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Oklahoma school dedicates Warren Spahn statue

October 8, 2018

In this undated photo, Hartshorne Public Schools Superintendent Jason Lindley talks during a dedication ceremony for a 9-feet tall statue of Hall-of-Fame pitcher Warren Spahn that now rests in front of the school's new state-of-the-art event center and storm shelter in McAlester, Okla. (Adrian O'Hanlon III /The McAlester News-Capital via AP)

HARTSHORNE, Okla. (AP) — Hartshorne Public Schools hosted a dedication ceremony Sept. 22 for a 9-feet tall statue of Hall-of-Fame pitcher Warren Spahn that now rests in front of the school’s new event center and storm shelter.

Spahn was born in Buffalo, New York, before going on to earn a Purple Heart for his military service and a Hall of Fame career as a left-handed MLB pitcher. He died in 2003 at his home in Broken Arrow, but owned a ranch and was buried in Hartshorne.

His son, Greg Spahn, said during the ceremony that he believes bringing the statue to Hartshorne is special.

“I think it’s significant to me that my loved ones, my grandmother, my mother and my dad are buried here and now we’re bringing this wonderful piece of artwork to a place that I already loved,” Greg Spahn told the McAlester News-Capital . “I think it’s full circle and I think it’s great.”

“We’re honored to be caretakers of such a wonderful memorial,” said Hartshorne Public Schools Superintendent Jason Lindley. “May this gift continue to honor the accomplishment of the American icon that found a home in the hills of southeastern Oklahoma. We know it will inspire generations to come and continue to tell his story of service and excellence.”

Greg Spahn said he played sports at Hartshorne and is proud of the work the community put into making the statue a prominent piece in front of the school’s new event center.

“This city did a remarkable job of putting it together and making it a first-class display and I’m very proud of that,” Greg Spahn said.

Warren Spahn made his MLB debut in 1942 with the Braves organization — which moved from Boston to Milwaukee in 1952 and to Atlanta in 1966 — before going on to win more games than any other left-handed pitcher in league history and being inducted to the Hall of Fame in 1973.

Spahn was later drafted into the Army and earned a Bronze Star and a Purple Heart among other honors for serving three years.

The 17-time All Star won the Cy Young Award and was part of a World Series championship in 1957 and threw two no-hitters in his career.

Lindley thanked those in attendance during the ceremony at the high school’s auditorium before detailing how the statue came to Hartshorne.

He said former Hartshorne city councilor Barney Rosso stopped by Lindley’s house one day and mentioned one of the statues might become available.

According to the Oklahoma Historical Society, Edmond artist Shan Gray created a 2-foot-2-inch bronze sculpture for the Warren Spahn Award presented annually to the best left-handed MLB pitcher and just three 9-feet tall sculptures exist with the other two displayed outside of the Atlanta Braves’ ballpark and at Chickasaw Bricktown Ballpark in Oklahoma City. The third statue was in front of the Oklahoma Sports Hall of Fame before it relocated to Bricktown Ballpark — which already had a Warren Spahn statue.

“We had a real opportunity to bring something to our community, that is in my opinion it’s as special as it gets,” Lindley said. “You have the history of the person that’s being represented and you have the history of that person in this community and you have the notoriety and the status that this person exemplifies not just to us in Harthsorne, but around the country and around the world.”

Hartshorne’s school board showed interest in acquiring the statue and Lindley sent a letter to Oklahoma Sports Hall of Fame President Mike James on Oct. 24 confirming interest.

Lindley, Wilcox, former Hartshorne Public Schools Superintendent Mark Ichord, and Ed McKerley met with Oklahoma Sports Hall of Fame Curator Justin Lenhart to discuss getting the statue to Hartshorne.

Lenhart told those in attendance that he was honored to be part of the process.

“It’s been a neat experience for me learning the history of all the Hall of Famers, but Warren Spahn stands out ,” Lenhart said during the ceremony. “His achievements on the baseball field are unparalleled and he is by far one of the preeminent members of our sports Hall of Fame.”

Lindley said he and school board member Randy Wilcox delivered the statue on Dec. 13, 2017, from Oklahoma City to its resting spot in front of the school’s new event center.

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Information from: McAlester News-Capital, http://www.mcalesternews.com

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