Well, this one's for my sister, the teacher. Manda, I hope you share this with your class.
It'll take 2 tries to make Ernie Banks statue right
April 2, 2008
'This doesn't have anything to do with an apostrophe, does it?" Lou Cella said when I called Tuesday.
Id like to say it didnt but it did.
Cella, the sculptor who made the lovely new Ernie Banks statue outside Wrigley Field, guessed that I was calling about the apostrophe because he'd gotten a call about it just a little earlier from Jonathon Brandmeier, the morning DJ at WLUP-FM.
He didn't know at first what Brandmeier was talking about.
"What apostrophe?" he thought.
That's how he learned how much trouble can be stirred up by a little '.
Before the Banks statue went on display at Wrigley Monday, many people had inspected it, and they agreed: Mr. Cub, 7 feet and 300 pounds of bat-swinging bronze, looked great.
Cella, who works at the Fine Art Studio of Rotblatt-Amrany in Highwood, had scrutinized the things that mattered most to him as the sculptor.
How was the patina? Excellent. Was the inscription on the correct side of the granite base? Yes, it was. Right down there on Ernie's left it said:
LETS PLAY TWO.
Let us play two. Your 5th-grade teacher taught you this. When you drop a letter between words, you insert an apostrophe. In other words:
LET'S PLAY TWO.
"I'm the sculptor, I'm not a writer," said Cella, sounding good-natured. "I just read it the way I heard it in my head."
So did a lot of the people making pilgrimages to the Banks statue Tuesday. One after another, in the springtime sleet, they idled their cars along Clark Street, hopped out and clicked their cell phone cameras.
See anything wrong?
At least half the people I asked leaned toward the inscription, mouthed it—Lets play two, lets play two, lets play two—then shook their heads, no.
"That's just a nitpicky thing about English," said a guy named Brian when I pointed it out. He declined to give his last name on the grounds that he didn't want to be on the record insulting the Cubs.
Cub fan Ken Royal, on the other hand, would have made his grade-school teacher Mrs. Cassert proud.
"There's an apostrophe missing," he said without hesitation. "Who engraved it? Who did the inspection? All these years to get a statue for him and . . ."
Royal shrugged, and said, almost happily, "That's the Cubs for you."
I went into the Cubs administration office. A secretary made a call on my behalf. A few minutes later, Katelyn Thrall, a Cubs representative, walked in, brusquely stuck out her hand and didn't wait for me to explain.
"We're going to fix it," she said. "That's all I can say."
It's easy to mock the missing apostrophe, but let us show some mercy. We've all been there. We've all suffered through the little error that mars our best work. The tiny error that screams only when it's too late. The error that leaves you wondering how you failed to notice and why someone didn't save you.
Cella, who is 44 and a lifelong Cub fan, had bigger things on his mind. He'd spent three and a half months making the clay sculpture for the statue, working from hundreds of photographs, trying to capture the shape of Banks' nose, the height of his ears.
He'd overseen the elaborate process after that. A rubber mold was made from the clay sculpture. A wax casting was made from the rubber mold. A ceramic mold was put over the wax. The wax was melted and evacuated from the ceramic mold and molten bronze poured into its place.
When the bronze was hard, the statue was hoisted onto its granite base, coated with an acid patina that creates colors in the metal, and finally, covered with a lacquer that will prevent it from turning green.
Cella just didn't notice that the stonecutters at the granite company missed the '.
But by the time the Cubs are back in town, he vows, Ernie Banks will have his apostrophe. It'll take 10 minutes with a grinding tool.
"We'll put in the most beautiful apostrophe you ever saw," he said.
So get those photos of "LETS PLAY TWO" now. They'll be collector's items.