In her own words: Jennie Shipman

An exclusive interview with the animator responsible for creating the 7th inning scoreboard animations at Busch Stadium II.

An animation cel created by Jennie Shipman for the animations at Busch II. (St. Louis Cardinals Hall of Fame and Museum).

As the Cardinals celebrate #WomenInBaseballWeek, get to know Jennie Shipman:

“My heart has filled with joy remembering my days as Scoreboard animator.

When I was in my early twenties, I moved back to St. Louis in 1983. After apprenticing with several animation artists, I was invited to attend a Cardinal’s baseball game. During the game, I watched the scoreboard and within a few days, I had an appointment with the man who ran the stadium, Jack Croghan. I enthusiastically and maybe even over confidently bee bopped into his office and convinced him that I could figure out how to get those boards to be way more fun!

It was only days from that moment when I found myself in the scoreboard cockpit (Ernie Hayes’ organ in a room right off to the side). I worked there with Jim Hartmann, the Busch Stadium computer technician, as we came up with a way to combine the limited computer technology at the time with old fashioned vinyl animation. Our goal was to create a whole new way of getting those gigantic “lite brite’s” to express the excitement of the game for the fans. What we came up with was magical. In an instant during games, there were so many animations Jim could play at a second’s notice.

Until those beautiful scoreboards were modernized into live stream monitors and filled with music video and live feed, I spent each spring, sometimes watching the snow fall into the stadium with Jim capturing images and loading and programing new player animations when the roster became official. Sometimes we worked with nicknames they already had like Jack “Clark The Ripper” and Jose Oquendo “Secret Weapon” or make up new ones like “In-Vince-Ible!” for Vince Coleman. We would get together during the season animating generic baseball plays, preparing special animations if we made it to playoffs and also making celebration animations to play the second we might win the National League or World Series.

I’ll never forget two especially fun ones….A Cardinal whisking a broom at a Cub running away for when we’d have a sweep and a Cardinal popping champagne bubbles with the Mets logo for when we beat them for National League Champions.”

The Technical Process: After receiving the list of players, advertisers, etc. I would come up with ideas and then draw with ink onto vinyl pages that then would be painted on the back. Taking those to the stadium we set up a camera and would capture each image and make them run together to “move” just like any animation. Sometimes we would spend hours going through each frame making sure the right light bulbs were on to create the shapes. We would work on the timing of them because many were only a few seconds that ran on a loop.

The Thrill of Working the Games: For years, I had a press pass and was fortunate enough to sit with all the celebrity press and reporters in the box next to the scoreboard station. I cartooned scorecards for the games and was frequently signing and giving them to people like Jack Buck, whose booth was right next to where I sat. It is sheer delight remembering how I’d look at the stands when an animation played and see parents pointing to the scoreboards and children smiling and clapping. I felt like my artwork was part of the game in a unique way that gave joy no matter what the circumstance was on the field...but mostly in grand celebration of something!

Giveaway Animations: Marty Hendon was the most incredibly wonderful Cardinal promoter. I loved knowing him. For years, I was asked to illustrate giveaways for the games like beach towels and lunch boxes. That was so exciting...especially seeing those items still being used and carried around today. Once Marty asked me to make a giant Fredbird Driver’s License so he could be presented with it and drive around the field in a new car. It was a blast to be behind the scenes during those wonderful days. Soon I was making calendars, creating coloring pages for the Kid’s Corner and painting limited number animation art and greeting cards that were sold in the Hall of Fame gift store.

The Baseball Players: The thrill of sharing the halls with famous baseball players was indescribable. Being in Busch Stadium at that time in my life was like working in a castle and seeing hero knights. But, the ones I ever met were the nicest, most down to earth guys. Once I was running through a doorway to get somewhere and the swinging door banged into someone. Time stood still and everyone gasped. I had just bumped the door onto Bob Forsche’s arm on a game day. Thankfully it turned out to be no big deal, but I will always remember feeling like a klutzy idiot.

The Best Memory: The Hall of Fame Museum has an example of my most favorite scoreboard animation ever. Why, because when I was asked to animate Take Me Out To The Ballgame for the color board, I was able to express my feelings of baseball as a family sport and show a mother and daughter Cardinal as well as the well know redbirds. Watching the stands full of people singing along to that for years is my happiest memory. That was my ultimate personal woman’s touch to my experience working for the St. Louis Baseball Cardinals.

Nora Farrell is the Multimedia Content Coordinator for the St. Louis Cardinals.