Major player in the PBS golden years and landscape painter extraordinaire? Freunde to all who would have him via the tele-waves? Creator of happy little trees, happy little clouds?
Or, Major League Baseball player, pitcher for the Washington Senators in 1950, ’51, and the Philadelphia Phillies in ’56? Purveyor, it seems, of sad little fastballs, sad little curves, plenty many walks, sad few strikeouts?
Though Bob Ross, MLB pitcher, might have tried to paint the corners, he didn’t do so to great effect. Bob Ross, playboy painter? No problem painting corners to the best effects, as a recent MLB meme suggests.
Bob Ross, pitcher, spent a lot of time in the minor leagues , toiling to get back to the Majors, where he rarely had a lick of success — this game from 1951 and this one from 1956 (which occurred five years to the day after the first) being the dullish bright spots of his career. He served two years in the Korean War — his age 23 and 24 seasons — perhaps losing development time, perhaps losing competitive edge. Perhaps he began to long for peace, then.
Perhaps Bob Ross, pitcher, when he finally hung up the spikes, when decided to let his shoulder rest — perhaps grew his hair out, grew a beard, pulled out the oil paints his grandmother had left him. Began to paint over the ugliness, the sad little times.
Perhaps Bob Ross, failed Major League pitcher and Bob Ross, beloved PBS painter are one and the same.
Bob Ross, painter, though he found great success doing something he loved, would struggle with lymphoma and succumb to it at a relatively early age early age. But if we believe that that he is the same Bob Ross that signed with the Brooklyn Dodgers in 1945, then both men are redeemed in some way. Bob Ross, painter, would have lived a longer life. And though he would have suffered and toiled more earlier in his life, the peace that he found in painting would have been more profound. Bob Ross, pitcher, though he would be dead now, would have finally found private and public success, touched more lives.
At NotGraphs, we all have the power to believe what we want.