American Express is producing a book with portraits and feature articles about some of their charter members. I was asked to do a portrait of Ralph Branca. He’s the Brooklyn Dodger pitcher who delivered the pitch to Bobby Thomson that became known as “The Shot Heard ‘Round The World” in a playoff for the pennant in 1951.
I drew the fatal moment Branca delivered the pitch. The game, played at The Polo Grounds has taken on legendary status in baseball history, and fans have been talking about it ever since. Should Branca have walked Thomson with first base open and pitched to the rookie Willie Mays? Did Giant coach Herman Franks steal pitching signs with a telescope from the centerfield clubhouse and relay them to Thomson? Russ Hodges famous play-by-play call was recorded off the television by a fan at home. What happened to the ball?
I also illustrated an imaginary baseball card of Branca from 1948, the year he was an All-Star. After Branca retired from baseball he worked in the insurance industry and was instrumental in the formation of the Baseball Assistance Team, a foundation that offers help to former major-league players who have fallen on hard times.
The Studio Museum in Harlem called the other day. They carry the book Jazz ABZ in their bookstore and wanted to do a feature in their quarterly magazine. There's an artist interview in each issue and it includes a coloring page for kids. I sent them this line drawing of Duke Ellington and a few cats from his band that made Harlem their home. I have this directory of musicians from 1955 that lists everyone’s home address and I included them in the drawing. The whole thing is a shameless imitation of the great David Stone Martin, and I’m sure the image will be improved by kids with crayons.