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How this man became immortalized in a $22.5M Norman Rockwell painting

Sherman Safford spoke about posing for the iconic painting

Mass. high-schooler brought Norman Rockwell's "Rookie" to life

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Mass. high-schooler brought Norman Rockwell's "Rookie" to life

Mass. high-schooler brought Norman Rockwell's "Rookie" to life
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$1M Norman Rockwell Painting Stolen from Storage Unit

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You probably wouldn't recognize him if you passed him on the street, but Sherman Safford is a work of art. As an 18-year-old, he modeled for one of the most famous paintings of the 20th century — "The Rookie" by Norman Rockwell.

Safford, now considerably older than he was when he posed for the painting in 1957, spoke with Lee Cowan of CBS News about working with the iconic American painter and how he happened to be chosen.

The painting features a collection of veteran Boston Red Sox players hanging out in their locker room as a rookie with a naive smile approaches. Safford played the gangly greenhorn and told CBS News that he was recruited for the painting while standing in line at his high school cafeteria.

Safford said he spotted a pipe-smoking Rockwell sitting at a nearby table.

"I knew he had to be somebody; nobody smoked in that building," Safford joked.

Rockwell ending up paying Safford $120 to pose for the painting, which wound up on the cover of a 1957 edition of the Saturday Evening Post. The original painting was recently auctioned for $22.5 million.

When asked why he thinks Rockwell chose him, Safford said, "I think he saw a raw-boned kid, a young kid, who was athletic, skinny. The hair is what grabbed his attention right off the bat." Rockwell ended up putting a hat on Safford because his hair was so wild.

While Safford never played in the big leagues, the other men in the painting were all Red Sox players, including the great Ted Williams (standing with his hat low over his eyes) and pitcher Frank Sullivan (sitting, wearing No. 8).

Last year, another Rockwell painting, "Saying Grace," sold for over $46 million.

Follow Mike Krumboltz on Twitter (@mikekrumboltz)

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