Sunday, April 12, 2009


This is our issue with The New Statues at Nationals Park.

They are too confusing to look at.

The very fact that The D.C. Commission on The Arts & Humanities followed through on a tremendous tribute to three of Washington's greatest baseball players should not be taken for granted. This is a well deserved honor. Walter Johnson, Josh Gibson, Frank Howard and their respective families are worthy of the tribute. The Big Train is arguably the greatest pitcher of all-time. Josh Gibson the greatest slugger. And Hondo--the finest player to ever call DC/RFK Stadium his career home. He was an American League Home Run Champion and Feared Slugger. Beloved, even today.

Deserving are all three--no question about it.

But no one viewing these pieces of art deserves to stand before these three monuments and ponder what exactly they are viewing. The multiple arms depicting Walter Johnson's pitching motion takes away the sole reason for taking a gander in the first place--to appreciate Johnson's greatness, learn more and pass that word on to others--educate about history. Just as over powering is the effect of Frank Howard's five bats following through on his swing. It's too distracting. Fortunately, Josh Gibson's multiple batted follow-through is well below and behind his representation--making his final product far more appealing.

Sohna and I found our focus placed so much on the extended limbs on each statue--it took away from LOVING THEM.

What makes matters worse for us is that Frank Howard has factual mistakes in his depiction. Artist Omri Amrany has chosen to bronze Hondo in The Expansion Senators Pinstripe Jersey with Script "Senators" emblazoned across the front. Fine, that's a legitimate jersey worn by My Favorite Player Of All Time!! in Washington in the 1960's. What's not correct is Big Frank wearing Number 33 with that uniform. Howard wore Number 9 during the Pinstripe Era of The Expansion Washington Senators. He switched to Number 33 in 1969 when he gave that jersey number to The Great Ted Williams. The year "Teddy Ballgame" became Manager for the only year in over 50 past seasons that a Washington Major League Team finished above .500. In that famous '69 campaign, The Senators wore basic off-white (Cream Color) home jerseys and gray aways--no pinstripes. And in 1969 ONLY--The 100th Anniversary Patch of Major League Baseball was worn on every jersey in the Big Leagues that season. The 100th Anniversary Patch is depicted on Frank Howard's Uniform Statue.

To make matters a little worse, and The African Queen and I mentioned this to MASN Broadcaster and Washington Baseball Historian Phil Wood after the ceremony on Wednesday and Phil's ran with this info ever since on his critiques--Hondo's bat depicted on his monument is a Genuine Louisville Slugger--Ernie Banks signature model. Yes, Ernie Banks--not Frank Oliver Howard. Artist Omri Amrany produced an Ernie Banks Statue for Wrigley Field. For whatever reason, he didn't feel it necessary to permanently change Frank's bat to one of his own brand.

That really bothers us. Whether or not we appreciate the artistry of the statues, the factual representation should always be accurate. No need to mess with history as well.

If beauty is in the eye of the beholder, then The African Queen and I are not enamored with the statues of Walter Johnson, Josh Gibson and Frank Howard. They may well grow on us, just like the multiple extensions existing on these monuments currently on display at Nationals Park. But for now--we are disappointed with these representations of our Washington Baseball Icons.

Photo Copyrighted--Nats320--All Rights Reserved


An Briosca Mor said...

After looking at both your earlier photos of the models of the statues and now your photos of the actual statues, there's one thing that strikes me. The models didn't look all that bad, but the viewpoint on them was from above. The viewpoint of the actual statues on their pedestals is from below, and from that viewpoint they look terrible. Aside from the multiple bats and arms that are bad enough, there is that whoosy stuff that's apparently supposed to signify motion. Instead, it makes the statues look like they've been slimed.

Thinking back to a Seinfeld episode where Jerry looked at a wrecked car and said "a lot of that will just buff right out", perhaps there is some way that a talented person with a belt sander and a bunch of steel wool can fix these things. We can only hope....

Flannys said...

I will see the statues later today but the pics showing the "motion effect" looks pathetic and if Hondo's bat says Ernie Banks I will be writing stan kasten at to complain and ask that it be corrected or tell him if I see him today. If everybody who sees him on opening day says something he might do something about it.

Flannys said...

I have a petition letter to Stan kasten requesting that he sign Hondo in some capacity. You can sign the petition at (there is a box to check to hide your name if you want)

Edward J. Cunningham said...

Thanks for your comments, SBF. A lot of the criticism for the statues have used words like "craptastic", but few have articulated exactly why they don't like them. So I wasn't sure which criticism was legitimate, and which was coming from fans with axes to grind against the Nats.

The statues are a step in the right direction, but if these particular commissions were a mistake, then it's a mistake that can be corrected. A couple of years ago, the Bowie Baysox unveiled a statue of a father taking his two young daughters to a game. It was supposed to represent all Baysox fans. Unfortunately, too many kids started climbing the statues so the Baysox had to take them down. (This is also the reason why the Smithsonian got rid of "Uncle Beasley.")

If enough people complain about it, this problem will be fixed. (Of course, Babe Ruth holds his glove in the wrong hand at Camden Yards, and that problem has never been fixed.)

Screech's Best Friend said...

The Statues are owned fully by The D.C. Commission on The Arts & Humanities--not The Washington Nationals. The wording on the granite on each statue even says as much.

Unknown said...

Seems like most everything the Nats touch seems to have a crumbling demise. Great effort and intent. Mascot, players, GM, come on you guys get this one right!

If there needs to be corrections then of course correct them......the first time.

CG said...

I agree with SBF that these statues aren't that great looking. In fact, I think they're pretty awful.

What SBF alludes to in this post and what I really agree with is that the focal point of these statues is supposed to be who is being portrayed- the players. Instead, the artist has taken certain liberties with the statues and placed the focus of the art on himself (or her?) rather than on the players. The statues are really rather self-serving and indulgent.

So did Howard Roark cast these statues, or what?

Keith said...

A long time ago, I read a great quote from an art collector. He said, "I just find the piece I hate the most, and I buy that."
The greatest works in the world are almost all risky, different, factually inaccurate, and were initially despised and rejected. Remember the initial reaction to the model of the not-yet-built Vietnam Wall?
We really won't know anything about these pieces until we see them with crowds around them.

Unknown said...

I am afraid I will agree when I see the statues myself today.

On a separate subject. Hopefully, I didn't miss it but I haven't seen an comments from SBF about Kasten's invitation to Phillies fans. I thought you would have something to say since you had such a horrible experience in Philly last year.

6th and D said...

It's not just the doggone statues either. How about the stupid cherry blossoms? Most years they will have bloomed long before the team gets home from Florida. Another instance of out of towners planning for Washingtonians. Screech the mascot shouldn't be! Direct rip-off of Baltimore's bird. We should have a big fat cigar-chewing-top-hat-wearing senator - as it was for 71 years prior to Bob Short's crime of the century. The best spot for the placement of this stadium was just north of China Town and just east of the new convenetion center - in between New York and Mass avenues. Downtown Washington, not the god-foresaken area it now inhabits. It just seems to me that this whole thing, including the product on the field, has been poorly planned from day one.

Anonymous said...

IMO, The biggest mistake the artist and the Fine Arts Commission made was in confusing the purpose of a "statue" with the purpose of "art." Obviously, a great statue can be considered art, but the priority is to perform the function of a statue--portraying and honoring the subject. "Form follows function." In this case, the priorities were misplaced, and it doesn't work as either.

Sean said...

@ 6th & D. I'm sorry but anyone who thinks that the area where the stadium sits is "god-foresaken" (sic) hasn't been down there. The area is fine, and will only get better.

cassander said...

I went to today's game and saw the statues for the first time. I loved them. From the photos, I didn't think the movement effect would work, but for me, in person, it did. I looked at Frank Howard and then his bat and then the follow through bats and the ball and I saw his swing. I looked at Josh Gibson and then his bat leaving his hand and I saw him heading toward first. I looked at Walter Johnson and saw him pitch.

I tried to imagine the blur bits as "growths" as some have said, but to me they looked like movement. I like the statues and hope they keep them the way they are.

I never got to see Frank Howard play so I don't know all the details about his jersey or his bat. I'll trust SBF as the expert on all things Frank Howard, so it's unfortunate those mistakes were made. But if that statue captures the mechanics of his swing correctly, then it would seem the artist got what was most important right.

Jim H said...

I got to see the statues today (Opening Day). I think I liked them more than I thought I would. Even now I'm not certain.

Factual issues aside, what bothered me wasn't so much the "motion". It was the bases the statues were positioned on. These seemed more impressive and imposing than the images they supported. I just thought the proportion was all wrong.

Perhaps ABM is right...should the statues be more "grounded", the perspective might change a bit.

Anyway, here are some more photos.

SBF...I'll be back in the club on Wednesday. I hope to see you and the AQ then.

Crash said...

After reading the critique of the statues in the Post, I was prepared to be disappointed by the statues, but these were just ghastly.

I'm rather ashamed of these grotesque bronze eyesores in the middle of the Centerfield Plaza. They do those legends of our game no justice. Poor Frank Howard. At least Gibson and Johnson aren't alive to have to see these, but their poor families. Such a shame, another squandered opportunity.

Since our ballpark compares in many ways to Citizen's Bank Park in Philadelphia, let me say that this is another area where the Phillies did it properly. Their statue tributes to their great players are dignified and recognizable. Ours look like the players have been in horrible traffic accidents.

It is shameful how many indignities we fans continue to have to endure. It's better than no baseball at all, and at least we have a new stadium, but it still stings.

Mike said...

I feel for you. While I hear that the statue of Ernie is really good,(I haven't seen it yet). The should have done his homework, especially on the bat. If Ernie's had Frank Howard's name, we Cub fans would have run the guy out of town.

Despawna said...

The action stuff on it looks as if spiderman jizzed on it

Anonymous said...

Thats disgusting

Anonymous said...

I'm glad to be in Houston where they have built such a beautiful stadium and even Minute Maid Park has a ring to it. I'd be ashamed to have to go watch a game and walk by those statues every day. The artist's attempt of creating the look of motion with those statues has failed miserably. Fans from out town would rope'em and drag'em down the street.

Anonymous said...

If Frank Howard ever swung at a pitch with his hands shown on the statue, he would have broken his wrist. It's sad that such a great honor is diminished by the artist's efforts.