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Babe Bows Out

Year – 2013

Size – 31.5″x50″

Medium – Black & white acrylic paint and colored pencil on gessoed board


Adam Port’s Fein artwork serves as a perfect compliment to the Lou Gehrig “Luckiest Man” portrait that kicked off the LEGENDARY ICONS SERIES. Both Gehrig and Ruth turned weakness into strength, tragedy into triumph, desperation into inspiration, donning their pinstripes for one last hurrah before the Yankee Stadium faithful. Ironically, though, while Gehrig often avoided the spotlight and forever lived in Ruth’s looming shadow, it is the Iron Horse who has gone down in history facing the cameras, whereas the Sultan of Swat for all eternity remains humbly turned away from Nat Fein’s lens.

With his trademark painstaking accuracy and meticulous attention to detail, Adam Port has crafted a successor every bit as mesmerizing as the “Luckiest Man.” Port’s “Babe Bows Out” utilizes his perfected technique of acrylic paint and colored pencil to captivating effect in intricately documenting every Ruthian contour, every uniform fold, every sunlit reflection, every sideline figure, every chalked basepath, every fencepost in the upper deck’s fabled curving frieze, everything. The spellbinding, startlingly life-like work is an absolute wonder to behold.

The Photo

New York Herald Tribune photographer Nat Fein (1914-2000) wasn’t supposed to be at Yankee Stadium on June 13, 1948. His news beat was city life, politics, crime and the arts. But when one of his colleagues in the sports department called out sick, it was Fein who filled in on the assignment, taking his Speed Graphic camera to the Bronx for what he’d heard was a ceremony for Babe Ruth. The first heartbreaking photo-op came in the Yankees locker room as Ruth, stricken with cancer, feebly struggled to suit up and tie his shoes. Fein’s next shot was taken from the field as Babe exerted all his energy just to emerge from the visiting Cleveland Indians dugout (formerly the Yankees dugout during their Murderers Row heyday). While the band played “Auld Lang Syne,” the Bambino doffed his cap to the roaring ovation of almost 50,000 spectators. “I could see grown men with tears in their eyes, some openly crying,” Fein later recounted. “Those of us on the field tried hard to hide our emotions from the dying Ruth.”

Then Fein had a stroke of genius—or, in his own words, got “lucky in a way.” He broke ranks with the other press photographers and circled behind the scene, which provided a unique perspective on the veteran players along the first-base line, on the stadium filled to the rafters, on the facade festooned with banners and flags…and, most importantly, on the Number 3 that was officially retired that epic summer afternoon. “The Babe Bows Out” graced newspapers nationwide the next day, and then again when Ruth died just two months later. It garnered the prestigious Pulitzer in May of 1949 and is now featured prominently at both the Baseball Hall of Fame and the Smithsonian Institute.