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New York Cartoonist, Pop Culture Artist, Musician and Writer Andy Friedman presents Spotlight70 with Topps

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Topps/Andy Friedman
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Andy Friedman's Spotlight70 collection is a partnership with Topps

Cartoonist, pop culture artist, writer and sports fan Andy Friedman of Brooklyn has teamed with Topps to put out Spotlight70, a collection of 70 watercolor images of some of the best baseball players of the 1970's and 1980's.

Friedman's work, in its various forms, has been published by the New York Times, Rolling Stone, GQ, Vanity Fair, Ebony, The New York Times Magazine and The New Yorker.

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Doug Doyle/Zoom
Cartoonist, writer, musician and sports fan Andy Friedman joins SportsJam with Doug Doyle via Zoom from his Brooklyn home

During this edition of SportsJam with Doug Doyle, the multi-talented Friedman talked about the genesis of the collection of baseball stars which includes Doug's all-time favorite player Manny Sanguillen of the Pittsburgh Pirates.

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Andy Friedman/Topps
Spotlight70 includes former Pirates catcher Manny Sanguillen

Friedman says he was diagnosed with carpal tunnel syndrome in his mid 30's and that condition nearly ended his career. Eventually, he would revert back to drawing images of baseball players to reinvent himself.

"Privately, I started doing the scariest artistic thing I could imagine which is drawing without a pencil, without a plan, without precision, just picking up a pen and ink and just going, improvising. Now that may seem easy, but when you're an OCD perfectionist who has a perspective of himself of it's do or die, it's perfect or it's terrible, that's a really difficult thing. What you're really doing is you're showing your true self. That was scary enough. I thought if my hand never recovered, I'm going to essentially find the strength in this new-found weakness, what was I going to draw? I went back to childhood. I've been drawing baseball cards my whole life. Why? They're beautiful even if you don't like baseball or don't know who the players are, you can't deny the contribution of Topps in the field of graphic design and portrait photography and the marriage of the two. These things belong in the Metropolitan Museum of Art and they are. But for me, they bring up safe, warm, happy childhood memories."

Friedman explains why he skipped the more recognizable players of that era.

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Andy Friedman
Bucky Dent is part of Andy Friedman's Spotlight70 collection

"As a likeness artist who has already had art directors looking over your shoulder, I didn't want to hear anybody say well that doesn't look like Dave Winfield because that wasn't the point. So drawing the players who faces maybe less recognizable took certain pressures off of me to just fall into it. I looked at the cards themselves as landscapes."

In 2020, Friedman got an opportunity to interview his favorite player for The New Yorker. The article included several sketches and images of the Hall of Famer who led the Philadelphia Phillies to a World Series championship.

"The whole thing was so surreal."

Friedman remembers organizing Schmidt's baseball cards in his childhood bedroom.

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Andy Friedman
Andy Friedman's drawing of his favorite player Mike Schmidt

"What a nice guy. We just got lost in a real human conversation. Which is what got me into Mike Schmidt to begin with. I was the kid that struck out every at-bat. I had no confidence. I was 12 years old when I started Little League, shaking at the knees, my helmet was too big. I just had no confidence at all. We'd get the Phillies games in the Poconos in the summertime. What drew me to Schmidt? I wasn't much of a baseball fan heading into that summer. He kind of reminded me of my dad. He was so poised and made it look so easy. I kind of thought I wanna try that. Like I just kind of gave up trying so hard. Once I did that, it unlocked my ability to just sort of be and let the spiritual side of athleticism come forward."

For a short time, Friedman did become a good hitter, but eventually he realized riding the bench wasn't what he wanted to do. He fell into softball, a sport he still loves to play.

Friedman has done many humorous and thought-provoking caricatures for The New York since 1999. He says he always had the ability to draw. Kids and teachers in kindergarten and nursery school would gather around him when he started to create a scene with Mickey Mouse and others.

"I really viewed it as kind of super power."

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Andy Friedman, The New Yorker
A caricature from Andy Friedman in The New Yorker in 2012

Recently, he contributed more than twenty pieces for the magazine's web site, ranging from celebrity interviews and visual music reviews to travelogue and humor.

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Andy Friedman
The multi-talented Andy Friedman of Brooklyn

As a songwriter and musician, Friedman's three critically acclaimed studio albums of original songs have garnered him a reputation as a “gifted storyteller” (The New Yorker), “a hot live act” (NPR), and an artist “not to be overlooked" (AP).

What is the key to good storytelling in music?

"Honesty. The ability to relay mystical truths that maybe you don't even know you possess. And letting go of the outcome or how it might be appreciated. Everyone is free to come up with their own meaning when they experience a piece of art."

Friedman says he enjoys singing "Idaho" from his Weary Things album in 2009 because he says he means it every time he performs it.

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Andy Friedman
Andy Friedman's 2009 album

You can find Spotlight70 at www.topps.com. You can see the entire interview with Andy Friedman at https://fb.watch/6NdH4AsnRU/.

Doug Doyle has been News Director at WBGO since 1998 and has taken his department to new heights in coverage and recognition. Doug and his staff have received more than 200 awards from organizations like PRNDI, AP, New York Association of Black Journalists, Garden State Association of Black Journalists and the New Jersey Society of Professional Journalists.