Wednesday, March 19, 2014


We're cruising through Display Case #2 of the Baseball Reliquary's "Purpose Pitch," an exhibition at the Arcadia Public Library (through April 29th) that examines their inextricable intertwinement (you know, we're amazed that the spell check let that one through...) with the very singular Ben Sakoguchi.

This display builds on the theme of Los Angeles baseball history, focusing on the two major league teams that have represented the SoCal basin for over fifty years. It will come as no surprise that a group of Ben's "orange crate art" paintings will focus on the 1960s, some of the most notable "glory years" for the Dodgers.

"Righty Tighty Lefty Loosey," as you can see, celebrates the immortal duo of Don Drysdale and Sandy Koufax, who combined for a 209-104 record during the Dodgers' first five years in Dodger Stadium (1962-66). Despite abbreviated careers due to workload issues, Koufax and Drysdale were both promptly inducted into the Hall of Fame, and their fame is such that they probably will be forever bypassed for the more recondite Shrine of the Eternals.

Perhaps Ben's painting takes up the slack for that; it's one of his most whimsical and freewheeling designs, bringing us back to another pulsating background of orange trees rolling out into the distance. Ben has fun with directional symbols, choosing West and East to not only configure the differing handedness of the two aces, but to remind those of us who are paying attention that one was from California (Drysdale), while the other (Koufax) was a Brooklyn boy.

And the hands definitely have it in this pictorial configuration, outsized to the point of surrealistic exaggeration, reminding us via a kind of visual parlor trick that these guys were giants at their trade (even if they played for the Dodgers). Ben also makes certain that we note the double allegiance of Sandy and Don to Brooklyn and Los Angeles: both men played for both incarnations of the Dodgers, and only for the Dodgers.

Finally, Ben gives us yet another evocative but completely arcane California place name: Twin Oaks. It fits K & D beautifully...but the reality is that Twin Oaks, CA is little more than a road sign in the high desert east of Bakersfield, a land where even the tumbleweeds find it difficult to tumble. He never gets tired of sending the viewer on a geographical wild goose chase.