By Thor Jourgensen / The Daily Item
LYNN — A 92-year-old Nahant sculptor is a key figure in the city’s effort to immortalize African-American baseball pioneer Bud Fowler at the Locust Street entrance to Fraser Field.
Working out of a former Army building behind his home near Forty Steps, Reno Pisano created the sculpture depicting Fowler in his 19th-century baseball uniform out of clay. A Chelsea firm is creating a bronze casting of his creation that will be mounted on a granite pedestal next to Fraser in late July or early August.
All told, the monument will measure roughly three feet by five feet and include a plaque describing how Fowler, who lived from 1858 to 1913, pitched in May, 1978 in the West Lynn ball grounds where Barry Park is now located.
The inscription planned for the sculpture describes how Fowler, pitching for the Lynn Live Oaks, was on his way to a shutout game in front of 300 spectators when players from the opposing team walked off the field “...preferring to forfeit, rather than lose to a black pitcher.”
Fowler’s 30-year career as a player, manager and baseball organizer, motivated City Councilor at large and state Rep. Brendan Crighton to work with city employees and organize a Fowler tribute.
“Everyone really agreed it was right to honor Bud,” Crighton said.
He said Pisano’s previous Lynn sculptures made Pisano the right choice to honor Fowler. The Lynn native created the Frederick Douglass bust on Lynn Common, a similar tribute to Mary Baker Eddy on Market Street and a likeness of 19th-century shoe manufacturing pioneer Jan Matzeliger on a bridge spanning the commuter rail tracks.
Pisano said a “strong social conscience” motivated him to tackle the Fowler project, beginning with research into Fowler’s life in March. Working with a specification outline provided by city Community Development assistant facilities manager Michael Murray, he spent a month molding a clay model for duplication in bronze by New England Sculpture Service.
A sculptor for 80 years and World War II veteran, Pisano said a heightened national focus on race relations increased his interest in the Fowler project and his admiration for the ballplayer.
“I had such great admiration for the guy,” he said.
The 47-year Nahant resident claims 100 sculpting creations to his name and continues to be involved in an advisory capacity with the Museum of Fine Arts in Boston. Pisano said he looks forward to attending the Flower monument dedication.
“I like the feeling of mission accomplished,” he said.