A bronze statue of baseball legend Jackie Robinson that was stolen and destroyed in Kansas will be remade at a Colorado art foundry after a national outpouring of support.
The statue of Robinson, the first Black player in Major League Baseball in the 20th century, was cut off at the ankles and stolen from a youth baseball league complex inside McAdams Park in Wichita, Kansas on Jan. 25.
The statue’s burned remains were found in a different park on Tuesday morning and were not salvageable, according to the Associated Press. No arrests have been made in the case.
Wichita police have not disclosed a possible motive in the case, though Chief Joe Sullivan said at a Jan. 26 news conference he was troubled that the statue was stolen just days before the beginning of Black History Month.
“We’re not making the connection, but we’re certainly not discounting it,” Sullivan said.
League 42, named for Robinson’s jersey number on the Brooklyn Dodgers, was founded in 2013 to give kids from urban areas a chance to play baseball without the high costs of recreational leagues.
For $30 per player or family of siblings, League 42 provides a uniform and gear to children between 5 and 14 years old and has grown to 600 players across 44 teams.
A bronze statue of legendary baseball pioneer Jackie Robinson was stolen from a park in Wichita, Kan., during the early morning hours of Thursday, Jan. 25, 2024. The statue, valued at $75,000, was the centerpiece of the League 42 ballpark facility, a baseball league started in 2015 to help kids with little access to organized sports. (Travis Heying/The Wichita Eagle via AP)
When executive director Bob Lutz walked outside of the league’s office and noticed the statue missing the afternoon of Jan. 25, he called over another employee to make sure what he was seeing was real.
“I felt anger, devastation and sadness,” Lutz said. “My immediate reaction was that I don’t know that I can continue to do this.”
The statue was a symbol for League 42 and also held personal significance for Lutz – it was created by his late friend, sculptor John Parsons, who died in 2022.
“We were devastated to lose the statue, but for me personally, knowing how I worked in conjunction with John to make this happen – it was a real blow,” he said.
In the days that followed the theft, League 42 received a national outpouring of support, including from the MLB itself.
The MLB commissioner’s office and 30 clubs committed funding toward the cost of replacing the statue, Lutz said in a post on X.
A crowdfunding campaign for League 42 has raised more than $180,000, which will fund the statue’s replacement and more security. The money will also fund the league’s education initiatives and facility improvements, like new lights and artificial turf, Lutz said.
“This money pouring in from all over America will help us in many ways, and we’re humbled by the response,” he said.
A bronze statue of Jackie Robinson was stolen and destroyed from a youth baseball complex in Wichita, Kansas on Jan. 25, 2024. (Courtesy League 42)
The statue was created at Art Castings of Colorado, a bronze foundry in Loveland, and will be recast there in the coming months.
General Manager Tony Workman said the foundry typically keeps molds for up to two years, but as luck would have it, Parson’s mold was still in storage.
The foundry creates around 60 life-sized or bigger pieces per year in addition to hundreds of tabletop sculptures, Workman said.
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While most life-sized pieces take around six weeks to complete, a backlog at the foundry means the new Robinson statue will be ready in six to eight months.