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Why Baseball?

Why do I draw Baseball?
Safe at Home in a Persian Garden

 

Why Baseball?  I once said to my brother, Alan, “Did you love baseball for itself or for all the time you spent with Dad?”  His answer was, “It was all so wonderful, why choose?” That’s a typical answer from my family, one that left me wanting. Wanting what?

Baseball infused my life--the constant sound of the game on the radio or TV, the never ending games of catch in our yard and even in the living room. But baseball wasn’t for me. I didn’t like standing in the hot sun with people yelling and throwing things at me.  I have no interest in sitting through a whole game but I do like to watch on TV where I can see a beautiful play again and again on the replay.

It’s not the game itself, it's the mystique.  There’s something about boys. I remember the moment when I was very little and realized I would grow up to be a woman like my mother, not a man like Daddy. I wasn’t disappointed but I wasn’t thrilled either.  It was more like...well, Ok. I watched my brothers and their friends and wanted to somehow be part of that mysterious fraternity. I admired the intensity of their interest and their mastery.  They’d practice and practice and never get tired or bored. I coveted their passion.

Once at Yankee Stadium I emerged from the dark stands to see the sun shining on the brilliant grass. As nine young men in pinstripes ran onto the field I felt the romance of it all, the history, the timelessness and the grace.  My first thought was, I want to draw that. That was my way to make baseball my own. But how to make it unique?

When my grandmother reached the end of her life and had trouble remembering which story she had already told, she repeated over and over that her favorite Yankee had left the team. Her words were, “Did you hear that Tommy John got traded to the Angels?

It was the perfect metaphor for dying and going to Heaven, merging all the threads of my yearning. And so MomMom inspired me to begin a series of baseball players, primarily Yankees, whose pinstripes make a useful drawing device.  I set them in various classical, baroque and celestial settings. I took to reading the sports pages, not for the scores but for the photos of the graceful movements of elite athletes.

I've had a wonderful time placing the boys in odd but beautiful places.  Here's Mickey Mantle being traded to the Angels.



12 thoughts on “Why Baseball?

  1. Bill Buice

    Barbara, your baseball piece is perfect. One other reason I loved baseball was for the stories. I don't think any other sport has the funny stories about the heroes and goats of the game. Even the umpire stories are wonderful. And the legendary sports writers who covered the game for all the newspapers (remember them?); their stories, like their fleet fingers on their typewriters (remember them?) passed quickly into and out of our lives. So that is why Stuart and I acquired your wonderful drawing of "Tommy John got traded to the Angels". It hangs happily on Shelter Island, where we had a traditional park field baseball game for all ages, but mainly for the kids, ever Sunday afternoon. Wonderful baseball memories. Thanks for stirring them up again. Bill

    Reply
  2. Susanna Beltrandi

    Hi Barbara,
    This is a very nice story.
    Growing up in Switzerland, (without a TV,) we did not have Baseball as it is here. Although we played an indoor version of it
    and called it stickball. I could not hit that ball for nothing - but I was a fast base runner and a good "fielder".
    My husband's life is so much about baseball. He played softball until 2 years ago. I have seen 100s of games and all the playoffs ever since. We were in Monaco on our honeymoon when the Mets won in 1969. (Listening in the car radio) OMG, that's almost 50 years ago.....
    Keep up that beautiful art of yours. It is so unique.

    Reply
  3. Susan Collins

    Loved reading this! Could hear your voice as if we were sitting together and you were explaining it to me!!! Keep sharing!!!!

    Reply
  4. Robert "Toby" Kissam

    As a fellow base ball fan, I loved your Baseball in Heaven article. As a Conklin, you may not know that Douglass Conklin became a star base ball player for the Huntington Suffolks in the late 19th century. He went on to establish the Bank of Huntington in the 1880s and become a pillar of the community. I had the opportunity to give a talk about the history of the Huntington Base Ball teams a couple of years ago. I had fun and wish I had your words to quote. The Yankees could have only traded The Mick to the Angels. Thanks for sharing.

    Reply

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