Play Ball! A Celebration of Baseball’s Greatest Moments—a 40-page softbound book that showcases stamps honoring our national pastime—is filled with the beautiful paintings of artist Graig Kreindler. Here is his story.
As a boy, Graig Kreindler loved to look at the illustrated portraits of players on his father’s old baseball cards. Poring over the collection, made up of gems from the 1950s, eventually led to a minor epiphany. “You could kind of see,” Kreindler, who grew up in Rockland County, New York, said, “how art and baseball could come together.”
Not that the 32-year-old painter needed a push toward the sport. He was, after all, named after New York Yankees third baseman Graig Nettles. A lifelong baseball fan, Kreindler has spent his adult years depicting the athletes he grew up adoring. His stunning paintings have been displayed nationwide, in museums and books.
In truth, Kreindler didn’t always like to paint. “I was scared of color,” he said. Plus, he added, “I really only enjoyed painting if I was painting something that I had interest in.” Then a college assignment—he attended the School of Visual Arts in Manhattan—fulfilled that requirement. The task was to depict a relationship. “For whatever reason I thought about the relationship between a pitcher and a batter,” he said. He ended up entering the finished product, a vertical painting of Mickey Mantle at bat, in a New York Society of Illustrators competition. At that point, he knew he’d hit on something.
“Anything other than baseball just didn’t feel right,” he said.
Kreindler graduated from college in 2002 and began his professional career. His paintings aren’t merely vague interpretations of baseball scenes. Hours of research precedes each one. “It usually starts with an image,” Kreindler said. “Then I go from there.” Take, for example, the Jackie Robinson painting featured in Play Ball! A Celebration of Baseball’s Greatest Moments. It’s based on a photograph that Kreindler found. The lighting in the picture, he said, was spectacular. “Right away,” he said of the image, of Robinson sliding into home, “I thought this could be a great painting.”
From there, Kreindler gets to work. First, he’ll scour a variety of news sources to help determine when the photo was taken, ideally down to the exact date, game, and even the inning. (Baseball box scores are widely available and contain a wealth of information.) The HBO documentary series When It Was a Game, which made use of color home-movie footage, has been another great resource. Kreindler is a stickler for detail. No element—including uniforms, ballpark advertisements, the weather—is ignored.
“If you show somebody an image, if you show him a photo or a painting of Mickey Mantle, if I’ve done it right, it will transport him to being a kid,” Kreindler said. “I think in general, the best art is able to elicit some sort of emotional response. Baseball just registers with so many people in that way.”
To see more of Kreindler’s work, visit graigkreindler.com.