One of the big things in the modern era of ballparks is statues of heroes of the past.
The new stadium in Minneapolis is to have statues of Kirby Puckett, Harmon Killebrew and Rod Carew. (I've not seen what they're supposed to look like, and other aspects of Target Field have gotten more attention, but as of Sept. 8 of last year they were expected to be in place on or around Opening Day.)
PNC Park in Pittsburgh has Honus Wagner, Willie Stargell and Roberto Clemente — and a few days ago the model for a fourth work of bronze, of Bill Mazeroski running out his famous home run in the 1960 World Series, was unveiled (photo above).
Miller Park in Milwaukee has Robin Yount and Hank Aaron — and, it was announced Monday, will this summer add one of Bud Selig. I'm not a big fan of his work as commissioner, but he certainly is a crucial figure in the history of baseball in Milwaukee.
Comerica in Detroit is littered with them — Ty Cobb, Hank Greenberg, Al Kaline, Charlie Gehringer and Willie Horton. (One of these is not like the others.) The White Sox' stadium sports bronze replicas of Nellie Fox and Luis Aparicio turning two, among others. Wrigley Field features one of Harry Carey.
Then there's St. Louis, home of perhaps the most famous ballpark statue, that of Stan Musial. Supposedly the Cardinals commissioned a second statue, this one of Mark McGwire, and then the steroid scandal erupted, and the work went into storage.
The Selig news in particular got me thinking about this. Such works used to be fairly common pieces of public art — military or political figures of importance immortalized as civic inspirations. John Johnson outside the Nicollet County Courthouse. Col. William Covill Jr., hero of Gettysburg, on the Capitol Mall in St. Paul.
That practice has fallen out of favor — except at the ballparks.