The man who turned Giolito's no-hitter into art 

Scorecards worthy of hanging in an art gallery

August 31st, 2020
Collage by Tom Forget / MLB.com, photos and scorecard courtesy Carl Skanberg

Every fan watched with bated breath when Lucas Giolito stared in to get the signs from James McCann. Here it was -- in a year marked with sadness and strife -- a moment of glory just one out away. Giolito threw, the Pirates’ Erik González hit a liner to right field … and Adam Engel made a running catch. It was a no-hitter, the first of 2020, and a crowning achievement for the White Sox ace.

As the players celebrated on the field and fans partied at home, it was time for Carl Skanberg to get to work.

Skanberg is a lifelong White Sox fan who has a long history of covering the team's exploits through his comics work. After losing his job right before the pandemic hit, the veteran cartoonist decided to devote his summer to his favorite team full-time: creating custom sketchbook scorecards for each White Sox game with a fun, nostalgia-tinged cover and full game comic to go along with the play-by-play.

Giolito’s masterful moment was precisely what he was hoping for.

“I definitely spent more time on the drawing when I was done, knowing that people are gonna like it,” Skanberg told MLB.com.

While Giolito was locked in that night, Skanberg was watching as he usually does. He paused during bedtime to read a chapter of Roald Dahl’s “The BFG” to his son -- one of four children -- but once he recognized what was happening, bedtime was postponed.

“I made him stay up and watch it because we knew it was a big moment,” Skanberg said. “My family knows I'm working hard on these things to create this art every game.”

That’s part of the excitement in the challenge Skanberg gave himself this year -- making art every night when you have no idea what the outcome is going to be. Sure, he could sit down and sketch famous moments from White Sox history, but that’s boring, routine. You know all the moments and can pick them out from memory.

“Part of the allure of these scorecards is they're in real-time, and the next morning you're gonna get up and see the game you saw the night before,” Skanberg said. “I really want to try to represent what it felt like to sit there for nine innings and three hours.

“A couple people have asked me, ‘Can you go back and draw the Mark Buehrle perfect game for me?’ I said, ‘Well, I dunno, hopefully something happens this year where you look back and say, Oh, I wish I had a sketch of that.’ And now we have it for sure.”

It’s a project he’s been building up to for years. After the White Sox won the World Series in 2005, Skanberg followed the team with a comic strip called Palehose 6, casting the club as a band of pirates (not the Pirates), with Ozzie Guillen as their intrepid captain. The next year, they went to outer space. The strip then riffed on “Don Quixote,” with Skanberg inserting himself into the narrative as a cartooning Sancho Panza.

Eventually, that led the self-described “scoring enthusiast” to create a new kind of scorecard. Tired of how limiting traditional scorebooks were, and wanting more room to share his thoughts and reactions to the game -- along with what food he consumed while watching from the stands -- Skanberg started bringing his sketchbook to the ballpark.

“If it's raining, you can draw it, or really show the crowds in a drawing or anything that strikes you as you're watching the game,” Skanberg said. “You can really describe it and so, years later, you look back and see what happened versus looking at a scorecard. It's tough to see the movements on the field and the scene without a drawing to flesh it out.”

He enjoys the daily challenge -- which can take between seven-to-eight hours to complete when counting the time spent watching the game. There’s the painted cover, where he is trying to create “cool, eye-catching, simple nostalgic cover art,” which ranges from cartoonish mascots to personal scenes featuring the ballyard that he bikes to with his daughter near home, to the scorecard inside and the finished comic.

“The scorecard is another thing that I love as well,” Skanberg said. “It's all statistics and the left brain of a baseball fan. And then the sketch is almost like a third piece of art. It shows the game is a full kind of ballet, shows all the motions, shows how all the statistics and movements come together.”

“If I was only doing the covers or a poster for every game, I'd probably get bored,” Skanberg said with a laugh.

Skanberg is hopeful that the rest of the White Sox season will provide plenty of exciting action to draw -- "every game feels like an event," Skanberg said of the team that is currently battling for first place in the AL Central. One day, he’d like to create a line of scorecard sketchbooks so people can create their own baseball comics. The project has also revealed that there are alternate ways to follow the sport.

While his family has been supportive, none of them are dyed in the wool baseball fans watching every pitch, either. They don’t dream of being a pro player one day, and they don’t mimic batting stances the way Skanberg did as a child.

“But they think it’s cool to fill out scorecards, they can appreciate the beauty without playing the game at a young age. So it's a pretty good example of how you can follow a game without being a super athlete," Skanberg said. “There’s different ways to be a fan.”