Feature: Iconic Play at Home statue captures the spirit of softball

By Balls & Strikes, Volume 55, Number 16 | April 25, 2019, 10:45 a.m. (ET)

While there is no telling of the amount of people who were playing the game of softball on June 23, 1979, a crowd of about 300 was on hand in Oklahoma City for the dedication of this historic sculpture in softball history – the “Play at Home” statue that was sculpted by the renowned Leonard McMurry of Oklahoma City.

Pictured at the dedication for the "Play at Home" statue (L to R): Andy Pendergast, Ferris Reid, Andy Loechner, Wayne Myers, W.W. (Bill) Kethan, Cliff Warrick, W.B. Auxier, C. Tillman Ryser, Harold Engelhardt, Desmond Roy and Carl Kelley. Kneeling (L to R): Andy Yazwinsi, O.W. (Bill) Smith, and Charles McCord.

The 2,000-pound, $120,000 piece of art was dedicated in the plaza in front of the National Softball Hall of Fame and Museum. Only four figures are in the sculpture - but those four figures are important. Especially if you’re involved with the nation’s number one team participation sport, softball. Those figures (a batter, base runner, catcher and umpire) portray a scene that is replayed thousands of times each year and represent the millions of softball players and umpires worldwide.

David Spoonemore poses for sculptor Leonard McMurry during the initial phases of creating the "Play at Home" statue.

“I know that what we are about to unveil today will express to us and to all the many people who will see it in future years the enthusiasm and that spirit of competition which softball engenders whenever it is played,” said then-USA Softball President, H. Franklin Taylor III. “Whether it’s played by men or women, young or old, softball engenders that enthusiasm and that spirit of competition which are so much a part of our American way of life.”

While the statue encompasses the spirit of the competitors who play the game, it raises the age-old question that almost every athlete, fan and umpire experiences – is the runner out or safe?

David Spoonemore poses for sculptor Leonard McMurry during the initial phases of creating the "Play at Home" statue.

That question has been a topic of debate since the sculpture’s creation, but it’s one that was meant to be unanswered.

As former Oklahoma Governor, George Nigh, who was serving at the time of the sculpture dedication likened it, “I would more liken it to Shakespeare’s ‘As you like it’…all the trials and tribulations, all the worries and feelings that visitors may have as they look at this sculpture, there may be hope for everybody. Because they will know that the call has not been made. There’s still a decision, a final judgment.”