Wheelhouse Images is an exhibit of Homer Davenport's baseball cartoons. This exhibition kicks off with a First Friday reception in Silverton, at the Seven Brides Taproom, over the Homer Davenport Community Festival weekend, and continuing through the month of August. The reception will feature film archivist Dennis Nyback of the Oregon Cartoon Institute, who will offer a presentation on the history of Baseball, and show some historic early baseball films, (aka "movies" with a projector). Along with the images, will be an annotation, with descriptions and background information relating to each image.|
Nyback's films will start with a sing-a-long version of Take Me Out to the Ballgame from 1942 which includes the verse, which few people have heard. It will end with a short of Mickey Mantle making a personal appearance in Pleasantville NY in 1959. In between will be many aspects of baseball, both live action and animated, including Donkey Baseball in the 1930's, Porky Pig, and Bobby Thompson hitting "the shot heard round the world" in 1951. It will be baseball from the era of wool uniforms, real grass, and no such thing as a domed stadium or a multi-million dollar contract.
Davenport was commissioned by sporting goods magnate Albert G. Spalding to illustrate his 1911 book on the history of baseball, "America's National Game." The result was 17 unique images, in the well known Davenport style. These cartoons, along with the rest of the A.G. Spalding archives, are housed at the New York Public Library.
The reproduction fee for the cartoons, plus a unique photograph of Davenport, was donated by the Homer Davenport Community Foundation. High resolution scans were procured, and will be used to create the images for display. Dennis Sherwood of Portrait Express has volunteered to print the pictures on their high resolution digital color printing press. Sherwood, a member of the HDCF team, also volunteered his services to print this year's Davenport and Strawberry Festival posters.
Davenport, a longtime baseball aficionado since his teen years in Silverton, was a close personal friend to Spalding. He hired Davenport to illustrate the book with 17 cartoons, including the gold embossed cover of the early editions. It was published in 1911, and details the early history of the sport, (as interpreted by Spalding). Much of the story is told first-hand, since Spalding had been involved in the game, first as a player and later an administrator, since the 1870s. In addition to his personal recollections, he had access to the records of Henry Chadwick, the game's first statistician and archivist.
"Wheelhouse" is baseball slang referring to "the hitter's power zone." Usually a pitch waist-high and over the heart of the plate. As seen from these illustrations, Davenport's artistic wheelhouse extended beyond the political caricatures that made him famous.