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Norman’s Rockwell’s ‘lost’ baseball painting sells for $1.6 million

A ‘lost’ Norman Rockwell painting that was discovered hanging on a family’s wall in Austin, Texas has fetched a staggering seven-figure sum at auction.

The work, entitled ‘Tough Call’, was painted by Rockwell back in 1949 as a study for a Saturday Evening Post cover.

It depicts three baseball umpires preparing to cancel a game between the Brooklyn Dodgers and the Pittsburgh Pirates, as rain begins to fall over Ebbet’s Field.

The image is perhaps Rockwell’s most famous baseball painting, and the original is displayed at the Baseball Hall of Fame in Cooperstown.

Rockwell gifted the smaller version to one of the men in the painting, John ‘Beans’ Reardon, a renowned baseball umpire who spent more than 20 years in the National Leagues and officiated at five World Series championships.

The painting, which featured Rockwell’s inscription “My best wishes to ‘Beans’ Reardon, the greatest umpire ever lived”, then passed down through Reardon’s family following his death in 1984.

His descendents believed the work to be nothing more than a signed print, until a recent examination revealed it was in fact a previously unrecorded – and highly valuable – original painting.

The amazed family then placed the painting up for sale with Heritage Auctions, with an estimated value of around $300,000.

However, during a sale of sports memorabilia in Dallas on August 19, the work sparked a frantic bidding war, and soared to a final price of $1.6 million.

“The Rockwell discovery is a wonderful story and the auction price exceeded all expectations,” added Chris Ivy, director of Sports Auctions at Heritage.

“It is remarkable to still discover such an important Norman Rockwell original artwork after so many years. The art community and sports fans all over the world owe thanks to Beans Reardon’s family for preserving this piece of Americana for future generations despite not quite understanding what they had.”

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