Opie Otterstad in the Chicago Sun Times
Brush With Greatness
Roman Mdrowski
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Opie Otterstad was in the visitors' clubhouse at Minute Maid Park in Houston the day Michael Barrett slugged A.J. Pierzynski in the jaw. After a replay flashed across a television monitor, Otterstad's buddy Kevin Millwood, who pitches for the Texas Rangers, said, ''It's about time somebody popped that son of a [gun] in the chops.'' The anecdote has nothing to do with why the Sunday Drive is featuring Otterstad this week, except that it speaks to Otterstad's life on the fringe of the sports world. He isn't an athlete, but his artistry in portraying athletes has earned him
  Opie Otterstad Painting Chicago White Sox Celebration

critical acclaim. Otterstad was named sports artist of the year by the American Sport Art Museum of Archives. Major League Baseball has commissioned Otterstad to paint a World Series commemorative piece every year for the last five, then sells prints to the public. Otterstad visited the world champs at U.S. Cellular Field on June 10 and presented them with a print of ``White Sox Victory.'' ''How I work is I get an idea from either watching a game or experiencing it live,'' Otterstad said. ''And then I get an idea of how to show it and frame it. I find images and Photoshop them. The White Sox piece is about 400 different images all cut and pasted together in Photoshop. I do whatever I need to do to match the image in my head. For instance, in the Sox piece, [A.J.] Pierzynski's hand is my hand, and [Mark] Buehrle's hand is my hand.'' Otterstad, 36, lives in Austin, Texas. His work is hanging in six major-league clubhouses and front offices and in the MLB offices. SAMMY AND ME

'Lance Johnson was a patron of mine,'' Otterstad said. ''He said, 'Sammy is going to break the record, and we have to do something.' So I was working on a piece for Lance, and he wanted to commission one for Sammy, too. The only stipulation was that Lance had to be in the background. He's over Sammy's right shoulder.''


The original is for sale for $37,000 at the Great Frame Up in Oak Lawn. Canvas and paper prints also are available, although they're not exact replicas of the original. A canvas print is hanging in the White Sox' front offices. Otterstad included an image of the ''Eight Men Out'' from Black Sox infamy, but Major League Baseball didn't want that image on the prints it sold. So Otterstad moved an image of Jerry Reinsdorf hugging Ozzie Guillen into its place to satisfy MLB.


Otterstad lined up the eight Sox players -- Lefty Williams (from left), Chick Gandil, Joe Jackson, Swede Risberg, Buck Weaver, Fred McMullin, Happy Felsch and Eddie Cicotte -- who were accused of being on the take during the 1919 ''Black Sox'' World Series. He kept their relative heights accurate to represent the opening musical notes to ''Take Me Out to the Ball Game.'' The word ''Take'' is repeated to play off being on the take.


This is a painting of Michael Jordan mounted inside a 1993 RCA television. The set has six buttons, one for each championship Jordan won with the Bulls. Otterstad demolished the back of the television, then inserted the painting.


''I think I've done seven paintings of Jordan, and they've all been commissioned by private patrons,'' Otterstad said. ''And those seven are spread all over the country. I don't think any of them were commissioned by someone in Chicago."

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