Last week, the Pirates unveiled plans for their newest statue to be erected outside of PNC Park sometime next summer. As you can see from the picture to the right, it's an awesome depiction of one of the Pirates' most memorable moments: Bill Mazeroski's Series-clinching home run over the Yankees in Game 7 of the 1960 World Series. In the statue, Maz is seen rounding second-base with his arms spread wide in jubilation, exactly as it happened fifty years ago. It just might be the single best statue in Major League Baseball today.
But what would be its competition? Living in Milwaukee, I'm very familiar with the Robin Yount and Hank Aaron statues outside Miller Park. I've also had a good chance to see the Bob Feller statue in Cleveland, the Willie Mays statue in San Francisco, and a few others around the country. That's only a drop in the bucket, though. With 30 major league stadiums around the country, there are many, many statues that I've never had a chance to see - especially when you consider that, for the most part, teams can't seem to stop at erecting just one.
Using Flickr and a few ingenious searches (e.g., "comerica park statues" or "busch stadium statues"), I went on a little statuary expedition last night, trying to compile a list of statues found in the major leagues. Now, I make no promises that this list is comprehensive. I did my best to make sure that I didn't miss any statues at any given park, but, with the vagaries of people's tagging at Flickr and the sheer number of statues, I'm bound to have missed one or two or ten, or mis-classified those that I did find. If you happen to see any errors or omissions, please drop me a line in the comments. And if you can include a link to a picture of said statue, even better.
But what would a list like this be without a little personal taste thrown in? I've listed the thirty ballclubs and their roster of statues below, in order of my most favorite collection of statues to my least favorite (based solely on their pictures, of course). This is in no way scientific, so I can't say that the factors involved in each club's rank are perfectly consistent across the league. However, the factors did tend to focus on uniqueness, execution, and number (I tend not to like too many statues). I'll explain my choices as I list them. And if there's anything the internet has taught me, it's that most of you will disagree with me in some way. Which is fine. We're only talking about team statues, after all.
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Major League Baseball's Best Statues
- Pirates: Honus Wagner, Willie Stargell, Roberto Clemente, & a pair of Negro League statues. There's a lot to like about these statues. They're simple, elegant statues and aren't boring. Even the Stargell statue, with it's run-of-the-mill batting stance pose, looks great (it helps to have Stargell as your model). With the Mazeroski statue set to join these few, it's only going to get better.
- Tigers: Ty Cobb, Hal Newhouser, Charlie Gehringer, Hank Greenberg, Al Kaline, Willie Horton, Ernie Harwell. Normally, I'd say that the sheer number of statues here would be too much. But each one is so distinct from the others that it works really well. And the way that the statues are displayed in the stadium - looming above the retired numbers on the left-field wall - is perfect.
- Reds: Frank Robinson, Ted Kluszewski, Ernie Lombardi, Joe Nuxhall. The Reds rank so high here, not because of the individual statues, but because of how they're displayed. These four Crosley Field stars are shown in the middle of a game, with Robinson hitting off of Nuxhall and Kluszewski on-deck. It's a fantastic idea.
- Braves: Warren Spahn, Hank Aaron, Ty Cobb, Phil Niekro. I love the look of the Spahn and Cobb statues. Aaron's a little dull, but it's impossible not to show Hank in his trademark stance. Niekro looks a little weird, but I love how obvious they made his knuckleball.
- Nationals: Walter Johnson, Frank Howard, Josh Gibson. These statues were unveiled early last year and received some mixed reviews. The motion that the sculptors tried to capture is hard for some to grasp. Overall, I like the motion, but I can see it's problems. Otherwise, I might rank them a little higher.
- Giants: Willie Mays, Willie McCovey, Juan Marichal, Orlando Cepeda. Simple and clean. It's hard to go wrong when you have Mays and Marichal to work with.
- Royals: George Brett, Frank White, Dick Howser, the Kauffmans. Brett's statue is a little boring - the batting stance poses just don't do it for me, though I completely understand the rationale. They just look too much like each other. The White statue is great, and I love Howser standing on the dugout steps. The Kauffmans look friendly and approachable, which seems appropriate.
- Blue Jays: the Crowd. This one's a little different, but I like that.
- Astros: Jeff Bagwell, Craig Biggio. I'm actually surprised to see statues of Bagwell and Biggio already. It seems like teams usually wait (for a Hall of Fame vote, maybe) on something like that. I like the design, though, with Bagwell stretching to catch a double-play toss from Biggio. It works well.
- Phillies: Mike Schmidt, Steve Carlton, Robin Roberts, Richie Ashburn, Connie Mack (and The Batter and The Play at Second). I'm not sure how I like these statues. They all seem a little too simple and boring. I'm disappointed in the Schmidt pose, but only because I think someone as great as him should have a more unique design. I do like the Carlton statue.
- Cardinals: Stan Musial, w/Rogers Hornsby, Enos Slaughter, Red Schoendienst, Ozzie Smith, Lou Brock, Dizzy Dean, Bob Gibson, Jack Buck. I have a hard time understanding what's going on here. There just seem to be so many statues in a small place. Are they full size? Two-thirds scale? A few of the designs are poorly executed (Slaughter particularly), but there are enough great ones to get past that.
- White Sox: 2005 World Series winners, Minny Minoso, Carlton Fisk, Billy Pierce, Luis Aparicio & Nellie Fox, Harold Baines. The White Sox also seem to have a few too many statues. The Fisk piece looks great, though, and the Baines one captures him perfectly. I also like the pair of Aparicio and Fox.
- Red Sox: Ted Williams & the Jimmy Fund. A simple design that brings out the humanity of Williams, the Red Sox, and the kids really well.
- Angels: Gene Autry. Another simple piece that does a great job of depicting its subject.
- Yankees: Don Larsen, Yogi Berra. The monuments in Monument Park don't fit the scope of this post. Are these the only two statues in Yankee Stadium? It's a good design, with Larsen pitching to Yogi, but a little too simple.
- Cubs: Ernie Banks, Harry Caray. Sadly, the Banks statue is another boring batting stance post. The Harry Caray piece is interesting - I like the idea behind it, but I don't think it quite works. The disembodied heads don't look quite right.
- Rangers: Nolan Ryan. A good, simple design of a memorable moment.
- Indians: Bob Feller. This is a huge statue, and it has a nice, clean design. It is a little boring, though.
- Brewers: Robin Yount, Hank Aaron, Workers. Maybe I should rank these higher because of the Workers' monument? Both the Yount and Aaron pieces are fairly plain and boring. I see these a dozen times a year at least, and I want to be impressed more but I just can't. The Workers' Monument honors the three people who died in the construction of Miller Park, and fits really well with the blue-collared, pro-labor Milwaukee mentality. It's a nice touch.
- Padres: Tony Gwynn. Another vanilla batting pose. Though how else could you honor Tony Gwynn?
- Rockies: "The Player". Easily the best looking of the "generic" statues. I love the design.
- Orioles: Babe Ruth. A nice idea.
- Diamondbacks: A player and fans. I'm not particularly fond of this piece, but the sentiment is nice. Building the statue when the team was still in it's inaugural uniforms might not have been the best idea.
- Rays: Outfielder. I'm not even sure this can be considered a statue.
- Mariners: Children's Fund ballplayer. This is only so low because it's hard for me to consider it a statue in the same way the others are. It's nice, though, and serves a good purpose.
- Twins, A's, Mets, Marlins, Dodgers: To the best of my knowledge, none of these teams have statues.
There you have it. Every major league ballpark statue that I was able to find on Flickr, ranked by ballpark collection. Please let me know if I may have missed any. And if you have any disagreements with my rankings, I'd love to hear them.