The Rookie Depicts Ted Williams and Other Sox Players during 1957 Spring Training

 

BOSTON, MA (April 24, 2014)—After a third World Series Championship in a decade, the Museum of Fine Arts, Boston (MFA), celebrates the legendary Red Sox with a special loan of the beloved Norman Rockwell painting, The Rookie (The Red Sox Locker Room) (1957). Before being offered at auction at Christie’s (New York) on May 22, the MFA has the opportunity to display the work of art for six days only, April 29–May 4, 2014.

The MFA is the only place where the public will be able to see the celebrated painting in Boston—which depicts the Red Sox locker room in 1957 during spring training in Sarasota, Florida—before it goes on the auction block. Rockwell’s classic work, portraying a group of seasoned veterans giving the once-over to the team’s newest player, will be on view in the MFA’s Sharf Visitor Center. The painting was also on display at the MFA in 2005 and 2008, following World Series wins. Fans of both Rockwell and the Red Sox are encouraged to take advantage of this limited opportunity. On Wednesdays, Museum admission is by voluntary contribution after 4 pm, including on April 30, and kids 17 and under are always free at the MFA.

“We are proud to celebrate our hometown team and Red Sox Nation by displaying a quintessential painting from one of New England and America’s most beloved artists, Norman Rockwell,” said Malcolm Rogers, Ann and Graham Gund Director at the MFA. “Neighbors across the Fenway for over 100 years, the histories of the Red Sox and the MFA are inextricably linked.”

The painting’s celebration of America’s favorite pastime captures catcher Sammy White (at lower left of painting); pitcher Frank Sullivan (No. 18), on the bench next to outfielder Jackie Jensen; Ted Williams standing in the center; and infielder Bill Goodman at far right, suppressing a smile. On the far left is a figure Rockwell called “John J. Anonymous,” an aspiring ballplayer who finally “made the team.” Figuring prominently in the work, right of center and dressed in a suit, is the “rookie,” a local high school athlete from Pittsfield, MA—Sherman Safford—who was asked to model for Rockwell. Ted Williams was the only player who did not pose for the work—Rockwell had to rely on baseball cards for the details of his face. The painting appeared on the cover of the March 2, 1957, Saturday Evening Post, the publication most closely identified with Rockwell, and for which he produced more than 300 covers.

Frank Sullivan, Red Sox pitcher from 1953-60, wrote the following in Memories, from Diamond Days, the Red Sox alumni magazine, December 2004:

In the summer of 1956, while playing for the Red Sox, we got a rare day off, but I was told to take my uniform and go to Stockbridge, MA, to be photographed, along with Sam White and Jackie Jensen… . On arrival, we found the address and were greeted warmly by a small, slim man smoking a pipe and his name meant nothing to me. We … went over to a two-story wooden building with a studio on the second floor. There we put on our uniforms and Jensen and I were told to sit side by side on a bench with my arm on Jensen’s shoulder while Jackie faked tying his shoelace. It was explained to us that the Sarasota, FL, locker room we used in spring training would be the background. Sam was photographed separately… . It all took awhile and was a little confusing … the following year, there we were, right in the middle of the cover for the Saturday Evening Post Magazine issue dated March 2, 1957… . if you’ll look closely, you’ll see we are wearing street shoes, not spikes. The cover was titled “The Rookie.” The man’s name turned out to be Norman Rockwell.

Rockwell was best known for narrative images of seemingly everyday moments in American life, and baseball was a favorite subject. He frequently featured boys or men involved in America’s national pastime in his magazine covers, advertisements, calendars and story illustrations. Even when not specifically painting baseball, Rockwell often included the game in his work in details like the gloves, caps and bats that children hold or wear.

The MFA opened its doors on Huntington Avenue in the Fenway in 1909, followed by the opening of Fenway Park in 1912. For more than a century, these institutions have anchored the neighborhood, both serving as iconic Boston landmarks. The MFA and the Red Sox have connected in special ways over the years, including putting Rockwell’s The Rookie on view alongside objects that had been borrowed from the team in 2005 and 2008. To celebrate the centennial of Fenway Park in 2012, the MFA partnered with the Red Sox on an online photography contest, with fans submitting their favorite Fenway photos. Winning photographs were selected by MFA Director Malcolm Rogers, Red Sox Vice President/Historian Dick “Bresh” Bresciani and fans, and were on view in an exhibition at the Museum.

 

The Museum of Fine Arts, Boston (MFA), is recognized for the quality and scope of its collection, which includes an estimated 500,000 objects. The Museum has more than 140 galleries displaying its encyclopedic collection, which includes Art of the Americas; Art of Europe; Contemporary Art; Art of Asia, Oceania, and Africa; Art of the Ancient World; Prints, Drawings, and Photographs; Textile and Fashion Arts; and Musical Instruments. Open seven days a week, the MFA’s hours are Saturday through Tuesday, 10 am–4:45 pm; and Wednesday through Friday, 10 am–9:45 pm Admission (which includes one repeat visit within 10 days) is $25 for adults and $23 for seniors and students age 18 and older, and includes entry to all galleries and special exhibitions. Admission is free for University Members and youths age 17 and younger on weekdays after 3 pm, weekends, and Boston Public Schools holidays; otherwise $10. Wednesday nights after 4 pm admission is by voluntary contribution (suggested donation $25). MFA Members are always admitted for free. The Museum’s mobile MFA Guide is available at ticket desks and the Sharf Visitor Center for $5, members; $6, non-members; and $4, youths. The Museum is closed on New Year’s Day, Patriots’ Day, Independence Day, Thanksgiving, and Christmas. For more information, visit or call 617.267.9300. The MFA is located on the Avenue of the Arts at 465 Huntington Avenue, Boston, MA 02115.

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