Heavy Metal: Capturing the All-Star Weight of the Hit King in Bronze

”You want to give this illusion of life, so they look like they’re breathing and moving even though they are completely still.”
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Having constructed bronze likenesses of Big Red Machiners Johnny Bench, Joe Morgan, and Tony Perez, it makes a certain amount of sense that the Cincinnati Reds would tap sculptor Tom Tsuchiya to compose the next statue to grace the exterior of Great American Ball Park. Tsuchiya still has a year to complete the work, but how does one translate the man dubbed Charlie Hustle for his never-say-die energy into a hunk of solid metal? Let’s go to the tape!

Pete’s Famous Headfirst Slide

Illustration by Dan Zetwoch

You take a lot of pride in injecting a sense of life into your sculptures. You want to give this illusion of life, so they look like they’re breathing and moving even though they are completely still.

Explain your process. Where do you start? One of the key things I have—I call it the bible—is a DVD of the 1975 World Series. I usually consult that first because I can see the players in action. I also work with a lot of photographs and read as much as I can. I design the figure in a computer program and once I get the general idea, I make a clay model one-fifth the scale of the final work. It is scanned into a digital file, which is sent to Global Foam Company up in Dayton, where those guys will mill out the full-size figure into polystyrene foam. I carve on that, and then put a layer of clay on it. That finished unit is delivered to a bronze foundry in Indianapolis.

Sounds like a Pete Rose statue is one you wanted the chance to build. That’s right. Pete is definitely flawed, but one thing I respect is that he was very passionate about baseball and worked very hard;
at the same time, he knew that he was lucky to be playing the sport professionally. He always respected the fans who came to the ballpark and dropped their hard-earned money to see these guys play.

If it’s up to you, would the design be Pete’s famous headfirst slide? No question. Somebody might say, Oh that’s the cliché thing to do. Sometimes clichés are good. It’s the image singed into our brain when we think of Pete.

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