Cieradkowski: Bringing the Mudville Nine to life

From SABR member Gary Cieradkowski Jr. at The Infinite Baseball Card Set on December 2, 2015:

A few months ago I received an email from The National Pastime Museum. If you haven’t been to their website you should because it’s a virtual treasure trove of baseball artifacts and writing by the best baseball historians around. Their collection is always expanding and it’s worth it to stop by regularly to see what’s new. So when the email came to me I was already familiar with their organization. That’s why it was great honor when the message was inquiring about me doing an illustration for their permanent collection. My piece was to be a part of a series in which a varied group of baseball artists visually interpret the poem “Casey at the Bat.” 

Every baseball fan knows Ernest Thayer’s famous 1888 poem and I’ve seen many artistic interpretations over the years, most recently a neat little volume by Willard Mullin given to me by my literary agent Jake Elwell. So I thought about what I could do to create a unique Casey at the Bat illustration. I didn’t want to do a single drawing of Casey striking out or striding to the plate or any other single moment in the poem. I wanted to do something bigger. Re-reading the poem I jotted down the names of the other Mudville 9 players: there was Casey, Cooney, Barrows, Flynn and Blake. That left four others who were anonymous. Always looking for the obscure angle, I wondered who the other players were and what they looked like. And there I found my idea for the commission: a team portrait of the Mudville 9. Since the poem takes place in 1888 I immediately thought of those beautiful Victorian team composites that had once hung in every bar and tavern back then. So that’s exactly what I did.

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Originally published: December 2, 2015. Last Updated: December 2, 2015.