Flashback Friday: "Gee, Thanks, Brooks!"
What better way to advertise baseball gloves and bats than to feature a charming painting of the 1970 World Series MVP interacting with a young fan? That's exactly what ATO, parent company of Rawlings and Adirondack baseball equipment, did in 1971 when it used a Norman Rockwell painting of Brooks Robinson in its print advertising.
Here's the text of the ad:
Champions know us.
And so do boys.
If they don't know us as A-T-O, they know us for sure as Rawlings and Adirondack. Because we make a big percentage of their gloves, bats, shoes, baseball and uniforms. In fact, we make a full line of quality equipment, for just about every sport played, tailored to the needs of everyone from beginner through seasoned pro. A-T-O is also known by more than twenty other names outside the sports world. Each name, from American LaFrance to Ward Hydraulics, is synonymous with excellence, "the finest in the field."
Some baseball fans will recognize "the finest in the field" phrase as the Rawlings trademark.
I tracked down the ATO advertisement after receiving a framed reproduction of the painting - sans text and signed by Brooks Robinson - as a Christmas gift this year. (Thanks, Dad!) Robinson purchased the painting for $200,000 at an auction in 1994. The price tag was $80,000 more than the career-high $120,000 Robinson received in his final year with the Orioles.
Robinson discussed what it was like to visit Rockwell's studio during a 2006 Associated Press interview.
"It was like going back in time for me to walk in there and see all these little objects and things you recognized from way back when he was putting out a cover every week on the Saturday Evening Post," Robinson said. "We talked about baseball a little, and we spent the whole day trying to get everything worked out and positioned just right, how he wanted it."
The Orioles great also mentioned in the article how Rockwell painted himself into the work as a fan in the background.