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March 7, 2016
THE ASIAN REPORTER n Page 7
Firm has made Baseball Hall of Fame plaques for three decades
PAINSTAKING PROCESS. Sculptors Tom
Tsuchiya, center, and Mindy Ellis, right, and Josh
Rooney, left, the sales and marketing director for
sports and entertainment for the Matthews Interna-
tional Corp., examine molds for plaques of Baseball
Hall of Fame inductees at the company’s facility in
Pittsburgh. For more than three decades, Matthews
International Corp. has produced plaques for the
Baseball Hall of Fame in Cooperstown, New York.
(Matthews International Corp. via AP)
By Bob Cohn
ITTSBURGH (AP) — Tom
Tsuchiya will soon point his
orange 2011 Honda Element east
and drive about five hours from Cincinnati
bearing precious cargo.
Once he arrives at the sprawling
Brookline facility on West Liberty Avenue
that houses the Matthews International
Bronze Division, the 43-year-old sculptor
will hand over a pair of clay images he
designed and created in about six weeks.
This will set in motion a process, the
results of which are images cast in bronze
and plaques unveiled on the grounds of
Clark Athletic Center in Cooperstown,
New York, on July 25 when Ken Griffey Jr.
and Mike Piazza become the newest
members of the Baseball Hall of Fame.
In their speeches they will laugh, maybe
cry, reminisce, and thank loved ones and
other appropriate people. They also will
lay their eyes, for the first time, on the
work of Tsuchiya (pronounced Soo-cheeya)
and the Matthews team, which produced
the lasting likenesses and, in a sense,
“It would definitely be a big moment and
a special moment for me,” said Tsuchiya,
who created the Hall of Fame images for
the first time. “With these guys, it will be a
complete surprise. It’s hard to know what
I’ll feel like because everything I’ve done at
this point, it’s never been a surprise to the
subject. But I’m confident it will look
Matthews has made the plaques since
about 1983. Tsuchiya, the son of Japanese
immigrants, is a rookie. For most of the
last 20 years, the job went to Pittsburgh
native Mindy Ellis, who helped create 76
Ellis, who lives in Bethel Park, is unable
to produce the finely detailed, bas-relief
images measuring about four inches by
three inches. She recently had surgery on
her right hand and elbow to help relieve
carpal tunnel and cubital tunnel
syndromes. She will soon have another
surgery on her left arm.
“As an artist, those are your main tools,”
she said. “I’ve done art my whole life and
worked very hard with my hands.”
Although most of the public was
unfamiliar with Ellis, the art and baseball
communities hold her work in high regard.
With final approval on every image and
exacting standards, the hall is especially
“When you think that a plaque starts as
a ball of clay, and through her vision and
skill Mindy is able to turn it into a very
good likeness of a player, it’s uncanny how
accurate she is,” Hall of Fame president
Jeff Idelson said. “It’s not a photograph.
It’s a piece of art.”
Ellis “brought a great eye for detail,”
said Josh Rooney, Matthews’ sales and
marketing director for sports and enter-
tainment. “She brought a consistency. She
recognizes when she puts a line on a face
how that will be viewed on a wall.”
A lifelong Reds fan, Tsuchiya designed
the seven sculptures of the club’s all-time
greats situated outside Great American
Ball Park. He is working on an eighth, the
big one, Pete Rose. Tsuchiya got to know
Rooney through such work and projects he
did for Matthews (including a likeness of
pitcher Jamie Moyer for his Mariners Hall
of Fame plaque). Rooney, the son of former
Penguins president Tom Rooney and
nephew of Steelers patriarch Art Rooney
Sr., said he saw Tsuchiya as a “potential
heir apparent,” calling him “a natural fit.”
Tsuchiya said he is especially thrilled to
create the Griffey plaque. Even though
Junior will go into the hall wearing a
Mariners cap, he grew up in Cincinnati
while his father played for the Reds and
later spent nine seasons there.
The Hall of Fame selects the
photographs as a guide for the sculptors,
but, like Ellis, Tsuchiya, who uses
computer modelling during the early
stages, can add his own interpretations.
For example, he said he will try to
incorporate Griffey’s love of the game into
“You want to capture the player’s
personality,” he said. “A little bit of their
The transformation from clay to bronze
happens at the Matthews facility, which
manufactures countless plaques, memori-
als, and statues, among other items. Plant
manager Greg Geer said he is “so proud of
the fact” his company makes the Hall of
Fame plaque, noting how that enhanced
his visit to Cooperstown with his father.
“Baseball connects generations in my
family,” he said.
Geer is a Tigers fan from Toledo, Ohio.
Production manager Bernie Kuhn, on the
other hand, is a Pittsburgh native and
lifelong Pirates fan. He said it “definitely
was a big deal” when Bill Mazeroski in
2001 became the most recent Pirate to be
“Anything Pittsburgh-related we take to
Island rules: An Old World compass
on our chaotic new continent
Continued from page 6
I couldn’t recall why or where or when.
“Chao buoi chieu, Ong Polo,” he said.
Good afternoon, Mr. Polo. And with his
voice, my recollection returned.
“Selamat siang, saudara Nghia.” May
peace be your afternoon, my brother
Nghia. I stood and offered a shake. He took
my hand with both of his. I bowed to him, to
his life, and to a treasury of memories.
Next issue: How 30 years ago Nghia’s ill little
son changed U.S. law. And how 30 years later,
I was suddenly 10,000 clams happier.
The Asian Reporter’s
Expanding America Lexicon
Admiral Zheng He (A Muslim Han, born Ma
He. 1371-1433): Early Ming Dynasty court
officer and diplomat. Admiral of seven Imperial
Chinese treasure fleets, of hundreds of naval and
commercial vessels, sailing about a century
ahead of Columbus. Flagship rudders were as tall
as the Santa Maria was long.
Al’hamdulillah (Arabic): All praise be to
Ampun’illaah (Indo patois from Koranic
Arabic): Oh God have mercy.
Anak (Bahasa Indonesia): Child.
Compassionate Buddha: In the Buddhist
religious tradition and for neighboring
populations recipient of Mother India’s
enormous cultural largesse, reference to a
historical figure (a prince turned teacher and
spiritual leader) and to an Enlightened being who
freed himself, and by example offers liberation
from human suffering to others.
de rigueur (French): Rigorously held custom
Djalan (Bahasa Indonesia): Street. Passage.
Elder aunties (Spanish: Abuelas): Need not
be an auntie, grandma, or ancestor in your family.
Affectionate form of address for a recipient of
Hati-hati (Indo patois): Look-look! Watch
Joh (Indo patois, from Portuguese sinho or
Spanish señor): Address for an educated boy of
European local racial mix. Like me.
Krontjong (Or Javindo): Language or culture
of mixed European local ethnic communities.
Like our familia.
Lord Shiva (Sanskrit, Pali): In the Hindu
religious tradition and in neighboring popula-
tions recipient of Mother India’s enormous
cultural largesse, the deification of universal
disintegration (Lord Shiva, the Destroyer)
coexistent in exact and equal concert with
universal integration (Lord Vishnu, the
Dreamer). From this dialectic comes Louis
Armstrong’s “What a Wonderful World.”
Modern physics too.
Orang (Bahasa Indonesia): Man. Person. As
in: Orang-u-tan (man of the forest).
Peace be upon him (Arabic: Alayhi al’salam):
Recitation offered by respectful people after the
names of revered prophets.
(Arabic): To those faithful, and those populations
recipient of Islam’s enormous cultural largesse,
the last Messenger of God. Also, a historical
figure uniting and organizing the original Islamic
Two hastily packed bags: Reference to
untrue popular narrative that immigrants “come
here with nothing.” In truth, we arrive with
boatloads of social and spiritual capital, of the
kind America longs for. With priceless New
American optimism too.
Viet Chin (Vietnamese, Chinese): Ethnic
Chinese of Viet Nam, or a person who’s a blend
of these two racial/ethnic communities.
Woman in a white cotton blouse: Reference
to Malayalee lawyer sitting across all that rain
and chill, who, without knowing so,
contextualized a lot of the craziness I had simply
adapted to. Terima kasih, nonya manis — I offer
our love, dear lady.
Celebrate the Year of the Monkey!
February 8, 2016 to January 27, 2017
Read our special Lunar New Year edition online at <www.asianreporter.com>.
heart,” said Geer, citing another
Matthews-produced work, the Franco
Harris Immaculate Reception plaque
displayed near Heinz Field. A copy is kept
on the premises.
When Tsuchiya arrives with the clay
images of Piazza and Griffey, he will meet
with sculpting coordinator Jason Herniak
to go over the likeness as it conforms to the
Hall’s specifications. Herniak also
provides Hall of Fame inductees
reduced-scale replicas of their plaques. He
showed the models from last year’s class in
unfinished form. Among the four was
Braves pitcher John Smoltz.
“That one bugged me,” Herniak
admitted. “When I was in high school, who
was beating the Pirates all the time? John
In the foundry, the clay sculptures are
buried face up in sand that will be cured
and hardened to form the molds. Molten
bronze, 2,150 degrees, emerges from the
furnace via a pouring crane into a crucible
and is poured into flasks containing the
molds, its orange glow turning an ominous
After the plaques harden and are
removed, Tsuchiya and Doug Wood, a
tooler and finishing specialist — the
equivalent of a closer — go over all
dimensions of the plaque before it is
marked ready for Cooperstown. Wood
ticked off the final tasks — square it up,
get the sides even, make sure it sits flat,
drill holes for mounting, go over all letters
and emblems, ensure correct punctuation
and spelling, sandblast and paint, and
highlight to get just the right shadings.
Wood, who has a dry, sardonic air about
him and a long beard, was asked if he looks
forward to the time of year when he helps
make the plaques.
“Absolutely,” he said. “We’re the only
ones that do it.”
Bob Cohn is a staff writer for the Tribune-Review.
NYC exhibit to open
on Japan earthquake
NEW YORK (AP) — An exhibit opening
in New York City on the fifth anniversary
of Japan’s earthquake and tsunami
features photographs, video, and other
artworks in response to the tragedy.
“In the Wake: Japanese Photographers
Respond to 3/11” opens March 11 at the
Japan Society Gallery and runs through
Also on view, for the first time in New
York, is a room-sized installation dedi-
cated to a project by Munemasa Taka-
hashi. The artist recovered more than
750,000 personal photos from the debris,
identifying and returning tens of
thousands of them to their owners. About
1,000 are part of his installation.
Yoko Ono’s ongoing art installation,
“Wish Tree,” also is part of the display. It
invites visitors to fasten a white tag
bearing their wishes for the world’s future
to an apple tree.
To learn more, visit <www.japan