Showcasing the Artistry of Sports

| 17 Feb 2015 | 01:14

Art dealer Neil Scherer on his gallery of sports memorabilia in the style of an art show

Midtown East Neil Scherer grew up loving sports. He still remembers going to a football game with his father and watching the Washington Redskins beat the New York Giants 72-41, as well as countless Yankee Stadium visits. The attorney-turned-art dealer has now made a career out of his lifelong passion. At the Atrium at Citigroup Center on East 53rd Street, Scherer hosts an exhibition, showcasing a unique way of combining art and sports memorabilia.

Mostly focusing on baseball, each piece pays tribute to a team, a player or a moment stamped in sports history, from Los Angeles Dodgers pitcher Sandy Koufax pitching his record fourth no-hitter to the 1969 New York Mets winning their first World Series title.

Scherer generally collects the memorabilia through auctions and online. Each piece that he puts together takes approximately between nine months to a year. The price range is anywhere from $2,500 - $100.000 and each piece receives a letter of authentication from a reputable service.

Scherer says that the secret to his works of art is the way he presents the material.

"That's what makes it more than just a memorabilia display," Scherer said. "We try to tell stories through our presentation because baseball is all about stories."

Scherer points to a piece honoring the infamous 1951 "Shot heard 'round the world." In the game for the National League pennant, with bases loaded in the ninth inning, New York Giants [now San Francisco Giants] outfielder Bobby Thomson hit a grand slam against the Brooklyn Dodgers, sending his team to play the New York Yankees in the World Series. The piece features two programs that had been printed for the upcoming series, one featuring Yankees vs. Dodgers on the cover and the other featuring Yankees vs. Giants.

"Everyone thought that the Dodgers were going to be the ones playing the Yankees in the World Series, when it fact it ended up being the Giants," Scherer said. "So these two programs provide a great juxtaposition between what everyone thought would happen and what did happen."

Scherer first became interested in creating display pieces in 2004 when the New York Yankees faced their rivals, the Boston Red Sox, in the American League Champion Series to decide which team went on to the World Series. This was the infamous year that the Yankees won the first three games, leading everyone to believe the Yankees would sweep, only to leave America stunned as the Red Sox rebounded to win the remaining four games and their first World Series title in 86 years. Scherer was at the deciding seventh game.

"My best friend's father was a huge Red Sox fan," he said, "so I had the ticket stub framed and I sent it to him with a note that said, 'Congratulations Mr. Sullivan on the Red Sox victory. Enjoy it but remember it occurs once every 86 years.' And he'd bought artwork from me before?and he called me up and said, 'Gosh Neil, if my wife would let me, I'd take down the art and put this ticket in its place,'" he said.

"That's when I realized how important these memories were and I thought that I could do something even bigger and more unique." Visiting the gallery does not entail seeing just memorabilia. Interspersed throughout the gallery are paintings depicting sporting events. Scherer sees them as the transitional pieces between sports and art. Among the art and other tributes, however, perhaps the crown jewel of the exhibit is a piece dedicated to the 1927 Yankees, a team whose starting line-up was nicknamed "Murderer's Row" and is believed to be one of the greatest baseball teams of all time. It took Scherer about six years to put the piece together, the longest he's spent working on a display.

In the upper right corner, we see the autographs of two Yankee legends: Babe Ruth and Lou Gehrig. Scherer explained that through Ruth's large autograph, one can recognize his bold personality, while Gehrig's neat signature is indicative of his reserved nature.

Scherer's exhibit was only supposed to remain on the Upper East Side for a month; however, the exhibit recently received its fourth extension, meaning it will remain in New York through the holiday s. The extension also inspired the exhibit's name, "Extra Innings."

"We knew sports fans were going to love it but we didn't know that history people and art people were going to love it," Scherer said, "because it's more than just sports history. It's New York history and American history.

Part of what makes the exhibit special, according to Scherer, is the bonding that occurs when people visit the gallery.

"You could have two people with completely different ideologies and they would see a display piece and they realize there were both at that game and bond," Scherer said. "There just aren't things that bring people together like sports do."