A large gift to the city of McPherson was presented Monday evening, October 5th outside the Community Building. Mayor Tom Brown opened the ceremony saying, "This is a great occasion," to the crowd of fifty or more in attendance.
Because of limitations due to COVID-19, the event was kept low-key.
"We are looking at something bigger and better," the mayor said in anticipation of a possible future event.
The newly-installed, life-sized monument honoring the McPherson Globe Refiners basketball team sat under a large covering ready to be unveiled.
The mayor thanked Mike Mills and Mark Heidebrecht along with other as unofficial historians that have kept the ball rolling for several decades and given momentum to the story of the Globe Refiners.
Rich Hughes, author of the book, ‘Netting Out Basketball 1936’ was unable to attend the mayor said.
Mayor Brown acknowledged two families of Globe Refiners players who travelled to attend the unveiling. Three of Joe Fortenberry’s children were in the audience, Oliver Fortenberry, Sally Fortenberry Nibbelink and Trisha Hill along with Jerry Johson the son of Francis Johnson.
The idea for the life-sized monument was initiated by the Julia J. Mingenback Foundation.
Jim Ketcherside, Chairman of the Mingenback Foundation spoke introducing the Foundation’s Board in the audience and then giving remarks.
"We started this a little over a year ago," Ketcherside said.
"We said it would really be nice to have a sculpture there in that corner. And I think most of us thought we would just do a sculpture of a basketball player here and that would be it. But Brett said no, we’ve got to do the whole thing," Ketcherside said referring to Brett Reber, one of the Trustees of the Mingenback Foundation and his idea to do something life-sized of the entire team.
"I thought the whole team should be honored and provide inspiration if kids could stand beside it and have their picture taken by the actual players, life-size," Reber said.
"I wasn’t sure if that was possible, but this artist is incredible," said Reber referring to Sutton Betti of Loveland, Colorado who was commissioned by the Mingenback Foundation to design, create and install the monument.
"He grabbed the vision and took off with it," Reber said.
Ketcherside’s remarks also included comments about Betti.
"We met with two sculptors here around September or August last year. And we selected Sutton. And I’m telling you, I’m so glad we did because this is beyond my expectations. He’s done a beautiful job," Ketcherside said.
Ketcherside closed his remarks by encouraging people to go to the museum saying, "They have a real fine exhibit out there. If you haven’t been there you need to stop by and see that," he said.
Mayor Brown then introduced Artist/Sculptor/Designer Sutton Betti and Jessica Payne who worked with Betti as Co-designer. Payne spoke briefly and thanked everyone for coming. Both Betti and Payne were happy to answer questions later.
Mayor Brown continued, "You know, you cannot do these projects without really great workers. And we are very fortunate that we had Hutton and company on this project. They did a fantastic job. And they wanted so much to be able to help put this in," the mayor said.
The mayor invited Luke Amend with Hutton to speak next.
"When the mayor and I were talking about the Community Building back in 2016 he started to tell me about his vision, the city’s vision, the vision to bring out the history here of the Globe Refiners," said Amend.
"And you can’t do that in miniature. The tallest team in the world can’t be a miniature vision," he said in reference to the team’s nickname, ‘The Tallest Team in the World,’ which garnered a positive response.
"This has inspired youth already," he said. "We’ve seen kids come by and want to know ‘What’s that about?’"
Amend closed his remarks saying, "Hutton’s purpose is to build life into our employee’s dreams and our client’s vision and our community’s future. And we are able to touch all three of those with this one. And we don’t get to do that on every project which is why this one is so special for us. Thank you for letting us be a part of it."
CHS Refinery was instrumental during installation of the monument and provided the crane and crew needed to lift the heavy pieces into place.
The bricks around the monument were installed by Heartstone, Inc. of Wichita and compliment the theme.
"Luke Amend with Hutton contacted me," said Heartstone President Chad Jantz. "The concept was to put down something that looked like 1930’s wood plank basketball court."
Prior to the unveiling the mayor highlighted the three benches near the edge of the building, each with a special insignia.
"One of them has a replica of the Berg ball," he said. "The Berg ball was what the game was played with in 1936."
"The other symbol on one of the benches is the Globe Refiners Insignia.
"And the last, and maybe the most special, is a replica of the Gold Medal in one of the benches," the mayor said.
With that, the mayor invited all in attendance to be sure and look at the benches as well as the history.
"Take a look at the history on the back," he said.
Then the countdown began…7, 6, 5, 4, 3, 2, 1.
The rope was cut and veil removed displaying the sculpture for all to see with cheers and applause from the audience.
The sculpture (relief is the artistic name for it) is a large, curved piece of bronze. Coach Johnson stands on the left with nine Globe Refiners players to the right. It is life-sized, amazingly lifelike and stunning to look at.
The capstone weighs eight-thousand pounds. Another eight-thousand pounds of granite surrounds the monument and helps tell the story with text and images laser-etched into polished, three-inch thick granite panels.
Sutton Betti has installed sculptures around the country honoring members of the military, historical figures and athletes.
It took Artist/Sculptor/Designer Sutton Betti over a year to complete this project.
"I am honored to be a part of this project," Betti said. "The history needs to be told. I hope this sculpture will help tell their story to a larger audience."
Later, Mayor Brown said, "The momentum that we need is the momentum to get this team in the National Hall of Fame. There’s not too many places in the country where you have the whole team life-size," he said.
The result of the Julia J. Mingenback Foundation’s vision and generosity along with all the hard work of many including Sutton Betti, Hutton and the CHS Refinery is a beautiful gift to McPherson.
"Oil and Gold: the McPherson Globe Refiners Basketball Story", an 18-minute video produced by Anne Heidel and the McPherson Convention & Visitors Bureau is a video Mayor Brown described as "tremendous." It’s on YouTube at https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=cArL0sgo2cQ
A video recording of the ceremony was made by the city of McPherson and may be viewed at the city’s Facebook page.