The Little Colonel Takes One For Brooklyn
The Little Colonel Takes One For Brooklyn
oil on canvas with woodwork and found objects
47 x 68
Available for purchase. Please ontact the artist.
Harold Peter Henry “Pee Wee” Reese held down the spot at shortstop for the Brooklyn and LA Dodgers for eighteen years starting in 1940. He hailed from the small town of Ekron, Kentucky, later moving to Louisville where he didn’t start playing baseball until his senior year in high school due to his small size. The “Little Colonel” was bestowed on Reese when he was a player for the minor league Louisville Colonels. Likewise, his other nickname, “Pee Wee” originated in childhood where he was an acclaimed marbles player (a pee wee is a small marble). Despite the diminutive monikers, Reese was actually 5’10” as an adult player, an average height for a midfielder in mid 20th century professional baseball.
Brooklyn embraced Pee Wee Reese from the start and he and his second base teammate, Jackie Robinson, who joined him in 1947, became synonymous with Brooklyn baseball. Together they formed one of the most effective double play batteries of the decade, with much of this success owing to their deep and lasting friendship on and off the field. There are many stories surrounding Reese and his supporting role in Robinson’s breaking of the color barrier in Major League Baseball. It was Reese who refused to sign a boycott petition, prior to Robinson’s arrival, circulated by some of his southern teammates in the hope that they could reverse owner Branch Rickey’s decision to integrate. With his now famous line, “If he can take my job, he’s entitled to it,” Reese indelibly added himself to the history books as one of the good guys.
This diptych painting, taken from a press photo dated prior to Robinson’s arrival, shows a young Reese being escorted off the field by teammates. I chose the causality of his injury to be a collision at second base, although it could have been a fight or a bean ball at home plate. Either way, I was drawn to this image of Reese, caught in the down time we often experience particular to baseball.
It is also a love letter to Ebbets Field, a place I was never able to experience but lived in its historic shadow for several years during my graduate education at Brooklyn College and first teaching job at Paul Robeson High School in Crown Heights. The frame is constructed to resemble one of the brick and brownstone Romanesque windows that adorned the main entrance on Montgomery St. In the crowd I included a few endearing Brooklynites, the members of the Sym-Phony and Hilda Chester, standing in a red dress, her cowbell temporarily replaced by a clutched kerchief at the sight of Pee Wee’s slow trot off the field; his tenacity, sportsmanship and enduring humanity, on display in a bloodied moment of defeat. Baseball, as in life, is full of wins and losses.