Beth DeJesus England has always had a passion for art. It has been something she has loved for as long as she can remember. Her talent for art recently yielded her national recognition when she won the Jerry Malloy Negro League Baseball Research Conference’s Art Contest with her painting of the outfield of the 1924-1927 Harrisburg Giants Negro League team. This year’s Jerry Malloy Negro League Conference will be held June 6-9 at the MLB Hall of Fame in Cooperstown, NY, where Beth’s winning original oil painting will be on display.
“This year’s professional winner, Beth DeJesus, produced a piece called ‘The Greatest Outfield of All-Time.’ The piece stood out for its focus on actual players who are portrayed with great strength and humanity. The viewer feels like they were there when these three friends posed together before a game. They are the focal point, but the field and houses behind them show a sense of community,” Dr. Leslie Heaphy told Webb Weekly.
“After researching old photos of the players, it was pointed out to me by Lou Hunsinger that the Harrisburg team played the first professional game at Bowman Field in 1926. I think the inclusion of the Bowman Field background added a great deal to the piece by including a historic local component to it,” Beth said.
According to Heaphy, who headed the committee that conducted the Malloy Art Contest, the contest began in 2010, with three categories each year — professional, amateur, and youth (16 and under). It is the only art competition focused solely on black baseball. Art is judged by various artists who volunteer their time to be involved. The art is highlighted on social media, the Society for American Baseball Research (SABR) website, and in various issues of Black Ball, a journal published by McFarland Publishing Company.
Heaphy added that it is exciting each year to see the entries — they are creative, thought-provoking, and educational. The youth entries are particularly exciting because they show what the young people are learning about black baseball.
Beth’s love of art and making things dates to her early childhood, but she became interested in plein air painting when she attended the Maryland Institute College of Art (MICA), studying under well-known artist Mark Karnes.
Karnes is quoted as saying, “My work is about my connection to my surroundings. The subjects of my pictures are things that are familiar and immediate to me.”
Beth can certainly relate in the same way to her paintings. She graduated from MICA with a bachelor’s degree in Drawing. Her work is about capturing a moment in time and preserving history.
Beth works full-time as a graphic designer for Gregory Welteroth Advertising. According to her, on the weekends, when the weather is nice, there’s nothing more exciting for her than packing up her car with oil paints, watercolors, and pochade box in tow, exploring the back roads and quaint townscapes of Lycoming County, Pennsylvania, and beyond.
It’s common to find Beth out and about at baseball games, concerts, and community events, documenting life with paint. In addition to her art, Beth plays fiddle locally in the string band, SHOOfly.
When Beth visited Portugal in the summers of 2022 and 2023, she traveled with her miniature watercolors and documented her trip and her family’s heritage with plein air watercolors.
Beth is the Marketing Director of the Bald Eagle Art League (BEAL) and serves on the Way’s Garden Art Show committee for BEAL.
The origin of “The Greatest Outfield” painting goes back almost two years.
In April 2022, the local chapter of the Society for American Baseball Research (SABR) had a meeting devoted to the topic of “The Art of Baseball.” Beth was invited to speak regarding baseball and art since she had done some plein air paintings while attending baseball games at Oriole Park at Camden Yards and Bowman Field with me.
Fast forward to February 2023, Beth had a show of paintings opening at the Genetti. I had invited Ted Knorr, a fellow Negro League historian who lives in Harrisburg, to speak the next day at our local SABR meeting on the topic of the Negro Leagues. I took Ted to Beth’s opening, and he was impressed with her work and wondered if he might be able to commission her to do a painting of the 1924-1927 Harrisburg Giants, consisting of “Fats” Jenkins, Oscar Charleston, and Rap Dixon. There are no photographs of the three standing together on a baseball field.
Ted asked Beth if he provided individual photos of each player and whether she could combine them into a painting of three players. Since the Harrisburg Giant played in the first professional game at Bowman Field in 1926, I suggested that she use it as a background of them standing at Bowman Field with the neighborhood in the background.
Ted and I provided Beth with the needed photographs, and by May, she had rendered a beautiful, finished painting. Later, Ted suggested that Beth enter the painting in the Malloy Conference Art Contest.
A little about this outfield that Beth painted.
“What outfield is the greatest in the history of the game of baseball? Among outfields during the segregated era, three from the traditional Major Leagues standout — each led by one of the initial three outfielders inducted into the National Baseball Hall of Fame — Ty Cobb and the Detroit Tigers 1913-1916; Babe Ruth and the New York Yankees 1925-1929; and Tris Speaker and the Boston Red Sox 1910-1915.
“These three are among the best of ten traditional Major League outfields intact for at least four years, including at least one Hall of Famer during the segregated era (1901-1946). There are also three Negro League outfields that also meet those criteria; one of those — Harrisburg Giants, 1924-1927 — is the subject of Beth DeJesus’s wonderful portrait,” stated Ted Knorr.
That outfield consisted of Clarence “Fats” Jenkins,” who interestingly enough is in the Basketball Hall of Fame as a member of the pioneering New York Renaissance or “Rens” team, centerfielder Oscar Charleston, who was inducted in the National Baseball Hall of Fame in 1976 and Herbert “Rap” Dixon, who many baseball historians, including Knorr, believe warrants a place in Cooperstown.
Prints of “The Greatest Outfield of All-Time” prints are available by emailing Beth at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Also, the next meeting of the local chapter of the Society for American Baseball Research will be held on Saturday, February 10, at 11 a.m. in the Lowery Room of the Children’s Wing of the James V. Brown Library. Crosscutters’ Vice President of Marketing, Gabe Sinicropi, will speak on “Collecting Baseball Cards.”