I get any number of e-mails each month from collectors asking questions about items they have or have an interest in. Rarely have I ever received one that I have enjoyed as much as the one I got last winter from renowned sports artist Bill Purdom. Bill had been commissioned by the Cincinnati Reds to do a painting of all of the members of the Cincinnati Reds Hall of Fame. He had come across my collection on the Crosley Field site run by Chuck Fortmeyer and wanted to know if I would be willing to help him with his project… This is like asking Billy Crystal if he wanted to manage the Yankees in the World Series…the answer was yes.
Over the course of a number of weeks, e-mails, and phone calls, I sent Bill images from my collection and reference library that he could use. These included rare style jackets and some very nice period original scrapbook pictures. Along the way, it was quick to see that this was not simply a commission that Bill was involved in, but a true labor of love. Bill grew up in the Cincinnati suburb of Wyoming and has been a huge Reds fan since childhood. To Bill, this project seemed to be a real way to connect with his childhood heroes and legendary figures from Cincinnati’s baseball past.
As the project came to a close just after the first of the year, Bill told me he would send me a copy of the final print for my help. Since that time we have exchanged e-mails and Bill informed me that he would be in the area visiting family and would like to stop by. I told him that would be great…On Saturday, he arrived with a gift I will cherish for a lifetime. He presented me with a Glicee (print on canvas) with the following inscription
“ To my friend Dave whose kind assistance made this picture possible-with sincere appreciation from the artist…Bill Purdom.”
We spent almost two hours talking baseball, the Reds, Cincinnati. Bill shared stories of shagging flies and following Frank Robinson around the Reds spring training in 1963. We talked about the Cincinnati Royals and Bengals, and yes he had wonderful stories of these as well. A while back I purchased a very large collection of baseball references that included many duplicates of volumes I already have. I asked Bill if he wanted any of my doubles…He looked through three large boxes and could only come up about a half dozen books that he needed…they were his for the taking. It was fascinating watching him leaf through these, stopping at an image that caught his attention. What amazed me was his attention to detail and his interest in the angle of the photograph. If you have seen any of his work, all of this should come as no great surprise.
In the end, we both had to get back to things for the family, and he departed…but it was the mutual understanding that we would stay in touch…much the way we have both used the Cincinnati Reds to stay in touch with our home town. I got a wonderful gift, but it’s not the print I refer to…it is the gift of friendship and fellowship…something more valuable to anything I could ever hang on my wall. Truth be told, I feel I came away from all of this with far more than I gave in return. Thanks Bill.
As always, collect what you enjoy and enjoy what you collect…the most valuable I think are the friends you meet along the way.
MEARS Auth, LLC
For questions or comments on this article, please feel free to drop me a line at DaveGrob1@aol.com
POST SCRIPT: The actual print measures 36″ by 18″. Prints can be ordered directly from the Reds Hall of Fame by calling 513-765-7923. Each print is signed by Bill Purdom and numbered through 500. Matted prints are $135 and framed and matted prints are $185. Bill Purdom’s web site can be found at www.billpurdom.com.