Hondo in bronze

Of all of the ways baseball in Washington has gone off the rails since its return, perhaps none sadder has been the manner in which Nationals’ management has failed to embrace the history of both their franchise, and that of baseball in the city at large. That there is scant if any evidence that this team was once the Montreal Expos is an utter atrocity, but ownership’s failure to showcase Washington Senators’ history, such as it is, is pretty bad too. Thankfully, at least the latter is starting to be adressed:

Big Frank Howard gazed at the even bigger sculpture of himself in the center field plaza at Nationals Park and whistled softly.

“Beautiful, just great,” the former Capital Clouter said softly. “I feel like I just got my college degree today.”

Howard, who stood 6-foot-7 and weighed nearly 300 pounds when he was bashing home runs for the Senators in the late 1960s and early 1970s, hasn’t had to look up at many things during a 50-year career in baseball. In this case, however, he had no choice. Omri Amrany, who operates a fine arts studio outside Chicago with his wife, Julie Rotblatt-Amrany, has sculpted dozens of sports figures over several decades. His white bronze statue of Howard looms 10 feet 8 inches high and weighs 1,200 pounds, which is enough to make even Hondo feel insignificant by comparison.

Walter Johnson and Josh Gibson are getting statues as well.

Now, how about honoring Rusty Staub, Gary Carter, Tim Raines Andre Dawson? Sure, maybe they never played in Washington, but unlike Johnson and Gibson, at least there are some people alive who remember seeing them play.

UPDATE: Apparently these statues are hideous, so maybe we should just retire the old Expos’ numbers rather than cast them in bronze, umm-kay?

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  1. Jeff V. said...

    Those look like the lead figures I used to use to play D&D with, complete with tons of flash from shoddy casting.

  2. Travis M. Nelson said...

    Yeay, they’re pretty awful. 


    They’re supposed to suggest motion, i.e. the path of the bat, or of the Big Train’s arm, or whatever, but mostly they look like the sculptor isn’t finished with them. 

    Also, the link you posted indicates that Hondo is swinging an Ernie Banks model bat, which isn’t totally out of line, but why a 300 lb outfielder would need to swing the bat of someone Banks’ size (like 5’9”, I think) is hard to imagine. 

    Still, it’s better than what they did in Baltimore.  The statue of Babe Ruth in front of Camden yards shows a left hand glove attached to the belt of the lefty throwing Sultan of Swat. 

    Apparently Cooperstown was unwilling to let them use Babe Ruth’s actual glove for the model, so they lent the sculptors another glove from the era, but nobody noticed that it was for the wrong hand until after the statue was unveiled.

    This is probably worse than Shoeless Joe hitting right handed in Field of Pansies, as Ruth was a bigger star and this one is literally carved in stone, or brass, or whatever.

  3. Connecticut Mike said...

    I’m not sure, maybe these are some kind of conceptual art triumph or something, but to the untrained eye they appear to be awful. 

    Where I went to school there were a lot of sculptures strewn across the campus because something like .25% of all construction budgets were legally mandated to be spent on art.  These pieces of art were almost uniformly terrible and always lead me to wonder exactly who picked these things out. 

    There needs to be some sort of common sense committee that looks at the plans for these kind of things and says: “Hey, I never saw Walter Johnson pitch, but I bet he only had one set of arms, please remove the excess arms from this piece so we won’t be commissioning another one of these things in ten years”.

  4. Matt S. said...

    As bad as the sense of motion is and as shoddy as the casting looks I think the worst thing is the stances themselves. The Howard one and the Johnson one don’t look anything like any baseball player I’ve ever seen in terms of hitting or pitching mechanics. I haven’t seen much of either player on film but from the comments I read, people who did don’t recognize their motions either.  Wow, a bad concept, poorly executed, and hardly resembling what it is meant to imitate- that does sound like the Nationals alright.

  5. Silver King said...

    I think they’re pretty cool—trying something different and interesting instead of simply a statue.  DOING is what made these players so special.

    If the motions are unrealistic ones for those players, however, that *is* a serious mark against them.  I wouldn’t be the best at judging that.

  6. Grant said...

    Not to be a jerk, but the MASN blogger misspelled Pollock. Now, fine, he’s a sportswriter, he screws up. But an editor didn’t catch that and fix it?

    These sculptures kind of remind me of Italian Futurism, which was a fairly cool aesthetic, but most of them were huge Mussolini fans, which isn’t so cool. I think I tepidly endorse them, though. They are a lot better than the same old boring BS.

    </art history degree nonsense>

  7. Joao said...

    Matt S. is right.  Big Train, to me, looks like a second baseman making a short throw to first.

    Casting motion in broze, as opposed to, say, in a hologram, does not strike as the best of ideas.  How can you possibly replicate a batting motion from start to finish unless you have, in addtion to multiple arms and bats to indicate their different placement along the motion, but also multiple heads, legs, and torsos as well? The sculptures probably look good from some angles, but terrible from others, which is not really all that cool.

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