By Doug Koztoski
They say a picture is worth a thousand words. But what is the value of a picture with some 2,000 names? Sports artist Daniel Duffy will soon find out.
As The National Sports Collectors Convention returns to the Chicago area this year (July 29-Aug. 2), Duffy will be at the Goldin Auctions booth on July 31 filling in the last 90 or so names on his pen-and-ink artwork titled “All-Time Cubs Roster” that depicts Wrigley Field in an eye-catching manner.
The same Friday night that “Roster,” a 30-by-22-inch piece (42-by-34 inches framed), is auctioned off it will include the first and last names of every Chicago Cubs player in franchise history, from 1876 to the present. In a fun coincidence, Duffy said through this May that total was 2,015 players. To make it as current as possible, the artist noted even fresh late July Cubs minor league call-ups and/or trade acquisitions will be added to the piece.
Represented from a great “seat,” the longtime Cubs’ ballpark sparkles in an edgy way. Looking out from the lower level, fairly close to home plate on the first base side and several rows back, one easily takes in the diamond, cuts to the ivy-covered outfield walls, bounces up to the scoreboard and Wrigley area rooftops, while you are nestled, of course, in the packed crowd – mentioning just a handful of a Cracker Jack assortment of highlights. All of it brought to life, spelled out and shaded, one Cubbie’s name at a time.
In many ways “All-Time Cubs Roster” is the most ambitious endeavor to date for the Philadelphia-based artist, who has been making his lasting impressions with pen-and-ink projects the past five years, including having artwork of Washington Nationals slugger Bryce Harper featured in a Gatorade commercial.
Duffy said the “Cubs Roster” piece took him “very easily 150 hours” to get it about 95 percent complete.
“Finding the image was the most challenging,” he said. “I wanted to be able to represent Wrigley Field from the fan’s point of view, from the seats.”
Referencing a few photos over about a week, Duffy then conceptualized his version of the iconic stadium’s interior.
The upper lines of “All-Time Cubs Roster” measure a mere one-quarter inch high; the lower ones are double that. “Some of the very last lines at the bottom,” said Duffy, “will be about an inch high,” to keep the “seat” view in perspective.
While finishing the piece at The National on Friday, July 31, Duffy will also answer spectator questions, a time lapse video of the artwork’s “making of” will play and those in attendance can have fun finding their favorite Cubs as they look over the “Roster.”
Al Spalding, who won 47 games for the 1876 Chicago White Stockings (which later became the Cubs), shows up early on, as does Hugh Duffy (no relation to the artist); Tinker, Evers and Chance trickle in a bit later. Hack Wilson, Gabby Hartnett, Kiki Cuyler and Dizzy Dean get their space. Ron Santo, Ferguson Jenkins, Billy Williams, Dick Nen, Ryne Sandberg, Andre Dawson, Greg Maddux, Shawon Dunston, rookie Kris Bryant and around 2,000 other Cubs that appeared on their official roster over the decades, as listed via MLB.com, are also there.
Ernie Banks, aka “Mr. Cub,” who passed away earlier this year, plays prominently in the art that, to fully appreciate, needs examination from up close and via a medium distance. Banks, who popularized the phrase “Let’s play two!” would have smiled at Duffy’s efforts throughout the artwork.
Duffy, 34, said the beloved Cubs’ Hall of Famer deserved extra special attention.
“I thought it was only fitting that Ernie Banks, the face of the Cubs for so many years, landed perfectly in the middle of the piece and in an area that allowed me to write his name twice the size that I was working with at the time.”
When asked what first came to mind about the “All-Time Cubs Roster,” Goldin Auctions President Ken Goldin cracked, “highly unusual” and “painstaking.”
Goldin emphasized “the most amazing” part of the artwork is the people. At first, he said it just looks like fans in the stands, “but when you get in there, you realize that every single one (fan) is perfectly positioned as a letter in a Cubs name.”
In two separate Goldin Auctions sales earlier this year, Duffy did a pair of pieces for each: crooner Frank Sinatra and former U.S. President John F. Kennedy in February; and Fenway Park and Mickey Mantle in May. All four met a good reception.
But the auction house owner said looking at “All-Time Cubs Roster” against other Duffy pen-and-ink productions is much like a ballclub winning a pennant versus capturing a division flag.
“There is no comparison,” said Goldin. “It’s significantly more detailed and it’s going to reach a much broader audience.”
As to his extensive baseball project, Duffy capped his Cubs creation with one key: enjoyment.
“It was my pleasure to do it and whoever does buy it, I’m sure, is going to be a devoted Cubs fan or baseball fan.”
Bidding opened for “All-Time Cubs Roster” on July 8 at $2,500, with an expected final bid around $5,000.
I predict a much higher hammer price. Why? Interested bidders will have taken the time to absorb the artwork, from concept to end result, and will exuberantly utter the famous phrase by the late longtime Cubs announcer and Hall of Fame broadcaster Harry Caray after a hometown home run: “Ho-ly Cow!”
Doug Koztoski is a frequent contributor to SCD. He welcomes comments and questions related to this article at firstname.lastname@example.org.