Not every fan is content to merely lament that his or her home park comes up short in the statue department, though. Dodgers fan Howard Cole, for example, has taken a much more proactive approach. Since 2003 Cole has been lobbying for the Dodgers to erect a statue of Sandy Koufax at Dodger Stadium. To date, the "Statue for Sandy" campaign has gathered more than a thousand e-signatures.
"I've been to San Diego and San Francisco," Cole said. "The Tony Gwynn statue at Petco is beautiful, and in a perfect spot, where you can visit before the game and see it from your seat during. The [Willie] Mays, [Willie] McCovey and [Juan] Marichal statues are nice, too, interesting in that they're blocks apart in placement. All of them capture the exact image you'd expect to see for the player, Marichal with the leg kick. When I saw these, and whenever I see [a statue] on TV, I think, 'We just have to do this for Sandy.' And it inspires me."
The son of Brooklyners, Cole was born in East Hollywood after his parents moved the family west. He was at Dodger Stadium for Koufax's perfect game in 1965 and Kirk Gibson's World Series walk-off homer in 1988. Today, he serves as managing editor for the website BaseballSavvy.com and as acting director of the Internet Baseball Writers Association of America.
"The Dodgers do a number of things with photographs, all very classy, and have the retired numbers around the pavilions," Cole said. "But there's an absolutely perfect spot in front of the executive offices where Sandy would be just incredible. There's even a slope in the concrete that would make for a natural mound to place him on."
According to the Dodgers' front office, the team is aware of Cole's campaign. And as part of the $500 million "Next 50" project to renovate Dodger Stadium and upgrade its grounds, the team will be doing much to celebrate its former stars. Plans are under way to create a Dodgers museum on the stadium grounds, but the details of its contents are still being worked out. Cole and other fans will have to stay tuned to find out if statues will be part of the design concept.
The statues of Major League Baseball
Milwaukee Brewers, Miller Park
Bud Selig (owner, unveiling this season)
Minnesota Twins, Target Field
New York Mets, Citi Field
New York Yankees, Yankee Stadium
Citizen's Bank Park
Connie Mack (owner, manager)
Pittsburgh Pirates, PNC Park
Cool Papa Bell (Negro Leagues star)
Oscar Charleston (Negro Leagues star)
Josh Gibson (Negro Leagues star)
Judy Johnson (Negro Leagues star)
Buck Leonard (Negro Leagues star)
Bill Mazeroski (unveiling this season)
Satchel Paige (Negro Leagues star)
Smokey Joe Williams (Negro Leagues)
Oakland Athletics, The Coliseum
San Diego Padres, Petco Park
San Francisco Giants, AT&T Park
St. Louis Cardinals, Busch Stadium
Cool Papa Bell (Negro Leagues star)
Stan Musial (there are two individual
statues of "The Man")
George Sisler (played for the St. Louis
Seattle Mariners, Safeco Field
Tampa Bay Rays, Tropicana Field
Ted Williams (located at the Ted Williams
Texas Rangers, Rangers Ballpark
Tom Vandergriff (politician who helped
bring Rangers to Arlington in 1972)
Toronto Blue Jays, Rogers Centre
Josh Gibson (Negro Leagues star)
Frank Howard (played for the Washington
Walter Johnson (played for the
Note: This list includes only statues of specific players, owners, managers, or team representatives. It does not include the statues/sculptures some ballparks include of anonymous/unidentifiable players or fans. It also omits statuettes and busts of players, such as the type that may be found in teams' trophy cases.
Of course not everyone has a soft spot for statues. Statues do little to enhance the appreciation for the game's history, according to Steve Wilde, a 59-year-old American League fan from Sandy, Utah, who roots for hard-luck teams.
Wilde went on a seven-ballpark tour with his two adult sons last summer, visiting such statue-friendly haunts as Busch Stadium, Wrigley Field, Miller Park and Kauffman Stadium. He returned from the trip satisfied with the many special memories he and his party had created, but also feeling that the statues added little to the pilgrimage's magic.
"Maybe it's just me, but statues -- even of 'Mr. Cub,' Stan 'The Man' and 'Almost .400' George Brett -- don't do much for me," Wilde said. "My baseball cards from the '50s and '60s are much more meaningful to me than cold statues, since I followed the players during those times and knew many of their stats. Even local NBA statues of John Stockton and Karl Malone elicit no emotions when I pass by them."
Accepting, then, that ballplayer bronzes are not for every fan -- just as they're not for every team -- but that they do tug at the heartstrings of most baseball buffs, we present the following roundup of the best big league stadiums for statue aficionados.
The best ballparks for statue gazing
With a statue collection that started from a larger-than-life rendering of Stan Musial many years ago, Busch Stadium now offers sculptures of 11 baseball icons. In addition to seeing the aforementioned Ozzie Smith rendering, visitors find Red Schoendienst leaping to turn a double play, Bob Gibson in an off-balance follow-through, Lou Brock peeking home as he takes off for second base and Enos Slaughter sliding across the plate as he did to score the winning run in the seventh game of the 1946 World Series. Nearby, Dizzy Dean rears back to throw, and Rogers Hornsby takes a big swing.
Three individuals who never played for the Redbirds, but were nonetheless fixtures in the Gateway City, are present here, too: beloved Cardinals broadcaster Jack Buck, St. Louis Browns star George Sisler and Cool Papa Bell, who played for the St. Louis Stars of baseball's Negro Leagues.
If you're wondering whether the Cardinals are the only team to honor a broadcaster, the answer is no. The Cubs commemorate the inimitable Harry Caray with a statue outside Wrigley Field (where an Ernie Banks bronze also stands and a Billy Williams piece will be unveiled this September). The Tigers do the same for Ernie Harwell at Comerica Park.
The Tigers' display, located beyond the outfield fence on the concourse, is nearly as impressive as the Cardinals' collection. Their statues represent Ty Cobb, Charlie Gehringer, Hank Greenberg, Willie Horton, Al Kaline and Hal Newhouser. Most arresting is the one of Cobb, which portrays the legendary hustler sliding into an imaginary base with his spikes aimed high.
A statue of Cobb, incidentally, also can be found outside Turner Field in Atlanta, where he again is depicted sliding, this time to avoid an anonymous fielder trying to tag him. The Georgia-born Cobb never played for the Braves, only the Tigers and Indians. But the "Georgia Peach" is just the same claimed by the Peachtree State as one of its own. Thus Cobb shall remain forever beside Phil Niekro, Warren Spahn and Hank Aaron, which, as far as after-life company goes, sounds pretty good.
A second statue of Aaron can be found outside Miller Park in Milwaukee, where Hammering Hank started and ended his career, playing for the Braves and Brewers respectively. He is joined by Robin Yount, with a Bud Selig piece slated to be unveiled later this season.
At PNC Park in Pittsburgh, the Pirates honor their franchise legends and the Steel City's many legendary Negro Leaguers. Just inside the left-field gate fans find Highmark Legacy Square, which showcases a bevy of former Pittsburgh Crawfords and Homestead Grays. These often-underappreciated heroes include the aforementioned Cool Papa Bell, Oscar Charleston, Josh Gibson, Judy Johnson, Buck Leonard, Satchel Paige and Smokey Joe Williams. Outside the park, Pirates heroes Roberto Clemente, Willie Stargell and Honus Wagner welcome fans, with a Bill Mazeroski likeness scheduled to arrive in September.
Another team with an extraordinarily rich history, the Reds, took a slightly different approach in conceiving and presenting its statues at Great American Ballpark. First, the Reds opted to memorialize only their Crosley Field era (1912 to 1970) with sculpture work. Second, they arranged the players on a mock infield located just outside the ballpark entrance. This delightful latter twist resulted in Crosley Terrace, where Joe Nuxhall pitches to catcher Ernie Lombardi, while Frank Robinson takes a swing in the right-handed batter's box and Ted Kluszewski waits on deck. Perhaps at some future date the Reds will create a similar display honoring the "Big Red Machine" Reds of the 1970s, with or without the banned-from-baseball Pete Rose.
At U.S. Cellular Field, the White Sox take a more inclusive approach, decorating the seating bowl's walk-around concourse with Chicago legends. Fans find renderings of Luis Aparicio, Harold Baines, owner Charles Comiskey, Carlton Fisk, Nellie Fox, Minnie Minoso and Billy Pierce. There also is a one-of-a-kind 2005 World Series Winners sculpture. The piece, which resides on the stadium's Champions Plaza, is unique in that it commemorates an entire team and does so with likenesses of still-active players, most of whom aren't the type fans would ordinarily consider statue worthy. Geoff Blum, a lifetime .250 hitter, for example, isn't of the same caliber as the typical player honored in bronze. Nor was his tenure with the White Sox long. Blum played just 31 regular-season games for the ChiSox. But he won Game 3 against the Astros with a 14th-inning home run and, with that, earned his place beside Joe Crede, Orlando Hernandez, Paul Konerko and Juan Uribe.
Josh Pahigian is the author of seven baseball books, including the recently released
"The Seventh Inning Stretch" and "101 Baseball Places to See Before You Strike Out." He
serves as an adjunct professor of English at the University of New England in Biddeford, Maine.