“All Rise!” by Mark Ulriksen | the new yorker
On Tuesday, September 20, Aaron Judge, the Yankees’ star six-foot-seven outfielder, hit a home run deep into the left-field bleachers. It was his sixtieth of the season. Only Babe Ruth and Roger Maris have reached that number in American League history. (Maris holds the record at sixty-one, but for how long?) Mike Kessler, the twenty-year-old fan who caught the ball, in a move that led one sportscaster to dub him “baseball fan’s purest alive,” gave it back to the judge, free of charge. It was Judge’s story, he said. He told the assembled reporters that he only had one thing to ask of the player, who will become a free agent next season: “Try anything to come back next year. You are the heart and soul of the ball club. For the cover of the October 3, 2022 issue of the new yorker, Mark Ulriksen celebrates the remarkable achievement of Judge. I recently spoke to the artist about his love of baseball.
When did you start paying attention to Aaron Judge?
As a die-hard baseball fan, it’s hard to miss Aaron Judge. It is so dynamic, exciting and huge! He’s a real superstar. His at-bats are a must see. Judge is getting a lot of attention here in San Francisco because he grew up a Giants fan in Central Valley, and he’ll be a free agent after this season. Every baseball team would love to sign him.
You couldn’t wait to draw it. What about its construction so interesting?
It’s not often that I manage to caricature a six-foot-seven, two-hundred-eighty-pound athlete. By cropping his feet and face and juxtaposing him with a standard-sized baseball player – who themselves are tall – I was trying to convey his size. He is one of the greatest positional players in the game’s long history.
What makes baseball interesting for you as an artist?
Baseball has always been my favorite sport, maybe because I grew up there. It’s a sport full of big and small; players are all unique. This also applies to the architecture of baseball stadiums. Can anyone tell the difference between one basketball arena and another? No. But Yankee Stadium is so different from Fenway Park.
How do you portray the action in a single image?
I’ve always been drawn to suspended animation, to capturing motion frozen in space. Athletes also have particular ways of exercising their profession. A pitcher’s motion can be instantly recognizable to fans, just as the judge’s swing is distinctly his own.
Do you collect snapshots and spend time drawing people you find interesting, or do you prefer to rely more on your imagination?
When I started as an illustrator, after a career in graphic design, I only drew on my imagination. Then an art director told me my characters were ugly and off-putting. Since then, I rely on photographic references. I have files of photos taken from periodicals and organized into different categories: walking, sitting, standing, handshakes, kisses, etc., as well as baseball, basketball, soccer, football, etc. I draw people when I go to music festivals – which I do a lot – but the sketches are always the same, a bunch of interesting, anonymous people drawn from behind.
Have you ever attended a game at Yankee Stadium?
A few weeks ago, my wife, Leslie, and I took a short vacation to Manhattan, and I attended my first game at the new Yankee Stadium. We were both very impressed, and my wife is not a sports fan at all. We loved how you can walk around the stadium during the game and see the pitch from all sorts of perspectives. We sat down with the fun and loud creatures from Bleacher. We loved how the grounds crew got the crowd dancing to ‘YMCA’. It was a great experience.