Wednesday, April 08, 2009

Nationals Park Artworks Unveiled

“I am flattered to be honored in such a way but this guy made be look like a pea shooter," said Washington Senators Great Frank Howard--staring at the newly unveiled statues of himself and Negro League Great Josh Gibson. He (Gibson) hit them further than me!!" Hondo was on site in Centerfield Plaza at Nationals Park for the long awaited Bronze Statues of himself, Gibson and arguably the greatest baseball pitcher of all-time, Walter Johnson. The artwork commissioned by The D.C. Commission for The Arts & Humanities and produced by Omri Amrany. At 11AM this cold and windy Wednesday Morning, a few hundred friends, family and fans gathered to take their first peeks at the new artwork positioned just inside the Centerfield Gates of Nationals Park.

“This is a great honor for us, for the Gibson Family and just for The Negro Leagues in general," proclaimed The Great-Grandson of Josh Gibson--Sean. "Because this statue just doesn’t represent Josh, it represents the history of The Negro Leagues. Anytime that any baseball player from The Negro Leagues can be awarded something of this magnitude, it’s not just for them, it’s for everyone. It's for all of us."

Washington D.C. Baseball Historian and MASN Broadcaster Phil Wood emceed the proceedings and noted some of very reasons why these three D.C. Baseball Greats were being honored in such a long-lasting way.

“This is a way to remind people that baseball once thrived here in Washington, D.C. Great players played here," said Wood. "The whole issue of ‘First in war, First in peace and Last in the League' certainly that wasn’t true when Josh Gibson was playing. The (Homestead) Grays were the absolute powerhouse. They were The New York Yankees. They were the best team in The Negro Leagues year after year. Johnson pitched on some great clubs in Washington. He pitched on some bad one’s too. But his numbers usually reflected how much better he was than the rest of the club. And the fact that Frank Howard can be honored in his lifetime, I think is remarkable. He’s humble, he’s very self-deprecating about what he's accomplished as a player. And even though of the three, he is the only one not in The Hall Of Fame, I think it’s absolutely appropriate he’s the one dead center (placement in Centerfield Plaza at Nationals Park).”

During the ceremonies Phil mentioned some of Gibson's, Hondo's & Johnson's feats.

Did you know?

For every 500 At Bats in the Negro Leagues Josh Gibson averaged 51 Home Runs. He Won 12 Home Run Titles. As Phil so smartly stated, Josh is many times called The Black Babe Ruth, but maybe The Babe was The White Josh Gibson. Gibson passed away at 35 years of age—three months before Jackie Robinson signed with The Brooklyn Dodgers.

Moving to Hondo:

"It fair to say that Frank Howard is still the biggest name in Washington Baseball. If you attended the off-season luncheon The Nationals held for Season Ticket Holders you would have seen what I was talking about. This is Frank’s 50th year in baseball and he’s still a commanding presence. From 1967 to 1970 he lead The Majors in total home runs—including 48 in 1969, that fabulous season where Washington went 86-76 under Ted Williams as manager and we were all dancing in the streets over the joy of it all." Hondo cranked out 237 Homers wearing The Curly "W".

And Phil Wood finished off talking about Walter Johnson:

"Sometimes baseball does the wrong thing. Take the award that baseball hands out to the best pitcher in each league. For some reason they call it The Cy Young Award. But anyone with knowledge of baseball knows that it should be called The Walter Johnson Award… arguably the greatest pitcher who ever lived. He was fast. We all know that. But he was also the complete package—command, control—whatever you want to call it."

And added this incredible stat to help convince everyone: "2588 games were started by pitchers in The National League in 2008. There were 61 complete games in The National League last season in total. In 1910 and 1911 Walter Johnson started 79 games and completed 74 of them. He threw a total of 692 innings over those two seasons. He pitched 110 shutouts during his career. The All-Time Record. Number two on the list is 20 shutouts behind him (Grover Cleveland Alexander)."

Not lost in today's unveiling was the bridging of that 33 year long gap Washington, D.C. went without a Major League Team (1972-2005). "This certainly helps," believes The Co-Chair of The D.C. Sports & Entertainment Commission, Bill Hall. "What we are looking to do is narrow that gap so people can start forgetting there even was a gap—while re-introducing baseball to a couple of generations that went without a home team in The Nation’s Capital. Washingtonians that have missed it completely.” Bill Hall negotiated the contract with Major League Baseball on behalf of The District Of Columbia to transfer The Montreal Expos to D.C.

"These artworks add another element to the fan experience of this magnificent ballpark—appealing to baseball historians, fans of art and children alike," concluded Mark Lerner--Principal Owner for Our Washington Nationals. "Josh Gibson, Walter Johnson and my childhood baseball hero—Mr. Frank Howard—were each fantastic ballplayers in their own rights. They (the players) illustrated (on the field) the energy, skill and intelligence of the game and exemplified the excellence which today’s Washington Nationals aspire to achieve."

Also unveiled officially late this morning "The Ballgame" mobile on the main concourse--first base side--of Nationals Park. Located just inside The Grand Staircase Entrance, Walter Kravitz's rotating piece will continually play "Take Me Out To The Ballgame".

Of course no appearance by Hondo can left behind without Big Frank getting off one of his usual self-deprecating one liners. While standing in front of his statue posing for the photographers, Howard proudly stated: "You know, I never graduated from College. I guess I can call this my diploma!!" Frank smiling from ear to ear--happy and content over the attention given this happy day for himself, Sean Gibson's Family and Walter Johnson's (who did not attend).

After the official ceremonies and picture taking concluded--all participants, family and friends were invited inside The PNC Diamond Club for a special luncheon.

All Photos Copyrighted--Nats320--All Rights Reserved


Mark said...

Those statues are hideous.

Anonymous said...

The parts that aren't moving look great. But the swinging bat looks absolutely craptastic. Really baffles the eye, and not in a good, "artistic" way.

Anonymous said...

Love the honor, but am disappointed that they used this to "try" art.

Anonymous said...

A shame that every wannabe art critic has great responses like "hideous" and "Craptastic".

This artist's style is creating motion if you have seen his previous work.

I am not a fan of that look either, but beauty is in the eyes of the beholder and many like it so there you go.

I would say just keep in mind that many read this Blog and the comments when read by some may be offensive. If the artist himself reads it, the comments will probably hurt to the core since this is obviously how he makes a living and also his love.

Shelley said...

With all due respect to the artist, those statues are, in my opinion, incredibly ugly. I do get the fact that they are supposed to illustrate motion. I am neither an art expert nor an art critic, but I just do NOT like those statues. Maybe they will look better to me when I see them in person, but I doubt it.

Very disappointing.

Edward J. Cunningham said...

I will give a fuller review of the statues once I see them in person, but so far I like them.

Concerning Phil Wood's about Walter Johnson. I don't blame MLB for naming the pitching award the "Cy Young" Award---the man DID win over 500 games. However, because Johnson is #2, people don't realize that Johnson's win total is equally unreachable for most MLB players.

I would have liked to see the NL pitching award named the "Cy Young" because although Young is best known for playing for the Boston Pilgrims in the first modern world series, most of his career was spent in the National League. The American League pitching award should be named after Walter Johnson in my opinion.

Anonymous said...

SBF, your thoughts on the execution of the statues? And your thoughts about the Kasten/Phillies radio interview?

Screech's Best Friend said...

This story was about the tribute to the baseball greats and the families honored. So we don't wish make our personal comments get in the way of their day. That post is coming.

As for The Philadelphia Phillies situation, The Phillies have contacted us over how we were treated last fall at Citizen's Bank Park. The team is working to make good on all that went bad that afternoon in South Philadelphia. In respect of that effort, we are not commenting until we get a clearer idea of what will go down.

Anonymous said...

Maybe the pictures don't do the statues justice. From certain angles, they look terrible, and from others pretty decent. I understand the concept behind it, but the biggest problem with taking that approach is that you just simply cannot replicate the motion as you can in say, a hologram. In order to replicate the motion, he would have had to create not just multiple arms, but multiple heads, legs, and torsos (not that I'm advocating this approach, mind you). Failing to do that you get an arm motion that is incongruent with the positioning of the rest of the body, making the sculptures look at beast, incredibly ackward.

Anonymous said...

As far as not hurting the artists' feelings, well, anyone who goes into a public field, where the ultimate purpose of the work is that it be looked at and enjoyed by the public, be them artists, actors, writers, singers, etc, should be willing to withstand criticism along with the praise.

Dave said...

So far, in comments here, on Ballpark Guys, and on Nationals Journal, I have seen one positive comment (Edward J. Cunningham's) in a sea of negatives.

Put me down on the side of the ones who wish they had not tried so hard to be "artistic." I'm sure the "stop-action" attempt to capture motion is an interesting idea. But I'm not sure that Nats fans are all that into "interesting."

Final judgment comes, of course, after I see them in person on Monday. But from the photos, the word "hideous" does leap to mind.

6th and D said...

The disappointment continues. These statues fail to meet expectations - apologies from a Washingtonian to the Johnson's, the Gibson's, and to Frank Howard. The new Nats Ballpark and the surrounding neighborhood fail to meet expectations. And the team fails to meet expectations. Dreadful statues. Dreadful choice of location for this gem of a ballpark. Dreadful product put between the white lines.

Anonymous said...

Where were all the negative comments when SBF first previewed the artist last year?

Anonymous said...

That hanging exhibit to me screams "Seattle" or another similar artsie town.

Andrew Lang said...

When you do an art commission, which I have a lot of history with, you have to oversee it, and the person paying for it better have veto power. There is something called "artistic license" but sometimes that may go too far.

I went back and looked at the original post about the artist and the artwork there doesn't match the artwork here in my opinion. The website photos are taken from more of an eye level and many don't have all the "kinetic motion" going on.

Now that these stand several feet off the ground you are looking up so the swinging bat looks odd and not natural as if it were eye level there would be a different perspective.

Can't tell on the others but there is a lot going on there.

SBF, who was responsible for OK'ing the statues and who checked the historical significance?

The reason I ask is I had a conversation with a Senators historian who tells me through rumor that the Frank Howard bat in the sculpture was not a bat Frank Howard used as well as his jersey is not correctly matched up to the year depicted on the sleeve patch. If true, it just makes matters worse in a city where history is so important.

An Briosca Mor said...

When you do an art commission, which I have a lot of history with, you have to oversee it, and the person paying for it better have veto power.

These statues (as well as the mobile which looks bad, too, but in a more non-descript way) were bought and paid for by the DC Commission on the Arts and Humanities. (It says so right on the base of each one.) How much input if any did the team have on the selection of the artists and the approval of the design? If I rented a building and my landlord came in and installed hideous artwork without my approval, why I might be tempted to withhold my rent in protest!

Anonymous said...

my goodness. what a disaster.

JD said...

I reserved judgment until I saw them for myself on opening day. There are no words to describe how awful these statues are. They need to be removed immediately and melted down. I seem to recall a little thing called the Mapplethorpe Exhibit that some people claimed to call art. This is akin to that.

JD said...