Sports Column: Popular muralist recreates memorable moment in Dodgers history

Los Angeles Dodgers fans line up Sept. 13 to take pictures at the Joe Kelly mural in the Silverlake area of Los Angeles. The mural can be found behind Floyd’s 99 Barbershop at the intersection of Sunset Boulevard and Parkman Avenue. (Erik Galicia | Viewpoints)
By Bianca Macias

A popular muralist brought a taunting expression between old World Series foes 一 the championship-deserving Los Angeles Dodgers and the cheating Houston Astros 一 to life on a wall behind a Silver Lake barber shop.

Dodgers pitcher Joe Kelly gained media attention for making a pouty face at Astros shortstop Carlos Correa in a late July game at Minute Maid Park in Houston. The tension that transpired during the exchange can be directly linked to the Astros cheating during the 2017 World Series. It was found the Astros had a habit of stealing signs, the hand signals baseball teams use to secretly communicate on the field amongst each other. 

Although Kelly was not a Dodger when the team was robbed of a title in 2017, that year he pitched for the Boston Red Sox, who were also eliminated by the fraudulent Astros in round one of that postseason. 

The villainous image acquired by the Astros is a result of the ball club’s lack of integrity. They faced a $5 million fine and lost their next two first and second round draft picks as punishment. 

But many, including Kelly, felt that was not enough. And where there is a villain, there is often a hero.

Kelly stepped into that role and fought the evil Astros on their own turf in July. After sailing a pitch behind Astros third baseman Alex Bregman’s head, almost nailing him at 96 mph, Kelly then almost hit Correa as well. Kelly struck Correa out and then mocked him on his way back to the Dodgers’ dugout. 

“Nice swing b—-,” Kelly was heard saying before delivering the now infamous pouty face. 

Players, coaches and quarantined spectators reacted emotionally. Some called it subtle retaliation for the Astros’ lack of ethics. Others, including the league, called it poor sportsmanship, as it resulted in a suspension for Kelly. 

But many considered Kelly a hero. His pouty face has since become a viral meme, merchandise and now mural in the heart of Dodgers country.

Jonas Never, who is also known for his downtown Los Angeles mural of late Lakers legend Kobe Bryant, completed a mural of Kelly’s pouty face on the wall behind Floyd’s 99 Barbershop at the intersection of Sunset Boulevard and Parkman Avenue. The mural came just in time for the Dodgers’ home game against the Astros on Sept. 12.

“New wall for the legend that is Joe Kelly,” Never tweeted Sept. 8. “Wanted to make sure I got it done before the Astros come to town next week.”

Fans were seen gathering around the masterpiece soon after it’s completion. 

“I think he did all of us a big favor,” said Debra Correa, 36, of Los Angeles. “We were so mad about the fact that they cheated and his response was priceless. He got suspended but I think it was worth it.”

Some argue whether or not the moment was worth a mural. But Dodgers history has been made regardless. And the rivalry lives on.