In the long history of Seattle baseball, some figures stand out.
There’s Felix Hernandez and Ichiro. Griffey, Edgar, and the Big Unit. Go further back, and there’s Alvin Davis, Tommy Harper, Kewpie Barrett, and Fred Hutchinson.
But only one was considered the “dean” of the sport in the city.
That was Edo Vanni.
Of all the names past and present, the longtime Queen Anne resident was a constant for decades when it came to baseball in the Emerald City, playing on the original incarnation of the Seattle Rainiers in 1938, and managing the last one in 1964. He’d later work in the front office during the brief life of the Seattle Pilots, and, while never employed by the Mariners, was a devoted fan of the franchise.
Vanni passed away in 2007 at the age of 89, but his presence lives on in the form of a new, three-story mural at Aegis of Queen Anne at Rodgers Park (2900 Third Ave. W.) by artist Andy Eccleshall.
The idea for the large-scale art project initially came when Terese Clark walked the site with her husband (Aegis CEO Dwayne Clark) when it was being developed. A large, blank wall was an opportunity, “to give back to the community, and honor the community we’re building in,” she said.
The retirement community’s proximity to Rodgers Park (hence the name) and the Queen Anne Bowl is one of its key features. Clark, who curated the project, said the location made sports a compelling theme for the mural. Then came the matter of determining the right subject.
“Many times when you do a project like this,” she said, “it’s all about the story.”
The story of Vanni, a Queen Anne High School alumnus, stood out.
“He really was an ambassador for Seattle baseball,” she said.
Clark would soon contact Eccleshall, and the two discussed what they would want the piece to accomplish.
“It was a matter of trying to figure out, how do we represent this guy in a way that’s going to resonate with people here on Queen Anne, but also people in Aegis?” he said.
Eccelshall said the vision ultimately landed on something traditional, reminiscent of the works of Norman Rockwell. The concept of children looking up to a Seattle baseball icon — one who took the field at the time current residents were growing up — was the kind that could transport those living in the community back to that part of their lives.
“A lot of what we do here is we want to respect the time they lived in their lifetime, rather than putting up something that resonates with us,” Clark said. “That was a big part of my vision in driving the piece.”
With the idea set, and the grand opening of the building looming just weeks away, Eccleshall got to work. While the uneven siding of the building presented one challenge, and the sheer size of the project another, the biggest hurdle, he said said, was the weather.
“When the sun was out, it was unbelievably hot,” he said. It was just cooking up there.”
That meant arriving at dawn, and working quickly until the early afternoon, when the sun began to bounce off the bright white wall.
“I had to get as much done as I possibly could before the sun really got me,” he said.
Difficulties aside, within a few weeks the mural was complete.
Now, the completed project hangs over the outdoor patio area for the community’s memory care residents.
And with approximately half of those living in the Rodgers Park community moving in from the surrounding neighborhood, it has also served as a bit of a selling point.
Aegis of Queen Anne of Rodgers Park’s general manager Marc Nowak recalled how one then-prospective resident responded to the piece.
“He went around the corner,” he said, “saw that mural on the wall, and just said, ‘That’s Edo!’”
The mural, he said, made that resident feel like they were in the right place.
That’s the kind of response that resonates with Eccelshall.
“For me, as an artist, that’s what I want,” he said, “is for the people who are here to feel like they have a connection to the piece.”
To comment on this story, write to QAMagNews@nwlink.com.