Model in $20 million Rockwell painting got $60

Norman Rockwell’s The Rookie sold this morning for $20 million, NPR reports.

That’s a pretty good mark-up from the $600,000 it sold for in the ’80s. Even better when you think that it appeared on the cover of a magazine that sold for 15 cents, NPR’s Bill Chappell notes.

One of the great things about living in the Berkshires, was meeting the real people who were models for Rockwell. They were usually from Stockbridge or Lee.

But this picture is a little different because the two main characters in it never met each other until this month.

Sherm Safford, now 75, is the rookie in the picture above. He posed for several photographs that Rockwell used in painting his work. He worked off photographs. Boston Red Sox pitcher Frank Sullivan, and players Jackie Jensen and Sammy White, also posted for the photograph, but not at the same time.

According to the Berkshire Eagle

“He was very detailed,” added Safford, who on a Saturday morning drove his 1941 Chevrolet car to Stockbridge for a rendezvous with destiny. “I’ll never forget that car. I bought it at South Street Chevrolet.”

Rockwell, meanwhile, had given the Saffords their marching orders. He was adamant on the phone that Safford show up at the studio with a five-fingered glove, a bat and an old suitcase. He borrowed the glove from classmate Francis “Frank” Murphy, while his mother borrowed an old and tattered suitcase.

The bat? Safford had his own and it was one made of ash that he had crafted in wood shop in an elective course at Pittsfield High School.

“The teacher had been able to get the wood from an ash tree he knew that had been cut down,” Safford said. “And, I still have that bat.”

And there was one final and important instruction. Said Rockwell, firmly: “Don’t cut his hair.”

The mop, said Safford, was a little bit shaggy. “It’s what he must have wanted,” added Safford.

For his work on the painting that just fetched $20 million, Safford got $60.

Safford and Sullivan met this month at Fenway Park for the first time.

Two of the men who posed for artist Norman Rockwell while he painted “The Rookie,” Frank Sullivan, right, the player with 8 on his back in the painting and Sherman Safford, the rookie holding the suitcase, talk while standing near the painting at Fenway Park Monday, May 5, 2014 in Boston. (AP Photo/Stephan Savoia)
  • Jim G

    As billionaires’ wealth continues to grow exponentially, the price of everything the 1% covets grows at the same rate. Is my math correct? I calculate a price increase of 3,233.33% since the 80’s.

    • tboom

      Roughly a 12.4 percent annual return on investment.

      $600,000 returning 12.4 percent compounded annually for 30 years grows to $20,005,093.59 – IF the financial calculator I used is accurate.