Tuesday, July 29, 2014

As hen's teeth

Dave Beronio's sketch of first baseman
Willie McCovey — you just know it's 1972.
What light and life a deft pencil can make
Now and then in this blog, I plead for help with my unfulfilled fascinations.

"Anyone know who created this logo?" I might ask, or, "Whatever happened to so-and-so?" "If you know anything, please tell me."

My pleas might as well be messages in bottles — too small, too random — but I chuck them hopefully past the breakers anyway.

Because sometimes — you never know! — something comes back.

A big something came back recently. A doozy. A four-bagger.

"I happened by your blog from February ’13 noting about my Dad’s sketching of the SF Giants yearbook for 1972," wrote Barry Beronio. "Thanks for the kind words."

Barry's dad, Dave Beronio, is why I've hung onto the program from the first San Francisco Giants game I attended, in 1972. Beronio's pencil-on-coquille-board illustrations of the Giants stars and prospects still enthrall me. The dollar it cost for the program was one of the best ever spent on me.
"Should you stumble upon this blog and know about Dave Beronio and his work," I pleaded in that post, "I'd love to learn more, the man and his process. His body of work seems so far to have eluded the magnet of the Internet."
Giants Manager Charlie Fox; the name fit.
The "Best in the West" logo refers to the Giants
having won the division the year before.
They weren't so good in a strike-shortened '72.
Really, apart from his illustrations I included in that post, Dave Beronio's work does not appear readily on the Web. With my small contribution I hope to end that dearth.

Barry emailed me last month.

First, the sad news: Barry said his dad passed away late in 2013. Dave Beronio was 92. Here's the tribute in the Vallejo Times Herald, where he spent most of his journalism career.

In ill health, Dave Beronio had been living his last months just blocks from my home, close to two of his three sons, including Barry, who works in Sacramento for the California Lottery.

Except for flying 35 B-17 missions out of England during World War II as a radioman-gunner, and working briefly in Hollywood on behalf of GIs after the war, it was the only time Dave Beronio didn't make his beloved Vallejo home.

He was raised there, and became a professional boxer — "Dynamite Dave" — before becoming a sports journalist. Judging by the photo accompanying his tribute, the first I'd seen of him, Dave Beronio was probably a featherweight.

Dave worked 33 years at the Times Herald and briefly at another Vallejo newspaper, contributing to the Vacaville Reporter too.

Catcher Dick Dietz.
Dave Beronio captured his
fun-loving nature.
"He was pretty much self-taught with his sketching from an early age," Barry wrote me, "sketching for his high school paper (and) the Vallejo Times Herald, where he was the sports editor and included his sketches in with his columns about local and national athletes."

Self-taught! I don't know whether to hope or despair. I imagine Max Mercy in "The Natural," drawing sports figures for his columns. That's old school!

His reportage and sketchbooks put him front and center in the 20th Century sports world — not just the Giants but the San Francisco 49ers, not just Joe Dimaggio but Bob Mathias and Arnold Schwarzenegger.

"My brothers and I didn’t inherit that talent to draw, maybe because we were always doing something else," Barry told me.  "He gave me an enviable childhood going to all of the pro games in the Bay Area over the years. It was quite a fun time and I’m glad I got to go along for the ride."

I thank Barry for the brief chance to ride shotgun.


  1. Hey, Shawn. Wow, I can see why you love that program. That guy nailed McCovey, muttonchops and all. He was as affable in conversation as he was menacing at the plate. He and Stargell were horrifying. (Stargell, by the way, is one of only three guys to hit a ball completely out of Dodger Stadium. He's the only one who's done it twice. A bit surprising that McCovey never did.) Watching those Dodgers-Giants telecasts from Candlestick as a kid was a treat. I remember one game in April 1974: 50-cent bleacher-seat night, cold as hell, wind whipping, so much that Bill Buckner flipped up the bill of his cap in a vain attempt to keep it from blowing off. The score was lopsided, and Charlie Hough was mopping up with Steve Yeager behind the plate. He's haplessly trying to corral Hough's knucklers, which the wind is pushing wildly. The stands behind home plate are miked, hardly anybody is there. So some gravel-voice Giants fan has the floor for viewers on KTTV-11. He's mercilessly razzing Yeager: "Aw, Yeager, you can't catch worth a shit!" I'm 11 years old hearing "shit" on TV. The funniest part (in retrospect) was Jerry Dogget's sheepish response: "I guess that guy's never tried to catch a knuckleball." Blog-on, brother! Brian

  2. thanks for that great memory, brian, sharp and expansive. though i remember seeing many games on tv, i doubt i could have named the channel; at least i remember the broadcasters, one of whom is till going (can you believe it?!). my dad and i went to a dodgers-padres game (some kind of good-grades program the la times was sponsoring). they gave us seats so high in the stadium, so far away from the rest of the crowd, that we couldn't see much and became more interested in a fire being fought across chavez ravine.