Murray Tinkelman will never forgive the Brooklyn Dodgers.
The baseball team famous for Jackie Robinson, Duke Snider, Ebbets Field and the “Wait ’Til Next Year” battle cry left the New York City borough in 1957. The Dodgers’ new home was Los Angeles and, nearly 57 years later, some fans remain bitter over the betrayal.
“I’m the leader of that pack,” said Tinkelman, 81, a Brooklyn-born pen-and-ink artist whose subjects have included baseball players, rodeo cowboys, classic movie monsters and sleek automobiles. Tinkelman’s work will be on display this spring at the Norman Rockwell Museum in Stockbridge, Mass., part of the museum’s distinguished illustrator series. “Baseball, Rodeos & Automobiles: The Art of Murray Tinkelman” will open Saturdayand run through June 15.
The exhibit is great timing for baseball fans. The North American part of the season opens Sunday and people who love the game will soon be cheering players like Derek Jeter of the New York Yankees and Bryce Harper of the Washington Nationals.
Tinkelman hopes people remember Robinson, Snider, Mickey Mantle and Willie Mays. They’re all in the show and they’re all in the artist’s heart.
‘Baseball, Rodeos & Automobiles: The Art of Murray Tinkelman’
WHERE: Norman Rockwell Museum, 9 Route 183, Stockbridge, Mass.
WHEN: March 29-June 15
HOW MUCH: $16; $14.50 seniors; $10 college; $5 children; free for 5 and under
MORE INFO: 413-298-4100, www.nrm.org
“When I was a kid growing up in Brooklyn, it was always great with Mantle, Mays and Snider,” Tinkelman said in an interview from Fort Worth, Texas, mentioning the three great center fielders active in New York during the 1950s. “I never used to admit this, but Snider was the weakest of the three as a ballplayer. But as I say, I would never admit it.”
He will admit to the illustration showing all three players, bats on shoulders, looming big, tough and full of life over the New York cityscape. Like other Tinkelman works, the pen-and-ink image was composed with photographs as reference guides. The finished work is a study in black and gray.
Tinkelman, who grew up in a Brownsville apartment building that housed 112 families, received early inspiration from the building’s incinerator room. Newspaper comics sections and Saturday Evening Post magazines were in the firing line, but Tinkelman saved them for study. He eventually took his love of art to New York’s High School of Industrial Art. Instruction in mediums such as silk screen and watercolor were offered, but Tinkelman was most comfortable working in pen and ink.
He served during the Korean War and later continued his training at the Brooklyn Museum Art School. He worked in the greeting-card industry and landed illustration assignments at places like the Saturday Evening Post.
Soon, pen-and-ink renditions of sports and pop culture figures became a Tinkelman trademark. He got the chance meet many of baseball’s biggest stars along the way — and liked some better than others.
Yankee Joe DiMaggio was one of baseball’s greatest hitters.
“But he was one of the nastiest people I ever met,” Tinkelman said. “He was totally self-absorbed. I did a drawing of him during the 56-game hitting streak and I said to him, ‘I hope you like it,’ and he said, ‘Where’s mine?’ ”
The young artist tried to make light of DiMaggio’s request for a freebie, but Joe persisted. He wanted his own version of the finished work.
Tinkelman loved Carl Erskine, one of Brooklyn’s star pitchers from the late ’40s through most of the 1950s. He remembers seeing Erskine talking to a young boy who was also a pitcher. “Can you throw a slider?” Erskine asked.
When the answer was no, Erskine took off his jacket and proceeded to show the boy the proper grip for a pitch that breaks and dips down.
Pee Wee Reese, the Dodger shortstop always known as a great guy on the field, was also a great guy off the field.
Tinkelman, professor emeritus from Syracuse University — where he taught from 1979 to 2006 — follows the National League and as a native New Yorker, that means the New York Mets. He’s not planning any World Series trips for October.
“I’m not that passionate right now about the baseball season. I think I’ve been sold out by the suits, the business-side people,” Tinkelman said.
Monsters and cars
Murray has other interests besides grand slams and triple plays, anyway. He has illustrated science-fiction and fantasy book covers, and done collections of drawings of rodeos, cars, machines and characters of the Universal Studio-era monster movies. The Frankenstein monster, Dracula, Bride of Frankenstein and King Kong all have been Tinkelman subjects, as the artist worked from old publicity photos.
“Nobody ever made a movie as good as ‘King Kong,’ not even the two remakes of ‘King Kong’ stand up,” he said. “And the ‘Mummy’ movies made by Universal are absolutely better than the recent ‘Mummy’ movies. And Frankenstein, I find him a sympathetic character.”
Tinkelman also was inspired by the lines and curves of 1950s autos — his first car was a 1954 MG.
“My entire family on my mother’s side was in the automotive business, mechanics, salespeople,” Tinkelman added. “I have lubricant in my blood.”
Tinkelman admits to being stuck in the 1950s, the decade in which he “graduated from high school, served in the Army, dropped out of art school, dropped out of another art school, sold my first illustration, got married and became a father. Everything about it resonates for me.”
Nostalgia, he believes, is not a bad thing.
“How do you account for TV shows like ‘Antiques Road Show?’ ” he asked. “I think nostalgia is an important part of our lives, an important part of our being. It’s not that I live in the past. I live in the present with an eye to the future.”
Reach Gazette reporter Jeff Wilkin at 395-3124 or at firstname.lastname@example.org.