Baseball in the Natural History Museum. (Exhibits)
Gmelch, George, Nine
On the third floor of the American Museum of Natural History in New York City, just down the hall from the African mammals, is the new traveling exhibition Baseball As America. In museum parlance the "big idea" for the exhibit is the intimate relationship between baseball and America. I am alerted to the theme in the first salon by an oversized quotation from French historian Jacques Barzun: "Whoever wants to know the heart and mind of America had better learn baseball." Every baseball scholar knows barzun's words by heart. The passage is cited so often that it has become a cliche, but the point is valid. Baseball and the nation share similar values and have grappled with similar social and economic issues. They have evolved together.
Initially I walk through the entire exhibit several times just trying to get my mind around it. This exhibition is much more than a collection of Cooperstown's treasured memorabilia (500 of the Baseball Hall of Fame's 35,000 artifacts are here); it looks more like a celebration of baseball's place in American culture.
On each pass I notice a small crowd around a display of four bats. Some of the few artifacts that can be touched, they are the models used by Babe Ruth, Edd Roush, Rod Carew, and Mark McGwire. As replicas they have no direct connection with Ruth or the others. Rather the appeal is that visitors are able to lift, feel their heft, and compare. Rod Carew's thirty-four-inch, thirty-two-ounce seems featherweight next to Roush's thirty-six-inch, thirty-seven-ounce model. A few ounces and two inches might not seem like much of a difference, but it feels enormous in my hands. I marvel at the strength of Roush. Holding the bat I think of the D2 model, thirty-four inches, thirty-three ounces, that I used as a Minor League first baseman in the …
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Publication information: Article title: Baseball in the Natural History Museum. (Exhibits). Contributors: Gmelch, George - Author. Journal title: Nine. Volume: 11. Issue: 2 Publication date: Spring 2003. Page number: 135+. © 2009 University of Nebraska Press. COPYRIGHT 2003 Gale Group.
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