2010 mixed media w/gold leaf and found objects 34 x 39 Collection of Negro Southern Leagues Museum, Birmingham, AL
In 1947, Jackie Robinson was not the only black baseball player to break the color barrier in the Major Leagues, although he was the first and, of course, the most celebrated. There were three others that year in respective order: Larry Doby with the Cleveland Indians and Hank Thompson and Willard Brown who were signed later in the season with the now defunct St. Louis Browns.
Robinson and Doby would survive that first and most difficult year, but Thompson and Brown would not. They returned to the Negro Leagues the following year to put up stellar statistics. Such accomplishments garnered Thompson another shot with the majors and he was signed in 1949, this time by the New York Giants with whom he would spend the next eight years.
This piece has obvious religious connotations, owing to a standard form of Trecento Renaissance painting: a triptych altarpiece, denoted by a central image flanked by smaller side panels. The gold leaf was also commonplace background treatment, which created a flat, heavenly and reflective surface.
Robinson does represent a saint-like figure to me. His entry into major league baseball predated the American Civil Rights movement by almost a decade and his grace under unrelenting pressure that first year was beyond merely heroic. Doby and Thompson quietly did the same but with much less press and fanfare, yet with all the initial doubt, anxiety and vitriol that a nation could lay on them.