Monday, April 3, 2017

Mid-Century Baseball, Illustrated

I avoid sentimentality in baseball like the plague, so it was with some trepidation that I picked up A Century of Baseball, a "Special Collector's Edition" magazine published by The Saturday Evening Post. The issue features, to my taste, too many Norman Rockwell illustrations at their earnestly-composed, theatrically-mawkish "best," but it also features some terrific art and illustrations I'd never seen before, from the likes of Roy Hilton, Benjamin Kimberly Prins, Thornton Utz, Richard Sargent, Rudy Pott, John Falter, and Amos Sewell. The works are of the era, to be sure—rosily tender and already-nostalgic scenes of generational play, gently sexist illustrations of patient if harried moms and wives, pulling distracted men away from the games, nary a minority figure to be seen in most of the work—but all the more evocative because of that. These are glimpses through a mid-century lens on the game, then considered America's Pastime and due soon for some cultural erosion. The last image is a Rockwell (and a great one), but the lesser-known—to me!—artists first:
"Baseball Stadium at Night" (detail), June 28, 1941, Roy Hilton

"World Series in TV Department Store" (detail), October 4, 1958, Benjamin Kimberly Prins

"World Series Scores" (detail),  October 2, 1954, Thornton Utz
"Rough Him Up," May 7, 1955, Rudy Pott

"No Time for a Hotdog" (detail), April 11, 1959, Richard Sargent

"Baseball in the Hospital" (detail), April 29, 1961, Amos Sewell
"Date with the Television," April 21, 1956, John Falter
"Knothole Baseball," August 30, 1958, Norman Rockwell

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