The idea when sculptors immortalize athletic heroes is to capture them in their element.
Michael Jordan soars through the air outside the United Center, legs spread in the Jumpman pose popularized by Nike, about ready to posterize another unfortunate opponent.
Hank Aaron stands outside SunTrust Park in Atlanta, eyes fixed on a ball that his bat is about to hurt badly.
At San Francisco’s AT&T Park, Willie Mays has his right hand free, his left hand still holding the bat on an exaggerated follow-through, as he watches a ball sail out of old Candlestick Park.
Every athlete has some trademark that can be captured in art. Pete Rose’s provided more of a challenge than almost any other. Rose had 4,256 career hits, more than anyone else in major league history, although he is equally famous for launching his body through the air with violent headfirst dives.
When sculptor Tom Tsuchiya was commissioned for his eighth work to go around the Cincinnati Reds’ Great American Ballpark, a statue of Rose, he knew exactly what it had to be – Rose had to be diving into a base.
The problem was how to create something that heavy with so much of it unsupported in the air. Dean Solberg, a Lakewood resident and co-owner of Exact Metrology, which does 3-D laser and CT scanning, played an integral role in the creation of Tsuchiya’s statue, which was unveiled June 17 in Cincinnati.
“We did work on the Johnny Bench statue down there, as well,” Solberg said. “What made this one unique is, true to life, Pete Rose always slid into the base headfirst. You had to create a support structure that was pretty rigid, because it was only supporting him from underneath his chest. The concern was what if someone who weighed 200 pounds, and his friend, wanted to take a picture and sit on his hind legs? What would happen?”
Solberg grew up in Deerfield and moved to Lakewood in 2004. He owns Exact Metrology with Steve Young. Solberg oversees the Brookfield, Wisconsin, building; Young takes care of the Cincinnati branch.
Exact Metrology does scanning for everything from people’s bodies to nuclear power plants to crime scenes. The technology allows their clients to see every minute detail.
Solberg said the process for the Rose statue took more than six months. There is a video showing different steps, with one of the first being Tsuchiya sculpting an 18-inch model of Rose. One of Solberg’s employees helped Tsuchiya by lying on a desk with his hands down, a position like Rose when he was sliding.
From that model, Exact Metrology created a digital life-size model for Tsuchiya to work with. There were steal beams from his arms all the way through his legs to support the bottom half of the body. Foam sections were created to hold form when the bronze was poured.
“We do additional computer and scanning work to capture more lifelike aspects of Pete and his face,” Solberg said. “It’s all done with lasers and what-not.”
Solberg’s role was administrative. He employed engineers from GE Aerospace to make sure the design was appropriate and that the structure had the integrity to support the weight.
“It was just a different kind of project,” he said. “It was a lot of fun. We had a lot of exposure to Pete Rose. Most people don’t realize this technology exists. It was an extensive job.”
Solberg was not in Cincinnati for the unveiling of Tsuchiya’s newest masterpiece, but he heard good things about it.
“From what I heard, [Rose] was tickled pink,” Solberg said. “He didn’t see it until the formal unveiling. It has an awesome likeness to him.”