Monday, July 24, 2017

Norman Rockwell's Original Study for "Tough Call" on Auction - His Greatest Work that Features the Dodgers

When I first saw this auction listing I was excited. Then I realized I'm no millionaire, so the best thing I can do is briefly write about it here. Featured is an original Norman Rockwell study that eventually lead to the creation of his greatest (in my opinion) work of art. It dates to 1948 and it is the precursor to Rockwell's painting named Tough Call. The original artwork permanently resides at the Baseball Hall of Fame in Cooperstown. (Auction Link)

I'll let the auction description tell you all about it.
The offered creation is the study for a painting that appeared upon the April 23, 1949 cover of The Saturday Evening Post, a work that now resides in the permanent collection of the Baseball Hall of Fame. Arguably the most famous of all baseball-related Rockwells, the painting is officially entitled, "Tough Call," but is known alternately as both "Game Called Because of Rain, Bottom of the Sixth" and "The Three Umpires."
Rockwell approached each of his Post covers with the careful planning of a military campaign, hiring photographers, and occasionally models, in order to capture the disparate elements of his composition. Baseball historians have been able to determine, from the cast of characters that appears in the final version, that the genesis of the work appears to be a September 14, 1948 doubleheader between the hometown Dodgers and visiting Pittsburgh Pirates at Brooklyn's Ebbets Field. 
The central focus of the work is the three black-clad umpires who pause the game action to consider the threat of an approaching storm. From left to right, those men are identified as base umpire Larry Goetz, home plate umpire John "Beans" Reardon, and base umpire Lou Jorda. Dodgers coach Clyde Sukeforth is largely obscured by the assembled trio as he points to the heavens, while Pirates manager Billy Meyer--properly attired in the final version but dressed in red here--strikes a nervous pose as he listens. Ebbets Field's unmistakable scoreboard and advertising-laden outfield wall serve as a colorful backdrop. 
Intriguingly, this oil on paper work actually represents a truer version of Rockwell's intent for the composition than the famous final product on display at Cooperstown, as that magazine cover art was altered by another Post illustrator without Rockwell's consent, removing brand names from equipment, darkening the Pirates uniforms and making adjustments to the weather. Rockwell dashed off an angry letter to the editors upon learning of these unauthorized alterations, complaining about "the piece of sky added when I still feel it was better as I conceived and painted it." The Post took the objection from its top artistic ace seriously, changing its editorial policy as a result.
The above artwork was gifted to former Baseball umpire "Beans" Reardon -- the home plate umpire featured in the painting. There is even an inscription by Norman Rockwell to Beans:
My best wishes to 'Beans' Reardon, the greatest umpire ever lived, Sincerely, Norman Rockwell.
I suspect this painting will sell for a bunch of dough. It's estimated value is upwards of $300,000, but I wouldn't surprised if the final hammer price is double that.

BTW, in addition to the 1949 issue of the The Saturday Evening Post collectors can also find this drawing on an 1976 Jim Beam's Bicentennial Bourbon decanter. I had written about this item previously, here. See it below. The decanter includes the following description on its reverse:
This cover picture by Norman Rockwell depicts the old Ebbets Field, then the home of the Brooklyn Dodgers.  Here, the Dodgers are trailing the Pittsburgh Pirates 1-0 in the sixth inning.  If the arbiters call the game because of rain, the score will stand as is and Pittsburgh will win.  This irks the Brooklynites, who dislike having other teams win.  In the picture, a Brooklyn coach could well be saying, "You may be all wet, but it ain't raining a drop!"  The huddled Pittsburgh Pirates manager is doubtless retorting, "For the love of Abner Doubleday, how can we play ball in this cloudburst?"

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