The sculpture, called "Who's Up?," situated behind the Mud Hens scoreboard and incorporated into the fence surrounding the stadium on St. Clair Street, features four life-size children peeking through a knothole in a fence.
Mud Hens staff noticed Sunday evening that one of those children -- a cute little girl in pigtails and overalls -- had vanished.
They assumed the worst.
Mud Hens employee Ken Westenkirchner called the police and filed a theft report. The Arts Commission of Greater Toledo, which manages the city's public art, prepared for a media blitz to publicize the heist and bring the perpetrators to justice. Dan Hernandez, art in public places coordinator for the arts commission, feared thieves might be planning to sell it for scrap.
"When they told me, I was a little bit crushed," he said. "This is probably one of the most popular pieces in the city's collection."
What Mud Hens officials and the arts commission did not know, however, was that the little girl in pigtails was safely stowed in a police property room. In the early morning hours of Saturday, two Toledo police officers discovered the statue about 20 yards from its original location. They booked it into a property room for safekeeping, according to their report.
Apparently, nobody bothered to tell the Mud Hens or the art commission. Jason Griffin, director of public relations for the Mud Hens, said he believed the ball club found out police had the statue at about lunchtime Monday. The art commission was notified by the Mud Hens shortly after that, Mr. Hernandez said. He was relieved.
"To have it re-sculpted would have been a nightmare," he said. "We're excited to have it back."
The sculpture, informally known as "The Knothole Gang," was created by local artist Emanuel Enriquez and was installed in 2002. It cost $89,000, Mr. Hernandez said. About $50,000 of that was donated by George Chapman, who is chairman, chief executive officer, and president of Health Care REIT. The rest was from the city of Toledo's One Percent for Art program.
Mr. Hernandez called the whole incident hilarious and bizarre. "They probably thought they could carry it away, but that's a big piece of bronze," he said. "It's pretty heavy. That's got to be what happened."
It's not uncommon for public art to suffer such ordeals. A few years ago, for example, art commission staff noticed bubbles in the paint on an abstract sculpture at Levis Plaza downtown called "Kabuki Dancer."
"It turned out someone was shooting at it with a pellet gun," Mr. Hernandez said. "That's the thing with public art [works]. They get damaged."
Staff writer Tahree Lane contributed to this report.
Contact Tony Cook at: firstname.lastname@example.org or 419-724-6065.