For his fourth limited edition print, Maine artist Eric Green has chosen early baseball as his subject, targeting 1900-1935. The print is composed of nine separate pencil drawings on white paper, a color sheet, and a line skeleton, all hand-drawn by the artist. The five-color offset printing technique combines the separate pieces resulting in a print resembling an antique stone-pulled lithograph. The print itself is the master, not a reproduction of a single-piece original. Each of the drawings was created by compiling information gleaned from archival photographs researched at the National Baseball Library in Cooperstown, New York.
The four ball players chosen for the portraits represent a staggering number of records amongst them, but more than that, they illustrate the spirit and devotion that built the game of baseball into a legend equal to that of the cowboys of the American West.
At the top of the print is Ty Cobb. Cobb, who played outfield for the Detroit Tigers most of his career, is considered by many to be the greatest baseball player of all time. His combination of tenacity, skill, and the obsession to win are unparalleled in the sport. His 4191 career hits and his lifetime batting average of .367 are only two of his numerous records.
The last time Ty Cobb stole home, one of 892 career steals, is depicted in the center drawing. Here, in his final season as a Philadelphia Athletic, he is seen stealing home from Red Sox catcher Slick Hartley at Fenway Park in June 1927. Final score: A’s 9--Sox 8.
Shown at first is first baseman Lou Gehrig, whose unbroken streak of 2130 consecutive major league games for the Yankees, earned him the name Iron Man. This was especially poignant considering his early tragic death. Somewhat overshadowed by his teammate Babe Ruth, Gehrig was a true sportsman and a renowned fielder, setting many records (four home runs in four consecutive at-bats in a 9-inning game) and achieving a lifetime batting average of .340.
Babe Ruth, pictured here at home plate, is a name synonymous with baseball. The most powerful slugger of all time, the Babe lived a life both in and out of baseball that helped forge much of the myth and legend surrounding the sport. For most of his career, he played outfield and walloped home runs for the Yankees, but the young Ruth pitched for the Red Sox. In the World Series of 1916 and 1918 combined, he threw 29 and two-thirds scoreless innings. Baseball history might have been different if he had remained a pitcher.
Christy Mathewson, who pitched for the New York Giants from 1900-1916 (373 career wins) was America’s first sports hero. Cut perfectly for the job--brawny, powerful, over six feet tall, he was a gentleman among the rough and rowdy players of his day. His reputation as a pitcher with absolute ball control was earned with his smooth delivery of both a surprising fast ball and what was called a fade away (now known as a screwball or reverse curve). In the 1913 battle for the pennant against Philadelphia, he pitched sixty-eight consecutive innings without walking a batter.
Anchoring the four corners of the print are (clockwise beginning at the top left) Wrigley Field, Yankee Stadium, a New York City street scene, and Fenway Park.
Wrigley Field was built in 1914 for the extravagant sum at the time of a quarter of a million dollars to seat 16,000 fans. Originally, it was built for the Federal League team the ‘Whales by owner “Lucky” Charlie Weeghman, but after that league’s demise, he formed a consortium and for half a million dollars bought and moved in the Cubs. (Big money had entered baseball.) One of his partners, William Wrigley, of chewing gum fame, soon bought him out. After a second renovation in 1927, which brought the seating capacity up to nearly 40,000, the park was finally named Wrigley Field. Until recently, there were no lights--no night games, because Wrigley felt baseball should be played in daylight, and didn’t want noise and lights bothering the stadium’s residential neighbors in the evening.
Yankee Stadium, the largest ballpark of its time, is still fondly referred to as The House That Ruth Built. On its inaugural and season-opening day, April 18, 1923, 60,400 fans cheered the Babe as he hit a 3-run homer to beat his old team the Red Sox 4-1, and the game’s first ticket scalpers were arrested on the grounds and locked up for the night when they failed to produce bail. (Ticket scalping has obviously become more profitable since.)
1923 is also the year of the New York street corner drawing, which establishes the era of the print. One can imagine it might be the day of a home game for the Yankees, the rain has ended and a game is about to commence. The title, the artist’s signature, and the print’s number are depicted on the billboard at the right.
Fenway Park, the home of the Boston Red Sox, was only the second stadium built of concrete and steel, and marked the decline of the old wood stadium. Its capacity of around 35,000 was in 1912 one of baseball’s largest. Today, it is one of baseball’s smallest stadiums, yet its intimacy and history allow its devoted fans and players a nostalgia that few other major league cities offer.
The left half of the print’s border features the logos of all the National League teams up to 1935, and the right half features the American League. Ticket stubs from World Series games appear here and there. The trompe l’oeil baseball to the right of Babe Ruth is drawn actual size.
The signatures throughout the print are duplicates of Hall of Fame ball players who shaped early baseball. Tris Speaker played center field for Boston and Cleveland; Joe Tinker, Cubs shortstop; Honus Wagner, Pittsburgh shortstop; Second baseman Rogers Hornsby, the great right- handed hitter (lifetime batting average of .358); the great base hitter George Sisler of the old St. Louis Browns; Cleveland second baseman Larry “Nap” Lajoie, who lost the batting title in 1910 to Ty Cobb by .0007 (they shared the honors and each got a new Chalmers automobile); Cy Young, the first pitcher to throw a perfect game, had 511 career wins; Philadelphia Athletics pitcher Lefty Grove played in the first all-star game with Lou Gehrig and Babe Ruth; Washington Senators pitcher Walter “Big Train,” “Sir Walter” Johnson with records like 56 scoreless innings in 1913, and 16 consecutive victories in 1912; second baseman Eddie Collins of the Philadelphia Athletics and later the White Sox stole six bases in a game twice in 1912. These are just some of the names that come up again and again in baseball lore.
Featured in a David Wells ESPN interview and written up in The Boston Globe. Collected by the commissioner of baseball, among others.
Printed by The Stinehour Press with archival inks on acid-free rag paper.
How The BASEBALL 1900-1935 Lithograph Was Made
The print is comprised of nine pencil drawings on white paper, a line skeleton drawing on vellum, and a color sheet. Each drawing was taped to a drum, spun at high speed, and read by a laser which digitized the visual information. The nine pencil drawings where reduced in size to fit the line skeleton, which is the exact size of the finished print. These ten drawings were then positioned by computer into the line skeleton and printed on clear Mylar.
This was my master for creating the color sheet. A thick piece of ivory-colored paper was stained with tea, coffee, tobacco, pastel, and dirt from Fenway Park. It was crumpled, nicked, scratched, and finally steam-ironed and sanded. By taping the worn paper over the skeleton master against a window, I used colored pencils to pick out details in each drawing. Then I drew the border details of team logos, baseball, old tickets, etc., and added the signatures of the players. This color master was then spun and digitized on the laser drum as well.
Finally, plates where made and the image was printed in five colors on an offset lithograph machine.
The paper is 100% rag and cost over 2 dollars a sheet. The ink came from Japan and is one of the only archival inks in the world. The ink alone cost around a 1,000 dollars. Instead of black ink, we used a midnight blue with the portraits done in bronze. Many adjustments were required during the print run and I had the press men sweating as we ran the beast to its limits. Total cost of printing was over $12,000. Then we all went out and got drunk.