In mid-August, the Texas Rangers said that come Opening Day 2012 the team hoped to have near the Home Plate Gate of the Ballpark in Arlington a statue of Shannon Stone and 6-year-old son Cooper as a tribute to the 39-year-old Brownwood firefighter killed at the Ballpark on July 7. Said Nolan Ryan at the time, "It will not only serve to honor Mr. Stone's memory but also to recognize Rangers fans and baseball fans everywhere."
Late yesterday, the Rangers sent one more note about the statue, which will be titled, simply, Rangers Fans: It will be created by Norse, Texas-based artist Bruce Greene, whose works Ryan collects. Greene's work displays in cowboy museums all over the country, but perhaps his best-known work resides down in Waco: the Immortal Ten Memorial on the Baylor campus, a tribute to 10 students killed in a train crash near Round Rock in 1927.
It wasn't easy getting Greene on the phone; he spends most of his days in his studio, obscured from distraction. But we spoke this afternoon about Rangers Fans and "the weight" that comes with such a commission, intended to serve as both a tribute to a father who died in front of his young son watching a game they loved and as a symbol of something much larger than a single tragic incident.
"It's a big responsibility that goes with this," Greene tells Unfair Park. "You want to capture a likeness of Shannon and his son Cooper, and to try to relate the relationship they enjoyed -- not just have it look like 'em, but feel like 'em. I'll have them interacting, like they're walking out of the stadium and doing the play-by-play" of what they've just seen.
"And it's about relationships -- a dad and his son, a family that can gather over baseball and spend time at the ballpark," he says. "Those things are on my mind, and to do that with the sensitivity as it relates to Jenny Stone and Cooper at obviously a very hard time. I want to be sensitive to them."
Greene says he was among a number of artists under consideration by the Rangers, who looked over several portfolios before making their decision. Two weeks ago, he got the call: Ryan's secretary rang with the news that he'd been selected. Since then he's visited with Jenny and Cooper Stone; he doesn't want to recount their conversations, and I did not ask him to. Greene offers only, "I will say this: Their relationship is obvious even in photos" of the father and son.
"And I think if I can get that expression and the feeling between father and son as they walk out of the stadium, that'll translate to the bigger picture," he says. "With the intimacy of that relationship, that'll translate. We all hope as fathers for that intimacy with our sons and daughters. If I can get that body language as it comes across, then it'll translate."