Sunday, March 30, 2008

New Artball: Gotham Graphics

I’ve been holding this lineup for months, feeling that once we got well past the playoffs that I should just wait for the new season. Plus I’ve been fiddling with the logo guy in the margins.

I love my team. Primary selection rule: you have to be dead. You also have to bring something special to a team of illustrators. We think outside the box here in Gotham.

Batting first, centerfielder Milt Caniff, who can cover a lot of ground in a hurry, and deliver on offense with plenty of style. A terror on the base paths.

Up next and playing short, Al Parker, a wizard of improvisation—the Ozzie Smith of mid-century periodicals.

Batting third, the loping pipe-smoker, Norman Rockwell. Meticulous preparation, excellent instincts, and occasionally serious power. Guaranteed crowd-pleaser.

At clean up, who else but the thick-necked old cowboy-slash-pirate, N.C. Wyeth, playing third. Can pound the ball like nobody’s business. But travel is problematic—he gets all weird without his family around. The entourage becomes a drain. Also: do not get in a rental car with him.

Batting fifth, the surprise acquisition of the offseason, Philip Guston. A late career efflorescence as a DH-ing painterly cartoonist.

Sixth, first baseman John James Audobon, another unlikely pick up. But he’s perfect for this league! Extremely consistent, highly focused, you know what you’re getting every time up. Total pro. Very good against Baltimore, St. Louis, Toronto. And he brings a new fan base to the ballpark, although 10,000 pairs of binoculars get old.

Seventh, Howard Pyle, catching. (At first I had him at third, and Wyeth behind the plate, but Jeff Pike argued that Pyle should catch, because he’s such a control freak. Which of course is correct. So I stole the idea, but now I’m footnoting it, so that makes it okay. Right?)

Eighth, second baseman Mary Blair. Style, range, a thoroughly modern player. I like the keystone combination of Parker and Blair a lot.

Batting ninth, right fielder Harry Beckhoff. This guy is a fantasy league dream. Not the biggest reputation, but he understands the game, graceful in the field with a cannon for the throw home, and moves like a dancer. I predict key hits all over the place. A table-setter at the bottom of the order.

Pitchers. For my no. 1, who else but Robert Weaver? Scary on the mound, total command but unpredictable, brave as can be. Will throw at your head if necessary. Paradoxically, completely old school.

No. 2, Ben Shahn. This is like going to Japan for a player, but I can defend it. Shahn was a designer’s painter and photographer, and he did illustrative work all the time. Lots of pitches, lots of control. Political guy, sure, but he knows how to get the job done. Great guy to sit with on road trips. The stories! (Speaking of Japan, I thought about Osamu Tezuka, but I couldn't justify him in the illustrator category. Too bad. The guy had like 9000 hits. Zettwoch picked him up.)

No. 3, John Tenniel. Limited palette, but wow can he paint the corners. Also funny and unpredictable. Great in the clubhouse. Does great animal impressions.

No. 4, Jacob Lawrence. Integrated the profession without really being an illustrator. But those migration paintings are pretty illustrative, so we go with him, even though he probably demands a trade to Seattle. Dislikes Pyle intensely for good reason, but not as much as Weaver does.

No. 5, Dean Cornwell. Been around, seen it all. Veteran presence. They call him “the Dean.”

Closer: Thomas Nast. If Boss Tweed couldn’t him him, how can anybody else?

Set up: Jim Flora. Insane delivery. Repetitive, but really hard to track his release point. Drives hitters nuts.

Middle Relief: Maxfield Parrish. The off-field thing with the wife and the mistress in the same suite is a distraction, and he’s sort of odd, but what a curveball!

Middle Relief: W. W. Denslow. Good, but difficult to work with. Lost his deal with Frank Baum’s club because he couldn’t get along. We signed him because we like his characterizations, but he might not last.

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