"I didn't know who the hell he was," Frank says. "We were told by the Red Sox to take our uniforms and go. Jesus, it was a whole long way. There was no freeway in those days, three hours there and three hours back—and he served iced tea for lunch!"
Then Rockwell ushered them into his spartan studio, where a facsimile of the Red Sox's spring training locker room in Sarasota, Fla., had been created. There were makeshift lockers with handwritten nameplates and a rudimentary bench constructed by Rockwell's studio assistant, Louie Lamone. The artist littered the floor with matchbooks, crumpled paper cups and dirty towels. He filled the lockers with liniment bottles and towels and baseball gloves. Frank hung his aloha shirt and his sport jacket on a hook and put on his uniform and posed for an hour. Rockwell told the players where and how to sit, where and how to look. Then his photographer, Bill Scoville, began shooting.
"He just kept telling us to keep looking up," Frank says. At what? He wasn't sure. Rockwell didn't explain the composition he envisioned or the assignment from The Saturday Evening Post, which had commissioned the painting for its cover. "He was a little meek, pipe-smoking guy, very polite," Frank says. "He wanted me to sit there with my arm on Jensen's shoulder," affecting locker room intimacy. Rockwell stationed White on the bench to Sully's right and a bare-chested studio assistant behind him. Rockwell called the assistant John J. Anonymous, a stand-in for all the forgettables who managed a line in The Baseball Encyclopedia.
Then he told Frank to stand at Williams's locker and pretend he was the Splendid Splinter. Rockwell would put Ted's head on Frank's body later.
Ledgers at the Norman Rockwell Museum in Stockbridge show that a check for $100 was issued to each of the players. "I never saw mine," says Frank, who should have gotten paid twice.
A few weeks later, on Oct. 20, Mickey Mantle's 25th birthday, a high school senior from Pittsfield, Mass., arrived at Rockwell's studio to fill out the composition. Sherman Safford, who actually preferred basketball to baseball, had been recruited to pose for Rockwell as the Rookie in his eponymous painting. "Picked me out of a chow line," Safford recalls a half century later.
He was a tall, gangly, California-raised boy. He had an open, expectant face that was full of promise, the look Rockwell was searching for. He called Safford's mother with a list of instructions about what her boy was to bring and to wear. He was to show up with a five-fingered fielder's glove, which he didn't own, and a bat. "He didn't want me to wear Levis," Sherm says. "He said, 'See if you can get a seersucker coat.' And he said, 'I want a straw suitcase.' My mother found one somewhere. I think it was a picnic basket."
And, Rockwell told Mrs. Safford, "for God's sake don't let him cut that hair."
"I always got it cut once a month," Sherm says. "By the end of the month it got pretty shucky." That was the hayseed look Rockwell was after.
Safford arrived in brown penny loafers, chinos that were too short to cover his white wool socks, and a jacket whose sleeves didn't reach his wrists. Rockwell plunked his own fedora on Sherm's head. "He said, 'Here's what I want. Smile just as broadly as you can. Extend your hand. You're here to be the savior of the team. You're going to take them to the World Series. And you're just as proud as you can be.'"