The Physics of Ballpark Statues

It's harder for a statue to hold its center of gravity than it is for a person. (via David Kagan)

It’s harder for a statue to hold its center of gravity than it is for a person. (via David Kagan)

Statues of great ballplayers placed in and around MLB parks have become as popular as Cracker Jacks. The on-going remodel of Wrigley Field added a statue of Ron Santo. The Giants recently unveiled a likeness of Gaylord Perry. Even teams that have avoided the practice are getting into the act. The Los Angeles Dodgers announced this year they will install their first. As you might guess, Jackie Robinson will be the honoree.

You might think that each team’s web site would proudly list their statues and maybe even include a picture and some information. How wrong you would be! There seems to be no up-to-date comprehensive list of player statues maintained by MLB.

However in 2010, Larry Granillo published his personal ranking of the best statues at MLB parks. His list was built by searching for photos on Flickr. The Sporting Statues Project (ironically, a British website) maintains a list of US and Canadian Baseball Statues and appears to be very up-to-date.

Below is my attempt at a current list as of MLB ballplayer statues at MLB parks. Please note that I have only included statues of specific individual former MLB players. I have not included statues of groups of players (except in Boston) or those of owners, founders, announcers, or other non-players.

The links on the park names go to the MLB park information sites (just in case you are interested in something other than the park’s statues). The links for each player go to a photo of the statue itself. I sometimes used the link from Larry Granillo, sometimes from the Sporting Statues Project, and sometimes just one I found by searching. I cannot guarantee this list is complete. However, I can promise that if I missed some, I will be held to account in the comments below.

MLB BALLPARK STATUES
Team Ballpark Player Statues
WAS Nationals Park Walter Johnson, Frank Howard, Josh Gibson
NYM Citi Field None
MIA Marlins Park None
PHI Citizens Bank Park Mike Schmidt, Steve Carlton, Robin Roberts, Richie Ashburn
ATL Turner Field Warren Spahn, Hank Aaron, Ty Cobb, Phil Niekro
CHC Wrigley Field Ernie Banks, Ron Santo, Billy Williams
PIT PNC Park Honus Wagner, Willie Stargell, Roberto Clemente, Bill Mazeroski
STL Busch Stadium Stan Musial, Rogers Hornsby, Enos Slaughter, Red Schoendienst, Ozzie Smith, Lou Brock, Dizzy Dean, Bob Gibson, George Sisler, Cool Papa Bell
MIL Miller Park Robin Yount, Hank Aaron
CIN Great American Ball Park Frank Robinson, Ted Kluszewski, Ernie Lombardi, Joe Nuxhall, Tony Perez, Johnny Bench, Joe Morgan
SF AT&T Park Willie Mays, Willie McCovey, Juan Marichal, Orlando Cepeda, Gaylord Perry
LAD Dodger Stadium None yet
COL Coors Field None
ARI Chase Field None
SD Petco Park Tony Gwynn
BOS Fenway Park Jimmy Fund (Ted Williams), Carl Yastrzemski, Teammates (Ted Williams, Johnny Pesky, Bobby Doerr and Dom DiMaggio)
BAL Oriole Park at Camden Yards Babe Ruth, Frank Robinson, Jim Palmer, Eddie Murray, Cal Ripken Jr. Brooks Robinson
TOR Rogers Centre None
NYY Yankee Stadium Don Larsen, Yogi Berra
TB Tropicana Field Ted Williams
KC Kauffman Stadium George Brett, Frank White, Dick Howser
CHW Guaranteed Rate Field Frank Thomas, Minny Minoso, Carlton Fisk, Billy Pierce, Luis Aparicio, Nellie Fox, Harold Baines, Paul Konerko
CLE Progressive Field Bob Feller, Jim Thome, Larry Doby
DET Comerica Park Ty Cobb, Hal Newhouser, Charlie Gehringer, Hank Greenberg, Al Kaline, Willie Horton
MIN Target Field Tony Oliva, Kirby Puckett, Rod Carew, Kent Hrbek, Harmon Killebrew
TEX Globe Life Park Nolan Ryan
SEA Safeco Field None
HOU Minute Maid Park Jeff Bagwell, Craig Biggio
OAK Oakland Coliseum None
LAA Angel Stadium None

It looks like the Cardinals lead the majors with 10 statues, which is a testament to the long and storied history of their franchise. The White Sox come in second with eight and third is held by the Reds with seven. It appears that nine teams have yet to honor a player with a likeness.

kagan 1Somewhere in here I should mention some physics since the word appears in the title of the article. So while we’re on the topic of torture, go get a can of your favorite beverage. The torture? Don’t open it. We need to do a physics experiment to understand the ideas associated with balance to explain an interesting feature of statues.

Put an X in the middle of the can like the one in the photo at the right. This X marks the “center-of-mass” of the can.

Next, tip the can a bit. You should be able to notice that if you tip the can a small amount, it will return back to its upright position. However, if you tip the can too much, it will fall over. That’s why I told you not to open it!

Below are two images of the can. In the one at the left, it is not tipped too much and it will go back to being vertical. In the picture at the right, the canned is tipped too far and it will soon be horizontal.

kagan 2Notice the blue line that drops vertically from the center-of-mass. In the case of the can that will return to vertical, the blue line and therefor the center-of-mass is to the right of the contact point between the can and the table. The opposite is true for the can that will fall over. The center-of-mass is to the left of the contact point.

You have probably guessed that if the center-of-mass is directly above the contact point then you might be able to balance the can in a very delicate manner. We have learned the rule for keeping objects from tipping over – “The center-of-mass must remain inside that last point of support.”

kagan 3If you are still reading, I can hear you complaining, “What does this have to do with ballpark statues.” Let’s look at the Ernie Banks homage at Wrigley shown at the right. A crude estimate of Ernie’s center-of-mass of the statue is somewhere around his belt buckle.

When Banks was actually in his batting stance he could rely on his feet to provide the points of support to avoid falling over. However as a statue, instead of just depending upon his shoes to provide the points of support the statue includes a circular base that covers a larger area. This is especially true in front and behind.

As far as the physics is concerned, the base is sufficient to keep the statue upright when it is windy. However, I am sure that the Cub’s attorney’s also demanded the statue be bolted in place to prevent tipping as well.

Let’s look at a second example because, after all, Ernie said, “Let’s play two!” The statue of Willie Mays at AT&T Park is a bit different. Mays’s center-of-mass is again probably pretty close to his belt buckle.

kagan 4However, you can see that both his feet are far to the right of his center-of-mass. If this were the real Mays, you know that he would immediately move his rear leg forward to keep from tipping over and begin his homerun trot in the same motion.

As a statue, he is in serious danger of tipping over because his center-of-mass is outside the last point of support. Hence, you’ll notice that his statue includes a huge base extending well past his center-of-mass in all directions providing the stability that is required. A small circular base similar to the Banks statue just wouldn’t cut it.

Well, by now the can from your favorite beverage has had enough time to settle down so you can open it without threat of a shower. Bottom’s up!

References & Resources


David Kagan is a physics professor at CSU Chico, and the self-proclaimed "Einstein of the National Pastime." Visit his website, Major League Physics, and follow him on Twitter @DrBaseballPhD.
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Shane Tourtellotte
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Shane Tourtellotte
A slight correction on Ron Santo. His statue at Wrigley Field had been there in 2014, when I got to visit. It was removed for the renovation and then restored. Your phrasing made it sound like it’s something brand new at Wrigley, which it isn’t. I’ve likewise found the Sporting Statues Project website to be very helpful. Also, if you’re looking for a sequel to this piece, there are lots of minor-league fields with plenty of ballplayer statues. Chickasaw Bricktown Ballpark in Oklahoma City may have every team in the majors beat (if you count busts as well as full-body… Read more »
jim
Guest
jim

Mazeroski is spelled with a Z.

Greg Simons
Editor

Thanks, jim. It’s fixed now.

Carl
Guest
Carl

David,

Very interesting article. In the Willie Mays statue, does the bat touching (and presumably being linked to the ground) help also?

Also, now I want to go back to Camden to re-examine the Jim Palmer statue which had his left leg very high in the air and off to the right side of his body.

Mike R
Guest
Mike R

Toronto put a statue of a corporate stooge outside their Dome

nothing like paying homage to the consciousness limiters of the day right!

next we’ll be putting up statues of our cloned presidents and PMs

Murray Daw (Prof. of Physics)
Guest

A minor correction to an interesting article.

A man’s center-of-mass is closer to his chest. Men are more top-heavy than women. You can test this next time you go rappelling. A rappelling harness fits (usually) around the hips. A man wearing such a harness is vulnerable to flipping upside down, while a woman less so.

For a statue of a man, my guess is still that the center-of-mass is not around the belt buckle but is higher.

But your main point about the base providing support is of course still true.

Guest
Guest
Guest

“The links on the park names go to the MLB park information sites (just in case you are interested in something other than the park’s statues). The links for each player go to a photo of the statue itself.”

Your links do not appear for me.

joser
Guest
joser

You’re assuming the statuesare constant density*. That’s not necessarily true. Generally castings are hollow, but there can be a lot of metal inside. And a physics-savvy sculptor (or more likely, the crafts-people he’s working with) might add weight in certain areas for just this purpose. For (exaggerated) example, if that Mays statue was aluminum but the bat and left leg were filled with lead, it might be stable without much of a base. (Of course the lawyers would still require a large base, bolted down).

*cf: spherical cow.

AaronB4Cards
Guest
AaronB4Cards

Nice job David, thanks! Stan The Man’s statue at Busch is still the most common meeting place for fans. The others are all arranged on the NW corner of park, in a very nice display. The Cards also have a bust of the great Jack Buck on the north wall, close to the others.

MattCast
Guest
MattCast

Missing Earl Weaver in Camden Yards and technically there are two statues of Brooks, one into the stadium and one outside.

Bivlo
Guest
Bivlo

They’re player statues. Yeah, Weaver played in the minors, but his statue isn’t for that. Similarly, the Mariners have a very nice Dave Niehaus statue, but he’s a broadcaster, not a player

MattCast
Guest
MattCast

*one in the

Marc Schneider
Guest
Marc Schneider

What, no Eddie Cicotte at Guaranteed Rate Field? It’s like the Nixon Library without referencing Watergate.