Tuesday, March 24, 2009

Baseball Place No. 36: Joe Jackson statue; Alternative Place No. 36A: Roberto Clemente statue

Joe Jackson might have been banished from baseball, but folks in his hometown of Greenville, S.C. are still proud of the White Sox slugger.

Banned rightly or wrongly for his role in the 1919 Black Sox scandal, Jackson played semi-pro ball for several years under assumed names before returning home to Greenville in 1929.

He opened a liquor store, running it until he died in 1951.

Greenville remembers Jackson in several ways, and Josh Pahigian takes us there for spot No. 36 in his “101 Baseball Places to See Before You Strike Out.”

There’s the Shoeless Joe Jackson Memorial Ballpark on the site where he played his first semi-pro game.

Not far away, at West End Market has a bronze statue of Jackson, showing him after taking a swing.

It’s an interesting statue. Doug Young sculpted it in the lobby of the Greenville City Hall in 2002 while folks looked on, and the base is made of bricks from old Comiskey Park, where the White Sox played.
Bricks that make up the base of the statue came from old Comiskey Park.

I’ve never been to South Carolina, and the Field of Dreams site is as close as I’ve been to a Joe Jackson memorial.

But I have seen an interesting statue of a great hitter that includes remnants of former stomping grounds. That would be:

Alternate spot No. 36A: Roberto Clemente statue, Pittsburgh

Clemente is an undisputed hero both in Pittsburgh, where his Hall-of-Fame career played out, and his homeland of Puerto Rico.

I was in Pittsburgh for the All-Star Game FanFest in July, 1994 in the days after the 12-foot bronze statue was unveiled.

Created by Susan Wagner, the statue shows Clemente coming out of a swing, about to drop his bat.

Here’s where things get really cool. The base of statues is a baseball diamond, and each of the bases contains dirt from three of the fields where the legend played: Forbes Field, Three Rivers Stadium and Santurce Field in Carolina, Puerto Rico.

Pittsburgh was one of our stops for BaseballTruth.com Executive Game V, first checking out what remains of Forbes, then taking in a game at PNC Park. We parked across the river, then walked across the river on a neat yellow bridge, named after Clemente.

And on the other side, I was happy to see Wagner’s statue, moved from Three Rivers when the Bucs moved to their beautiful new yard.

Scott and Will crossing the Roberto Clemente Bridge in 2005.

No comments: