SBJ/July 14-20, 2014/In Depth

All-Star statues provide out of the park art

From giant bobbleheads to America’s favorite blockhead, statues a big part of the game

So many times, there are disputes about the origins of an idea or program, even when you speak to those involved from the start.

Such is the case with the Statues on Parade program. Each MLB All-Star Game, the program places around the host city more than 30 5-foot-tall statues of an important local symbol. The statues also carry team and All-Star Game logos.

Some fans seek out their favorite individual team statue; others make a scavenger hunt out of finding all of them.

Team-branded replicas of the Statue of Liberty were part of the event in 2008.
Photo by: MLB Photos
“Before we knew what a selfie was, fans were taking pictures in front of their favorite statues, and it quickly became a big part of the All-Star Game,” said MLB licensing chief Howard Smith.

For a keepsake, fans were offered smaller versions of the statues, priced at $20 to $30 from Michael Lewis’ Forever Collectibles, a longtime MLB licensee.

Lewis said the program started around the 2003 All-Star Game at U.S. Cellular Field, when 35 6-foot-tall bobbleheads were placed throughout Chicago.

MLB’s program was inspired by the CowParade, launched several years earlier, in which local artists decorated fiberglass cows that were displayed across dozens of cities, including Chicago, in 1999.

“The statues were a way to create a business and a point of difference,” said Lewis, whose company is still producing the statuettes. Other licensees have produced statue lapel pins, key chains and other novelty items.

Because the 2008 Statues on Parade (for the All-Star Game at old Yankee Stadium) was so much bigger than its
predecessors, Smith maintains the program didn’t really begin until six years ago. But from whichever debut year one traces the origin, the statue parade has become an All-Star Game fixture and a way to spread the hype across the host city.

Smith said the appeal stems from an artful mix of nostalgia and authenticity.

“We have to pick the right icons to make it work,” Smith said, “but it’s like having an authentic All-Star cap; something they actually saw that’s a memory of the game. Unlike a cap, they are whimsical and can fit on your desk.”

Licensed versions bearing the logos of all 30 MLB teams were produced only for the Statues of Liberty for that 2008 All-Star Game in New York; the Mickey Mouse program around the 2010 All-Star Game in Anaheim; and the apples designed for last year’s All-Star Game at Citi Field in New York. Not surprisingly, those were the most popular. Lewis said he sold between 60,000 and 80,000 units those years.

“Those were our best, but year to year it’s not entirely predictable because the markets change so much,” Lewis said. “It helps considerably if there’s a local retailer that really gets behind it.”

Peanuts characters are featured this year in honor of creator Charles Schulz, a native of Minneapolis.
Photo by: Minnesota Twins
For this year’s All-Star Game in Minnesota, it’s a different model. All the statues are in one location. As a tribute to Peanuts creator and Minneapolis native Charles Schulz, there are 10 5- to 6-foot-tall statues of Peanuts characters, dressed in Twins uniforms and carrying branded Wilson fielding gloves. Those statues started at Rice Park in St. Paul. In mid-June, they were moved to the Minneapolis Convention Center, site of this year’s All-Star Game FanFest.

Locals will see it as something familiar: There have been Peanuts On Parade exhibitions in Minnesota and elsewhere since 2000. Still, the current display is a piece of what MLB hopes will be a profitable cross-licensing program with Snoopy, Charlie Brown and the gang.

MLB’s e-commerce site currently has all 10 figurines ($24.99 each) and some Peanuts/All-Star Game T-shirts and lapel pins. MLB’s Smith is promising a much wider selection ahead, especially with a full-length Peanuts movie scheduled for release next year.

“We’re just at the front end of this thing,” he said.

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