Sunday, May 16, 2010

A Great and Glorious Game, Part I

As I mentioned earlier, I recently painted a graduation present for my sister and her fiance. It's basically my pride and joy. I put so much into it, and I really hope it shows!

The idea to make a Red Sox-Yankees chess set started last year when I visited my sister while she was in Boston for a clinical affiliation. Julia mentioned that she was looking for a chess set, but that she had only seen a Sox one once. A few months later, I looked it up and found this:

It appears to be the only Sox-Yankees chess set widely available, and it usually runs around $30-$50, depending on where you buy it. But with all due respect to the game's creator, it wasn't exactly my style (and it certainly wasn't Julia's). So I decided to make my own. It couldn't be that hard, right?

Wrong. Mostly, at least. I was quite limited budget-wise, but I had a bucket full of paint and a clear picture in my head. I had a few rules in mind:
1. The chess pieces had to look like traditional chess pieces.
2. I would only use retired numbers as the "characters". Babe Ruth would not be involved, and the pawns would not have numbers.
3. The cost of the whole project must not come anywhere close to the cost of the premade chess set.
4. Everything had to be completely TOP SECRET. All Julia and Dave could know is that I was painting them a joint graduation present. This part was tricky because practically everyone else in my life knew every detail.

Alright, it was time to start the planning. Picking the retired Red Sox numbers was easy, since I'm a Sox fan myself and knew the history pretty well. Even picking the queen was easy: Jean Yawkey, owner of the team for nearly 20 years and the only woman in the Red Sox hall of fame. Oh yea, the fact that the Red Sox have their own hall of fame also helped a little bit. Anyway, you should read about Jean; she's pretty cool.

Picking the Yankees players, on the other hand was more challenging. First, they have a billion retired numbers. Second, I don't know as much about Yankees history. I made a list of the big names and did a little research, but I definitely needed some guidance. Who could I ask? Well, the most dependable Yankees fan I know is Dave, and that clearly wasn't going to work. I turned to someone who hates the Yankees, but loves history, baseball and the history of baseball: my dad. He gave me some guidance (rearranged the players I had already picked), and talked out the queen issue with me. We determined that the only women we ever associated with the Yankees were Marilyn Monroe and Lola from Damn Yankees. Not knowing how Yankees fans felt about Marilyn, we opted for Lola. I also thought it would be a nice tribute to the fact that despite my feelings about the baseball team, I LOVE New York City, especially the theatre.

I found a chess/checkers/backgammon set at WalMart for $3, and decided I would use those pieces. I painted the off white ones white, then added the Boston logo to the front of each one. Then came the tricky part. I don't know what the heck I was on when I decided that I could fit "Yastrzemski" on the back of a chess piece. I quickly shortened his name to "Yaz" and made him the bishop, the narrowest piece. All photos mine:

The Red Sox logo on the front

The back of the Sox side

Learning from my experiences, I moved on to the Yankees side. I painted the dark brown pieces navy blue. Again, I started off with delusions of grandeur: I thought I could manage to put pinstripes on these tiny pieces! About halfway through the Sox side, I knew that was out of the question. Then it occurred to me: one of my biggest issues with the purchase-able Sox-Yankees game was that it didn't have a clear white side and a clear black side. With white pieces and navy pieces, I could continue my theme of a nontraditional traditional chess set.

The front of the Yankees side

And the jerseys. Finally!

The pieces were done. It was time to move on to the issue of the board. To be continued!


  1. The devil tail on the "L" for Lola is an ingenious touch. Love this!

  2. You, my friend, are brilliant and incredibly crafty! What a lovely idea and execution!