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Beyond The Canvas: Grandstand Grand Slam

April welcomes the fresh green bloom of spring, as well as Opening Weekend for America’s favorite pastime: baseball. 

In his April 22, 1950 cover for The Saturday Evening Post , illustrator Stevan Dohanos depicts a wide variety of reactions to an incoming fly ball on a sunny day at the ballpark.

The green upper decks curve around the back end of the stadium and enlarge the grandeur of the atmosphere as they approach the outfielder’s apparently useless attempt to catch a ball among the throngs of an excited crowd.

This game is not a casual affair taking place over a relaxing weekend afternoon. This outing plays host to a devoted baseball following. The scene takes place somewhere between late morning and afternoon. The adults in the stands are playing hooky, and should they catch that prize ball, they would have no one and nowhere to brag to for fear of being discovered out of the office. If you look carefully into the crowd, most of the men are still wearing their work attire. They have rolled up sleeves, but they still wear slacks, ties, button-down shirts, suspenders, and even a bus driver’s hat on the man in the back row.

The illustration shows that love of the game transcends generations. Boys and men all reach to the sky, hopeful for momentary fame, hoping to be “that guy” lucky enough to snatch a professional, maybe even game-ending ball. For the men, there are resurgent childhood dreams of one day playing professionally. The boys in the stands are instilled with those hopes and dreams for the first time.

Structurally, Dohanos composes a triangle across the cover by using the reaching crowd and outfielder as linear markers to draw the viewer’s eye to the falling trajectory of the incoming baseball. The immense stadium and rows of stands are simply background to the scene unfolding at the painting’s foreground.

The color palette blends the semi-yellowed field with the straw hats and yellow dress of the baseball-avoiding bystanders. The bright yellow colors disperse the white-collar chaotic mess in the stands. Some individuals sit back without a care while others hide or turn away. A select few in the section dive for the ball.

Like the viewer, the rest of the stadium watches this freeze-frame scene. The narrative indicates that a fan’s catch would ensure a home run against the outfielder jumping for the fences. We are brought into the scene’s tension, the game, and the stadium’s excited, cheerful atmosphere.

64 years later, America still eagerly awaits the baseball season and its longstanding tradition of spring’s Opening Day. The fields are watered and mowed, the sun is shining, and there’s always a chance it could be any one of us in the stands, ready to catch that home run ball.

Photo of illustrator Stevan DohanosTo learn more about Stevan Dohanos and to see other inside illustrations and covers from this artist, click here!.

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