Rising, Elmer (2017)
Elmer Austin Rising was born in Rockland, Maine in 1906. His mother Laura (Kalloch) and his father Harry were lifetime Mainers. As a sophomore at Rockland High School Elmer first demonstrated his incredible baseball talent. In the first game he pitched for Rockland, the season opener against Vinalhaven, he struck out 22, winning the game 4 to 2. He went on to set the Maine high school pitching record by striking out 26 in one game. Then, three days later, he pitched a no hit, no run game. He averaged two strikeouts per inning in high school. In 1923, at the age of 17, and a senior in high school, he received a letter from Clark C. Griffith, President of the Washington Senators, offering him the opportunity to come to Washington and “help you develop into a big league pitcher”. Due to his age his parents wouldn’t let Elmer go to Washington. If he had accepted that offer, he would have been on the Senators team that won the World Series in 1924 against the New York Giants behind the great pitching of Walter Johnson. Instead, Elmer attended Higgins Classical Institute and then Hebron Academy in order to prepare academically for a baseball scholarship to Dartmouth College.
In the meantime, he pitched for the professional team, the Easterns of Brewer. In his first game with the Easterns, against Boston University, he struck out 12 and won 6 to 5. He went on to win many games for the Easterns. One special win was on “Rising Day”, against his hometown team, the Rockland Texacos. The game drew a crowd of over 3000. At the end of the game he was presented a gold watch for his baseball achievements as a Rockland native. Along with ace pitcher Danny MacFayden (MBHOF ’71) they led Hebron Academy to an undefeated 1926 season and the State Baseball Crown. He went on to pitch numerous no hit, no run games. One day, while walking across campus at Hebron, he slipped on the ice, severely damaging his left shoulder and ending his baseball career. At Hebron, he had hoped to attend Brown University on a baseball scholarship. But, following his injury, he instead pursued his artistic talent, attending art school in Boston.
Upon completion of his studies, he accepted a position at Harvard University’s Peabody Museum. His first assignment was to illustrate Up from the Ape, a book by world-renowned anthropologist Dr. Ernest Hooton. He went on to spend 42 years at Harvard as a Technical Illustrator. During his career at Harvard, one of his responsibilities was to create and continuously update the enormous official Harvard University Map, which was on public display in Harvard Square. He retired from Harvard in 1972. Following the death of his wife Betty and retirement, he began devoting himself to his artwork, with detailed pen and ink renderings of scenes of his beloved state of Maine.
Due to total color-blindness, he worked strictly in pen and ink and one art reviewer called him the “Black and White Andrew Wyeth”. His works were shown in many art exhibits, including one-man shows at the Farnsworth Museum in Rockland, Maine and the Addison Gallery of American Art at Phillips Academy. His originals are in the museum collections of Harvard University, Bowdoin College, Bates College, Hebron Academy, the Portland Museum of Art, the Monhegan Museum of Art, the Rockport Art Association, among others. Many of his art works can be seen in the book The Pen Renderings of Elmer Rising: New England in Black and White, FER Publishing, 1985.
He died in 1987 at the age of 81. Thanks to his mother Laura’s scrapbook, in which she saved numerous news clippings, we are able to appreciate the tremendous baseball career of Elmer Rising. Despite the injury that ended his baseball career Elmer’s family never heard him talk about what could have been.