Ballpark: The Story of America's Baseball FieldsSpring 2005 Non-Fiction
He captures the feelings many share. "For [these] fans the great ballparks are like shrines-America's 'green cathedrals'."
As Curlee explains, the modern game began in New York City in 1845 with the Knickerbockers Base Ball Club. A written set of rules, many still part of the game, evolved from this group of men. Interestingly, the spread of baseball came during the Civil War. Soldiers who knew how to play the game taught their comrades; prisoners of war taught it to their guards. The game moved throughout both armies. It took root after the war with the first professional baseball team, the Cincinnati Red Stockings. As Walt Whitman said of baseball, "It's our game." As Curlee develops the book, he focuses on a number of famous ball fields. He gives facts about each and the players associated with them: Ty Cobb-Fenway Park; Babe Ruth-Yankee Stadium; Jackie Robinson-Ebbets Field; Sandy Koufax-Dodger Stadium; Willie Mays-Candlestick Park; and Cal Ripken-Camden Yards.
In addition to the text, Curlee uses acrylics to paint the pictures on canvas; these stylized, vividly colored paintings were then photographed for the book. The texture of the canvas becomes apparent in each illustration. His work, with bold, dramatic colors, captures a baseball event-everything in the picture seems to stop, freezing the moment. In the stands and in the foreground, fans appear as black silhouettes watching the stopped action. In the outfield bleachers, Curlee creates the fans using a pointillist style with tiny beige dots. The ball field or the ball players is always at the center of attention.