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Commentary: A Cigar-Chomping Skipper

7 Mar 2012

“Wait until you see the painting of Tom Kelly!” declares the tour guide with a proud smile. We walk down the suite-level corridor at Target Field, home of the Minnesota Twins, and suddenly find ourselves staring at a giant painting of former Twins manager Tom Kelly chomping on a cigar. “This is his official portrait,” says the guide.

Kelly is having his number retired this year. After leading the team to two World Series titles and then sticking around to work in the Twins front office and occasionally moonlight as the color commentator on Twins TV broadcasts, it’s fitting that the franchise would retire #10. After all, he’s exalted in Minnesota baseball, the most successful manager in Twins history, and the only one to lead the Twinkies to a World Series title, which he did not once but twice.

So if one were to visit the suite level of Target Field, you’d see a wall covered with paintings of all the Twins managers. It’s sort of like a baseball hall of presidents, where a portrait of each skipper hangs in chronological order and stretches the length of a hallway. Painted by Max Mason, who used photos selected by Twins management, each painting depicts a Twins manager either in action, or posing for the shot. But none of them—and I mean none of them—stand out like the painting of Tom Kelly. The image of this cigar-chomping, prescription sunglass-clad skipper is already a classic.

“He was a big cigar guy,” says Joe Pohlad, marketing specialist for the Minnesota Twins. Kelly no longer smokes, but back in the day he used to stomp around the field with a cigar dangling from his lips and could sometimes be seen puffing on a stogie during batting practice. “We have some great photographs of TK,” says Pohlad. “This was a very iconic picture, where he has very stern look on his face. Ready to get it done.”

But it’s the cigar that makes this painting great. The Target Field tour guide says Tom Kelly himself chose the photo that would become the iconic painting. When pressed for the story, Pohlad confirmed that Tom Kelly did choose the image, and to the delight of the Twins front office. Says Pohlad: “If he didn’t pick it, we definitely would have picked it.”

Max Mason, the artist, is happy with how the painting turned out. Commissioned to paint portraits of all 13 Twins managers, Mason just completed a panoramic painting of Target Field that the Twins also purchased. View more of his fantastic work at his website.

Mark M

photo credit: Max Mason

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