What connection do three Brits from the University of Sheffield have to America's national pastime?
Ffion Thomas, Dr. John Wilson, and Dr. Chris Stride have compiled a database of baseball statues in the United States for the Sporting Statues Project.
[sidebar title="The Strangest Sports Statue We've Ever Seen" align="right"]On a trip to Indianapolis, Bill Littlefield spotted a sculpture honoring John Wooden. The legendary basketball coach is surrounded by players. Who are they? As you can see in Bill’s photos, it’s impossible to tell.[/sidebar]“We started off looking at the U.K. sports statues, and we wanted to know why these things were being built. And as we were searching around we noticed a lot of statues were popping up from the United States when we were doing searches on Google,” Stride explained. “I think we were interested to have some comparison to why statues in the U.K. are being built. Were the reasons the same in America?”
Stride and his colleagues have discovered similarities.
“In terms of the subjects that are chosen, and there’s a very strong era effect, by that I mean the era they played in, and that’s because a lot of these statues, particularly the ones at ballparks, are built by the sports organizations to evoke nostalgia in fans and sports tourists,” he said.
For those planning on traveling to Great Britain, Stride pointed out two noteworthy non-baseball statues. The first is of Bobby Moore, the captain of the 1966 English team that won the World Cup. His statue is located outside of Wembley Stadium in London.
“It’s a very large statue, quite imposing,” Stride said. “You see it as you walk towards it.”
The other is of James Renforth.
“It’s one of the earliest sports statues in the U.K.,” Stride said. “Renforth was competing in what was effectively a rowing world championship off the coast of Boston, and he collapsed and died while he was rowing, so they put a stone statue of him up by his grave in Newcastle.”
What’s on deck for Stride and his collegues?
“We’re hoping to track down all the statues of soccer players around the world,” Stride said. “That’s quite ambitious given the language barriers and a lot of countries play soccer. We’ve found 100 or so already, but I think we might just have scratched the surface.”
“At the moment I’m also doing world cricket,” he added. “That doesn’t take quite so long.”
This segment aired on March 9, 2013.