To use a sports analogy, guys like Bill Scovill, Clemens Kalischer and Louis Lamone blocked so that Norman Rockwell could carry the ball.

When former Boston Red Sox pitcher Frank Sullivan and former Pittsfield resident Sherman "Scottie" Safford met recently in Boston at Fenway Park, it was the first time the two remaining living members from Rockwell's painting "The Rookie" had ever seen each other.

Since posing for the painting in the fall of 1956, you're saying? No, I'm saying first time ever.

The event was the last public viewing of the work prior to Thursday's auction of the original that is scheduled for Christie's in New York City. The Rockwell original sold Thursday for $22.5 million.

So, why did Sullivan and Safford never meet almost 58 years ago? That's the beauty of Rockwell, who worked often from black-and-white photographs taken through the years by a stable of photographers highlighted by the trio of men previously mentioned.

Sullivan, his two Red Sox teammates, Jackie Jensen and Sammy White, posed before Rockwell on a different day than Safford. It was Rockwell's practice to attach the photos to his easel and proceed from there. There were other times when the subjects from Rockwell's brush were simply composites of more than one model striking the same pose.

Anne White, of Pittsfield, grew up in Lenox and was the oldest of Lamone's three daughters. She and her siblings were subjects in may of Rockwell's Saturday Evening Post covers.

"We were never nervous around him," White said. "He was part of our lives for about 25 years before he died. He was a genius with his use of light and demanded a precise skill from his photographers.

"My father worked at General Electric during the week and helped Norman on the weekends," she said. "He was a self-taught photographer who was able to hone that precise skill that Norman needed."

Lamone started as a studio do-everything kind of guy. He set up the shop, recruited models and did just about anything and everything to ease Rockwell's agenda.

"The two had a lot of respect for each other," White said. "They fit well together. The studio was like a working factory."

It is her father, in fact, who is the anonymous shirtless player shown in the upper left-hand corner of the "The Rookie."

Recalled Safford about his first visit: "Scovill was in the studio that day taking the black and whites and Lamone was also there helping out. The pose showing him in the painting is similar to what he was doing that day in the studio. He was holding a piece of Masonite up near the window to help shield the room from sunlight."

White said that the family in total may have appeared in a dozen or so Saturday Evening Post covers. A cultural divide, she said jokingly, may have limited that number.

"We were an Italian family," she said. "We had that dark Mediterranean skin. We didn't always fit Norman's idea of what the all-American kid should look like, you know, with freckles and such."

White said that Rockwell's magazine cover "Golden Rule" was a good example of that. Her sister, Cecelia, is bottom center in the illustration.

"She was a brunette," White said. "Norman changed her hair color to red."

Brian Sullivan is an Eagle columnist and former sport editor.