Rare Red Sox Painting Could Fetch $30 Million at Auction

A Norman Rockwell original will be available to the (very wealthy) public in May.

There’s another new change in the Red Sox lineup this May, but don’t expect to see it on the field—it will only be happening on the auction block.

An iconic painting by Norman Rockwell that depicts the Red Sox locker room, and slugger Ted Williams, titled “The Rookie,” is expected to fetch upwards of $20 to $30 million when it goes up for sale in May through the auctioneering service Christie’s, in New York.

The work, which has never been offered at auction before, was originally painted in 1957 and was featured on the cover of the Saturday Evening Post. For the last three decades, “The Rookie,” (it’s also known as the “Red Sox Locker Room”) has been part of a privately owned collection.

While Boston has had its turn with the painting—it was on display on two different occasions at the Museum of Fine Arts, once in 2005 and again in 2008, not long after the Red Sox won the World Series—it’s time for the stroke-brush portrait to find a new home that may not involve the public eye.

The timing of the announcement by Christie’s about the sale is fitting: the Red Sox have just started the 2014 season and wrapped up their spring training in Florida. As is depicted in the painting, there’re palm trees in the background of the artwork. Curators said the painting is meant to depict the start of spring training as the team prepared for a new year. “An awkward newcomer is juxtaposed with the confident stances of the seasoned players, making the rookie’s anxiety all the more apparent and endearing,” according to the painting’s description.

The painting features Williams, pitcher Frank Sullivan, right fielder Jackie Jensen, catcher Sammy White. Each player besides Williams came to Rockwell’s house in Massachusetts in 1956 to pose for the portrait, after some haggling between the artists at the team’s management. To capture Williams’ persona, Rockwell had to rely on baseball card images.

According to art curators, Williams had some other things on his mind when the image was commissioned for the Evening Post. “’The Greatest Hitter Who Ever Lived’ was commanding more attention at the time, on the eve of his retirement from baseball.”

Rockwell has deep roots in Massachusetts. Not only is his love for the city apparent in images like “The Rookie,” but he lived in the Bay State for much of his life. There’s a museum in Stockbridge, dedicated to the artist, which is home to the world’s largest collection of original Rockwell art.