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September 2021 Newsletter

Recruiting during the COVID-19 pandemic

Artifact of the Month

In Memoriam

Robert Hurst, the official artist of the National College Baseball Hall of Fame, poses in his studio with the paintings for the 2013 inductees. Hurst relied on photos of the inductees as well as conversations with them to develop the ideas for the paintings. (Photo courtesy Robert Hurst, A Damn Fine Artist)

Robert Hurst, the official artist of the National College Baseball Hall of Fame, died on May 15. Hurst, who also served as the official artist of the Texas Sports Hall of Fame, recently was honored with a permanent display in the Texas Sports Hall of Fame, according to a Facebook post on his professional page — Robert Hurst – A Damn Fine Artist.

His widow, Pam Utsler, wrote that “Robert would be so jazzed and humbled by this incredible honor. (The phrases over-the-moon and blown-away come to mind.)”

As the official artist of the National College Baseball Hall of Fame, Hurst commemorated the induction of 11 classes of inductees (2006-16), creating both the official portraits that will hang in the Hall of Fame facility, but also prints that are available for purchase through his website,, with a portion of sales benefitting the Hall of Fame.

The following is a feature story written on Hurst for the 2014 Night of Champions yearbook.
By Kassidy Ketron

Robert Hurst was legally blind until he was in the fifth grade.

This is the reason he said he pays close attention to detail in his paintings.

“I remember drawing things like antelope and deer (when I was younger), but I would just copy them out of a book,” the official painter for the National College Baseball Hall of Fame said. “I would also take the little class portraits of my friends and draw them bigger so I could tell what my friends looked like.”

Hurst, who attended a private school until fifth grade, maintained As and Bs in classes because his teachers would accommodate his needs, but when he transferred to a public school he quickly became an F student.

After that, his parents took him to an optometrist to correct the problem, but he did not move forward with his painting career until about 1989.

“(My wife) felt that I wasn’t making enough money at my job and that I really should try to pursue art,” Hurst said, “and so we started doing shows. Then I hooked up with Earl Campbell, the football player, who had just retired from the New Orleans Saints.

“He was best known as the running back for the University of Texas and the Houston Oilers back in the ’70s and he asked me to do a painting for him and that led to a print, which I sold and we split the proceeds. After about a year he renegotiated the contract to where I got 100 percent. He just signed it over to me and says, ‘Here, go with it. It’s yours,’ and that’s what began my sports art career.”

In 1997, Hurst began working with the Texas Sports Hall of Fame, and when the National College Baseball Hall of Fame was preparing to induct its first class in 2006, a board member suggested contacting Hurst about doing its portraits.

“Well, we just contacted him and told him what we were doing and asked him if he would be interested in doing the paintings and he was very interested in it,” Randy Robbins, National College Baseball Hall of Fame board chairman, said. “Since then it’s been a good partnership.”

Hurst’s paintings, he said, stand out not only with the backgrounds Hurst uses, but how personal he is able to make them for each inductee.

Robbins said he has never come across anyone who did not like one of Hurst’s paintings.

“I have not had one inductee that has said anything negative about their painting,” he said. “They have just loved them — all of them. They just thought they’ve all been fabulous. Family members that come just think they’re just amazing portraits.”

Although Hurst said he has painted portraits of celebrities such as Muhammad Ali and Willie Nelson, he has not been necessarily star struck by any of them because he realizes people are people.

Instead of the fame of the subject, he said his favorite piece of work is based on the level of accuracy.

“There have been a few I’ve done, I guess, over the years that I’ve really felt strongly about,” Hurst said. “I think the one that I did of Norm Cash, who’s a native Texan, and who was inducted into the Texas Sports Hall of Fame a few years ago, I think is one of the best paintings I’ve ever done. Just technically, to me, it’s as close to perfection as I’ve gotten.”

Mike Gustafson, College Baseball Hall of Fame president and CEO, said there is one portrait in particular that Hurst did, which sticks out in his memory the most.

Hurst, he said, honored a request by one of the College Baseball Hall of Fame’s first inductees, which could have been surprising for some people.

“Dave Winfield, in college, both pitched and hit, but in the major leagues — he was a National Baseball Hall of Famer — Dave Winfield was an outfielder in pro ball,” Gustafson said. “So if you didn’t really know the college story that he pitched, you wouldn’t get it. Well, Dave Winfield told Robert Hurst, ‘Hey, I want my College Baseball Hall of Fame painting to be of me as a pitcher, not a hitter.’

“So just a little extra touch not to just draw straight from the pictures, but to actually get the word from the inductee. I think that he’s done a good job with that sort of thing to really make sure that he’s personalizing the way those guys want to be depicted.”

Hurst said it is very important to get the details in a portrait correct not only for himself, but for those in the paintings.

In fact, he said he made a mistake in a former NFL star’s portrait, which the athlete refused to sign.

“I got Tony Dorsett’s shoes wrong once because I actually worked off a picture of an entirely different football player,” Hurst said, “but I thought that the running style was similar to him and so I used this other photograph as a reference. Made it Tony Dorsett and then when he saw the painting, I asked him to sign it and he goes, ‘I’m not going to sign that, you got the wrong shoes on me.’ ‘Oh, that’s right’ (I said).

“He was Converse and I had put Adidas on him. So I changed his shoes as promised and he was happy and said ‘OK, then I’ll sign it.’”

Hurst has not only worked for organizations such as the Texas Sports Hall of Fame and the National College Baseball Hall of Fame, but also the Texas Heritage Songwriters Hall of Fame, the College Football Hall of Fame and Rodeo Austin.

He donates his artwork to about 30 different children’s charities, which have helped to raise more than $150,000 in the past few years.

“I don’t have any kids,” Hurst said, “but kids are what makes the world go ‘round. So it’s really one of the proudest things I feel I do, help raise money for so many charities.”

On top of all the organizations he works with, he also finds time to manage a business of his own, A Damn Fine Artist.

Hurst said the name came from speaking with a man he met at the Rangers Ballpark in Arlington, Texas, who saw his work and told Hurst he was “a damn fine artist.”

“I thought it was funny,” he said. “It kind of flowed. It had a sense of humor to it and it worked. A lot of people remember it. They may get it a little wrong, most of them say, ‘You’re a damn good artist,’ when they’re trying to remember, A Damn Fine Artist, but that’s all right. They get the gist of it. I think more people know me by that name, A Damn Fine Artist, than they do my real name.”

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