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Baseball past catches up with Greensburg artist

| Thursday, Sept. 20, 2012, 8:59 p.m.
Skateboarding dinosaur feet by Greensburg artist Brian McCall come out of the ceiling in the hygenist area of pediatric dentist Dr. Keith Gjebre.
The former facade of Tommy's Book Shelf in downtown Greensburg is back in artist Brian McCall's studio. He changed the lettering to My Book Shelf and is willing to sell the piece for $400.
Greensburg artist Brian McCall adjusts a dinosaur that's sitting on top of a Greensburg fire truck in his studio.
This life-like head on a stick is just one of many surreal sights in the studio of Greensburg artist Brian McCall.
The glove used by Brian McCall, when he made history with the White Sox, hangs from a nail in his Greensburg studio.
Greensburgh artist Brian McCall sits on his front porch in a chair of his creation. His Hilltop neighborhood home and studio is in the former Our Lady of Grace Catholic Church.

Greensburg artist Brian McCall lives in the moment, immersed in creating highly visible 3-D art.

But McCall's past as a major league baseball player is back in the spotlight, all because of two home runs against the Miami Marlins by 19-year-old Washington Nationals rookie Bryce Harper.

Harper became the third teenage centerfielder to post a multi-homer game. Ken Griffey Jr. was the second in 1989.

Harper's homers on Aug. 28 slammed McCall's forgotten MLB history into the present.

McCall was the very first teen centerfielder to hit two home runs — as a 19-year-old White Sox rookie in 1962.

“In company with Harper, Griffey — Brian McCall draws more than a blank,” according to the headline on an Aug. 30 story written by Washington Post sportswriter Dan Daly.

After the brief blip of notoriety, McCall, 69, is right back to living in the present.

“It was just one of those events that are good but you have to forget about it and move on,” said McCall during an interview at his home, the former Our Lady of Grace Church in Hilltop. He works in an art studio in the basement, scented with fumes from the last coat of varnish on a 40-pound paper mache train.

It will head to King Street Blues in Alexandria, Va., replacing the train McCall made for the restaurant two decades ago.

Another one of McCall's works, a 110-foot historical mural, can be viewed at the Hyatt Regency in Baltimore's Inner Harbor.

In 1973, McCall drew history as it was unfolding when he worked as a courtroom sketch artist during the Watergate hearings for WJLA-TV, an ABC affiliate in Washington, D.C.

Today, McCall's artwork can be seen in and around Greensburg.

“I save some money and try to commission something every year,” said owner Jill Urbani Sorrels of the Keynote Café in Jeannette. “And the cost is affordable … .”

First to appear was the façade depiction of musicians, regulars McCall had sketched. Then came the surfer girl catching a wave off the balcony, followed by a palm tree, a setting sun and then an alligator. The latest is a pumpkin head in the window.

“Brian captured the magic of the music inside,” Urbani Sorrels said.

Dr. Keith Gjebre, a pediatric dentist in Hempfield, has 10 of McCall's paper mache works erupting from the walls and ceiling in one area of his office.

Other McCall works, outside the office, can be seen from Pellis Road.

“We have quite an animated office, inside and out,” Gjebre said. “We're very happy with Brian's work. We've added a number over the years.”

McCall has made his mark on Route 30 East before Westmoreland Mall, where big colorful paint tubes with open, squirting caps pull the eye to the Greensburg Art Center.

DV8 Expresso Bar and Gallery on Pennsylvania Avenue in Greensburg sports a distinctively creative sign from McCall. Robokyo off East Pittsburgh Street and Oliver's Pourhouse on Pennsylvania both have works by McCall.

His website shows wallpaper, paintings and claymation he has created.

McCall, who still sketches, has drawn all the musicians who have appeared in the SummerSounds concerts in Greensburg.

“It's all about the process,” he said.

McCall remembers when his wife, Joanna Moyar, first caught his attention, back when they both worked at the Torpedo Factory in Alexandria, Va. She worked for its historical society as an educator. McCall worked in the art studio.

“I did an animated video and she was the only one laughing,” said McCall, originally from Long Beach, Calif. “She got it. No one else got it.”

Moyar is education coordinator for the Westmoreland County Historical Society. They are the parents of two daughters.

Rose Domenick is a freelance writer