Baseball Sculptor Lou Cella Takes Few Bows

This striking Associated Press photo by Elaine Thompson
shows long-time broadcast partner Rick Rizzs congratulating
Marilyn Niehaus at the 2011 Safeco Field unveiling of the
statue of late husband Dave Niehaus. I like the picture for
what it DOES NOT show. The beard and patterned tie
in the photo’s upper right belong to sculptor Lou Cella.
The artist is a humble hero!

This Week in Baseball introduced me to sculptor Lou Cella.

Getting Cella and artistic co-creator Oscar Leon on camera was no easy feat. Seeing them both present for the Cellular Field installation of the Frank Thomas sculpture was a treat. Seeing the gratitude and admiration of “Big Hurt” made the feature even more meaningful.

The TWIB segment showed only a glimpse of Cella’s back. His White Sox jersey read Sculptor 35. Cella explained:

“The ’35 Sculptor’ jersey. Originally, the thought was that my sculpting partner Oscar Leon and I would both wear one of those to the unveiling of the Frank Thomas sculpture. I bought a game-used jersey at Sox Fest and had the lettering added later. But the idea lost steam when Oscar never had one made.


I felt like it would have been too self-serving and detract from both Frank Thomas and Oscar if I wore it by myself to the unveiling. So I wore it for the installation instead, and This Week in Baseball showed me in it. I was considering having a cubs version made for the Ron Santo piece, but I already have about 10 Cubs jerseys as it is. Maybe down the road.”

During the dedication of the Ron Santo statue, it seemed the Santo family posed for a picture holding a mini version of the statue. That made me wonder if Cella knows of collectible-sized baseball figurines.

Does he ever!

“I love both the Hartlands and the MacFarlane pieces. In my world, I make collectibles so much, that buying them is just not logistically feasible. In other words, I have no room. But I do admire them, and am always tempted to purchase them.”

Collectors may own a Cella creation without knowing. He adds…

“I have done numerous miniatures for Romito Inc. I do not know exactly how many off hand, but there are about a dozen large ones which have my name on them. You will see others on the site which I did not sign on, but likely helped a little or a lot with.


The full body of my monument level work is visible at http://www.rotblattamrany.com/.”

Here’s an impressive New York Times roundup feature, surveying the variety of baseball statues outside ballparks. Of course, Cella’s included in this all-star lineup.

Coming for Thanksgiving: Thankful Bobby Winkles remembers his Arkansas childhood, complete with memories of George and Skeeter Kell.

 

Baseball Sculptor Lou Cella Reveals His Game Plan For Ernie Banks Wrigley Field Statue



Mr. Cub at the 2008
Wrigley Field unveiling.
(Photo courtesy Lou Cella)

 Baseball has a Lone Ranger. Maybe a whole team of hard-to-spot superheroes!

I remember the masked man who saves the day and rides away quickly, while us grateful townsfolk mutter, “We didn’t have time to thank him.”

Fast-forward to sculptor Lou Cella. Outside ballparks, he’s creating great baseball bronze artworks. He works with The Studio of Rotblatt-Amrany, often teaming with fellow artistic talents like Oscar Leon. Just when it’s time to take bows, the sculptors are off to the next opportunity to three-dimensionalize baseball’s past.

In the spirit of Thanksgiving, I want to attempt to thank these creators this week.

I received a wondrous letter from Cella. I wrote to him to praise his understanding and appreciation of baseball. He began by explaining his vision for the Ernie Banks statue, writing:

“While working on any ball player, I am always trying to focus on a particular period in their career. I am usually narrowing this down to a specific year, and, on occasion, an exact date.

Case in point: The Cubs wanted to depict Ernie Banks as he looked in one of his MVP years (1958 or 1959). The uniform changed a bit in 1959 to what it more traditionally looks like today. The Cubs also asked to have Ernie shown smiling at bat. This is not normal, of course, but as much of a purist as I am when it comes to baseball, I still consider capturing the essence and personality of the person a critical part of the total presentation. This is, after all, a piece of art, and certain ‘licenses’ are going to be taken.

Ernie loved the game was always seen as a man who was having fun playing the game. He comes across as a happy man all the time. Therefore, I was very pleased that the Cubs wanted to go this route. Would Ernie be smiling at bat? No, of course not. But it still works. I think it works better than if we had been strictly realistic. I would never have considered this with Carlton Fisk or Ty Cobb. So you consider the pose and the person as you do this.

Another element I added to the history of this piece is exactly when the moment in time was. Upon telling a close friend of mine, Gary Colobuono, what I was doing he became very excited and told me this story.

August 29, 1959 was the first time Gary went to a baseball game. His father brought Gary and his brother to Wrigley Field to see the Cubs take on the greatest left-handed pitcher ever, Warren Spahn (respects to Koufax) and the Milwaukee Braves. At a certain point, the Cubs were losing, 2-0, with two runners on base. With Ernie Banks on deck, Spahn walked the bases full. So, on August 29, 1959, with Warren Spahn on the mound, the Cubs down by two, the bases loaded, and Gary Colobuono in the stands with his Dad, Ernie Banks hit a Grand Slam.

When Gary told me this story, I immediately decided that any time I was asked when this statue was supposed to be taking place, it would be right before Ernie hit that Grand Slam off Warren Spahn. That is one example of my understanding of baseball. A father, a son, and for them, a moment that will live forever.”

Enjoy this 2009 feature detailing Cella’s college days and his Illinois connections.

(Thanks to http://www.retrosheet.org/ for the Banks grand slam report.)

Coming Wednesday: Sculptor Cella’s views on collectibles.

Autograph Collectors: Time To Give Thanks

Don’t be that turkey. Thank
those who help your hobby!

1. The Guy Who Signed Your Autograph

2. The Collectors Who Helped You Learn The Hobby

3. The people who still love you, despite your craziness for baseball.
They give you stamps, paper, ink, time, patience, forgiveness, etc.

We have a lot to be thankful for.

“Yeah, I know.”

Trouble is, they may not know. Tell them! Remind them.

Put the THANKS in thanksgiving.

P.S. – Thank you, Diana.

Coming Tuesday: Insights from Lou Cella, baseball sculptor!

Team Organists, Yankees Fans And More: Previewing Tom’s Latest “10 Most Wanted” List

Once, Mark Cresse
made and sold lamps
made out of Dodger
broken bats!

I decided to go off the field in search of 10 more eyewitnesses to baseball history.

Topping the list is Christian Lopez, the fan who caught (and gave back) Derek Jeter’s 3,000th hit. I’m hoping I’m not too late. I see that Steiner Sports has offered signed LOPEZ baseballs. Does this mean that answering fan mail is taboo?

Two other Yankee-related names intrigue me, retiring trainer Gene Monahan and the first Christian Lopez, best known as Sal Durante. Durante caught the 61st home run ball hit by Roger Maris.

Other non-player notables on my list include:

Lon Simmons, Frick Award-winning announcer
Mark Cresse, long-time Dodgers bullpen coach
Terry “Talkin’ Baseball” Cashman
Oscar Leon, Artist
Lou Cella, Sculptor
(collaborators on Frank Thomas statue — loved their This Week in Baseball appearance!)
Gary Pressey, Cubs organist
Nancy Bea Hefley, Dodgers organist

Stay tuned. Meanwhile, check out this impressive feature about MLB team organists!

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