When the San Francisco Giants face the Kansas City Royals on Friday night in Game 3 of the World Series, a man by the name of William Behrends will be watching the game while sculpting a tiny likeness of Ryan Hunter-Reay’s face. And there’s a big connection.
Some of Behrends’ other works – four huge bronze statues of Giants legends Willie Mays, Willie McCovey, Juan Marichal and Orlando Cepeda outside the AT&T Park in San Francisco – likely will be featured during cutaways of the FOX Sports broadcast, bringing Behrends’ largest and smallest works together in a most unusual way.
Behrends, who has sculpted some of the most iconic sports figures of our time, is working on his 25th tiny sterling silver face for the Borg-Warner Trophy that honors winners of the Indianapolis 500. An avid Giants fans, he’ll be putting the finishing touches on Hunter-Reay’s likeness while watching the game in his studio in Tryon, NC.
“I’ll definitely be watching the games while I work on it,” Behrends said. “It’s the thing I look forward to while working on the Indy pieces. I often find myself working on a detail with a playoff game or World Series game on in the background. It brings things together for me.”
The day after the 98th Indy 500 in May, Behrends met Hunter-Reay. The meeting was more than just a chance to study a face Behrends was about to sculpt, but a chance to understand Hunter-Reay’s personality and incorporate that into his work. He used the same technique – talking with and understanding his subject – for the four Giants eventually carved in 9?-foot bronze likenesses and mounted atop four-foot granite bases.
“With Willie Mays, I spent the day with him at his home and then met with him a couple of times after that,” Behrends said. “It was very nice, and it gave me a chance to get to know him. He’s an interesting guy. I watched him play when I was a kid, and I remember he was one of the few players I felt like I could recognize without seeing his number. He played with such ebullience. He’s a very gregarious guy, but he has a reserve about him, as well.”
The difference between working large and small is extreme. The Giants’ sculptures each weigh a ton and each took more than 18 months to complete. Hunter-Reay’s intricate sterling silver bust is about the size of an egg and is completed in about six weeks. It will be unveiled as the latest face on the Borg-Warner Trophy during a ceremony at the Indianapolis Motor Speedway Hall of Fame Museum in early December.
“Because it’s smaller, you want to strengthen it and make it more vivid,” Behrends said. “The strength of Ryan’s jaw works in his favor. The trick is to get his face to stand out. You want it to be visible from 10 feet away.”