On the Drawing Table: The Pee Wee Reese Report
I always tell people “I’m not a ‘Joiner’.” And for the most part, it’s an accurate statement.
I never joined any of the graphic design, illustration, or environmental graphics organizations and societies that those of us in the profession are encouraged to join in order to “network.” I restored and rode vintage motorcycles for twenty years but eschewed any rider’s clubs or going to Sturgis or Daytona Bike Week. I stubbornly refused to join a union which would have greatly increased my work load. I know it’s nuts, but I just don’t like those sorts of things, they make me feel trapped and unoriginal. I just prefer to be independent.
However, the one exception I make when it comes to joining is The Society for American Baseball Research, or SABR for short. It’s better known by the latter, pronounced “SABER,” like the cavalry sword.
If you’re reading this, you are likely already familiar with SABR. The membership is roughly evenly split between those (like me) who enjoy the history of the game, and those who are statistic driven. Even if you have never heard of SABR, you’ve had to have heard the term “Sabermetrics.” Bill James coined the term and named it after SABR – adding an “E” between the “B” and “R” to make it more pronounceable. In short, according to Wikipedia, Sabermetrics is “the empirical analysis of baseball through statistics, used to predict the performance of players, giving teams a winning edge.” If you’ve seen the movie “Moneyball” you know what I’m talking about.
And speaking of Bill James, pretty much any respected baseball historian, writer, and researcher belongs (or belonged) to SABR. And besides the published authors, there are also many former players and executives that are members. But the heart and soul of the organization is the curious baseball fan. SABR is a place where those who have a love of the game and its history and numbers come together with others of the same ilk.
I’ve been a member for longer than I care to say, and it’s been more than worth the yearly dues. I lost track of how many friends I have made through SABR, including many authors whose books have long had a cherished spot in my bookcases. The free publications one receives every year are more than worth the price of admission. Besides their flagship Baseball Research Journal, SABR puts out a couple original books each year such as The Team That Forever Changed Baseball and America: The 1947 Brooklyn Dodgers and Scandal on the South Side: The 1919 Chicago White Sox. These volumes are some of the best books out there on baseball history, and they are free to members. You can’t beat that!
Another bonus of membership is their local chapters. Today there are more than 70 regional chapters across the world. Here in Kentucky I belong to the Pee Wee Reese Chapter in Louisville. Hands down, this is the best and most active group I have been a part of. The president, Tad Myre, is mercurial in his running of the chapter. In the past year the Pee Wee Reese Chapter has raised the funds for a tombstone of the grave of Negro League player Felton Snow, organized a tribute game for Felton Snow in conjunction with the Louisville Bats AAA team, and held several group meetups at minor league ballgames. The annual chapter meeting is held at the Louisville Slugger Museum – how great of a venue is that! But the best part of the chapter is the members. It seems like every member has some aspect of the game they specialize in, and they are eager to talk about it.
That’s how I learned about the Felton Snow headstone initiative and met Chris Betsch. Chris, a talented writer and researcher, had written the biography of Felton Snow, along with several other ballplayers for SABR’s Bio Project. This is a sprawling project “is an ongoing effort to research and write comprehensive biographical articles on people who played or managed in the major leagues, or otherwise made a significant contribution to the sport.”
Chris’ next project was for the benefit of the Louisville chapter: a newsletter.
As a graphic designed and illustrator, I immediately volunteered my services. Chris let me know the name of the newsletter would be “The Pee Wee Reese Report” and I immediately set to work. It was a no-brainer that ol’ Pee Wee would feature in the design, and I happen to have already done an illustration of him when he played for Louisville. Instead of just using the same color design (which you can see HERE), I decided to try a new style that would look more “newspaper-ish.” By this I mean in the style of the famous Wall Street Journal “hedcut” portraits – you know, the engraved look, like you see on American paper money.
And that’s what I did, took the original illustration and figured out how the hedcut style is done. I’m the least tech-savvy person you’ll meet, so it took a fair amount of trial and error, but in the end I figured it out:
The next step was to take that illustration and turn it into a masthead. I wanted to keep it traditional so I centered the portrait of Pee Wee and added printers rules and frames and put the title and subtitles in a nice blend of condensed and italic serif typefaces. Here’s the finished masthead:
While I was working on the masthead, Chris was gathering all the articles and features and editing them into a newsletter format. I volunteered to take on the final design of the rest of the newsletter, which was basically putting some finishing touches on what Chris had already laid out.
I tried to add some splashes of color, feature boxes and other graphic elements to keep it visually interesting. Here’s a few pages from the finished newsletter:
You can download your pdf copy by clicking HERE.
Right now the idea is that the Pee Wee Reese Chapter will produce two newsletters a year. I for one hope it spreads into a few more volumes a year, but that depends on getting enough articles and material from members. The good thing is that the Louisville chapter has a large number or members who are active researchers and writers. Many SABR members (myself included) also make themselves available to help develop aspiring writers and researchers. So who knows, The Pee Wee Reese Report might help launch the next generation of baseball writers and historians!
After I put the design of the newsletter to bed, I thought to myself, “Man, that would make a cool t-shirt.” So I worked up an idea for a special Louisville Chapter t-shirt:
Let me know below in the comments if you’d buy one… I think it’d be a fashionable way to support all the great things the Louisville Chapter does to preserve baseball history.