Recapturing a slide of Americana innocence: Baseball sculpture features Knothole Gang

From: The Toledo City Paper; July 7 -11, 2002 edition

By: Matthew Wienderhold

It’s easy to take for granted the simple things that make our lives enjoyable: sharing a backyard barbecue with friends, watching fireworks on the Fourth of July or attending an afternoon baseball game on a lazy afternoon.

Bowling Green artist Emanuel Enriquez attempted to capture a similar Americana innocence in “Who’s Up” a bronze sculpture scheduled to be installed in July at Fifth Third Field at the corner of St. Clair and Monroe streets. The title of the work refers to rogue groups of children who used to watch ballgames “illegally” though the holes in the fences.

Following a growing national trend, the new Mud Hens stadium incorporates original, public art, designed specifically for the stadium site. Enriquez joins four other artists chosen from a field of more than 40 national and international artists who submitted concepts.

In “Who’s Up?” Enriquez depicts four children peering though a knotty fence to watch a ballgame. The artist says that he desired to capture the innocence of youth, and the simple pleasures of growing up. The artist chose to set his work in 1927, when the Mud Hens won their first national pennant. For inspiration, Enriquez tuned to old “Little Rascals” movies, gleaning ideas from their clothing and expressions.

“I remember watching ‘Little Rascals’ and would just laugh at the antics and the situations on that show,” said Enriquez. “It was that innocence and commonality with the everyday world that I wanted to embody in the kids for ‘Who’s Up’. Kids back then didn’t have video games and computers to play with. They had to rely on their own ingenuity and neighborhood friends for entertainment.”

In the maquette, Enriquez has a group of three older children on the left side of the fence, while a younger boy with a stick climbs upon a barrel to the right side for a view of the game. Enriquez, a Bowling Green artist, chose three local children to model for the sculpture, including an African-American male from the inner city, a Latino boy from the rural area and a young girl from the East side.

The artist visited Cooperstown, N.Y., home of the Baseball Hall of Fame, and researched the time period, including the period bats and gloves to make sure he got the details just right.

“I really wanted to capture the period and feel of the era,” said Enriquez. “You can only get that information first-hand by actually seeing the objects and experiencing them in the flesh.”

The artist traveled to Pennsylvania to handpick the wood for the fence, which is more than 150 years old. It will be molded can cast in bronze to preserve its texture – and, of course, the knotholes.

“In making a work of art, it’s just so important to really reflect what exactly you’re trying to depict,” said Enriquez. “The wood for the fence was very important, and it just had to convey the look and feeling of an actual old fence.”

A quick search on the Internet reveals that Knothole Gangs are alive and actually encourages today. Many minor league teams sponsor these official fan clubs as one way to get children interested in the sport.


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