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Mighty Casey - Original Bronze Statue by Mark Lundeen
Starting Bid - $10,000, Sold For - $12,000
Original bronze statue, titled Mighty Casey, by renowned sculptor Mark Lundeen. This statue is one of the most famous and celebrated sports sculptures ever produced. It is also one of the biggest items Robert Edward Auctions has ever handled, both figuratively and literally: it stands seven feet tall and weighs over 600 pounds! The subject of this work, Mighty Casey, is one of the most iconic folk heroes in American history, and few people today are unfamiliar with the poem "Casey at the Bat," or its famous final line: "There is no joy in Mudville /mighty Casey has struck out." Written by Ernest Thayer and first published in the San Francisco Examiner in 1888, "Casey at the Bat" might have languished in obscurity had vaudeville star DeWolf Hopper not performed it as a special act for members of the New York Giants and Chicago White Stockings at Wallack's Theater in New York in August 1889. The recitation was an instant hit and helped immortalize the piece, which is now perhaps the best-known verse in American literature. Here, in this larger-than-life artwork, Lundeen captures the ever-confidant Casey as he casually leans on his bat while watching the first two strikes go by. In looking at this piece, one can almost hear the lines that occasioned it:
And now the leather-covered sphere came hurtling through the air,
And Casey stood a-watching it in haughty grandeur there.
Close by the sturdy batsman the ball unheeded sped -
"That ain't my style," said Casey. "Strike one," the umpire said.
Many times artists are asked where they get the inspiration for their work. With regard to this piece, that question was answered by Lundeen in an October 24, 1988, Sports Illustrated feature article about him and his most famous creation. "Based on my own frustrating experiences, and those of a lot of other athletes, I decided a few years ago to do a bronze statue of a sports figure who symbolized failing in the clutch, but doing it in style. . . .The poem Casey at the Bat immediately came to mind." The article, written by Jack Cavanaugh, also makes note of the fact that "Officials at the Baseball Hall of Fame in Cooperstown, N.Y., were so impressed with his [Lundeen's] work that they accepted one of the seven-footers - some of which have brought prices as high as $30,000 - as a loan from the owners." The article also quotes William Guilfoile, who at the time was the associate director of the Hall of Fame, as stating "[The Mighty Casey has] been one of our biggest attractions since we put it on display last June." It should be noted that the statue of Mighty Casey that was displayed in the Hall of Fame later appeared as Lot 1314 in REA's May 2010 auction, where it sold for $35,250. The statue offered here in the present auction was purchased by our consignor directly from the artist in the late 1980s and has been displayed outdoors at her home in New York since that time.
Mark Lundeen, whose studio is located in Loveland, Colorado, is a world-renowned sculptor whose works reflect a high degree of realism. Included among his many awards are the Philip Isenberg Award from the Allied Artists of America in New York City for his sculpture Ragtime Cowboy Joe and Best Sculpture in a Public Place by Westword Magazine of Denver, Colorado, for Mighty Casey. Today, his works can be found at many important venues, including the National Statuary Hall of the Capitol Building in Washington, D.C.; Little League Headquarters in Williamsport, Pennsylvania; Amarillo International Airport and the Amarillo Civic Center in Amarillo, Texas; Arlington Ballpark, in Arlington, Texas; Pro Player Stadium in Miami, Florida; the Baseball Hall of Fame in Cooperstown, New York; Denver International Airport in Denver, Colorado; and in various universities, colleges, and libraries across the nation. The offered statue is one of fifteen seven-foot-tall Mighty Casey bronze statues created by the artist at the time, all of which were long ago sold and dispersed to the four corners of the art collecting universe. The 2004 unveiling of a specially commissioned 14-foot Mighty Casey for permanent display at the stadium at Little League headquarters in Williamsport, Pennsylvania (which is seen by millions every year on TV during Little League World Series coverage) has further increased Mighty Casey's fame. The original issue price in 1987 of Mighty Casey was $18,000, and the price was slowly raised as the edition came closer to selling out, with the final Mighty Casey selling for $65,000. It is interesting to note that of the fifteen Mighty Casey seven-foot bronze statues sold by Lundeen in the late 1980s, only two have returned to the market: the previously cited example sold by REA in 2010 and the statue offered in this auction. Because of the size and weight of this piece, special transportation arrangements will have to be made in coordination with Robert Edward Auctions and the consignor (the item will remain at her home during the course of the auction). Height: approximately 7 feet. Weight: approximately 600 pounds. Please note: due to the size and/or weight of this piece, the shipping charges for this lot (depending on where it is sent and method of shipping) will be substantial. Reserve $10,000. Estimate (open). SOLD FOR $12,000
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