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Baseball and civic pride: Searching for MLB All-Star Game apple statues in New York City

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By Dan Good | Contributing Editor

I headed north, scrambling in skyscrapers’ shadows, in search of … apples.

No, not the edible kind – no Granny Smiths on this trip. I was looking for giant-sized apple statues, each six feet tall and adorned with MLB team logos. The apples are scattered about New York City, 35 in all, a precursor to this year’s All Star Game, which is being held at Citi Field, home of the Mets. Forever Collectibles designed the apples.

MLB added a social media element to the apple search, with prizes awarded to people who upload their photos to Instagram and tag them #ASGApples. Upload photos of 15 apples, and you’re entered to win the grand prize – World Series tickets.

Since I work in Midtown Manhattan, in the heart of apple territory, I decided to spend my Saturday morning tracking down these apple statues. Sure, winning would be nice, but this had more to do with baseball and civic pride.

The search deepened my appreciation for the Big Apple, a city full of contradictions – wealth and poverty, commercialism and scrappiness, dreams and noise, a city with baseball on its mind.


Getting started

The first apple was the easiest to find.

The Kansas City Royals statue sits directly outside of my office building, situated on a raised patio along the Avenue of the Americas – Sixth Avenue. I’m not aware of any correlation between the Royals and Fox, other than the 2012 All-Star Game broadcast.

Barricades blocked the patio, and police officers stood watch. I slid my phone out of my pocket, snapped some quick photos and continued on my journey.


Game on

Of course the Seattle Mariners statue is located inside the Nintendo store. Nintendo of America owns the team.

The Nintendo store is usually a flurry of activity, sitting in a pedestrian hotbed at Rockefeller Plaza. During the winters, the plaza hosts a 75-foot-tall fir tree and ice rink. But at 7:10 a.m. on a sun-baked Saturday, the parking barriers outnumbered people.

While the store was closed – a lingering theme if you search for apples during non-business hours – the apple was visible through the front windows. The statue, deep blue, is adorned with white and teal stars. The Space Needle and an anchor are painted on the apple’s reverse.


Meet the Mets

Meet the Mets
Meet the Mets
Step right up and greet the Mets

The Mets are New York’s (other) baseball team, playing in the shadows of that squad from The Bronx.

Never mind that they have the city’s nicest ballpark. Where the new Yankee Stadium is a dispassionate concrete mall with some grass and dirt in the middle, Citi Field evokes sentiments of baseball’s past with its dark green seats and Ebbets Field-inspired facade.

But meeting and greeting the Mets have been a problem. Since opening Citi Field in 2009, the Mets have seen attendance drop each season – from 3.1 million that first year to 2.2 million in 2012, below the league average. Losing does that. Getting snared in a Ponzi scheme, too. That trip to Queens is a pain.

So the Mets apple – located outside of the SNY studios at 51st Street – is a simple way for people in Midtown to step right up and greet the Mets. The sculpture is located on the sidewalk, giving fans a chance to pose and snap photos in support of the ASG host team.

Meeting the Mets was never this easy.


Earning stripes

Duane Reade is a New York staple, a 24-hour convenience store chain with locations scattered throughout the city.

It’s fitting that one of the apples is located inside a Duane Reade along Broadway – decorated in orange paint and blue stripes to honor the A.L. champion Detroit Tigers. The Tigers apple sits next to displays of suntan lotion and water coolers, shades of summer in full bloom.


TV stars

TV gave the Atlanta Braves a national following.

In the time before all-access streaming video, the Braves ruled the TV dial, with their games constantly aired on TBS.
TBS and CNN were developed by former team owner Ted Turner.

Fittingly, the Braves apple is located inside the Time Warner Center, in the shadows of CNN’s tower along Columbus Circle, a major city intersection.

But where inside the Time Warner Center? The apple’s location alluded me. I circumvented the intersection, trying to find the statue. I studied the storefronts. I ambled down West 58th Street and cut back down 59th before ducking into a Time Warner Center entrance and asking for directions.

“Hello,” the attendant said, “How can I help you?”

“Well … (don’t sound dorky here!) … There are these sculptures of apples (bad start!) all around town, big apples,” I said, gesturing with my arm. “One of them is located somewhere inside the Time Warner Center, and I was hoping you’d know where it was.”

She helped me along my way, and there was the Braves apple, resting inside the Shops at Columbus Circle, a celebration of Murphy and Maddux and Smoltz and Larry Wayne Jones and the medium that made them national favorites.


Pittsburgh’s time

I had reached the end of my map.

Sure, a few apples were located north of 58th Street, but the bulk were situated in the 20 blocks southward. I could have trekked all the way to 1st Avenue – more than a mile away – to visit the Angels apple at Bed, Bath and Beyond (ha!) …

I could have.

Instead I targeted the Pittsburgh Pirates apple about half a mile away. I headed east, walking along the southern edge of Central Park. Hotel guests smoked cigarettes. Bellhops hauled luggage. Waiters set tables for the breakfast crowd, glasses and silverware clinking.

The sun simmered, day two of an eventual heat wave.

I found reprieve in the buildings’ shadows.

And then I stumbled upon the Niketown crowd, clusters of sneaker denizens waiting on the sidewalk for a new shoe release. I sidled up as inconspicuously as I could. No, I am not trying to cut in line.

I just want to take a picture of an apple decorated with the Pirates’ logo.


Journeys

My statue search hit a snag at the Sony store located along Madison Avenue.

Parts of the building opened by 8 a.m., including a Starbucks and public meeting space. But where was the Padres apple?

I entered a dark room with tall ceilings, definitely under-dressed for the occasion, and asked the receptionist for directions.

“If you go right outside and enter the door on the left, the apple is located inside,” she said. “It’s on the lower level.”

Only problem? Those doors wouldn’t open for two more hours.

The Padres would have to wait.

Instead, I searched for the Blue Jays, baseball’s only team located outside of the United States. Toronto’s apple was placed in front of the Intercontinental, a hotel at East 48th and Lexington Avenues.

The journey allowed me to walk along some streets that I don’t normally frequent.

I passed a church. The sidewalk filled with people, similar to my Niketown experience 20 minutes prior. But instead of sneakers, these people were waiting for food, wearing yesterday’s clothes, broken and shattered and hidden and lost.

For the “greatest city in the world,” New York City is full of far too much sadness.

The mood shifted as I walked along Lexington Avenue. Construction crews drilled into the pavement with a jackhammer, grrr-grrr-grrr. Drivers flicked cigar ash out of their windows. The Chrysler Building, a tower symbolizing the city’s opulence, stood watch above.

The Blue Jays statue was tucked near the hotel’s entrance, decorated in maple leaves.


Hey Bud

The Brewers were next, with the apple in a beautiful, frustrating location.

The Office of the Commissioner.

Bud Selig’s office.

Ugh.

Allen H. Selig’s office is located near the Helmsley Building, a 1920s landmark bisected by roads on its lower floors. At night, bathed in blue light, the Helmsley Building is one of the city’s finest images.

And the Brewers display lives up to that standard, featuring gold wheat stitching and cartoon renderings of the sausage fest racers, officially known as the Klement’s Racing Sausages. Personally, I’m pulling for number two – Stosh, a Polish sausage. His rugby shirt and sunglasses give him a laid-back vibe.


Stop and stare

I’d walked past the building hundreds of times.

The Fred F. French Building at Fifth Avenue and West 45th Street stands out. The entrance arches are adorned in gold, and the skyscraper’s facade features terra cotta tiles. Among the drab monotony of indistinguishable office buildings, the colorful French Building stands tall.

After all the trips to and from Grand Central, all the work-related hustle, the Midtown crowds and traffic noise, it was nice to finally stop and appreciate the French Building. The San Francisco Giants apple – that’s why I was here, remember? – appeared in the ground-floor Tommy Bahama store, next to T-shirt racks. I peered through the window, catching a glimpse of a statue for champions.


Giants vs. Dodgers

The sweat poked through my T-shirt, hinting at the sweltering day underway.

My legs grew heavy and sore. All the walking …

I considered stopping, of picking up the search another day.

No, I was more than halfway finished. Nine apples down, six to go. I would continue on.

For baseball! And civic pride.

My next stop – Grand Central, a flurry of energy and major transportation hub. The rail terminal celebrated its 100th anniversary this year. Constellations line the ceiling.

My great-grandparents would have frequented this building. Hopefully someday my great-grandchildren will too.

Due to its entryways and levels and tunnels, Grand Central would conceivably be a great place to play hide-and-seek. I wouldn’t advise of it (I’m not that trusting of strangers) but the building is special, a living, breathing piece of yesterday’s New York City. That nostalgia is embodied by the two apple statues hidden inside, honoring two of New York’s former teams – the Brooklyn Dodgers and New York Giants.

The teams were bitter rivals, with the NY rivalry peaking in 1951. The Giants and Dodgers tied for the pennant, and a three-game playoff followed. It all came down to the final game – Oct. 3, 1951. The Dodgers took a lead. Ralph Branca tried to close out the game in the Polo Grounds.

Bobby Thompson came to the plate.

A fastball.

Thompson swung, then he hopped around the bases, with the Giants stealing the pennant.

The NY Giants apple celebrates that home run, featuring logos commemorating 1951.


Willie, Mickey and The Duke

Brooklyn’s apple sits on an adjacent walkway, showcasing the team’s old-school presence. A section of the statue honored Ebbets Field, the team’s home through the bulk of the 1950s. A pennant design showcased the Dodgers’s successes and near-misses. 1941. 1947. 1949. 1952. 1953. 1955. 1956.

Ah, 1955 …

Two NYPD officers studied the apple, snapping photos, reflecting on Dem Bums and the days when Willie, Mickey and The Duke owned the city.


Highs and lows

The New York Public Library at Fifth Avenue and 41st Street provided another two-for-one apple opportunity, featuring statues commemorating the National and American leagues on each side of the main stairway.

The white apples show logos for each team – the Mets and Brewers, Phillies and Yankees, Rangers and Red Sox.

A man slept on a concrete bench near the N.L. apple, tossing and turning in his open-air bedroom, using a brown paper bag as his pillow. A woman sat on the nearby curb, talking to no one in particular.


Cubs win!

I loved Harry Caray.

What a legend! During the 1990s, Caray’s Cubs broadcasts reached a national audience on WGN, giving the ageless broadcaster added infamy. The beer commercials and oversized glasses and Will Ferrell impersonations fueled Harry’s celebrity.

Who cared if he couldn’t pronounce the names correctly?

He was fun. He was special. He ended each Chicago victory the same way – “Cubs win! Cubs win!”

Cubs win: so simple, so pure. The Cubs apple – located on 40th Street – features bricks and ivy, elements of the team’s iconic stadium, Wrigley Field. Harry’s spirit still lingers, and he’s still singing “Take Me Out to the Ballgame.”


Reaching the goal

Time for pinstripes.

The Yankees’ “bat in the hat” logo greets you along 42nd Street. The red, white and blue lights compete for attention beside movie theaters and ice cream shops.

Yankees Clubhouse. I walked inside, studying the displays, looking for hidden floor space.

No apple!

Hmm … I double-checked my map. I was on the wrong side of the street. The apple is at Modell’s instead.
I waited for a lull in traffic and jogged across the street, too tired to walk all the way to the end of the block. Luckily the police officers were preoccupied, so I didn’t have to worry about a jaywalking ticket. I ducked inside the store and snapped some photos, tallying my total …

13 …

14 …

15 – I met my goal! I basked in the air-conditioned goodness.


Continuing on

Since I still had to return to Grand Central for my subway ride home, I decided to stop at two nearby apples along the way.

For baseball! And civic pride.

The White Sox came first. Toys ‘R’ Us, Times Square and 44th Street.

Times Square is a tourist trap, a cornucopia of fast-food franchises and shopping selections. An Auntie Anne’s stand is located there. The pretzel company represents the best thing to come out of Lancaster County, Pa. since Tayler Kinney’s abs or his eyes, or Jim Furyk’s short game, or … me.

Visitors stop along the sidewalk to snap photos. Opportunists don costumes of cartoon characters, fishing for dollars. Pedicabs and horse-drawn carriages provide roadway clutter. Car horns are soothing, normal.

And among the fast-food and costumed panhandlers sits the White Sox apple, decorated in black on one panel and pinstriped white on the other, South Side Chicago represented for New York’s “stop and stare” crowd.


Grace

The Miami Marlins have required grace this season, winning at a .368 clip and flirting with Houston for the majors’ worst record.

Fittingly, the Marlins apple rests outside the Grace Building.

The building is known for its sloped, curving facade. For the time being, the plaza outside also features an orange, 350-pound apple decorated in Miami Marlins logos, a team that’s somehow won two World Series titles.

Since this was the end of my journey, I decided to change things up a bit. I wiped my brow and studied the lighting. I positioned myself. I held out my arm as far as I could and clicked the button, capturing photos of myself with the Marlins apple.

Click. Nah …

Click. Nah …

Click.

I considered searching for additional apples. The Rangers statue would have been nice, but it’s located in Zuccotti Park, the location for those “Occupy Wall Street” protests – 3.7 miles away.

For baseball?

Civic pride?

Umm …. no. I’d seen enough of the Big(ger) Apple for one day.

Dan Good is a New York-based journalist. Follow him on Twitter here.

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