Thursday, May 21, 2009

Baseball place No. 55: Heroes of Baseball Wax Museum; and No. 55A: LaMontagne sculptures at Hall of Fame

Wax museums are like clowns. They give me the creeps. I don’t know why. They just do.

So the odds of me going to see the Heroes of Baseball Wax Museum in Cooperstown are pretty slim.

Nevertheless, Josh Pahigian takes us there for sport No. 55 in his “101 Baseball Places to See Before You Strike Out.”

According to Josh, the museum has 35 figures set against backgrounds. Some are serous, like Lou Gehrig making his “luckiest man” speech. Others are supposed to be whimsical, like Randy Johnson standing next to Eddie Gaedel.

Josh said the wax statues are created by a pair of artists in England who update displays every few years.

I don’t want to sound too harsh here, but I’m wondering if the “artists” are interns from Madame Tussaud’s who have no clue what a baseball game looks like.

The museum has a Web site where you can see photos of the figures. Some of the faces look right, but the poses are more awkward than a middle school mixer.

Plus, the photo of former Commissioner Kenesaw Mountain Landis identifies him as “Judge Landice.”

Dudes. You’re a museum.
OK, this is supposed to be Mike Piazza. Note the "photo opportunity stand here" sign. Impress your friends!

Apparently the building used to be a Mickey Mantle museum, so there might be some lingering taint issues.

But, if you want to see far better baseball sculptures in Cooperstown, I offer:

Alternative Place No. 55A: Armand LaMontagne carvings in Baseball Hall of Fame.

Visitors to the Hall of Fame are greeted by two live-sized figures of Ted Williams and Babe Ruth.

They are so incredibly realistic that I thought they were mannequins dressed in uniforms.

Then I read the plaque describing how they were made – carved from wood. I couldn’t believe it, and I stood as close as the museum lets you stand so I could to inspect, amazed that the uniform appeared to be flannel and the spikes made of old leather. There is practically stubble on their faces.

It turns out that LaMontagne is a master carver who specializes in New England sports figures. Each one takes six months of 80-hour weeks to create.

I’ve read that the two are the most-photographed items in the Hall of Fame, and that’s amazing considering all the glory contained in that building, like Tom Seaver’s plaque.

There is one mystery, though. LaMontagne is from North Scituate, R.I. and creates New England athletes. The Bambino played for two Boston teams with distinguished uniforms, the Red Sox and the Braves.

So why on Earth would the guy choose the depict Ruth in that clown suit he was forced to wear during those unfortunate middle years of his great career?

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