Sunday, August 17, 2014

Baseball! Celebrating Our Great American Past Time

With apologies to readers who are outside the Southern California area, this week's article will be a bit of an advertisement for a great exhibit I recently experienced first hand.  The Ronald Reagan Presidential Library and Museum is currently presenting an exhibit titled "Baseball! Celebrating Our Great American Past Time".  The local NBC 4 station has been showing the NBC 4 Promo for Baseball Exhibit for weeks.  I had seen commercials on the local news for months leading up to my visit so it was just a matter of convincing the rest of the family that it was something we all needed to see.  The Reagan Library was the perfect place to host this exhibit since Reagan himself was such a big baseball fan.

My first instinct was to skip all the Reagan stuff and shuffle right through to the Baseball exhibit but I'm glad I took my time and went through the whole museum.  Immediately upon entering the Reagan family history section there were pictures of Reagan's father as a member of the local baseball team, as well as a young Ronald on the local team.

Reagan has a strong connection to the sport.  From 1933 through 1936 Reagan was the play by play announcer for the Chicago Cubs.  This stint included the Cubs 1935 appearance in the World Series where they lost to Hank Greenberg and the Detroit Tigers.  There is even an interactive option where visitors can recreate Reagan's call of Chuck Klein's game winning Home Run in the third inning of  Game 5 of that series.

As interesting as the Reagan section was, as a baseball fan I was obviously most interested in the baseball section.

When first entering the Baseball exhibit there is a section specifically related to Reagan and baseball.  It includes movie posters of "The Winning Team" where Reagan portrayed Grover Cleveland Alexander.  The display for this movie also included Alexanders actual glove as well as a ball used by Alexander.  The introductory section also included the authographed baseballs presented to the President by the World Series winners during his presidency.  These included: 1981 Dodgers, 1982 Cardinals, 1983 Orioles, 1984 Tigers, 1985 Royals, 1986 Mets, 1987 Twins and 1988 Dodgers.

As visitors move through the first section of the exhibit they find themselves in the presense of some amazaing memorabilia.  These include movie posters for the early silent movies, one of which starred Turkey Mike Donlin.  Donlin became successful enough in Hollywood that he was able to use that success in his contract negotiations with John McGraw and for a time was able to walk away from the game.  This section also includes vintage pop corn and hot dog vendor carts.

Moving through this first room you will encounter a room containing some truly amazing pieces:  

A quilt made by a fan featuring her favorite players.  Some of the players included Ted Kluszewski of the Reds, Gus Triandos of the Orioles, Bill Bruton of the Braves and (my favorite) "Puddin Head" Jones of the Phillies.

Home Run Crowns worn by Babe Ruth, Frank Robinson and Mickey Mantle.

Cigarette ads featuring the stars of the day including the Waner Brothers (Paul and Lloyd known as "Big Poison" and "Little Poison"), Yankees Second Baseman Tony Lazzeri, Athletics Pitcher Lefty Grove, MVP's Mickey Cochrane of the Athletics and Jim Bottomley of the Cardinals, Tigers batting star Harry Heilmann (seldom talked of today Heilmann had one of the greatest stretches of batting.  Over 7 seasons Heilmann's batting averages were .394, .356, .403, .346, .393, .367 and .398).  At the time the negative effects of cigarettes were not known.  You can see the selling points of the Lucky Strike.  Ads like these were very popular in the entertainment industry.  Stars such as Lucille Ball, Desi Arnaz, John Wayne and Rock Hudson promoted cigarettes.

These examples of Catcher's equipment are from the early days of the game.  The idea of using protective equipment for the Catcher was ridiculed at first.  In the early days of the game the Catcher stood much farther back until the batter had two strikes or there were runners on base. As the game developed Pitchers started throwing faster (and started throwing breaking pitches), Catchers needed more protection.  Roger Bresnahan of the New York Giants is considered to have revolutionized the Catcher's equipment when he added shin pads.  

This advertisement for Peach Gloves featured the stars of the day.  Based on the stars featured it probably would have been around 1910.  Featured in the ad are Johnny Kilng (Cubs), Frank Chance (Cubs), Jake Stahl (Red Sox), Chief Meyers (Giants), Christy Mathewson (Giants), Ed Walsh (White Sox), Ty Cobb (Tigers), Hal Chase (Highlanders), Chief Bender (A's), Honus Wagner (Pirates), Jimmy Archer (Cubs), Frank "Home Run" Baker (A's), George Gibson (Pirates), John McGraw (Giants) Connie Mack (A's), Nap Lajoie (Naps), Tris Speaker (Red Sox) and Walter Johnson (Senators).

My apologies for the poor photography.  Above are some examples of early versions of bats and gloves.  The idea of using a glove, much like using the Catcher's gear, was ridiculed at first.  For many years at the beginning of the game players were allowed to catch the ball on one bounce for an out.  Those who did not catch the ball on the fly became ridiculed for "unmanly play" and the rule was changed to enforce the fly rule.  Gloves originally were developed almost as skin color, with no padding, almost so that there was no hint the fielder was wearing one.  As the game developed the use of the glove became more common and padding was added.

This early ad for the Louisville Slugger model bat included some of the games early stars, including Hank Gowdy (Braves), Edd Roush (Reds), Tris Speaker (Indians), Frank Frisch (Cardinals), George Sisler (Browns), Eddie Collins (White Sox), Ty Cobb (Tigers), Babe Ruth (Yankees), Ken Williams (Browns), Harry Heilmann (Tigers) Jake Daubert (Reds) and George Kelly (Giants)

I had previously mentioned the odd shape of Heinie Groh's "bottle bat".  One of my favorite pieces of the exhibit was seeing the bat up close.  This was one of Groh's game used bats.

This field sweater was an example of the ones used by the 1926 St.Louis Cardinals.  When Grover Cleveland Alexander wandered in from the bull pen to face Tony Lazzeri in Game 7 of that famous series this is an example of the sweater he would be wearing.

This game worn Chicago Cubs sweater was from 1910.  This sweater is an example of what Tinker, Evers and Chance would be wearing as they took on the Philadelphia Athletics in the World Series that year.

This early pin set came with the purchase of Coral Tobacco.  The set included Joe Tinker (Cubs), Rube Oldring (A's), Tris Speaker (Red Sox) and Deacon Phillippe (Pirates star of the 1903 World Series).  It also included Zack Wheat of the Brooklyn club, referred to not as the Dodgers or Robins but still known at the time as the Superbas.

This Baseball quilt would have been from about 1914.  The squares include Nemo Leibold (Indians and later one of the "clean sox" of the infamous 1919 White Sox team), Max Carey (Pirates), Walter Johnson (Senators), Harry Covoleski (Tigers) and Chick Gandil (Senators and later master mind of the Black Sox).

This card set was part of  a "table top" game, what we would call a board game. It is an early version of APBA.  At the top of the Sam Crawford card you can see it says "a base hit".  This was pre-Ty Cobb days so Crawford was the absolute star of the Tigers.  

This series of cards were included in Cracker Jacks.  This series was likely from 1913 as it included Johnnny Evers on the Cubs, Shoeless Joe Jackson as a member of the Indians and Eddie Cicotte as a member of the White Sox.  The card featuring the man in the suit is Connie Mack.  He was famous for wearing a suit while managing, not the traditional baseball uniform.

This larger card featured the infamous Fred Merkle.

Living in the Los Angeles area there was a definite emphasis placed on the Dodgers in the exhibit, which I have greatly enjoyed.  One entire section was dedicated to the Dodgers' Brooklyn years.

This was the uniform worn by Johnny Podres in the 1955 World Series.  The award to the right is Podres' World Series MVP.

This satin uniform was worn by Leo Durocher during the 1944 season.

One of my favorite figures in the Brooklyn Dodgers history, this uniform was worn by Pete Reiser.

This Brooklyn road uniform was worn by Whit Wyatt.  Wyatt was a four time All Star (all representing Brooklyn) during his 16 year career.  Wyatt pitched in the 1941 World Series for the Bums and went 1-1.

This road jersey was worn by manager Charlie Dressen in 1952.  The Dodgers would win the National League Pennant that year.

This jersey was worn by Pee Wee Reese during the 1958 season.  It was Pee Wee's last season in the league and the Dodgers' first in Los Angeles.  The uniform would have been worn while the Dodgers were playing at the Los Angeles Coliseum.

This Dodgers jacket belonged to big Gil Hodges, the hard hitting First Baseman of the Bums.  He later managed the 1969 Mets to the World Series title.

This was Carl Erskine's jersey.  Erskine had Hall of Fame potential but severe elbow problems caused him to miss significant playing time.  Along with Don Newcombe, Erskine was the ace of the staff.

The Reading Rifle's jersey.  Carl Furillo played Right Field for the Dodgers during the glory days of Brooklyn baseball.

This 1935 Dodgers uniform belonged to Nick Tremark.  The Outfielder would only play for the Dodgers in parts of 3 seasons.  In 1935 he would see time in only 10 games.

This jersey from 1937 belonged to Van Lingle Mungo, pitching star of the Dodgers in the days before Brooklyn was a National League contender every year.  Mungo, along with Al Lopez, was the drawing card for Brooklyn fans in those days.

This 1939 jersey belonged to Cookie Lavagetto.  Cookie was a fan favorite of the local team.  One fan in particular brought balloons with Cookie's name on them everyday.  By the middle of the game the balloons would be floating around the stadium.  That same fan was famous for bellowing out "COOOOOKIE"

This jersey belonged to Preacher Roe.  Roe pitched for Brooklyn from 1948-1954 and was one of the team's top Pitchers.  Roe pitched in several big games for the bums, including the 1952 World Series.

These examples of the 1913 Home and Road uniforms are unidentified but would have been worn by the stars of that year such as Zack Wheat, Otto Miller, Jake Daubert, Nap Rucker and Casey Stengel.

This 1915 World Series program would have been sold before the Boston Red Sox took on the Philadelphia Phillies.  The Red Sox won 4 games to 1.  The only game won by the Phillies was pitched by Grover Cleveland Alexander, later portrayed by Ronald Reagan in "The Winning Team"

The exhibit also included game worn jerseys from some of the greatest of all time including Ruth, Williams, Aaron and Mays.

These two photos were part of a collection.  These two were particularly interesting as the showed Leo Durocher in his Yankees uniform and Fred Merkle in his Brooklyn uniform, likely from about 1915.  Note the horrendous uniform on Merkle.

The Babe Ruth collection was one of the big selling points of the exhibit.  This included his bat, traveling case, glove and fur coat.

The uniform that DiMaggio wore during his 56 game hitting streak and the ball that was hit to break the record at 45.  The season was 1941.  The black band on the shirt would have been in honor of Lou Gehrig who passed away on June 2.

The Dodgers were well represented in the exhibit.  Note the # 19 patch on the sleeve of Steve Garvey's.  That means this would be a post season jersey from 1978.  Dodger legend Jim Gilliam passed away on October 8, 1978, the day after the Dodgers defeated the Phillies to advance to the World Series.  The 19 patch represented Gilliam's number with the Dodgers.

Also well represented was the Yankees 1940's and 1950's dynasties:

Yogi Berra's 1962  uniform.

Whitey Ford's 1960 Uniform

Phil Rizzuto's 1952 Uniform

Mickey Mantle (1954), Don Larsen (1958) and Moose Skowron (1959)
Hank Bauer (1951)
Gil McDougald (1958)

Tommy Henrich (Also known as "Old Reliable")

Eddie Lopat (1951)

Frankie Crosetti (1951).  The Crow was a coach by this time in his career but spend more years than anyone (player and coach combined) in a Yankee uniform.
Johnny Mize (1951).  Although the Big Cat was known mostly for his time with the Cardinals and Giants he played a big role in the Yankees success.

This program was from opening day at Yankee Stadium.  The first game ever played there was in 1923  The Yankees would go on to win their third straight American League pennant and their first World Series.

Roy Campanella's 1957 jersey, 1955 MVP award and field jacket.

Drysdale (53) and Koufax (32) were always closely linked so of course both would be represented together here.

One of the most under rated and unfairly players in history, Don Newcombe.  A Rookie of the Year Winner, four time All Star, Cy Young Award winner and  MVP.  Newcombe missed more than 2 years to serve in the Korean-American War.

Mickey Mantle's 1957 MVP award.

Hideo Nomo was a fan favorite for the Dodgers for many years.  He made his debut in 1995

Another of my favorite sections was the one containing Jackie Robinson's uniform and 1949 player of the year award.  It also had the headlines from the Phillies' series in Jackie's rookie year.  This was the series where Ben Chapman famously led his players in verbal attacks on Jackie.

The Baseball exhibit is open until September 14, 2014

To go with the Presidential theme today, we have a presidential baseball question.  One former president once owned stock in the Cincinnati Reds.  He is said to have been the inspiration for the 7th inning stretch.  He was such a big fan of the game that he was seriously considered for the first Commissioner's post following the Black Sox scandal in 1919. Who was it?

Answer to Last Week's Question:
Congratulations to TJD for correctly answering last week's question.
Similar to the previous week's question, this question was what American League teams have the longest World Series droughts:

Red Sox (2013, 0 years)
Yankees (2009, 5 years)
White Sox (2005, 8 years)
Angels (2002, 11 years)
Rays (No Titles Since 1998, 15 years)
Blue Jays (1993, 20 years)
Twins (1991, 22 years)
Athletics (1989, 24 years) 
Royals (1985,28 years)
Tigers (1984, 29 years)
Orioles (1983, 30 years)
Mariners (No titles since 1977, 36 years)
Astros (No titles since 1962, 51 years
Rangers/Senators (No titles since 1961, 52 years)
Indians (1948,  65 Years)


  1. It is a shame that I will not be able to see this exhibit. Thank you for bringing me theses memories.
    I was stunned to see so many items that Reagan had obtained. Looking at the items it is like being at the HOF.
    When I visited the HOF I was surprised to see the style of bats that were used in the infancy of baseball.
    How did Reagan acquire all of these items?
    This is a great trivia question. At one time I knew the answer. I can't remember if it was Wilson, Taft or Teddy Roosevelt. I sam going with Taft.


  2. Great recap of the exhibit! It really was a fun way to spend the day and I love that even though I saw these in person, I'm still learning new things about what I saw through this post. :)

  3. Thanks for sharing info and photos from the baseball exhibit. We really like the Reagan library and have visited a few times. I found it interesting to read about his ties to baseball. I like the Cubs sweater. I'm happy that you were able to check out that exhibit! Not sure we'll get to go but it was cool to see photos and read about it. Thanks for sharing! :)


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