Here’s a trend. Sports statues — particularly baseball statues. They’re popping up all over the place.
They recently dedicated a bronze statue of Harold Baines at U.S. Cellular Field in Chicago, joining the statues already there for Minnie Minoso, Nellie Fox, Carlton Fisk, Luis Aparicio and Black Sox owner Charles Comiskey. In September, the San Francisco Giants will unveil a bronze statue of Orlando Cepeda at one of the entrances to AT&T Park. That will make four sculptures at the ballpark, with Wllie Mays, Juan Marichal and Willie McCovey already honored with statues. Think they will ever erect a statue of Barry Bonds? Don Drysdale will get a statue in San Francisco before Bonds does. In April, the minor league team in York, Pa., dedicated a statue to Oriole great Brooks Robinson, who got his start in minor league ball in York and is part of the ownership group that operates the Atlantic League team there, the York Revolution.
Remarkably, though, in Washington, D.C. — the city of statues — as far as I know, there are no statues honoring sports figures in the District. That will change dramatically next year. Three statues of Washington baseball legends — Walter Johnson of the Senators past, Josh Gibson of the Negro League Homestead Grays who played at Griffith Stadium, and Frank Howard of the second Senators incarnation — will have statues outside Nationals Park, and those are scheduled to be unveiled next year.
I was thinking of those Washington baseball statues recently on a trip to Chestertown, Md., where they have a statue of their favorite son, former major leaguer Bill Nicholson. The slugger, born and raised in Chestertown (he died there in 1996) played from 1936 to 1953 for the Philadelphia Athletics, Chicago Cubs, the Washington Senators briefly (four months from 1938 to 1939) and the Philadelphia Phillies. He excelled during the World War II years, leading the National League in home runs and RBI in 1943 and 1944, and hit 235 home runs and drove in 948 runs over his 16 seasons. On the plaque with the statue, detailing some of Nicholson’s batting exploits, they misspelled Ebbets Field — “Ebbetts.” That doesn’t look good, and made me wonder if some college art student was doing the Washington baseball statues to save money.
Turns out some of the foremost sculpture teams in the country were awarded the contracts by the D.C. Arts Commission to do the Washington statues — the husband-wife team of Julie Rotblatt-Amrany and Omri Amrany out of Highland Park, Illinois. Their resume includes the Michael Jordan statue outside the United Center in Chicago, the Vince Lombardi statue at Lambeau Field, and the six Detroit Tigers Hall of Fame sculptures outside Comerica Park. Still, let’s hope they use a good proofreader.
The three District baseball statues will put baseball well ahead of any other sport in Washington in the statue count, because again, as far as I can determine, there are none — surprising, given the passion and popularity of the Redskins. There was a bust/plaque honoring the founder and owner of the franchise, George Preston Marshall, outside RFK Stadium. But no one really wanted it anymore. It was supposed to be moved to his hometown in West Virginia a few years ago, but that fell through.
It may be time, then, for a Redskins statue. Where would it go? Obviously, for now, outside FedEx Field. But if you believe the underlying buzz that sooner or later, a deal will be made for a new stadium back in the District, any such statue could be moved.
So who would be the Redskin bronzed? Sammy Baugh? Bobby Mitchell? Sonny Jurgensen? Art Monk? Let me know who your choice would be in the comments section here.
Note: I will be on The Sports Reporters on ESPN 980-AM today (Tuesday) from 5 to 7 p.m.