The Futility Infielder

A Baseball Journal by Jay Jaffe I'm a baseball fan living in New York City. In between long tirades about the New York Yankees and the national pastime in general, I'm a graphic designer.

Friday, February 19, 2010

 

Best. Quilt. Ever. Now Up for Auction



On Saturday, February 20, in Union, Missouri, a unique and amazing collection of baseball memorabilia will be auctioned off. Baseball fan Clara Schmitt Rothmeier, who passed away last June, created several baseball-themed quilts, the most famous of which, a piece called "My Favorite Baseball Stars," was exhibited by the National Baseball Hall of Fame in Cooperstown in 1959-1960. It came to my attention as part of the 2003 American Folk Art Museum exhibit, "A Perfect Game," which I reviewed here. This is what I wrote at the time:
One of the most prominent pieces of the exhibit is a 7' x7' quilt called "My Favorite Baseball Stars," created by Clara Schmitt Rothmeier, the daughter of a minor league ballplayer. (This photo of the quilt and the other photos I link to for this article were generously provided by Susan Flamm of the AFAM for the purposes of this review). Over a ten-year period from the mid-Fifties to the mid-Sixties, Rothmeier drew pictures of her favorite players, traced them onto fabric, appliquéd and embroidered each one, then sent them to the players for their autographs. Once a panel was returned, she would add it to her quilt, embroidering the signature as well. Midway into the project, she added a border of cloth baseballs, each featuring another signature that she'd collected. The finished quilt contains forty-four panels and about three hundred autographed balls. There are some heavy hitters among those portrayed: Ted Williams, Stan Musial, Yogi Berra, Roy Campanella, Casey Stengel, Mickey Mantle, Whitey Ford, Robin Roberts, Al Kaline, and a sleeveless Ted Kluszewski. Among the signed and embroidered balls are even more legends: Ty Cobb, Tris Speaker, Jimmie Foxx, Frankie Frisch, Dizzy Dean, Joe DiMaggio, Jackie Robinson, Satchel Paige, "Cool Papa" Bell, Bob Gibson, and Sandy Koufax. Yeah, some of those guys could play ball.
Here's Rothmeier's bio on the auction site, along with links to a few of the other quilts which are up for auction:
Born in 1931, hailing from Japan, Missouri, Clara Schmitt Rothmeier was certainly no stranger to the diamond.

Clara was an accomplished baseball player as well as a quiltmaker. Her father played minor league ball in the Pittsburgh organization, and her five brothers and four sisters had all played on traveling baseball and softball teams. Clara herself played first base for a traveling softball team from Springfield, Illinois. While on the road, she started sewing to keep busy. Her "My Favorite Baseball Stars" quilt took more than 10 years to complete, has 340 actual autographs, and was exhibited in the Baseball Hall of Fame in Cooperstown, New York in 1959-1960.

She has also made quilts commemorating the 1951 and 1956 St. Louis Cardinals (her favorite club) [here and here], the major league teams of 1948, and Jackie Robinson's 1955 World Champion Dodgers [here], and the "Major League Baseball Stars" quilt [here] containing 537 actual autographs.
Also via the auction site, here's a bit about her most famous quilt's trip to Cooperstown:
This quilt graced the National Baseball Hall of Fame and Museum in Cooperstown, NY from 1959-1960. Clara took the quilt to the offices of J. Taylor Spink, editor of the Sporting News in St. Louis to see if she could have a picture of the completed quilt put in the paper so that those who had contributed their names would be able to see the finished quilt.

The picture of the quilt, and Rothmeier and Spink, ran in the Sporting News in March of 1959. Sid Keener, director of the Hall of Fame, saw the picture and made arrangements with Rothmeier to have the quilt displayed in Cooperstown, where it was on public view for almost one year.

The president of the Hall of Fame invited her to go to Cooperstown to see it on display, and arranged for her to see the Cleveland Indians and Chicago Cubs play at Doubleday Field. "After the game there was a tea party where I met the entire Cubs team including Ron Santo," Clara adds, unable to restrain her obvious love for the game. "Nobody could throw it like him!"

In addition to meeting the Cubs, Clara was able to meet many other baseball greats because of her exposure at the Hall of Fame. One such player was former Yankee great Joe DiMaggio. "I loved Joe DiMaggio the moment I met him," said Clara. "He got a lot of autographs for me, and interviewed me on his Fan in the Stands show. When he asked me if I'd do it, I was really unsure about it, and told him I wouldn't know what to say. He said, 'That's okay, nobody listens to me anyway.' Talking with him you felt like you'd known him all your life."
Also up for auction besides the quilts are autographed pictures, autographed baseballs and other memorabilia, and 10,000 baseball cards. I imagine this stuff will fetch a pretty penny — according to one of Rothmeier's nephews, the main attraction has been valued at "anywhere from $10,000 to six figures" — and am hopeful some high roller will step in and purchase the quilts, then loan or donate them to the Hall of Fame for exhibition so that they can be shared with the widest audience possible. This stuff is simply too cool and too unique to not to be shared.

Labels: ,


Comments: Post a Comment

Subscribe to Post Comments [Atom]



Links to this post:

Create a Link



<< Home

Archives

June 2001   July 2001   August 2001   September 2001   October 2001   November 2001   December 2001   January 2002   February 2002   March 2002   April 2002   May 2002   June 2002   July 2002   August 2002   September 2002   October 2002   November 2002   December 2002   January 2003   February 2003   March 2003   April 2003   May 2003   June 2003   July 2003   August 2003   September 2003   October 2003   November 2003   December 2003   January 2004   February 2004   March 2004   April 2004   May 2004   June 2004   July 2004   August 2004   September 2004   October 2004   November 2004   December 2004   January 2005   February 2005   March 2005   April 2005   May 2005   June 2005   July 2005   August 2005   September 2005   October 2005   November 2005   December 2005   January 2006   February 2006   March 2006   April 2006   May 2006   June 2006   July 2006   August 2006   September 2006   October 2006   November 2006   December 2006   January 2007   February 2007   March 2007   April 2007   May 2007   June 2007   July 2007   August 2007   September 2007   October 2007   November 2007   December 2007   January 2008   February 2008   March 2008   April 2008   May 2008   June 2008   July 2008   August 2008   September 2008   October 2008   November 2008   December 2008   January 2009   February 2009   March 2009   April 2009   May 2009   June 2009   July 2009   August 2009   September 2009   October 2009   November 2009   December 2009   January 2010   February 2010   March 2010   April 2010   May 2010  

This page is powered by Blogger. Isn't yours?

Subscribe to Posts [Atom]