(http://carlskanberg.com/, 2020) As the White Sox regular season ended today with a couple weeks of crashing down to earth after a solid month of riding higher than even at any time in 2005 season (with debate over which one of our superstars would be MVP, when running away with the eventually lost division seemed inevitable) I look forward with more optimism than the radio team to the playoffs (they were already attaboy-ing the team for just making the playoffs, tempering any hopes for post-season success). That said, 15 days ago I would have been flummoxed trying to choose the best thing about this thrilling, weird, distanced, crazy season. But now I have a very clear decision: it is Carl Skanberg's Score-n-Sketch cards!
On Twitter and his Website the Suburbanite super Sox fan/cartoonist/designer has been releasing these all season and they are breathtaking wonders. The covers are 2-color prints of delightful baseball themed designs, often featuring animals being adorable. The actual scorecard is hand-ruled and filled out with exquisite yet loosely flowing handwriting. He doesn't do that 2 diagonal lines thing for a double, but rather writes in "2B," which I don't 100% advocate, and I don't know what all of his scoring means (are the dots under the strikeouts the number of balls when the dude struck out?), and Skanberg does not do the whole pitching line, but give him a break...just look at the facing page!
While the covers are fun, for diehards the treasure is the illustrated game summary with multicolored scratchy-lined gorgeous action packed, characature-rich action scenes. Skanberg sold two sets of prints so far this season, so I will reference these: Sure there are some dud games every season, but there's something to celebrate every game if you watch with an artist's/true fan's/fool's eye, so even these are cool in CS's presentations. Yes the Brew Crew demolished the Sox on August 6, but capturing Mazara's and Leury's little victories, and lovingly dealing with Eloy's clumsy fielding are enough for me. The Aug 3rd game is presented with a really dynamic Will Eisner-esque kinetic design, and the drawing of Ben Gamel's weird beard is worth the price of the print set. There is some beer pouring out of Bernie Brewer's barrel on one the covers that says a little much about mascot incontinence, but other than that this set is really nice
'But the Pirates set released later in the season is the real fucking deal! Granted, the 2020 Pirates made a lot of people look good, so why not our art hero? And reciprocally Skanberg made them look amazing, even in portraits of futility. The covers are full of nautical whimsy, as the seagull Sox battle goofy pirates and a behemoth octopus. But, again, its's the insides where the money's at. August 25 Giolito throws a no hitter and the intensity, drama, and joy captured on the portraits of Gio at the start and end of the game are perfect, and the summary of close plays and great fielding is a joy to behold. On another card the body language of Keuchel, Eloy and Mendick is impressive, evocative, and weirdly exciting.
The masterpiece of the Pirates set is 9/9 game, where, yes, the Sox beat the parrot droppings out of the Bucs, and drawings of Robert's sliding catch, Abreu stretching to beat out a throw to extend his hit streak, and McCann clobbering one of two dingers are really good. But the protrait of Roberto Clemente on the day MLB honored him is breathtaking. The nobility, character and handsomeness captured is a step beyond all the other great art we were treated to all season long.
In a season where there is no going to games and 2-D fans populate a few hundred seats, these summary cards seem like a legit way to take in the game, as legit as any other remote way. But I do have two final caveats: when the White Sox win the World Series I will demote these masterpieces to 2nd best thing about the season, And if "Skanberg" is a very unsuccessful ska pun from the artist's woebegone 3rd Wave college ska band days then I take 28% of this praise back.