Gallo left his mark in Cooperstown

By Erik Strohl

When I arrived at the Hall of Fame in March of 1998 as a first year graduate-student intern in Museum Studies, my first job was to do an assessment of the original cartoon art and illustration collection.

Containing hundreds of original pieces, the archive is a small treasure trove of the sports cartoon/illustration art form from the late 1800s to the present day. I knew very little about this subject at the time, but found it very interesting and happily delved into the trove without hesitation. I soon became an admirer of this art form, not just from an artistic standpoint, but also how the cartoon image is used as a vehicle for communication and dissemination of information. Cartoons, like photos, are worth a thousand words, but they have the added benefit of allowing for the artist’s personal interpretation and style as both art and written commentary. This topic interested me so much I eventually wrote my Masters thesis on this subject.

It was during this time I was first exposed to the work of Bill Gallo, the longtime sports cartoonist of the New York Daily News (he ascended to the job in 1960 following the death of colleague and fellow cartooning luminary Leo O’Mealia). I grew up in Pennsylvania and had no access to New York newspapers, so his artistic prowess and longevity as a sports cartoonist were unknown to me. With Bill’s passing this last Tuesday at the age of 88, the world lost one of the last icons and best examples of a dying breed in modern journalism: the sports cartoonist. The Hall has over 20 original pieces of Gallo cartoon art, as well as many copies of cartoons as printed in newspapers, periodicals and other ephemera. The original artwork is mostly single frame cartoons as they appeared in the Daily News, with most relating to the election of specific Hall of Famers or some event in Yankees or Mets history. Often with a friendly hand-written note to a former Hall executive, these pieces are little time capsules which transport us back to a different time and place.

Topics covered in the collection include the inductions of Willie Mays, Mickey Mantle, Whitey Ford, Duke Snider, Sandy Koufax, Juan Marichal, Stan Musial, Roy Campanella and Ducky Medwick. Casey Stengel was a favorite topic of Gallo, and we have several which highlight the “Ol’ Perfessor,” including one of him being added to Mt. Rushmore. Other topics include the 1968 and 1984 All-Star Games, as well as, more recently, the 2000 New York Subway Series. Of course, Basement Bertha (the ever-hopeful but always distressed Mets fan) is also prevalent.

I never met Bill Gallo, but I know I would have loved the chance. His legacy will live on as his work is remembered by millions of readers over the last 50 years. The Hall of Fame will do its part to protect that legacy by preserving and sharing the original examples of his work which will remain forever in our archives. As technology has rapidly changed both modes of personal communication and mass media, I still take great pleasure in looking at a cartoon and absorbing what it is trying to convey. A world of information in a simple hand-drawn picture. This has been the case since humans first painted images on the walls of caves.

The Hall of Fame is glad to have a part in this historical continuum by saving the artwork of Gallo and other accomplished artists and cartoonists. Just another medium telling the story of baseball’s impact on American culture.

Erik Strohl is the senior director of exhibitions and collections for the National Baseball Hall of Fame and Museum.

4 Comments

Great post thanks for sharing. Your layout is excellent. I enjoy reading your articles all the time.

Bill Gallo is my favorite cartoonist. It’s a shame that he didn’t live to be 90…

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