Jackie Robinson’s forthcoming statue breaks new ground

  • UK researchers have tracked down all of Jackie Robinson’s statues ahead of a new statue being unveiled at Dodger Stadium
  • Jackie Robinson currently has seven statues in his honour – more than any other US sportsman or woman
  • Only two of his existing statues depict him playing baseball, with the rest celebrating his social achievements or association with the statue’s location

News of the impending Jackie Robinson statue at Dodger Stadium has not just captured the imagination of stateside baseball fans but has also piqued special interest from researchers at the University of Sheffield.

Jackie RobinsonDr Chris Stride, from the University of Sheffield in the UK, and Ffion Thomas, a PhD student from the University of Central Lancashire, have researched and written in depth about the existing monuments commemorating Jackie Robinson, and their unique place amongst the 300-plus other US baseball statues that they have catalogued as part of their Sporting Statues Project database.

They found that Jackie Robinson’s seven current statues, plus a giant public-sited bust in Pasadena, are the most of any US sportsman or women, and globally rank him behind only fellow baseball icon Roberto Clemente (12) and soccer legend Pele (10).

However the characteristics of Robinson’s statues differ from much of the US baseball statuary. Only two of the Robinson statue designs actually depict him playing baseball. None of the plaque inscriptions give Robinson’s detailed career statistics or mention his membership of Pennant and World Series winning teams, instead entirely focusing on praising his social achievements, and/or his association to the statue’s location.

These very locations also take Jackie Robinson out of baseball – amazingly, Robinson’s new statue at Dodger Stadium will be his first at a current MLB facility. That the Dodgers have not previously honoured him is perhaps due to their franchise history. Stride and Thomas found that relocated franchises are significantly less likely to have statues, and where they do, they rarely honour players who starred in the franchise’s previous location and incarnation.

Dr Stride said: “Statues tell us as much, if not more about the societies and cultures that erect them as they do about their subjects. The many monuments to Jackie Robinson reflect not only his critical and courageous role in driving profound social change, but also the desire of communities to celebrate both Robinson’s achievements and their part in his story.

“The designs and locations of these statues, whilst honouring his huge social impact and courage, have perhaps failed to also highlight his baseball achievements and those of the great Dodgers team he played in. Jackie wanted his skills as a ballplayer to be the story – to the extent he had his Hall of Fame plaque rewritten to prioritise his baseball achievements – so it is great that he is finally being honoured at a Major League facility, by the franchise that he starred for.”

Additional information

Download a paper about Robinson’s statues, written by Dr Stride and Ffion Thomas in conjunction with University of Sacramento researcher Maureen Smith.

The Sporting Statues Project

The Sporting Statues Project, based at the University of Sheffield, UK is a cross-disciplinary research study that records and researches figurative statues and other forms of commemoration of sportsmen and women around the world. Since 2010 we have published a series of academic papers and magazine articles, spoken at sport history, visual art, and sports marketing conferences, and collected information on over 600 statues.

At present the project website displays databases for all UK-sited sporting statues, US baseball statues, the world’s cricket statues, and the world’s football (i.e. soccer) statues. For news on forthcoming project publications and website updates, follow the project's Twitter account.

The University of Sheffield

With almost 27,000 of the brightest students from over 140 countries, learning alongside over 1,200 of the best academics from across the globe, the University of Sheffield is one of the world’s leading universities.

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Unified by the power of discovery and understanding, staff and students at the university are committed to finding new ways to transform the world we live in.

Sheffield is the only university to feature in The Sunday Times 100 Best Not-For-Profit Organisations to Work For 2016 and was voted number one university in the UK for Student Satisfaction by Times Higher Education in 2014. In the last decade it has won four Queen’s Anniversary Prizes in recognition of the outstanding contribution to the United Kingdom’s intellectual, economic, cultural and social life.

Sheffield has six Nobel Prize winners among former staff and students and its alumni go on to hold positions of great responsibility and influence all over the world, making significant contributions in their chosen fields.

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Contact

For further information please contact:

Hannah Postles
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University of Sheffield
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h.postles@sheffield.ac.uk