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Baseball Hall of Famers Compete Over Statues


COOPERSTOWN, N.Y. — The unofficial greeters on the Hall of Fame stand together, in bronze, by the ticket booths within the museum lobby. They’re multicultural monuments to strength, sacrifice and repair: Lou Gehrig, Jackie Robinson and Roberto Clemente.

“Those three represented so rather more than what they did on the sphere,” said Josh Rawitch, the president of the Hall of Fame. “It was the way in which they went about life off the sphere by way of helping other people, leading the way in which for other people, and ultimately just being the right example of what it means to have character and courage.”

The Hall of Fame will welcome seven recent members on Sunday, including three who reside: David Ortiz, Jim Kaat and Tony Oliva. All can be recognized within the gallery with a plaque measuring 15½ inches by 10¾ inches, the usual size for all Hall of Famers — from Hank Aaron to Robin Yount — for the reason that first induction ceremony in 1939.

The separator, for some, is a statue. There is no such thing as a vote for statue worthiness, no formal process for attaining one. It takes a certain transcendence, along with sheer excellence on the sphere. Because the saying goes: If you happen to know, .

“Dave Winfield, he’s one in all the one guys that doesn’t have a statue — and we give him a tough time,” Ozzie Smith said last fall on a podcast hosted by the previous major leaguer Bret Boone. “I’m going, ‘Come on, Dave, you don’t have a statue?’ It is best to see the look on his face.”

In a telephone interview recently, Winfield reluctantly confirmed that he does, indeed, lack a statue — and that peers do mock him for it.

“Truthfully?” Winfield conceded. “Yeah.”

To George Brett, a teammate of Winfield’s on nine American League All-Star teams within the Nineteen Eighties, that only stands to reason. Brett has a statue on the outfield concourse in Kansas City, where he played for 21 seasons and is synonymous with the Royals franchise.

“A variety of these guys played in so many cities,” Brett said. “Who’s going to have a statue of Winfield? He played on eight different teams.”

Six, actually, but that raises an interesting point: Teams are more energetic now in celebrating their pasts, but many great players, especially over the previous few a long time, were only passing through on their option to higher contracts elsewhere.

For the reason that stadium-building boom of the Nineties, just about all teams have opened baseball-only parks, with many replacing multipurpose, municipally owned facilities not given to individual monuments. The Philadelphia Phillies, for instance, had generic sports statues outside Veterans Stadium, but christened a recent park in 2004 with tributes to Richie Ashburn, Steve Carlton, Robin Roberts and Mike Schmidt.

Several older parks, like Wrigley Field in Chicago and Dodger Stadium in Los Angeles, have made recent renovations to incorporate public gathering spaces. The Dodgers gave Sandy Koufax a statue at their recent plaza in June, and the Cubs did the identical in May with Fergie Jenkins.

Koufax played just for the Dodgers, and while Jenkins pitched mostly for the Cubs, he logged almost 2,000 innings with other teams. Gaylord Perry, though, roamed to seven teams in 12 seasons after his first decade with the Giants, who still solid him likeness in bronze in 2016.

Perry joined Willie Mays, Willie McCovey, Juan Marichal and Orlando Cepeda — all Hall of Fame teammates on the 1962 National League pennant winners — outside the gates of San Francisco’s Oracle Park. Jenkins, who had the same set of star teammates later in the last decade, took notice.

“I used to be saying to myself, ‘I ponder once they’re going to place me in a statue at Wrigley Field with three of the highest players I played with?’” said Jenkins, who went into the Hall of Fame with Perry and Rod Carew in 1991. “I roomed with Ernie Banks for 3 years, and played with Billy Williams and Ron Santo for seven years — and imagine me, it’s an honor to be amongst them.”

The sculptor William Behrends created all the Giants statues, in addition to those in San Diego (Tony Gwynn and Trevor Hoffman) and on the minor league park in Brooklyn (Robinson and Pee Wee Reese). His most up-to-date work was unveiled on opening day at Citi Field: the Mets’ endlessly ace, Tom Seaver, in his famous drop-and-drive delivery, twice life-size.

“While you get off the subway and also you first see it, you’re a good distance from it,” Behrends said. “It’s got to have presence from a distance. You would like someone from 100 feet away to see it and wish to go over to it. Larger spaces kind of shrink sculptures; you place a strictly life-size sculpture out in a big space and it looks lower than life-size.”

The Seaver statue is the just one outside a significant league ballpark in Recent York. The Yankees feature Don Larsen and Yogi Berra — the battery for the one perfect game in World Series history — of their museum at Yankee Stadium, and the previous owner George Steinbrenner stands sentry in bronze near the elevator within the Gate 2 lobby. However the vast constellation of Yankees stars get plaques or monuments, not statues, in an out of doors gallery beyond the center-field fence.

Some Yankees Hall of Famers, then — Reggie Jackson, Derek Jeter, Mariano Rivera and so forth — don’t have any statues anywhere. Others have statues removed from the Bronx: Babe Ruth at Camden Yards in Baltimore, near his birthplace; Joe DiMaggio on the National Italian American Sports Hall of Fame in Chicago; Mickey Mantle in his hometown, Commerce, Okla., and one other within the minor league park in Oklahoma City.

“The Giants made it a bit easier on themselves,” Behrends said, noting that the franchise moved from Recent York within the Fifties. “Mel Ott could have a statue, but they’ve only portrayed individuals who went into the Hall of Fame as a San Francisco Giant, and there’s only been five of those, in order that’s how they select. But with the Yankees, where would they begin?”

The Chicago White Sox — with a similarly lengthy history but far fewer glory years — have several statues contained in the park and have recognized the 2005 World Series winners with a monument outside, depicting pivotal plays in photos and sculptures. In Cleveland, the juggernaut of the late Nineties is personified in a statue of the well-traveled Jim Thome, who holds the franchise’s home run record with 337 — but slugged his four-hundredth for the Phillies, his five hundredth for the White Sox and his 600th for the Minnesota Twins.

“It stands for thus rather more: all those great players we had within the ’90s, all those great playoff runs,” said Thome, who now works for MLB Network and the White Sox. “It was a championship-like team for a very long time. We just unfortunately didn’t win a World Series, but it surely stands for all those guys: Kenny Lofton, Carlos Baerga, Sandy Alomar, Manny Ramirez, Albert Belle, Eddie Murray, Dave Winfield.”

Winfield, who had his best seasons with the Padres and the Yankees, finished his profession with Cleveland in 1995. He won his only championship for the Toronto Blue Jays, who’ve a statue of the previous owner Ted Rogers outside their stadium, in addition to a group of gargoyles depicting the fans — but no player statues.

Winfield’s name, a minimum of, appears behind the Kent Hrbek statue at Goal Field in Minneapolis, on a window listing Minnesota natives who played for the Twins. Voters sent Winfield to Cooperstown on the primary try, but Hrbek amassed only five votes (out of 499) in his only 12 months on the ballot.

Hrbek, though, had statue intangibles: He played his entire profession for his hometown team, lasting 14 seasons, matching his retired uniform number. A burly, gregarious slugger, he helped win two World Series while looking like a man within the next-door fishing house on the lake.

The statue depicts Hrbek’s moment of glory: squeezing the ultimate putout in his glove and raising his arms in triumph after clinching the Twins’ first championship in 1987. It’s every part a statue needs to be.

“My daughter will go to the ballpark and take her friends or her children or her cousins and say, ‘That’s Dad; that was his favorite a part of playing the sport, winning the world championship, catching the ball and jumping off first base,’” Hrbek said. “Hopefully that memory will go on for a very long time — and provides the pigeons someplace to sit down for some time and allow them to do their thing.”

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