Artist’s nostalgic sculpture ‘Who’s Up?’ is big hit at Fifth Third FieldWritten by Vicki L. Kroll | | firstname.lastname@example.org
Emanuel Enriquez delivered a striking pitch to Toledo’s Arts Commission: Picture it, 1927, the year the Toledo Mud Hens won the AA pennant.
“I thought of what baseball meant to the kids, and I happen to be old enough to remember ‘The Little Rascals.’ So I thought 1927, and I decided to do a sculpture with young kids,” the Bowling Green artist said.
“I knew most of the class AA baseball teams had old fences around them, so I decided to make the kids peering through the wooden fence,” Enriquez said.
“Who’s Up?” has delighted baseball fans since the bronze sculpture was unveiled on St. Clair Street outside Fifth Third Field in September 2002. The life-size figures — three boys and one girl — and fence weigh in at about 3,000 pounds.
“I thought [the sculpture] would relate to the young kids, and the old-timers would remember when they played baseball as kids,” Enriquez said.
After his design was selected in 2001, the sculptor read Mud Hens historian John Husman’s “Baseball in Toledo” and pored over historical accounts. He dug for details.
“I went to the Toledo-Lucas County Public Library, and I picked out some old Sears catalogs and tried to get some reference to the period of dress,” Enriquez said.
“I did research on the little girl’s bib overalls, the boy’s pants with the leather strap in the back for tightening. I did research on the shoes, the cap the barefoot boy is wearing; it goes to that period.”
Even the hair had to be perfect.
“A lady friend helped me design the little girl’s braids,” he said. “She told me they would use strings; they didn’t have rubber bands in those days.”
He hunted down vintage wood boards in Pennsylvania and cast each side before welding the pieces together so the fence would be authentic.
And the Pemberville, Ohio, native hit the road to visit the National Baseball Hall of Fame and Museum in Cooperstown, N.Y.
“They had a 1927 period glove in the showcase; I took a photo of that and I put it on the little girl,” he said, adding he picked up a souvenir — a baseball stick like one of the youths is holding.
Three of the kids are based on the grandchildren of his friends.
“The tallest kid on the right I modeled after me, back when I was 50 pounds lighter,” Enriquez said and laughed. “There’s a mole on his right cheek, a light dimple on the left cheek. Very few people know this.”
The artist had a ball working on the project — and knocked it out of the park.
“It was a lot of fun,” Enriquez said. “I’m really pleased with the sculpture; people enjoy it a lot.”
Not that he hangs around to watch people looking at his work when he drives up I-75 for a Hens game.
“I go to watch the baseball game, eat a hot dog — that’s part of Americana, you know?”