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An Interview with David McShane: Designer of the Phillies Mural

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The Good Phight caught up with the man who designed the recently-unveiled tribute to the history of the Philadelphia Phillies baseball franchise.

Jim McIsaac/Getty Images

Just this August, the Phillies Mural was completed and unveiled at 24th and Walnut Streets in Centery City Philadelphia. The project, which had been in the works since 2008, serves as a celebration of the entire history of Phillies baseball. In addition to capturing memorable players--Mike Schmidt, Grover Cleveland Alexander, Steve Carlton, Cole Hamels--the mural pays tribute to notable stadia in Phillies history--Citizens' Bank Park, Veterans' Stadium, Baker Bowl, Shibe Park--and entertainers--The Phanatic, Harry Kalas.

The Mural resides on the wall of a building located at the intersection of 24th and Walnut Streets in Center City Philadelphia. The mural, which faces toward the Schuylkill River, spans eight stories and covers over 3700 square feet. It features over 30 figures that are central to Phillies history.

Last week, we reached out to David McShane, the mural artist who designed the Phillies Mural. In addition to seeking greater knowledge about the mural itself, I also simply wanted to hear from a lifelong Phillies fan about his favorite fan-related experiences and his outlook for the team going forward.

About Murals, Specifically, The Phillies Mural:

TGP: How did the Phillies mural come about? Was it your idea or were you selected to do it?

DM: Jane Golden (Director of the City of Philadelphia Mural Arts Program) and Dave Montgomery (former President of The Phillies) spoke just after the 2008 WS - and they talked about doing a mural - which initially was going to be a celebration of the 2008 WS championship. Jane knew I would really want to do this and asked me about it right after her initial conversations. I of course said yes (what a dream project!) and expressed how I thought it should be a really large mural  - since world championships in Philadelphia for any of the 4 sports have been rather scarce. I did some initial designs about the 2008 WS team and it wasn’t until late spring 2009 that we thought about expanding it to celebrate the Phillies entire history - and I switched gears to design the early versions of the current design. The designs were reviewed by a panel of art experts (two independent art curators and three Mural Arts artists/project managers) and by the Phillies Organization. I made a couple rounds of changes based on these reviews and arrived at the current design which was rolled out in August of 2011. Shortly thereafter a fan vote was held that selected the final players to be added to the mural (Luzinski and Ruiz won). I transferred the mural design to a special cloth that we use to paint murals on. I made the cloth into a huge paint-by-number that fans helped paint in community paint days held at the stadium and the Please Touch Museum (in fall of 2012 and winter of 2012) and at Spring Training (2012) in Clearwater. Hundreds of fans participated in these paint day activities. I then did lots of touchups on the fan painted cloth (I’m a bit of a perfectionist) and painted the rest of the 143 5’x5" pieces of cloth that we eventually glued to the wall to make the mural. There was another round of delays while some repair work was done to the wall itself to ready it for the mural, but then it was finally installed this past summer and dedicated on August 1st.

TGP: How was the 24th and Walnut location selected? Is this where you wanted to do it? Where would you prefer to have done it? In general, how are locations for murals commissioned/selected?

DM: It took a while to locate and secure permission to paint the wall at the 24th and Walnut location. We started the process in 2009 and it took until 2011 to finally nail it in place. I did some wall hunts around the city and Jane Golden and some of the folks from the Phillies also did some wall hunting. We wanted a highly visible and prominent location - and we all finally decided that the current site (24th and Walnut-8 story wall) really fit the criteria. It is a great site, and once we selected it, we never really considered any other sites - even though we knew we would need to resolve some complicated logistical challenges (because of its massive size and it’s close proximity to the Walnut Street Bridge and railroad tracks below).
TGP: As a baseball blogger, I don't know anything about mural installation or painting. What did the process and timeline look like for designing and implementing the mural? What challenges arose?
DM: It took a bit of time to figure out [the] logistics and secure the permissions from the owners of the various properties involved and to finalize the design to fit that wall - but by the summer of 2011 we were ready to announce the mural project. As mentioned above, we started production on the mural cloth and had originally planned to install the mural that following summer - but ran into a variety of delays - mostly related to making sure the wall had some necessary repairs taken care of (it’s an old building) and that everything we were doing would meet the usual procedures to ensure the safety of the artists and the public below. We ended up resolving everything and installing it this summer. It seemed to me like a great time to celebrate the great achievements of the Phillies - just as the most recent window of success was closing and a new team rebuilding process is about to begin. In general, most walls that murals are done on are private property that we ask the owners permission to use for the mural. Most walls are smaller and in neighborhoods outside of Center City and are not as complex logistically.

TGP: What kind of paint do you use? Does the mural require any upkeep? Will it need to be refreshed?

DM: The cloth we use is a non-woven polyester-like cloth that is saturated in acrylic primer and then the mural image is painted on it with acrylic paint. Then the cloth is glued up on the wall with an acrylic glue, and a sealer is applied on top after it is dried and touched up. In this case, we used a sealer with anti-UV protection so it should last a long time before any noticeable fading happens. It shouldn’t need any real upkeep or repainting for hopefully many years.

TGP: How did you choose which players would be included on the mural?
DM: Please see attached Artist Statement with full explanation of my rationale for player selection.
Editor's Note: The following is the section of the Artist Statement that explains the impetus for including each figure represented on the Phillies Mural. The statement is quite lengthy, so I have emboldened sections of the text that I found particularly interesting to make the task of reading it less daunting. A photo of a print of the mural has also been included for your reference and convenience following the conclusion of this sentence.

Capturing the entire history of the Philadelphia Phillies baseball team into one comprehensive mural design is a challenging task. There is bound to be a lot of debate over what players and events should be included in the mural, which is as it should be given the level of passion of Phillies fans. Every Phillies fan could probably put together their own list of who and what should be included in such an image – and all would be slightly different from other fan’s lists. There are some obvious choices that would make everyone’s list, but there is bound to be some more quirkier choices based on the age and perspective of the individual fan. The following is this particular Phillies fan’s rationale for the subjects he chose for the Phillies Mural design.

The first Phillies game was played on May 1, 1883 against the Providence Grays. The Phillies lost 4-3 and over their entire history have lost more games than they won with notable long periods of losing seasons. But there have also been some stellar moments, great players, and World Series victories over the years. One thing that remains constant is the loyalty and passion of the Phillies fans who have supported the team over its 132 year history. I felt that the mural should mainly focus on the highlights of the team’s best players and moments, which mostly center around the two World Series victories and the other NL Pennant winning seasons. To represent this success, the center of the mural has a logo-like montage of a baseball and a Phillies pennant surrounded above by the National League logo and NL Pennant years (1915,1950, 1983,1993, and 2009) and below by the two World Series trophies and championship pennants (1980 and 2008). On either side of this montage are the two great sluggers of the World Series winning teams: Mike Schmidt batting right and facing left, as if looking back toward the past, and (mirroring him) Ryan Howard batting left and facing right, as if looking toward the future. These two players are obvious choices that I think represent the team’s past, present, and future well.

Mike Schmidt is the greatest player in team history, having led the team to its first World Series victory as the MVP of the 1980 Series. He is among the all time leaders in career home runs with 548 (including 4 in one game) and he led the league in home runs eight times. He is a first ballot Hall of Famer, spending all 18 years of his career with the Phillies. He was League MVP three times, was a twelve-time All-Star, and his stellar defense at third base was marked by his 10 gold glove awards.

Ryan Howard helped lead the Phillies to their second World Series victory in 2008. In his career thus far, he has led the league twice in home runs and three times in RBIs, and is the fastest player ever to reach the 250 HR and 1000 RBI marks. The first baseman currently is second in home runs and fourth in RBIs all-time for the Phils. He was the 2005 NL Rookie of the Year and the 2006 League MVP and has been a three-time All-Star. He has certainly been a "big piece" of the Phillies recent successes.

The two World Series victories are the absolute highlights of the Phillies long history, and the last pitches of both Series-winning games are moments that are etched in all Phillies fans’ memories. At the top right of the mural design is an image of beloved reliever Tug McGraw leaping into the air after the final strikeout of the sixth game of the 1980 World Series, which brought the first ever Championship to the team after a long 96-year drought. The building on which the mural will be painted has an extension in the upper right side, which allows space for Tug’s outstretched arms to break out of the main frame of the composition. The top left of the mural design features closer Brad Lidge sinking to his knees after the last pitch of Game 5 of the 2008 World Series, bringing the team its second Championship (and breaking a 24 year stretch of seasons without a championship for all of the four major professional sports teams in Philadelphia). Brad Lidge was perfect that year, saving 48 games in 48 chances. Behind Tug is the Daily News full-page headline "We Win!" that he famously held up during the ensuing victory parade, and the crowd scenes behind both McGraw and Lidge are based on photos from the huge crowds at the victory parades. At the forefront of the crowd scenes, just to Lidge’s right is Charlie Manuel and to McGraw’s left is Dallas Green. These two managers are beloved by fans for bringing these two championships to the city, and they also happen to have amassed among the highest winning percentages of all the Phillies managers in the modern era (.565 for Dallas Green and .551 and for Charlie Manuel).

Other key members of these two World Series champion teams are located throughout the mural design.  From the 1980 team is Steve Carlton, the greatest left-handed pitcher in Phillies history. Carlton is a Hall of Famer with 329 career wins and 4136 strikeouts. He won four Cy young awards, led the league in strikeouts 5 times and won one gold glove for his defense. He had 20 plus wins in six seasons, including his remarkable 1972 season when he posted 27 wins in a season in which the team only won 59 games. Another key member of the 1980 team was shortstop Larry Bowa, located at the top of the design above Ryan Howard. He won the gold glove award twice and has one of the best career fielding percentages of all time (.980). After retiring as a player, he also was the Phillies manager from 2001-2004.

From the 2008 team is pitcher Cole Hamels, the World Series MVP and currently one of the best pitchers in the league. (Editor's Note: David McShane knows what's up!) (He threw a no-hitter in his last start for the Phillies). He is located above Mike Schmidt in the design. Near the bottom of the design (on either side of the baseball diamond in the background) is Jimmy Rollins (League MVP in 2007 and all-time hits leader for the Phillies) and Chase Utley (who tied a record by hitting 5 home runs in the 2009 World Series). Both infielders are big factors in the recent success of the Phillies.

Spread across the top of the design in an arc between players are the Phillies "P’s" from the various eras of the team’s history. The "P" to the left of Cole Hamels is from the early 1900s and was on the uniforms of the 1915 World Series team. The "P" to the right of Hamels is from the 1920s and 1930s. To the left of Larry Bowa is the 1950s and 1960s "P," and to his right is the 1970s and 1980s "P." In the top center is the current Phillies "P," first worn on uniforms in 1992. Below Brad Lidge in the design is a program cover from a game from the 1890’s, which features the pre 1900 "PBC" logo (which stood for "Philadelphia’s Baseball Club.") The program cover is for a home game played at Recreation Park, the Phillies first ballpark which was located at 24th and Ridge and which the Phillies used from 1883-1886. The other ballparks that the Phillies played in over the years are also present in the design. Below Tug McGraw is a section of the outfield wall of the Baker Bowl, the Phillies home from 1887-1938. The wall had a long-standing advertisement sign painted on it that said "The Phillies Use Lifebuoy." Below Schmidt and Howard stretching across the design are views of the three most recent Phillies ballparks. To the left is Shibe Park (later renamed Connie Mack Stadium, in honor of the longtime manager of the Philadelphia A’s, the American League baseball team that also played there). It was located at 21st and Lehigh, and was home to the Phillies from 1938-1970.  In the middle is Veteran’s Stadium, where the Phillies played from 1971-2003, and to right is Citizen’s Bank Park, their current stadium.

Other key players that represent the various eras from the team’s history are also spread throughout the design, which includes all the players with retired numbers, Hall of Famers that spent significant time playing for the Phillies in their career, and stand-out players from championship-run years.

On the 1890s program cover is Ed Delahanty, a Hall of Fame outfielder and slugger that played 13 seasons for the Phils from 1888-1901. He had a lifetime batting average of .346, the 4th best in major League history, hitting over .400 for the season three times. Like Mike Schmidt, he also hit four home runs in one game.

At the very top center of the design is Grover Cleveland "Pete" Alexander. This Hall of Fame pitcher helped lead the Phillies to their First World series appearance in 1915, with 31 wins that year. His ERA was under 2.00 for six of his 8 seasons with the Phils, and he led the league in strikeouts five times.

In front of the Baker Bowl outfield sign is Chuck Klein, who played 15 years for the Phils from 1928-44.  Klein was a bright spot in an era of mostly losing seasons. This Hall of Fame slugger is the third Phillies player in history to hit four home runs in one game. (This rare feat has only been done 15 times in Major League history). He also hit for the cycle twice, and had 300 career home runs. He was the 1932 NL MVP and the 1933 Triple Crown winner with 28 homers, 129 RBIs, and a .368 batting average.

Representing the "Wiz Kids", who went to the World Series in 1950 are Hall of Famers Robin Roberts and Richie Ashburn. Roberts (located near the bottom left of the design), is considered by many to be the best right-handed pitcher in Phillies history, winning 20 or more games six years in a row (from 1950 - 1955). Richie Ashburn (located above the baseball diamond in the design) was an excellent defensive center fielder who was also known for his hitting. He is in front of a Louisville Slugger label and is choking up on the bat – which represents his selfless batting style. He was the League batting champ in 1955 and 1958 and had 2574 career hit. He played 12 years with the Phillies and after retiring he became a beloved radio and TV color commentator for Phillies games.  His play-by-play partner, located just above him in the design, was Harry Kalas. Harry is also in the Hall of Fame as a broadcaster, and his marquee "It’s outta here!" home run call has been imitated by countless fans who loved him.

The 1964 season was marked by two famous events: Jim Bunning’s Father’s Day perfect game and the infamous collapse at the end of the season with Phillies losing the NL pennant despite being up 6 1/2 games with only 12 to go. Bunning is located to the right of Shibe Park in the design. The box score of his perfect game is just below him. He is also a Hall of Fame pitcher, with 224 career wins. Dick Allen and Tony Taylor were also on the 1964 team. They represent the increasing diversity of players that entered the league during the Civil Rights Era. Taylor, a Cuban native, played second base and made a great play to help save Bunning’s perfect game. He had over 2000 career hits, stole home six times, and went on to become a coach for the Phils after he retired as a player. Allen was a controversial player who was the 1964 Rookie of the Year and had 351 career home runs. Behind him is Jackie Robinson’s retired number 42 to help symbolize the racial strife that many players had to overcome throughout baseball’s history.

After their Championship in 1980, the Phillies made another appearance in the World Series in 1983. Schmidt, Bowa, and Carlton were also key members of that team. The Phillies next World Series appearance came at the end of the remarkable 1993 season. That team, which had many colorful personalities on it, was led by catcher Darren "Dutch" Daulton, who had 105 RBIs that year.  Mitch "Wild Thing" Williams was their closer, who had 43 saves that season, but is probably most remembered for giving up the walk off home run that lost the Series for the Phils.

After their 2008 Championship, the Phils returned to the World Series in 2009, but fell short of winning it. They then acquired pitcher Roy Halladay who won the 2010 Cy Young Award pitching a perfect game during the season and a no-hitter in the playoffs. Halladay is located to the left of Citizen’s Bank Park in the design, with the box score of his perfect game below him.

Of course the mural design would not be complete without the beloved Phillie Phanatic. He is at the bottom center flanked on either side by cheering fans at the stadium.

With over 1800 players having been on the team over the years, there is a long list of notable Phillies that did not make the design. Although the wall is huge (eight stories high), there is still a limited amount of space in a design for it to read well and make visual sense. Some fans may wonder why their all-time favorite player isn’t in the mural. Paring down the list was a real challenge, but because the Mural Arts Program specializes in community mural projects, it seemed reasonable for fans to have some input into the design. So a fan vote was held in late fall 2011 through early spring 2012, which gave Phillies fans a voice in the debate and their own stamp on the final mural design. The top two players were included in the bottom right and left corners of the design.  The top fan vote-getter was Carlos Ruiz, the beloved catcher over the period of their most recent successes. "Chooch" has been a great defensive player who was an All-Star in 2012 and who has caught a record four no-hitters (including both of Roy Halladay’s no-hitters in 2010). He has become a strong offensive threat, especially in the playoffs - his Word Series batting average is a stellar .353. Coming in a close second was Greg Luzinski, the great slugger and another key player on the 1980 World Championship team. "The Bull" was a four time All-Star and is seventh all-time as a Phillie with 223 homeruns.

There were some unforeseen delays in the logistics for the site of the mural, and while those issues were being worked out it gave me some time to reconsider the mural design. I looked at the ballfield that stretches over the bottom half of the mural and I realized there was some open space to add a few more players. I received a heartfelt email (just after the fan vote to add Ruiz and Luzinski)) from Liz Ennis asking if her husband, Del Ennis, could be added to the mural. Since that time several other people asked me why Del Ennis wasn’t included in the mural design. I started thinking about it and looked up his stats. Besides being the only Phillies player to be born and raised in Philadelphia and then go on to be a star player for his hometown team – he was also an incredible slugger at the plate. He is third in homeruns and RBIs and fifth in hits all-time for the Phillies.  It seemed to me that he really was the next logical player on the list that deserves to be added to the mural. Since I had some time in the mural schedule, I decided to play around with adding him into the design. The overall mural design is symmetrical with lots of players mirror-imaging each other (like the two best sluggers - Schmidt and Howard; the two best pitchers - Carlton and Roberts; the two perfect game pitchers – Bunning and Halladay; the two WS winning relievers – Lidge and McGraw, etc.)  I felt that I needed a complementary player for Ennis to balance things out in the design, and thought that Johnny Callison would be a great fit. Callison was a very popular slugger for the Phillies in the 1960s that famously hit a dramatic, game winning homerun in the 1964 All-Star game.  The mural design now features the greatest slugger of the 50s (Ennis) in tandem with a great slugger from the 60s (Callison). With these two additions, practically all of the greatest Phillies sluggers throughout history – Delahanty, Klein, Ennis, Callison, Dick Allen, Schmidt, Luzinski, Daulton, Utley, Rollins, and Howard are represented. I also liked the idea of having baseball cards in the mural – a great visual to add to the nostalgia and memorabilia craze that is part of being a baseball fan - and the heyday of when kids collected baseball cards was in the 1950s and 60s, so it seemed fitting to depict Ennis and Callison in that format.

I then thought that visually there was a bit of a void in the center of the design between the two baseball cards. I liked the idea of featuring another local player and I love the story of how Curt Simmons struck out 11 Phillies as a high school player (local - from Lehigh Valley) during an exhibition game – after which they signed him. He went on to become a member of the 1950 Wiz Kids team that went to the World Series, and a three time All-Star. I think that the addition of the three new players makes the design more complete from a Phillies history standpoint, and aesthetically balances out the bottom half with the top half of the mural design and makes it visually evenly weighted overall.

TGP: Are there plans/are you allowed to revise the mural in the future? For example, will you be able to include Aaron Nola, J.P. Crawford, and Maikel Franco after they lead the Phillies to the 2020 World Series championship?

DM: If that happens, they should probably get their own new mural. I’m not sure there is any room left on the current mural for significant additions. But I like your thinking...

About Being a Phillies Fan:

TGP: I've read elsewhere that you are a lifelong Philadelphian and Phillies fan. Have you been following the team closely in the recent lean years?

DM: Yes, I have the MLB app and check the box scores of nearly every Phillies game. I also like to listen to games on the radio while I work.

TGP: What is your favorite Phillies memory?
DM: 2008 WS final pitch.

TGP: Where were you when the Phillies won the 2008 World Series?

DM:  At a bar in the Fairmount neighborhood with my twin brother and two of my best friends. We ended up walking down Broad Street afterwards amidst all the mayhem. What a night!

TGP: What do you think the Phillies will do this offseason? Any big free agents/major trades?

DM:  I think it is too early to go after any high-priced free agents. I think it is time to acquire more prospects and see what they really have with the young players they have, and build slowly starting with getting strong foundational pieces in place with they young guys they have and will soon acquire.
TGP: How many games will the Phillies win in 2016 and when will they next make the playoffs?

DM: I’m an optimist. With luck, sooner than most people think, if the young guys start panning out. I’m looking forward to see what the new core of decision makers will do in the next few of years.

TGP: Where can readers find your other murals around the city?

DM:  My other murals are all around town - I’ve done about 100 project for the City of Philadelphia Mural Arts Program over the past 20 years.  My other notable baseball and sports murals are: City of Champions Mural (on the exterior wall of Spike’s Trophies, which houses the Philadelphia Sports Hall of Fame, 2701 Grant Ave, Northeast Phila.); 30th & Jefferson Playground Mural (featuring youth in sports - Brewerytown, Phila.); Philadelphia Stars Negro League Baseball Mural (Belmont & Parkside Avenues, West Phila.); The Legendary Blue Horizon Boxing Mural (Muhammad Ali, Joe Frazier, Larry Holmes, and George Foreman), (Broad Street near Master Street, North Phila.); Tacony Mural, (featuring the Phila Flyers - Levick and Vandike Streets, Northeast Phila.); Jackie Robinson Mural,  (North Broad Street (near Somerset), North Phila.).

The Good Phight thanks David McShane for being so generous both with his time and with his knowledge. The Phillies Mural captures what it means to be a Phillies fan. While the editorial staff of The Good Phight feels obligated to acknowledge our disappointment that Pat Burrell and Bobby Abreu were not included in the work, the final product exceeds even the highest of expectations we had for it.

If you haven't yet done so, we encourage you to check out the Phillies mural as well as McShane's many other murals. In particular, the Jackie Robinson mural at 2803 North Broad St is certainly worth your time and travel.