Amelie Mancini has something in common with most baseball fans, in that she finds baseball cards—in all their weird, formal goofiness—to be beguiling and awesome. Beyond that, though, she's something of a unique specimen: she was born in France, moved to Brooklyn in 2006, and became a baseball fan despite having little idea what baseball was even about.
This is a good thing not just for Mancini—who now knows the exquisite torment of being a Mets fan, and is surely wiser and sadder for it—but for all of us. Mancini is a talented painter and printmaker, and has dedicated herself over the last year to Left Field Cards, a series of limited edition baseball cards dedicated to oddball big league subsets.
The first, "Bizarre Injuries" immortalized ten players who hurt themselves in unusual ways; the second, "Edible All-Stars" is a salute to the Chet Lemons and Jim Rice's of the game. Her most recent set, "Marvelous Mustaches," is exactly what it sounds like. On the occasion of the opening reception for series three, "Marvelous Mustaches"—which will be held at Bergino Baseball Clubhouse in New York City, between 6pm and 9pm on Thursday, May 3--we (that is, mostly Pete, and then later David) talked to Amelie about how she came to be America's foremost creator of prints immortalizing Glenallen Hill's self-harming spider-related nightmares. And by all means come to the opening: hot dogs and beer will be available, as will Mancini's art, and both Mancini and at least two Classical editors will be in the building, at least earlier in the evening.
How did a French artist become a baseball fan?
I didn't know anything about baseball until I moved to New York in 2006. The only insight into baseball we have in France is through movies: there's always a scene in American movies where the father either does or doesn't make it to the son's baseball game. (I'm pretty sure this is true for every movie ever made in Hollywood.) After moving here, at first I paid no attention to baseball because I thought soccer, being European, was a superior game. How wrong I was.
My first contact with real life baseball happened one September night of 2007: a couple of friends offered to take me to Shea Stadium to watch the Mets play against the Phillies. I had no idea what was going on on the field but I immediately loved the atmosphere, the ballpark, the crowd, the green diamond, the rhythm of the game, the uniforms, the signs, everything. The Mets lost that night in what would turn out to be a historical collapse: that fact was completely lost on me that night, but the one thing I understood was that baseball was a much more complex and fascinating game than soccer. From then on, I started paying attention, reading the back pages of the Post, watching games at bars, and even reading books about the rules and history of the game. From there, being a painter and a printmaker, it was only a matter of time until I started making art about baseball.
How did you happen to choose the Mets, and not say, the historically very very successful neighboring franchise? Do you miss Jeff Francoeur a lot?
Once again, I did not know anything about baseball AT ALL. This was clearly not an informed decision. I had no idea I was signing up for years of misery. Had I known, would I have chosen the Yankees? Probably not. I like difficulty. The simple truth is that the overwhelming majority of my friends were Mets fans—most of them having grown up in Brooklyn—and when I did realize that maybe I'd made a terrible mistake, it was too late, I already had a Mets tattoo. And yes, I do miss Frenchie. My heart broke a little when he got traded.
Tell me about how you found inspiration for the sets of letterpress cards— bizarre injuries, people with last names that are also foods, etc? What are some of the other themed sets we can look forward to?
When I decided to make my own baseball cards I started thinking about what the criteria should be. I didn't want it to be about the best players ever or Hall of Famers, because 1) that would be boring, 2) that wouldn't be MY players. I had to make my own rules. I think art should be silly and playful, so I went for that. Silly and playful.
I compared ideas with my boyfriend who knows a lot about baseball (and is perfect except for the fact that he's a Yankee fan) and we started making lists that we thought would be funny. I started with Bizarre Injuries because that one made me laugh the most, and then Edible All-Stars because I like how absurd it was. The new set is Marvelous Mustaches, and then in no particular order, Curious Second Careers, Men with a Van, and I really want to do one about female ballplayers. I plan on releasing a new series every couple of months or so.
Who's your all time favorite player?
I'm fascinated by Ty Cobb but I don't think anyone would call him a favorite. I really like Roger Maris and Harvey Haddix because of the tragic, almost mythical dimension of their lives. I love Sandy Koufax, I love Keith Hernandez, and I love Ike Davis. All three for very different reasons.
Who is the most compelling player, from a visual standpoint, because of ugliness/handsomeness/generally being weird looking?
Ty Cobb. The man was a scary beast.
It's barely necessary even to ask where the mustache idea came from. They're as much a part of baseball as any of the equipment, and outside of America's law enforcement community there's probably no group besides baseball players that have done as much to keep the look in circulation. But how and why did you decide to take on Sportstaches now, with the most recent series?
Peer pressure. People kept on asking me when the Mustaches Series would come out. I'm all about giving the people what they want, and the people wanted mustaches! It was really super fun to draw, so I was more than happy to comply. I think another popular one would be players with glasses. Maybe I should do a poll?