Last Friday in Cincinnati, the Reds honored Joe Morgan with his own statue outside of Great American Ballpark. Morgan had this to say at the unveiling: "The Hall of Fame is about numbers and playing on great teams. You only get a statue or a sculpture if they want you to be remembered."
The statue, depicting the squat speedster breaking down the line, was the sixth monument at the stadium, joining Frank Robinson, Ted Kluszewski, Ernie Lombardi, Joe Nuxhall, and Johnny Bench, and the second to be unveiled by the club in two years. And later this month, the Red Sox will unveil a bronze likeness of Carl Yastrzemski.
With their renewed interest in erecting statues for franchise greats, the Reds and the Red Sox join a long list of Major League clubs hopping back on the sculptural bandwagon. In early 2010, I looked at the statues in or around all thirty major-league ballparks. Since then, two new ballparks have opened while eleven stadiums have installed statues, some adding as many as seven. It's a bit of a mini-Renaissance! To put it another way, more than a third of the league has installed statues since Giancarlo Stanton made his big-league debut.
Since things have changed so drastically in such a short period of time, I thought it would be worth revisiting the more than 100 statues found around the major leagues. For an extra bit of flavor, I've ranked the thirty clubs and their lineup of statues, based in order of my favorite collection to my least favorite. Factors included uniqueness, execution, and quantity, but mostly it came down to which group of statues I would prefer to see if I had a choice.
A few caveats worth mentioning. There is no definitive source to go to for a list of statues at major-league parks, so I've had to do a bit of digging to compile each stadium's roster. It is possible -- maybe even likely -- that I missed one or two. Also, I have not seen most of these statues in person; it's entirely possible that I would react very differently to some of these monuments in person. Until that time comes, however, let's get right to it.
The Best Collection of Statues at Major League Ballparks
(Click on each statue name to be taken to a photo.)
1. Pirates: Honus Wagner, Willie Stargell, Roberto Clemente, Bill Mazeroski, Ralph Kiner's hands, Oscar Charleston, Satchel Paige, Josh Gibson, Cool Papa Bell, Smokey Joe Williams, Carl Barger's head
Clemente and Mazeroski are all the Pirates would need to get my vote here, but even the Wagner and Stargell statues look great despite their simplicity. The collection of Negro League statues is a nice touch, even if a few of them are a bit boring.
2. Tigers: Ty Cobb, Hal Newhouser, Charlie Gehringer, Hank Greenberg, Al Kaline, Willie Horton, Ernie Harwell
A large collection of statues each with an inspired pose. The action visible in the Cobb, Kaline, and Greenberg statues are noteworthy. To top it off, the collection is displayed with each piece looming over its own retired number above the left field wall - it's a great touch.
3. Orioles: Babe Ruth, Cal Ripken, Eddie Murray, Jim Palmer, Brooks Robinson, Earl Weaver, Frank Robinson
In 2010, the only statue that could be found at Oriole Park was one of Babe Ruth. Since then, the Orioles have unveiled a group honoring their greatest players of the last 40 years. The Ripken and Murray statues are a bit simple, but Palmer and Weaver are gorgeous and both Robinsons have a good bit of character.
4. Reds: Frank Robinson, Ted Kluszewski, Ernie Lombardi, Joe Nuxhall, Johnny Bench, Joe Morgan
None of these statues are all that impressive on their own. However, the four original statues of stars from the old Crosley Field days are displayed as if they were in the middle of a game. It's a brilliant set-up.
5. Willie Mays, Willie McCovey, Juan Marichal, Orlando Cepeda, Seal
The Mays and Marichal statues are particularly stunning, though I love McCovey's as well (too bad it's so far away from the stadium proper). The seal statue mimics the old team logo from the city's PCL days and doubles as a meeting point for Arrested Development fans.
6. Harmon Killebrew, Kirby Puckett, Carl & Eloise Pohlad, Tony Oliva, Rod Carew, Kent Hrbek, Big Bronze mitt
Target Field was brand new when I made this list last, so these statues had yet to be unveiled. I'm not the biggest fans of any of the faces, but it's a nice group nonetheless The Puckett and Hrbek poses are especially fun.
8. Walter Johnson, Frank Howard, Josh Gibson
This trio of statues caused quite the controversy when they were unveiled. In a bid to move away from the boring, traditional stances, the artist tried to capture the power and fluidity of a baseball game by adding visible motion to a stationary medium. Some find it hideous, others inspired. I'm stuck somewhere in the middle.
9. The Crowd
That's not your typical statue and I like it.
10. Stan Musial, w/Rogers Hornsby, Enos Slaughter, Red Schoendienst, Ozzie Smith, Lou Brock, Dizzy Dean, Bob Gibson, Jack Buck, Cool Papa Bell, George Sisler
I'm torn on these. On one hand, the array of non-Musial statues feature some outstanding poses. The Gibson statue (above) might have the best pose in all of baseball. However, these are only a couple of feet tall, which takes away much of their impressiveness. Meanwhile, the Musial statue, erected in 1968, is historic but a bit ugly.
11. Ernie Banks, Harry Caray, Billy Williams, Ron Santo
Banks, stuck in his batting stance, is a bit boring, and Caray has the unsettling collection of disembodied heads floating below him. Williams, however, is very dynamic. And the Santo statue is just beautiful.
12. Jeff Bagwell, Craig Biggio, Blacksmith
Biggio making the turn at second and throwing the ball to Bagwell. Good, simple concept for such an iconic duo. I have no idea why there's a statue of a blacksmith working at his post outside Minute Maid Park, though I'm sure someone can explain it to me.
13. Mike Schmidt, Steve Carlton, Robin Roberts, Richie Ashburn, Connie Mack, Harry Kalas (and The Batter and The Play at Second)
Mike Schmidt deserves a better statue than this (though at least it looks like him). Carlton is shown striding toward home plate, his legs roughly forty-three feet apart. The Harry Kalas piece is new, erected two years after the legendary broadcaster's death. It's a lovely piece, with Kalas' personality shining through.
14. 2005 World Series winners, Minny Miñoso, Carlton Fisk, Billy Pierce, Luis Aparicio & Nellie Fox, Harold Baines, Frank Thomas, Charlie Comiskey
Maybe this one should be higher. I love the Fisk and Baines statues. The Thomas statue was unveiled in 2011 and I'm a bit torn. It's so hard to capture a face well in bronze, but overall the pose is nice.
16. Ted Williams & the Jimmy Fund, Teammates.
The Williams statue is a simple design that brings out the humanity of the Splinter, the Red Sox, and the kids really well. The Teammates statue, added in 2010, fits in perfectly.
17. "The Player"
One of a few stadiums to feature a generic ballplayer amongst their statues. This is the clear winner among that group.
18. Don Larsen, Yogi Berra.
Do these statues count? I believe they can be found only in the Yankee Museum. I love the design -- Larsen throwing to Berra across the room -- but the execution is a bit simple.
19. Nolan Ryan, Rangers Fans
Ryan tipping his cap is a nice moment to memorialize. In 2012, the Rangers added the second statue as a memorial to Shannon Stone, the father who died at the Ballpark the summer before.
20. Bob Feller
Great design for a statue, with Feller reeling back in his classic windup.
21. Robin Yount, Hank Aaron, Workers, Bob Uecker, Bud Selig
The statues all look great, but there is nothing special about them. Uecker's statue is much too plain for such a colorful figure. I realize that these choices were all intentional, but it still leaves a bit to be desired. The "Workers" statue was erected to honor the three men killed during the construction of Miller Park. It's a very fitting piece for a blue-collar city like Milwaukee.
23. Gene Autry, Michelle Carew
Former owner Gene Autry, the singing cowboy, looks great. The second statue, of Rod Carew's 18-year-old daughter who died of leukemia in 1996, is a nice gesture from the club.
24. Tony Gwynn
Another boring batting stance ... not that you can depict Tony Gwynn any other way.
25. Casey Stengel
Is this another New York statue available only in the team museum? Even so, it's outstanding.
26. Home run sculpture
This isn't really a statue, but how could I resist? I love la máquina jonrón.
27. 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 its inaugural uniforms might not have been the best idea.
Is that even a statue?
29. A's, Dodgers: These stadiums appear to have no statues.
Bonus List! My ten favorite individual statues in baseball: