If you've ever strolled through the Plaza of Champions outside Busch Stadium, past the statues of Cardinals greats, or past the bust of Jack Buck that now stands along the north wall of the ballpark, you've seen the work of Harry Weber.
But there is one Weber sculpture that you haven't seen, and perhaps never will.
On the occasion of Mark McGwire's 500th home run, Weber created an 18" maquette which was presented to the slugger. A few years later, as his Ozzie Smith statue was being installed, Weber said Cardinals Management asked him to go ahead and begin work on a full-size version of the McGwire statue.
Weber completed the full-size McGwire statue in 2003 and said it went into storage at Busch Stadium, ready to come out once McGwire was elected into the Hall of Fame. And I think we all know how that went down.
"I, for one, am really sorry Mark did not get the honor," Weber said. "He was a player of his time, and he and Sammy pulled baseball back from the doldrums after the strike."
And so the statue remains in storage.
For a team with as long and as rich a history as the Cardinals, the question of who to honor and how to do so begs for certain parameters. The Cardinals have stated that they will only retire numbers for players who have entered the Hall of Fame.
That policy was enacted after the Cardinals went on a bit of a retired-number run in 1984. They retired Ken Boyer's number 14 shortly after his death from lung cancer, but also retired the number 85 for Gussie Busch in honor of his 85th birthday. While the Boyer move was a classy tribute to a longtime (if not Hall-of-Fame) Cardinal, the Gussie Busch birthday stunt felt more akin to Yadier Molina Garden Gnome night.
While I'm not aware of any stated criteria for "who gets a statue," the Cardinals seem to be applying at-least the same standard.
"I'm sure the Cardinals will stick to their original criteria," Weber said. "If Mark does not get in, the statue will remain where it is."
The more formalized, modern Cardinals Hall of Fame has provided a good venue to honor Cardinal greats who may not rise to the Baseball Hall of Fame standard. I think it makes sense for the Cardinals Hall to pitch a bigger tent and tell a more detailed story. It also seems prudent to reserve a bigger and more permanent honor like retiring a number or casting someone in bronze for the truly exceptional.
But the policy that "we only honor those who the BBWAA elects to the Hall of Fame" seems more like a way to deflect a question than a sound criteria.
First off, by that standard it would seem Bruce Sutter was due a retired number. And what about a statue? Just imagine that 80 Grade beard cast in bronze, hand raised in the air after the final out of the '82 series. Or maybe even the moment just after, as Darrell Porter jumped into his arms and wrapped his legs around him. Hall of Fame player, iconic team championship moment... seems like it could be worth casting in bronze for all-time.
And what about the Cardinals greats who don't happen to earn 80% of the vote from a club for moralizing newspaper reporters? I'm #TeamGrichuk and all, but I don't like seeing him - or anyone else - out in center field wearing #15.
Mark McGwire may never get into the Hall of Fame. Or he may get elected in 20 years when they convene some clownish commission to fix the oversights of the steroid era. But whether or not he gets a bust hung in some museum in upstate New York, he was a pretty damn iconic Cardinal. You've already got the statue. I say, put it up.