Andy Nelson died this week. His funeral is set for Saturday — fittingly, at Midway Stadium, home of the St. Paul Saints.
Especially for lovers of the Saints, Nelson, 52, was a beloved figure. I never met Andy but always admired his artwork, which I’d see frequently when my son played his high school and American Legion baseball at Midway Stadium.
Allow me to bow to Saints’ public relations director Sean Aronson and the sweet note he sent to MinnPost this morning.
“To many he was known as a man with incredible artistic talent. Others knew him as a man with a vision. But to everyone that came in contact with Andy Nelson they knew him as a man with a warm smile, always willing to help and, most importantly, a friend. Nelson passed away Sunday night, at the age of 52, from an apparent heart attack.
“In 1993, the first season of the Saints, Nelson, a St. Paul native, walked through the doors of Midway Stadium looking to help the club. He wanted to liven up the park with a few simple strokes of a paint brush. He left his mark on the ballpark with work all around Midway Stadium, including many murals that capture the essence of the Saints as well as the Twin Cities area. Longtime fans, ushers, vendors and employees often gather in front of the ballpark mural just inside the main gates, pointing out Nelson’s rendition of them seated in the ballpark during the team’s early years.
” ‘Andy Nelson was our muse,’ said Saints President Mike Veeck. ‘From the beginning he set the tone for what the Saints would be. My fondest memory is Andy painting the long mural outside the gate and fans wanting to be included. Of course he included them, because that was his nature. Fans were ecstatic to come back during the following homestands and see themselves immortalized in that mural.
“For years, Nelson’s artwork has been featured by the Saints on the cover of game programs, ticket guides, pocket schedules and print advertisements.
“Nelson’s talents helped bring to life areas of the ballpark that are often overlooked by fans. Nelson so impressed Saints President Mike Veeck that he was soon asked to help with the look and feel of other teams in the Goldklang Group. In Fort Myers, FL, he created themes for each of the four restrooms at Hammond Stadium, home of the Miracle and spring training home of the Twins. In Charleston, S.C., he themed the suites and concessions stands. His work is also on display at the homes of the Sioux Falls (S. Dak.) Canaries, Brockton (Mass.), Rox and Hudson Valley (N.Y.) Renegades. He often spent weeks at a time in each place to help each team get ready for their season.”
Services will be held at 1 p.m. Midway Stadium Saturday, followed by a reception to take place in front of the 1993 mural Nelson painted. “Those attending,” Aronson noted, “are asked to wear their favorite baseball cap.”