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Bottom of the Sixth

Artist: Norman Rockwell
Created: 1949

Bottom of the Sixth

Norman Rockwell was a master of narrative in art; his best paintings tell a complete story with a single image. His paintings are often called snapshots of American life—they are far more than that, however. What is expressed in them goes well beyond the mere moment captured in paint. From the details, characters' poses, and other visual clues, we can extrapolate a narrative; he even leaves ample room for the imagination to continue to expand on what is immediately presented.

Bottom of the Sixth, for example, is essentially an entire baseball game efficiently condensed into a single image. It was published on the Saturday Evening Post on April 23, 1949.  If we look closely, the scoreboard is visible in the lower left, and the score of the game is noted there, giving us an idea of events since the game's start. We can tell which team is which by looking at what are presumably the teams' respective coaches, behind the group of umpires. The man which is hunched over, scowling, angry that the game may be called on account of rain; he is wearing white, traditionally reserved for the home team. The coach to his left cheerily points to the sky, mocking his counterpart with a wide grin. The home team is obviously winning—the visiting coach is hoping to be let off the hook so as to not endure a loss, while the home coach is furious that a victory is being wrested from his grasp by the weather.

The umpires, on the other hand, stand stolidly, dominating the picture. It is their decision to call the game on account of rain or not: everything hinges on them. They seem pensive, and a bit upset that a good game of baseball might have to be ended early. The players in the background stand about leisurely, looking at the umpires, awaiting their decision. Will the game end in the bottom of the sixth? The mix of dark clouds and blue sky above make it unclear—Rockwell left it to the viewer to decide.


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