I don’t recall if I read that obit; if I did, it obviously didn’t make much of an impression on me. And that’s a shame because it turns out that Lon Keller was a giant of American sports design, and not just because he created one of baseball’s most iconic logos. As the obit explains, “In 1938, Mr. Keller became chief illustrator for Spencer Marketing, a New York City company that designed programs for sporting events across the country. In more than three decades with Spencer, he created cover designs used for games at more than 300 colleges and universities.”
Keller illustrated just about everything: high school football, basketball (girls’ hoops, too), baseball; college football (including lots of work for the service academies) and, to a much lesser extent, basketball; pro football, baseball, boxing, and the ponies; and miscellaneous stuff like the Globetrotters, the Olympics, a teeny bit of hockey, and even roller derby.
Keller’s work has its limits. Due to the era he worked in (and, I suspect, Spencer Marketing’s client list), almost every single person depicted in his artwork — athletes, fans, cheerleaders, everyone — is white (here’s a rare exception from 1970, relatively late in his career). And this made me cringe on several different levels.
Graphically speaking, though, Keller was the total package. He could capture power and strength but also playfulness and whimsy. He could be a literalist and he could get more conceptual, and he had lots of clever ideas.
Much like Steve Dewing’s baseball photo site, the Keller archive is a huge time-sink that’s impossible to look at quickly or casually — once you start clicking, you’ve basically made a two-hour commitment, minimum. So my apologies in advance for everyone’s lowered productivity today.
Raffle Reminder: Today’s the last day to enter the raffle for the copy of Remember the AFL. Details here. I’ll announce the winner on Monday.
Uni Watch News Ticker: Interesting branding brouhaha over in the F1 world (with thanks to Ken Ocker). … Jeremy Brahm sent along the best view yet of Charlie Manuel’s facemask. He also sent along a shot of Julio Zuleta’s mask. … Jimmy Griffin notes that Phil Hughes is now wearing glasses. … The Astros never wore a pillbox cap, but you can still buy one (with thanks to James Poisso). … Gabriel Ganot worked as a ball boy at the U.S. Open earlier this month. “This year’s uniforms were rather neat,” he says. “The rumor was that instead of the navy blue theme that Polo had been giving us for the last three years, they were going to give us a black uniform (after all, this is New York). In the end, though, we got these (see also heree and here), which were actually pretty nice. The shirts and shorts were a lot thinner and had a lot more breathable fabric, which made life a little nicer in the summer sun. I’m waiting for the day when we get the hats and sunglasses that the Australian Open ball persons get to wear. It gets hot on court!” … All Western Hockey League players and officials will wear an “EC” helmet decal this season, in memory of Ed Chynoweth (with thanks to Mark Snider). … Yesterday’s Ticker item about Nicky Hayden’s motoGP helmet led Al Stone to point me toward the sport’s most “creative” helmet, as worn by Valentino Rossi. … Tyler Kepner reports that Juan Miranda, who wore No. 66 for the Bronx Bombers last night, is the first Yankee to wear that number since Jim Deshaies in 1984 (only one other Yank has ever worn it: Steve Balboni, in 1981-83), and that Humberto Sanchez, who made his MLB debut last night, is the first 77 in team history.. … Illinois will go NNOB this fall (with thanks to Andrew Joseph). … Cool old Ohio State hoops jersey with a crotch extension (with thanks to Nina Jablonski). … Latest System of Dress school: Michigan State. … Chris Cooley of the Redskins has posted
more photos of his cock some info on the Ridell Revolution Speed helmet he’s been wearing. Details here (click on the photos for much larger versions). … Ethan Rowley thinks the guy about to receive the snap in this 1902 photo looks like Darth Vader. … New hoops uniforms on the way for Oklahoma State. … T.J. Leibowitz reports that former University of Colorado football coach and athletic director Eddie Crowder, who died last week, is being memorialized on the football team’s field and nose bumpers. … Speaking of nose bumpers, look what the high school team in Stuarts Draft, Virginia, is wearing (with thanks to Steve Hicks). … The Blues’ third jersey is described in detail, but not shown, here (thanks to Adam Chkautovich).