Promises, Part 4.2
In Part 4.1, I introduced Arthur Corwin and his ideas. If you haven’t read it yet, I hope you’ll start there.
But! If you can’t wait to get to the baseball part (and I know a couple of readers who fall into that category)—here we go.
Jim Markowich and Paul Kuhrman met at The Cooper Union School of Art in 1975. As explained on their website:
While there, we were both introduced to Arthur Corwin's fascinating and compelling theories of prehistoric time-keeping. Corwin taught sculpture, but it was his "Math in Art" course that was especially engaging, and through it we got to be familiar with the tarot in some depth.
The two roommates also shared an interest in tango (long story) and baseball. They don’t seem to have considered a tango Tarot, nor did anyone else until a very recent Kickstarter project: Tarot del Tango.
But in 1983, they came up with the idea of a baseball Tarot. When I wrote that date, I was amazed to realize this story began forty years ago! And we’ll see in a moment what happened to their project over four decades.
First, however, we need to focus on just how much effort they put into it. Jim writes:
We did small drawings. I worked them up larger, then stretched 78 canvases, each one 14" x 26". I mixed and applied a gesso that made the canvases look weathered, made eight different colored batches of acrylic paints and drew outlines on the canvases in dark brown Prismacolor. Since I was minimally employed that year, I spent a good part of the rest of 1983 painting the Tarot de Cooperstown.
The paintings spent a long time stored in crates before . . .
In 1999, a gallery in Seattle hung them all in an exhibit celebrating the then-new major league ballpark, Safeco field.
As you can see, the collaborators (who call themselves G&B Tango) chose baseball-themed suit tokens: Bats, Balls, Gloves, and Bases. The pips aren’t illustrated, but the court cards feature characters associated with specific aspects and events of the game. For example:
If you know a little about baseball, you’ll see that the game event associated with each queen fits the suit. For example—the Queen of Gloves represents a particular type of catch, the Queen of Bats a particular type of swing.
That’s important, because the deck is designed not only (or even primarily) for traditional divinatory purposes, but also to play a baseball card game. More about that in a moment.
But first, the rest of the origin story. Jim and Paul named the deck Tarot de Cooperstown in honor of (a) the Tarot de Marseilles and (b) the National Baseball Hall of Fame, which is located in Cooperstown, New York—the birthplace of Abner Doubleday, who (accurately or not) has long been thought of as the “inventor” of the game.
Other than the Seattle exhibition, the paintings remained in storage for many years, until the costs of producing a Tarot deck diminished from gazillions to not-that-much. In 2014, the Tarot of Cooperstown began to be transformed from an idea to a reality.
And here’s my favorite part of the whole story, as told by Jim:
Actually, the only time [the paintings] came out recently was the day I photographed them for making these decks. While I was there with the photoflood lamps and the camera on the tripod, the phone rang. It was Art Corwin—the first call I'd gotten from him in many years. Cue the eerie music.
Let’s close with a look at the Major Arcana:
Notice how these trumps combine the most iconic features of traditional Marseilles imagery with equally iconic depictions drawn from the world of baseball. And it’s all done with a touch of wry humor!
Among my personal favorites:
Here’s a detailed guide to the Tarot de Cooperstown game. And here’s a teaser:
More proof that if you introduce creative people to the concepts of Tarot—anything can happen . . .
New adventures, coming soon. C