Fly fishing? Not everyone can or does these things either, but these are not commodities. Just because you’re better at it than the average cat doesn’t mean anything. It’s not something that can be pursued on a professional level. But what if it’s what you’re best at? And all your eggs were in that particular basket, but it’s just not good enough?

Better to be a number-cruncher, no? The drone? The worker who gets things done, just because that’s what they were born to do?


But there’s an art to this uselessness. Because whether or not the former second-round pick thinks he gave it his best shot, or if his stomach curdles up every night when the lights go out as he thinks about missed opportunities, he should be able to look back and think for a brief summer or two he was one of the best at doing what he wanted to do. Or at least the best of what he could do. The swing of the bat, connecting so forcefully on the sweet spot that it almost feels like you’re swinging through air as if you hit nothing, the ball arcing through the muggy air, dusky in the setting sun. Rounding the bases. I did that.

Putting a baseball where no man, not even Willie Mays, could ever catch it. Doing it a lot, even as the shadows grow ever longer on your career, closing in, the writing on the wall in permanent ink despite your hammering pitch after pitch over the fence. Because what else are you supposed to do? Give up? Even though your fate has been decided? Walk away? No. You do what you do, and see what happens.

Eventually the end happens. Everyone hits their ceiling. Few have the benefit of having it defined so clearly in columns of statistics.

And when the numbers tell you you’re done, you hang ’em up. Take your bonus money and maybe go start a construction business. Someone somewhere looks at your story, your resume, and sees some zigs and zags and wonders, “I’d like to hear that tale.”


Because it’s in all of us. Whatever you’re best at sucks, and you have to work the diagonal to find your way in the world, and people like success stories. Makes the impossible possible. But the iota of talent is like a childhood pet; a fond yet dim memory, kept on call for when it’s needed. You grill burgers and dogs in the backyard, sun on your face, calm in knowing that you had Something once, however fleeting.

Or maybe you live a life wracked by regret, wondering what could have been. Not even over never making it to The Show, but simply wondering why you were given a gift that could only bring you so far, in a career path that dictates failure unless you break through that envelope. Or maybe you had the Real Deal gift but your body betrayed you, even in your youth; a 24-year old man with a torn tricep, or a slipped disc. Or maybe you took PEDs, and if so, well, I don’t know. I don’t know.

Or maybe, just maybe, you really weren’t good enough, no matter what. In fact, that’s likely. There were people out there better than you at what you did. Better at trying to beat you. And what do you do then, after getting punched in the mouth, your teeth rattled, blood welling under your tongue? You better do something, that’s for sure.

We all have to do something.

Upon Induction

In the end, it was the casual bat toss after the follow-through. Just sort of a shovel pass to get the piece of ash out of the way, the coda to a compact swing, the dot on the i that was a well-struck sphere of horsehide. I found that it crept its way into my own swing. First, it was the flip of a yellow plastic wiffle ball bat. Then I did it with a 26-ounce or 28-ounce aluminum bat in Little League, on the rare occasions I hit a ball on the screws in the first place, the kind of stroke that justified such a subtle flourish. Finally, as I grew older and settled into suburban mediocrity, it was with a 32-ounce Easton softball bat, the weapon of the workaday warrior.

As reliable as the tides; a pop-up or a stupid groundball to third would result in a disgusted drop of the bat, as if it was the sweating droplets of suck that infected my palms. (Get away! Get away!)

But a laser shot from the sweet spot? That spry push that sent the bat suspended for what seemed like an eternity, a gently falling space station from Kubrick’s 2001, Strauss providing the soundtrack.

That was Jim Rice to me. And that flip is embedded in whatever part of my brain controls my motor skills, such as they are. I still do it now, 20-plus years after I ever saw it on a consistent basis.

* * *

Jim Rice wasn’t even my guy. Yaz was. I was old school like that, even at 7 or 8, and I felt that Yaz was the respected elder of the team and he warranted that deference. The other players? Hey, they were great and all, but Yaz… he was the one the Greeks would have written about.

Probably so, but little did I know at that age that Rice was a guy they’d celebrate, too. A man of such natural strength. I laugh today because in all the highlight reels we’ve been inundated with this past weekend, Rice actually seems small. Not tiny, but he wasn’t a hulk. He wasn’t 6’ 4”. He didn’t have improbably bulging arms. There’s a Sports Illustrated cover from 1979 with him and Dave Parker on the cover, and you might look at it and in comparing the two you’d think to yourself, This is man who 46 home runs and 15 triples the year prior? Ballplayers from yesteryear look fairly shriveled compared to this era’s ‘roided up monstrosities, but here’s Rice standing next to a peer. But nobody said he was small or wiry then, because he wasn’t. He wasn’t Hank Aaron, an everyman whose extra gift was lightning wrists, he was a strongman in a normal-sized (if incredibly fit) body.

But he wasn’t my guy. Nobody other than Yaz was. And by the time Captain Carl retired, I was 12 and too old to direct that child-like awe towards another player. By then I was wise enough to see behind the curtain and realize that it was just laundry that we were rooting for.

* * *

Rice signed with the Sox three weeks after I was born. His induction into the Hall of Fame happens at another curious moment in my life, one where I still feel like I have a lot to offer this world in one way or another, but the basic path has been chosen for me at this point. It’s how I work within that path that will dictate the rest of the story.

As I watched NESN religiously today, I pondered this man whose professional career encompassed my entire existence. It wasn’t so much about Jim Rice and who he was, but what he represented. To me. My five-year old son, subjected to all of this, asked me at one point, “Does Jim Rice play now?”

“No. No, he doesn’t. He played when I was a boy. Like you.”

“Have you drawn him?” This apparently is a sign of legitimacy.

“Yes. Two within the past month, actually.”

And I looked at the TV screen as Jim Rice sent a frozen rope into the corner, tripling as he chugged around the bases in a polyester double-knit road grey V-neck, bold red helmet leaving a streak in the bad late-70’s video production.

He played when I was a boy.


My first drawing of the new year. Non-commissioned. I just think Lincecum has a great delivery that’s full of energy, even when captured in a still. It’s always jumped out at me, and I’ve been planning on doing a drawing of him for a while. I’ve been pretty busy with a lot of commissioned work for the holidays, but once the season was over, I had some free time. I had a blast doing it… the time flew. Charcoal is a very quick medium anyway, but this piece took only two hours to finish.

I don’t think it’s any surprise to me that the pieces I’m most happy with are ones that I chose to do myself. Usually all I see are the flaws in any drawings I’ve done, but there are a few where I wouldn’t change a thing, and they were all non-commissioned. 

I’m sure it’s psychological. I had serious trouble with being told what to draw when I was in college, which didn’t bode well for my educational or professional prospects, at least as an artist. The fact that I can do it now is due to a few things… I still have some control over the process because usually I’m given a subject but have free reign on the actual composition. (“I’d like a drawing of Ted Williams, I’ll let you choose the source material.”) I also think I’ve matured somewhat over the last 19 years. And finally, I can’t complain about the money. I’ve done worse things for a buck, something I had no foreknowledge of when I was school. An office career provides perspective. So I can usually bang out whatever drawing is required, but sometimes it feels like a struggle, and I rarely like the finished product. That doesn’t happen with the ones I’ve done on my own, and certainly not with this Lincecum, which is one of my best pieces, I think.

Just more food for thought.


OK, there a couple of significant things about this recently completed drawing:

1. It wasn’t commissioned, nor was it drawn for any express purpose other than I felt like doing a picture of Willie Mays. Prior to last night, that scenario hadn’t happened in a long time.

2. As such, it represents a subtle shift to creating the sort of art that ultimately might say something a little more than, “Hi, I’m a picture of Willie Mays.” Not much more, mind you, but it won’t be strictly representational, like the stuff I do now. Because what I’ve envisioned doing for a considerable amount of time is creating an entire collection or series of ballplayer drawings, comprised mostly of those who played in the ’50s and ’60s, and sort of trying to make a statement about who they were in the baseball pantheon and how we view them. Especially compared to stars from the ’70s and on. In fact, I’d like to do one series of guys like Mays, Aaron, Mantle, Clemente, etc. and then do another of their future peers from the ’70s, ’80s and ’90s, players who may stack up statistically but just don’t hold that same allure. And I imagine the two series will be starkly different on a visual basis, and to really understand the ultimate statement you’d have to see both collections one right after the other, or simultaneously. It’s important to note that I’m critical of myself for this bias towards older players and I think the tendency needs to be deconstructed, and whatever art results from this idea would examine that.

And what would I find? I don’t know, frankly, but I have some guesses. It’s the kind of thing that would be honed through the work itself. I’ve always found it interesting why I’ve romanticized ballplayers from the ’50s and ’60s (not just from a fan’s basis but from an artist’s as well). The blousy uniforms were far more interesting and the black-and-white photography captured these really great contrasts between light and shadow. On the other hand, try drawing a picture of Nolan Ryan from 1980:

Unless you’re Andy Warhol, what’s the point?

But, you know, that kind of is the point. Especially if I have these motivations that spur me to draw players from one era as opposed to the other, even though I’m a fan of all great players across all eras. There’s a reason why I’m hung up on it, and it’s something that possibly can be explored through my art. The idea that I can do this intrigues me. Barry Bonds and Frank Thomas rival Ruth and Williams in terms of sheer numbers, even when adjusted for the much livelier offense of the past 20 years. But Bonds has so much baggage and Thomas is looked at as being a beneficiary baseball’s offensive surge that it’s blasphemy to compare them to such greats. Where’s the romance in drawing Bonds and Thomas? It would end up seeming more of a political statement.

OK, but what about the players just before them? George Brett, Robin Yount, Ozzie Smith, Carlton Fisk? Great players in their own right, free of steroid allegations and juiced-ball theories, but sexy? Not really.

So yeah, there’s something there, and in drawing these players I’d otherwise feel no particular motivation to draw, I might find something out and end up saying something in the process.

There was an interesting debate yesterday on the Sons of Sam Horn website regarding emotional attachment to players that was disproportionate to their actual skill. What started the argument was one poster professing his love for Jerry Adair, and it devolved into a old vs. young/observation vs. stats shouting match, with predictable responses from both sides.

Now, Jerry Adair is no Willie Mays, obviously. But Jerry Adair isn’t even Dave Roberts, a bit player who managed to take advantage of a singular opportunity and impacted Sox history in a very profound way. But the argument isn’t even about Jerry Adair, really. It’s about old vs. new, and in that argument, old always gets the deferential respect and new always pales in comparison. And despite my not being alive during the ’50s or ’60s and never having seen Mays and Aaron play, to me they’re gods worthy of artistic paean, while Alex Rodriguez is a robotic douchebag and Ken Griffey, Jr is a broken down could-have-been (despite having more than 600 home runs and a Hall of Fame career). Categorizations that are unfair and diminish their place in baseball history, at the very least. I know this. Yet I still find myself wanting to draw a picture of Billy freaking Williams instead of Chipper Jones, who’s at least a contemporary of mine.

So we’ll see if anything comes of this. I’m probably going to give this Mays piece away (I’d like to to paint the pieces in this proposed collection, and this one’s in charcoal), so it’s not like the process is underway,  but the scope of the project is starting to come into focus. I think it could be interesting, at least for me, anyway.

Edit: Or it could be a big steaming pile of bullshit. One never knows, one never knows.