McShane: 'Remember how we're connected as a community'
By Paul Hagen
PHILADELPHIA -- Once again, Tug McGraw is jumping into the sky, celebrating the first World Series championship in Phillies history.
Only this time, McGraw is doing it eight stories high. And he's joined by dozens of iconic faces and moments and even the ballparks from franchise history on a spectacular 3,750-square-foot mural located at 24th and Walnut Street, and visible from the Schuylkill River Trail and I-76.
The Phillies Mural was created by award-winning artist David McShane, a lifetime Phils fan who also created a mural honoring Jackie Robinson in North Philadelphia, and another honoring the Philadelphia Stars of the Negro Leagues in West Philadelphia. The Phillies Mural was executed in conjunction with the Philadelphia Mural Arts Program.
The official dedication will take place Saturday, with festivities beginning at 11 a.m. ET, including entertainment from the Whiz Kids and refreshments. The ceremony starts at 11:30 a.m. Fans are invited to help celebrate along with more than a dozen legends, such as Mike Schmidt, Brad Lidge, Charlie Manuel, Darren Daulton, Dallas Green, Mitch Williams, Larry Bowa, Steve Carlton, Dick Allen, Greg Luzinski, Curt Simmons, Jim Bunning, Tony Taylor and the Phillies Phanatic.
The free event is part of the Toyota Phillies Alumni Weekend.
It's fitting that Harry Kalas and Rich Ashburn, two of the most beloved figures in team history, are in the center of the painting. Opposite McGraw, Brad Lidge drops to his knees after recording the final out that gave the Phils their 2008 championship. Players from as long ago as Chuck Klein and Grover Cleveland Alexander are represented, as are several current stars.
McShane's preliminary drawing left room for two more players who were determined by a fan vote. That's how Luzinski and Carlos Ruiz were added. In each corner, groups of fans look on.
The artist said that deciding who and what to leave off was far more difficult than figuring out who to include.
"That was a challenge," McShane said. "Rather than start with individuals, I started with teams -- so the championship teams and the teams that were pennant winners, and I thought of key players from there. Then, I filled in the void with the other Hall of Famers and retired numbers. For instance, someone like Chuck Klein who was one of the greatest sluggers they ever had, but played in the 1920s when the Phillies weren't very good. He deserves to be in the mural. So that's sort of how I went about it.
"I was also trying not to overwhelm the mural. If you put a hundred figures in, it kind of loses its impact. So I was kind of thinking of trying to target around 25, 30 players max. When I was a kid, I really loved Garry Maddox, so I would have loved to have put him in there. There are certain singular moments like Shane Victorino hitting that grand slam [off CC Sabathia in the playoffs], Matt Stairs' home run [in the National League Championship Series against the Dodgers]. But when you take a look at the grand history, you really have to narrow it down."
While the mural understandably focuses on franchise highlights, it doesn't whitewash the lowlights. Williams is depicted throwing the pitch that Joe Carter hit to win the 1993 World Series for the Blue Jays. Players from the 1964 team wake echoes of the club that squandered a 6 1/2-game lead in the final two weeks of the regular season.
"It's certainly a rich history with a lot of successes and failures," McShane said. "But for most of us as a collective community we have both celebrated the triumphs and suffered through the disappointments. My hope is that people look at the mural and remember how we're connected as a community. Because we all shared these moments together."
The 50-year-old has painted more than 70 murals. This is one of his all-time favorites, and it should be around for a while.
"This mural has a special UV coating applied, so it'll take a lot longer for the paints to fade," McShane said. "We would anticipate at least a good 25-year life span. And hopefully we'll have at least another World Series or two by then."
Paul Hagen is a national columnist for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.