Wednesday, February 29, 2012

Lou Grant, Sentinel Cartoonist

On May 25, 1944, the Milwaukee Sentinel ran this cartoon, showing a generic Brewer hitting the jackpot:

Nearly seven decades later, this one needs a little bit of explaining for context.

Two days before, the Brewers were in Toledo to face the Mud Hens. Casey Stengel's troops unloaded for 28 runs, setting a new American Association record.

The "Kerwin" mentioned was Milwaukee County District Attorney James J. Kerwin, who had declared a high-profile war on gambling (particularly slot machines and bingo) the year before.

That's a lot to wrap up into a single panel.

The cartoonist, Lou Grant, has a great story all his own. A native of Los Angeles, he joined the Sentinel as a sports cartoonist in 1944, after a three-year hitch in the Army.

Grant was soon known for his whimsical figures, seen here on this page-width illustration from April 25, 1945, marking the Brewers' home opener:


Here we see his impression of outfielder Hal Peck's career. Peck, known as Bill Veeck's "good luck charm", had already served one stint in the majors with the Brooklyn Dodgers and was being shopped around.

Of course, Grant covered more than just baseball. This was his impression of the horse races at Wisconsin State Fair Park:

And his take on the start of football season, collegiate and pro:

Grant's stay in Milwaukee was brief; he left in 1946 to join the writing staff of the "Duffy's Tavern" radio show. He returned to newspapers in 1954 as an editorial cartoonist for the Oakland Tribune, and gained national syndication in 1959.

Grant's influence spread beyond the national press. According to the Los Angeles Times, the writers of "The Mary Tyler Moore Show" named their grumpy journalist/news director, played by Ed Asner, after the cartoonist.

Lou Grant the character would later be spun off into his own eponymous newspaper-set show, and the cartoonist's name would remain famous, in syndication, long after his death in 2001.

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