I was surfing through the internetzzz one day when I stumbled across the really cool baseball card inspired artwork of Daniel Kearsey. I’ll let the interview speak for itself as it’s pretty darn good and chock full of baseball tidbits. If you’re interested in more work, check out his website at sixtyfirststreet.com
1) Talk a bit about how you gravitated to the game of baseball and who were your favorite players growing up?
I remember attending baseball games at Cleveland Municipal Stadium in the late 80’s/early ’90s. You’ll hear this from a lot of people, but I remember there being a lot of obstructed views. I can’t tell you many details about the games I saw there, but I do remember being at the stadium. Both the Indians and the Browns shared that stadium. My dad, who was a Cleveland police officer, picked up security gigs for extra money and he would tell us about working the last Browns game at Municipal and how the fans literally tore seats out and either took them or threw them onto the field. What a disaster. Once Jacob’s Field (Progressive Field) was built, I’ve been to countless games since. Baseball was always a thing in my house. My dad really didn’t care about sports, but my mom would watch the Indians and the Bluejays. Why she watched the Jays has always been odd to me, but because of that, they were always another team I would follow. Back in the mid-’90s, our family took a trip to Toronto and drove by Rogers Centre. I was bummed to find out there wasn’t a game that night. I do, for some odd reason, even to this day remember the smell of Kentucky Fried Chicken while we drove past it. Crazy isn’t it?
My grandpa was another one who had an influence on me when it came to baseball. As a kid, I honestly thought he played major league ball because I saw photos of him with other guys in uniforms. Turns out it was a church league! Regardless, his love of the game shaped me into who I am today. He taught us grandkids how to play in a park that was just diagonal from my grandparent’s house. I know I’m changing the topic but he’s also a huge part of why I even create art. Before WW2 he went to art school in Cleveland and his occupation was a printer. I have some of the metal plates he used in the print shop. It’s some super cool stuff. Cleveland (Tremont) was and still is known for its art community. I would say he was one of the “founding members” of artists in the area. His next-door neighbor, a former priest, would participate in monthly art walks. He taught kids how to draw too. While our styles are completely different, between him and my dad, I wouldn’t consider myself an artist if it weren’t for them. While touching on the subject, I think it’s only fair to mention my dad from an artistic perspective. My dad painted, but his passion was in woodworking. My childhood home was seriously condemned. He bought it in the late ’60s, gutted it, and turned a house that could have been torn down, into a charming, gingerbread looking house. Until he passed away in 2009, the house was never complete. It could have been, but in the way I create art to make me happy, his happiness was remodeling the house. His precision to detail is where I think I get my OCD from. I’m not perfect, but I won’t release something if I don’t like it.
Alright, changing the topic to my favorite players as a kid, I’d have to say that most of them played for Cleveland. Players such as Vizquel, Alomar, Belle, Thome, Baerga, Nagy, and Hershiser were a handful of my favorites. I also had a few others I’d follow such as Griffey Jr., McGwire, Sandberg, Canseco, and Molitor. I’m sure there are others if I really sat and thought about it. Once I got a little older, I watched players like CC Sabathia, Cliff Lee, Cory Kluber, and Grady Sizemore. I worked at Jacobs Field for a season and seeing players like Jeter stroll by smiling with his Louis Vuitton luggage was super awesome. We weren’t allowed to talk to players, but man, if we could I would have such an awesome collection of autographs. While he didn’t have a huge pitching career, I saw Jeremy Sowers talking to the guys guarding the doors of the clubhouse on his first day. I honestly thought he was a reporter or something given his suit. Later I heard being announced, “Making his major league debut, Jeremy Sowers.” I was like, what?! I just saw that guy! Last I heard he’s working for the Tampa Bay Rays. When he played for Cleveland, he was a personal favorite of mine. Even today, I follow a lot of players over actual teams, except the Indians. They’re my home team, so I don’t think I’ll ever stop following them. Three of my favorite players I follow right now are Clevinger, Lindor, and Bauer.
2) When did you start collecting baseball cards and why did you decide to focus on them?
I can’t really be 100% accurate here, but I think I got my first pack of baseball cards at a Kay Bee toy store. It wasn’t really a pack per se, but a box of 1989 Fleer’s Baseball’s Exciting Stars. It is a set of 44 cards that came with 6 logo stickers. I went down into my basement and grabbed that set of cards. I guess as a side note, you could say I am pretty organized. I’ve only got 24 of those cards and none of the stickers. If I REALLY wanted the set, I could pick it up on eBay for $10. In 1989 I was only six years old, so I didn’t really have favorite players. Number 25 of 44 in the set, Danny Jackson of then the Cincinnati Reds was my most prized card because as a kid, everyone called me Danny. I collected cards throughout the ’90s and only here and there during the early 2000s. Once I had to work to put gas in my car, pay car insurance and pay my cell phone bill, if I were to buy anything, it was usually a new CD.
In 2006 I got a job working for the Indians. It was still Jacobs Field at that time. I worked in various team shops and began collecting again. I started collecting everything from cards, bobbleheads, apparel and really anything you can think of that was Cleveland Indians related. This was the only season I worked at the ballpark and sadly it wasn’t a great one. They “almost” made the playoffs but almost doesn’t get you anywhere. At one point, I stopped buying packs and only bought what I wanted. Nowadays I do the same, but I also buy packs just because of how much fun it is to see what you get. That being said, it’s also a bummer getting a pack full of duds. Now that I’m creating my own cards, both illustrative and hand-crafted, it makes me even more excited to go on a hunt for cards either in a store or seeing what other artists are doing online. I’m also really curious to see how Triston McKenzie progresses. I guess I have a thing for pitchers.
3) What is Sixty-First Street and what is the inspiration behind it?
It’s a pretty simple story where the name of Sixty-First Street comes from. I grew up in Cleveland on West 61. I honestly had the best days of my life on that street. It was where I spent my childhood. Most of my best memories come from that street. It’s where I made my first friends, learned to ride a bike, and where I played baseball and street hockey. I could honestly write a book about living on that street, but I know this interview isn’t about my life story! You might be wondering what Sixty-First Street is exactly. I started it as a creative outlet. Professionally, I’m a graphic designer. I love my job. I work at Kent State University where NFL players Julian Edelman, Josh Cribbs, Antonio Gates, and Jack Lambert hail from. Sadly, it’s also where the famous Kent State shootings took place on May 4 of 1970.
While I love my job, I needed a way to show MY art. It started off with me selling vectorized images of Cleveland and Pop Culture related illustrations, which can still be found on Etsy. I then started participating in art gallery shows, so while I still worked on my vector series, I also began painting again. Later I started experimenting with more mediums. When I picked up an iPad Pro that is basically when things really started to change for me. I would dabble with the Procreate app for a while, but one day I was sitting down watching Self Made on Netflix. It’s a movie about Madam C.J. Walker. For whatever reason, that night I thought I would try to illustrate one of her vintage products. After that, I started illustrating other packaging designs. I jumped from that to baseball. I did a set of AL and NL Stars of the 1990s. I know that I’m rambling on from what question was asked, but it kind of tells how my creative outlet went from creating illustrations on my computer to creating baseball art. It’s kind of funny how things progress. But really, that’s what Sixty-First Street is. It’s a creative outlet/brand that came from the street I grew up on. I’ve been loving every minute of watching it progress to where it is today.
4) You are showcasing a piece titled, “The Curse of Rocky Colavito” at the Phone Gallery in Cleveland. Talk a bit about that.
There’s this little gallery in Cleveland and I mean LITTLE. It’s actually an empty phone booth located in a really cool part of Cleveland. Right down the road is The Beachland Ballroom; a music venue where I’ve seen some really awesome acts such as Brian Fallon, The Dead Boys, The Mowgli’s, and a bunch of others. Anyways, this gallery is super cool. Being such a small space, you really need to create your artwork to fit the booth.
The actual “curse” of Rocky Colavito goes back to 1960. It was said that because the Indians traded Colavito to the Detroit Tigers for Harvey Kuenn, that they would be prevented from winning the World Series, reach the postseason or even get into the pennant race. Colavito denies ever placing such a curse on the team. (A little side note: it was also said that when the Indians fired their manager, Bobby Bragan back in 1958, he walked out on the pitcher’s mound and placed his own curse on the team, saying they would never win another pennant. He of course denies this too.) I’m not exactly superstitious; at least to the extent that a person can put a curse on a team like that, but the stories are definitely fun to read. I’m creating this piece based on the idea that Colavito really did place a curse on the team. The piece isn’t completed, but besides an illustrated piece of Rocky, it will be displayed in a custom black frame where I’ll make it a bit more ornate with things such as skulls and other odds and ends. It’s one of those things that I can see how it will look in my head, but it’s really hard to explain. I’m also thinking of paying an homage to Bragan by placing a small illustration of him in the background, spitting on the pitcher’s mound, or something like that. In no way do I mean any disrespect to Mr. Colavito or Harvey Kuenn. I’m doing this piece for fun and just as a representation of stories told of the curse. My mom used to go to games at the old Municipal Stadium. She and her friends would wait for him after the games to get an autograph or just say hello. She only had positive things to say about him, so Mr. Colavito, if you’re reading this, no disrespect and you’re a huge inspiration!
5) Where did you watch Game 7 of the 2016 WS and how did you deal with the pain without jumping off a cliff?
Don’t even get me started. My wife and I had standing room tickets for that game, and we got there early and took a spot at the Home Run Porch in left field. Before this game began, I honestly prayed for the series to tie, just so we could attend a World Series game. It was an experience I will never forget and probably the best ball game that I will ever attend–that is unless I get to attend the game when Cleveland actually wins the series. Let me tell you, we stood there through it all. We took turns getting beers and were absolutely surrounded by Cubs fans. That night, I really began to give their fanbase respect as they were totally cool. At least the people around us. Ok, that’s not 100% true. There was this guy in front of us who was “that guy.” EVERY and I mean EVERY time the Cubs did something worth noting, he turned his head to the side, slowly smiled, and slow-clapped while nodding his head. At certain times my fandom was taking over and I REALLY wanted to knock him out on more than one occasion. There was a point when Cleveland (in my opinion) was NO DOUBT going to win the game and then you know what happened next? Yep, the rain started. When the game started back up, I felt the momentum was gone. Long story short, we know what happened…the Cubs won. The jackass in front of us did his thing, but while I had anger in me, I just watched him walk away. The couple next to us who were Cubs fans wished us well and I wished them a safe trip back to Chicago. We stood there for what seemed like hours. I watched the Cubs celebrate on the field and I tried looking for Bill Murray, who I knew was in the crowd. I never did see him.
Well, it was time to go. This part hurt almost as much as losing the game itself. We stopped in the team shop and you know what was to the right of us? TONS of sealed boxes of what would have been our World Series Championship apparel. Trust me, I had plenty of cash put aside to buy whatever they had. Instead, we walked out of the ballpark and called an Uber. $100 to take us 2 miles!? Yeah, right…We walked back to our car in Tremont. As we walked over the Bob Hope Memorial Bridge it started pouring. How did I deal with not jumping off that bridge? While not the cliff you mentioned in your question, I’ve got to say, being at such a game is something I will never forget, and you know what? The night wasn’t even over and I was already okay with it being the Cubs who beat us. I know, I shouldn’t even admit it, but trust me! I didn’t WANT them to win, but they seriously went 108 years without winning a championship. Plus, I’m a diehard Cleveland fan. I grew up less than ten minutes from downtown, so being a Cleveland fan, you’re used to upsets. I just know that if it happens in my lifetime or my son’s lifetime–one of these days–Cleveland is going to have its moment.
6) Is Albert (Joey) Belle a bonafide asshole or just misunderstood?
Oh man, this is a tough question. As a kid, Belle was a favorite player of mine. He averaged close to 40 home runs and over 100 RBIs a season from the early 90s until 2000. I’m not sure you can really say he was just misunderstood. From everything I read about him, he leans more towards being a bonafide asshole. I’ll never forget the game he lifted his bicep and pointed to it. I’m pretty sure I still have the newspaper that says something along the lines of, “Here’s the cork!”. He obviously had a bad temper, “probably” used corked bats, but I also get not wanting to talk to the media. Some people just aren’t into that type of thing. Could he have dealt with it a bit better? I would have to say most definitely, but unless I’m in his shoes, I can’t really speak for him. We’ve all got our own demons we deal with. I’ll let the writers and reporters write about “Mr. Freeze.”