Shirley Mullin Rhodes would sometimes accompany her father to work.
As the daughter of the country’s leading sports cartoonist, that took her to heavyweight boxing bouts in Yankee Stadium, tennis matches at the U.S. Open as well as baseball games in the Ebbets Field and the Polo Grounds.
“I was never a big sports fan, but I always loved being around my father,” said Rhodes, a Sun City West resident.
Willard Mullin became synonymous with sports cartoons in the 1950s and 1960s.
At a time when photography still struggled to capture the game’s defining moments, sports cartoons became a staple at major newspapers.
Mullin penned a sports cartoon six days a week in the New York World-Telegram and also was featured in other publications, including the Sporting News and Time magazine.
Mullin worked at the center of the sport universe during his time in New York, which featured three major-league baseball teams, the NFL’s Giants and numerous big-time boxing matches and horse races.
He often sat next to sports writing legend Red Smith in the press box at major events.
“Red said he used to love sitting next to my father,” Rhodes recalled. “My father would take some notes, then at some point of the game, stand up, tell Red he’d got it, and head back to the office.”
Mullin created many memorable drawings.
However, his most famous was the “Brooklyn Bum,” the scraggly, cigar-chewing oaf who came to personify the Brooklyn Dodgers.
“A lot of people thought my father was a Dodgers’ fan because of that,” Rhodes said. “In reality, he’d always been a Giants’ fan.”
Many of her father’s drawings as well as tributes to him from other artists hang in her Sun City West home. Rhodes keeps others in numerous scrapbooks.
One of those tributes came from famed cartoonist Charles Schulz, who mentioned Mullin in one of his Peanuts strips.
“That actually ran in newspapers,” Rhodes said as she gave a tour of her home. “My father loved working in New York and he made a lot of great friends because of his work.
“He’d walk into (famous restaurant) Toots Shor’s and everyone knew him.”
Mullin, who died in 1978, often incorporated his family into his drawings, for work and pleasure.
Rhodes received numerous hand-drawn birthday cards or holiday greetings from her father.
On another occasion, Mullin used his grandson, Ted, as the inspiration for a drawing of the New York Mets mascot.
“My son thought it was just great,” the 80-year-old Rhodes said. “He was featured with (Manager) Casey Stengel.”
While Rhodes shared her passion for art with her father, she wasn’t blessed with his talent.
“All three of my kids are artistic, but I equate my father to one of the great masters,” she said. “He had a little-boy twinkle and a joy for life.
“He loved what he did.”