Arthur Haas turned his two loves; sports and art; into one-of-a-kind pieces over 75 years ago.
In the early 1930’s a timid young sign painter and would-be commercial artist in New York City became enamored with all types of popular sports figures.
After a day’s work and on weekends, Arthur Haas would retire to his room in his parents’ home and go to work at his drawing board. He would render the players’ action poses in charcoal and pen & ink and then label the drawings by hand with the player’s position and team name. Living in New York was the perfect opportunity for the young man to eventually come in contact with his heroes.
When a team featuring one of his subjects would come to town he would take his drawing to one of the New York ballparks or stadiums and attempt to add an autograph; sometimes in the dugout, at other times by talking his way into the locker room. He enjoyed much success in an era when players were more accessible to fans.
"His goal was to acquire the signature, but more importantly, he wanted to meet the player and perhaps, just perhaps, have a short chat with him," said Haas’ daughter Evelyn Mancino, who is now selling some of her father’s one-of-a-kind art through Hourglass Antiques and Collectibles. Many are signed by the 1930s stars and all are signed by the artist, who passed away in 1999 at age 87.
Many times Haas would take his artwork to a game and come home with nothing. But over the space of two years, he was able to successfully connect with dozens of players including some of the biggest names in sports during the first half of the century.
Haas would tell his children about his successes meeting his favorite players, but Mancino says it was also fascinating to hear about the times when he struck out.
"Just once, in 1935, he trusted a friend to take a drawing to a locker room in order to have it signed by Joe Louis," she recalled. A friend offered to take the drawing–the only one Haas had done in color– to Louis. "He never saw it again," she said.
Another story involved his drawings of the Chicago Blackhawks, one of the NHL’s Original Six franchises. Haas was standing outside the locker room, when a player came out to look at what he was showing off.
"He was invited into the inner sanctum of the locker room," Evelyn Mancino recalled her father saying. "About 45 minutes later, he left. The guys had all marveled at my father’s artistic ability and then invited him to stay awhile to shoot the breeze."
One of the drawings is of Baseball Hall of Famer Honus Wagner when he was in a coaching role. Haas would leave a white space or make a box for the player’s signature on the drawing.
"My dad was in the stands, just beside the dugout, asking for Wagner. Instead, a player offered to pass the drawing to his coach. Wagner autographed it with a black ink pen, then noticed he had signed in the wrong place, and partly on top of his black jacket. And so the old man did the right thing – he signed it again."
Haas did eventually become a commercial artist, working as a sign designer for the Electro Neon Sign Company in Miami for thirty years. His sports drawings were willed to his daughters. Now 24 of them are being offered for sale at Hourglass Antiques & Collectibles at TIAS. Prices range from $135 (Mel Harder) to $6495 for the dual-signed Honus Wagner. A Jimmie Foxx done by Haas and signed by the late slugger, is priced at $2500.
‘Having been done in the 1930’s, most of them have an Art Deco feel," Mancino explained. "They were done on heavy weight drawing paper, and may have been sprayed with a fixatif."
Some of the others available include Howie Morenz, Chuck Klein, Mel Ott, ‘Gabby’ Hartnett, Jack Dempsey, Sam Rice, Lorne Chabot, Pie Traynor, Waite Hoyt, Bill Dickey and Freddie Spencer.