Tuesday, May 26, 2015

Rest In Peace, B.B.

B.B. King, 1925-2015
Colored pencil drawing with black Prismacolor VeriThin and regular Prismacolor black. Colored digitally.

Friday, May 15, 2015

The Million Dollar face of early 20th Century Sports: "The Flying Dutchman"

Number nine, in no particular order, of my Baseball Greats drawings.
With a face and body like it was hewn from the stone walls of the coal mines of his home town of Pittsburgh, Johannes Peter "Honus" Wagner, was a gritty leader of the early generation of Baseball greats. One of the first five members to be inducted into the Baseball Hall of Fame, Honus, or as his Mother, and later fellow players called him, "Hans," is considered to be the best shortstop ever by baseball historians. It's hard to compare the game today with what it was in the late 19th and early 20th Century, but, considering the "dead ball" era of the game made runs much harder to come by, Honus Wagner compiled a lifetime batting average of .329, with 3,430 hits, 1,732 RBIs, and 722 stolen bases. He was the first to ever steal second base, third base and home consecutively in August 1899 under a new rule differentiating between advanced bases and stolen bases. He also played, and played well, into his 40s. If you are not a huge baseball fan, you've probably still heard the name.
Like how his very rare, "T206" early baseball cards are selling for hundreds of thousands, even millions of dollars recently at auction. The Honus face most, including myself I must admit, are familiar with, is that of a natty young, dark haired man on the 1910-1911 tobacco cards that he didn't like. Thats how they became rare as not many were made or distributed. Long before the first 1936 Hall of Fame induction, he actually refused to send his portrait to a "Hall of Fame" for batting champions because, in his words, his performance in the previous season's World Series in which his Pittsburgh team lost to a Christy Mathewson and Cy Young lead "Boston American's" was "..too bum last year." He even went on to say "I was a joke in that Boston-Pittsburgh (1903) Series", and "What does it profit it a man to hammer along and make a few hits when they are needed only to fall down when it comes to a pinch? I would be ashamed to have my picture up now." (He and his Pittsburgh team would be redeemed in the 1909 World Series, beating the Ty Cobb lead Detroit Tigers.) Refreshing character and honesty not often seen any more in the world of professional sports. Last I heard, "2.8 Million Dollar" character. Not bad for the son of German immigrants from the mines of "The Burgh."

Tuesday, May 12, 2015

The Importance of Being Ernest-ly Happy

 Number eight in my ongoing Baseball greats drawing series. Once again, my History Channel "This Date in History" daily calendar made it clear who the next subject would be. On this day 45 years ago, May 12, 1970, at the "Friendly Confines" of the Cubs home, Wrigley Field, Ernest "Ernie" Banks, aka "Mr. Cub," (and "Mr. Sunshine,") hit his 500th home run, becoming only the ninth member in the history of the game to do so. (And he did it, fittingly, against my Atlanta Braves. side note: Hank Aaron, served as best man at Ernie's third marriage as well) I hate to admit, although I loved the history of the Cubs franchise, and respected their incredibly loyal "Cubbies fans," I didn't know much about their most famous players. If there is a picture for how to play America's sacred pastime, look up Ernie Banks pictures online. The epitome of pure happiness and joy. What a great way to start my day. RIP, Ernie, (he passed in January of this year,) and thanks for your shining example of the true spirit of sports. An apropos quote from the self made man himself: "You must try to generate happiness within yourself. If you aren't happy in one place, chances are you won't be happy anyplace."....and: "It's a beautiful day for a ballgame... Let's play two!"
It's a beautiful day indeed, Ernie. Thanks for your wisdom.

Thursday, May 7, 2015

The Horse before The Man

Even casual fans of Baseball are familiar with Cal Ripkin Jr., “The Iron Man” of Baseball, however, many forget the man whose record he broke, Lou Gehrig, “The Iron Horse.” Until of course they hear about the rare disorder that bears his name: “Lou Gehrig's Disease,” or “ALS.” Tragically, the disease ended his career at age 36 in 1939, and his consecutive games streak at 2,130. His consecutive streak, in my opinion, has even more meaning in that he played the last seasons with the disease probably already present, but, undetected. All the while continuing to amass records. He hit a career .340, hit 493 home runs, won a World Series six times, and was an All-Star seven times, to name just a few. If you ever want to see a grown American man cry like a baby, watch with him the Baseball movie classic: “The Pride of the Yankees,” starring Gary Cooper. You even get a great peak at the actual Babe Ruth, playing himself. The unassuming grace, determination, and dignity that Gehrig played his entire career was epitomized by what became known as “The Gettysburg Address of Baseball,” at a sold out Yankees Stadium on July 4th, 1939.

Fans, for the past two weeks you have been reading about the bad break I got. Yet today I consider myself the luckiest man on the face of the earth. I have been in ballparks for seventeen years and have never received anything but kindness and encouragement from you fans.
When you look around, wouldn't you consider it a privilege to associate yourself with such fine looking men as are standing in uniform in this ballpark today? Sure, I'm lucky. Who wouldn't consider it an honor to have known Jacob Ruppert? Also, the builder of baseball's greatest empire, Ed Barrow? To have spent six years with that wonderful little fellow, Miller Huggins? Then to have spent the next nine years with that outstanding leader, that smart student of psychology, the best manager in baseball today, Joe McCarthy? Sure, I'm lucky.
When the New York Giants, a team you would give your right arm to beat, and vice versa, sends you a gift—that's something. When everybody down to the groundskeepers and those boys in white coats remember you with trophies—that's something. When you have a wonderful mother-in-law who takes sides with you in squabbles with her own daughter—that's something. When you have a father and a mother who work all their lives so that you can have an education and build your body—it's a blessing. When you have a wife who has been a tower of strength and shown more courage than you dreamed existed—that's the finest I know.
So I close in saying that I might have been given a bad break, but I've got an awful lot to live for. Thank you.” Clips from speech on YouTube