Text written by Albert Kilchesty
Boxers or...? Brand (private collection)
Ding, ding, ding! Ladies and gentlemen, please direct your attention to this painting. On the left, wearing the athletic supporter, weighing in at 195 lbs., the pride of Sudlersville, MD, give it up for Jimmie “The Beast” Foxx. His opponent, in the pinstriped briefs, from San Diego, CA, reigning American League batting champion, “The Splendid Splinter,” Ted Williams. Foxx (1907—1967), a prodigious slugger, starred for the Philadelphia Athletics during the team’s championship run of 1929‒1931. In 1932, he threatened to overtake Babe Ruth’s single-season home run record, finishing the year two shy of Babe’s mark of 60 set in 1927. Sold to Boston in 1936 by the perennially cash-poor A’s, “Double X” teamed briefly with Williams, another Triple Crown winner, to form a fearsome one-two punch in the Red Sox lineup. Their partnership broke up prematurely when Williams entered military service in 1943. After retirement, Foxx managed and coached in the minors, but his problems with alcohol soon sent his life into freefall. The character of Jimmy Dugan, played by Tom Hanks in the film A League of Their Own, is based loosely on Foxx, who managed the Ft. Wayne Daisies of the All-American Girls Professional Baseball League in 1952. He died after choking on a piece of meat during dinner, a sadly ironic end for this former hunk of beefcake.
Role Models Brand (private collection)
Since the Greeks first defined the male physical ideal for the West, different cultures have refined or updated it for the times in which they lived. In America during the 1920s, the enduring symbol of male strength resided in physiques like Babe Ruth’s. The happy-go-lucky man-child who wowed spectators with displays of hitherto unseen slugging power took his body for granted. Yes, he sweated and worked out mostly to keep his weight down, but other than that he was, well, just the Babe, a fellow who enjoyed everything to excess. His daily training regimen included plenty of beer, liquor, food and women. On the other hand, squat Austrian Arnold Schwarzenegger used his body as an end in itself. Eschewing the “natural” supplements used by Ruth, the Arnold pumped himself with steroids and human growth hormone before pumping iron. This resulted in what many still find to be a grotesque distortion of the male form.
Lipstick & Legs Brand
At the onset of World War II, major league baseball magnates feared that their business would be deemed non-essential by the federal government. Their concerns were allayed when President Roosevelt issued the so-called Green Light Letter in January 1942. However, chewing gum king Phillip K. Wrigley, who owned the Chicago Cubs, decided to take no chances and created the All-American Girls Professional Baseball League (AAGPBL) as an alternative revenue stream. The young ladies who played in the AAGBPL were chosen as much for their baseball skill as their sex appeal. Garbed in belted, short-sleeve tunics, the players showed plenty of bare leg and arm to mostly male customers, who responded to this titillation in growing numbers. Additionally, the young ladies were schooled in the fine arts of makeup, ladylike comportment and charm. Cigarette smoking was frowned upon, of course, but during a time when everyone smoked no one really thought it unseemly. Although most of the teams were place in second-tier Midwestern cities, such as Ft. Wayne, Indiana, their exploits were known around the country thanks to newsreels and newspaper coverage. Here we see players from the Ft. Wayne Daisies and the Chicago Colleens displaying their “assets.”
Strawberry Fields Brand
Wordplay—in the form of puns and double-entendres—is a key element in many of Sakoguchi’s paintings. In baseball parlance a strawberry is an ugly abrasion, usually on the thigh, which results from sliding into a base. This was the most common injury suffered by players in the All-American Girls Professional Baseball League. Forced to play in short skirts, with legs bared, many of the ladies suffered from repeated openings of these wounds, so that by the end of the season their gams were little more than festering, ugly sores. The strawberry’s natural sensuousness—sweet, moist, lip-pleasing—is a far cry from the type received on the field of play. This is not the type of thing that John Lennon referenced in song.