This fall, the Baseball Hall of Fame sent out a traveling exhibition of photographs, memorabilia and artifacts to celebrate America and its longtime love affair with baseball. The exhibit opened in September at the Oakland Museum of California and will continue through January.
The exhibit is the first of its kind, showcasing the biggest milestones in baseball history and examining the relationship between America and its national pastime. Baseball as America is full of memorabilia and relics, but the focus of the exhibition is the cultural changes in baseball, such as racial integration and the role of baseball during times of national crisis.
"I found out about it online, and I'm really interested in going because I can't afford to go to Cooperstown," said junior Nina Rubenstein, referring to the permanent home of the Baseball Hall of Fame in Cooperstown, New York.
The tour starts with "The Game Goes West," illustrating the history of Bay Area baseball, starting with the poem "Casey at the Bat" first published in The Examiner. In 1859, San Francisco was home to California's first ball club, the Eagle Club. In 1958, the New York Giants moved from the Polo Grounds in New York to Seals Stadium in San Francisco. Ten years later, the A's moved from Kansas City to Oakland.
"We're A's fans, our whole family, and when I read about this in the paper I decided it was something we should all do," said Irene, who brought her 11-year-old grandson to the show.
Baseball as America goes beyond Bay Area baseball, following the growth of baseball beginning with the first baseball, the "Doubleday Ball," created in 1839 by Abner Doubleday. Moving through the years, the exhibit showcases treasures, including a signed letter from Franklin Roosevelt during World War II telling the commissioner of baseball to continue playing, uniforms of women's baseball players also from WWII, baseballs signed by presidents, even Jackie Robinson's Dodger jersey.
"I actually have the Chief Wahoo bobble-head that's in that case; I've hung on to it all these years," said George Flemming, an older baseball fan from Alameda who ended up giving his bobble-head of the Cleveland Indians mascot to his nephew.
The exhibit appeals to young and old alike-for those who have been around to see the game change, it's a walk down memory lane; for younger fans, it is an eye-opening experience.
Also in the exhibit are cases full of old baseball cards and displays of famous baseball movies, including Field of Dreams, A League of their Own and Bull Durham. Baseball as America is also a hands-on exhibit, with replicas of famous players' bats for guests to feel the weight of a bat and an interactive display showing people how to throw a pitch.
For any fan of the game, Baseball as America highlights important moments in the game as well as the quirks and oddities that has made baseball America's national pastime.
Baseball As America is running until Jan. 22, 2006. Visit www.baseballasamerica.org for more information.