Modeling Stadium Statue Subject Choice in U.S. Baseball and English Soccer

Chris Stride 1 , Ffion E. Thomas 2 , John P. Wilson 3  and Josh Pahigian 4
  • 1 University of Sheffield
  • 2 University of Sheffield
  • 3 University of Oxford
  • 4 University of New England

From an almost standing start at the beginning of the 1990s, the number of statues of U.S. baseball and English soccer heroes has risen inexorably. By 1st September 2011, 33 soccer players and 67 Major League Baseball (MLB) players were, or were soon to be, depicted by existing or commissioned subject specific statues inside or adjacent to the stadia they once performed in. Yet even amongst the very finest exponents of their sport, relatively few players are honored in this way.This paper investigates and compares the defining characteristics of stadium statue subjects in these two national sports. We first developed a shortlist of potential causal factors likely to influence subject selection by considering the motivations behind statue building. The MLB Hall of Fame and the English Football League “100 Legends” list were then used as samples of the best performers from each sport. Logistic regression models were built to test the effects of potential predictors for the selection of statue subjects; these included loyalty, locality, longevity, performance of the player and their team, national recognition, sympathy and the effect of nostalgia or memory (i.e., the era a player performed in).The optimal models for soccer and baseball correctly identified depiction or non-depiction for 87% and 90.6% of the respective samples, and their significant constituent effects indicated the importance of club loyalty and era. Players who played most or all of their careers at one club or franchise and those active in the 1950s and 1960s were most likely to be depicted. This latter finding in particular suggests that the role of a statue as a nostalgia/heritage marketing object impacts upon subject choice, which is thus dependent in part on the “chance” effect of birth era. Distinct characteristics of each sport, such as baseball franchise relocation and international soccer success, were also found to have a significant effect upon the probability of depiction. Predicted probabilities were calculated for players with statues who were not Football League “Legends” or MLB Hall of Famers; these confirm the viability of the model outside of the elite performers it was constructed upon.

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JQAS, an official journal of the American Statistical Association, publishes research on the quantitative aspects of professional and collegiate sports. Articles deal with subjects as measurements of player performance, tournament structure, and the frequency and occurrence of records. Additionally, the journal serves as an outlet for professionals in the sports world to raise issues and ask questions that relate to quantitative sports analysis.

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