Hello! Every seven days, for the rest of the year, This Week in Portland History is bringing to light a person or event from the city’s past.
It’s become a Park Avenue landmark, on the sidewalk, outside Hadlock Field, where the Sea Dogs play ball. The bronze, nuclear family is hard to miss. At 11-feet tall, they tower over everyone. There’s a mom, a dad, two kids and a teddy bear. The boy has a baseball and glove. The shorts-wearing dad looks like he might be scalping tickets.
Scads of game-goers and tourists pose for pictures in front of the statue before every home game. It’s become a ritual, like eating a hot dog or booing the umpire. But a decade ago, when Sea Dogs owner Dan Burke tried to give the statue to the city, it said, thanks but no thanks.
That was in 2006. Burke didn’t go through Portland’s public art committee when getting it designed by sculptor Rhoda Sherbell. He basically showed up at a meeting one night and said, here you go. You’re welcome.
The committee was not pleased. It thought the family wasn’t diverse enough. Plus, the original plan called for putting it up on a pedestal. The committee thought there were enough statues of white people looking down at folks already. There was also an issue with the Sea Dogs logos on the hats. It was against the rules, the committee said, for the city to accept art with private company logos plastered on it.
The committee asked Burke to make certain changes. He said, through his lawyer, nope, take it or leave it. So it left it. All but one member voted against accepting his gift.
But city councilors overruled the public art committee. They voted to accept the statue as long as it wasn’t on a pedestal. A year later — ten years ago last week — the statue was officially dedicated on April 9, 2007. It’s been there ever since.
One last “fun” fact about the statue: It almost killed its maker. The little girl fell on the sculptor, Rhoda Sherbell, while she was working on the original, clay version. Sherbell was lucky and only got a broken rib from the 300-pound toddler.
Disclaimer: I’m not a historian. I owe everything I know to the dedicated research of those who have come before me. These character sketches and historical tidbits are assembled from multiple (often antique) sources and sprinkled with my own conjecture. I’m happy to be set straight or to learn more.