Friday, August 12, 2005

Baseball as America

Yesterday Judy and I drove to Houston to see the baseball exhibit at the Museum of Fine Arts. It was great for an old baseball fan like me, though Judy was probably bored out of her mind. I got all misty and sentimental while looking at such things as the original handwritten (OK, hand-printed) manuscript for "Take Me out to the Ball Game," the contract that sent Babe Ruth from the Red Sox to the Yankees, a handwritten letter from Ruth to a young polio patient, the bat with which Hank Aaron hit his 714th home run, and many, many other things. I'll probably never get to the Baseball Hall of Fame, which is the permanent residence of most of the items, so I'd been wanting to see this exhibit all summer. I'm sorry it took me so long to get there, but I'm glad I went before the closing. Looking at an original Honus Wagner tobacco card made me want to get out my own baseball cards and thumb through them again. I'll probably do that sometime this weekend, and if I do, I'll post some more photos. I don't have a Wagner card. I can't afford one.


Anonymous said...

I'd love to see this exhibit.

If I ever get around to planning my Cooperstown trip one day, I'll write and see if you want tag along.

My grandmother had some basweball cards from cigarette packs that I used to play with as a kid. There were about ten or twelve of them, but I can remember only one - Joe Tinker. Don't know if I had a Wagner or Hornsby, but it's possible.

Years later - after I realized that these might be valuable - I went to my grandma's and asked her where the cards were.

She told me she'd given them to a young boy staying at the neighbor's house for the summer. She thought someone should enjoy them.

Unknown said...

One of the exhibits was titled "The Box of Baseball Cards Your Mother Threw Away." Mine escaped only by a fluke, but I'm sure glad they did.

Brent McKee said...

As a matter of fact I've been to Cooperstown. When my brother was living in Hamilton Ontario doing his Master I attended a gamer's convention in Toronto and stayed with him for two weeks and we made a day trip of it (not a particulalry good idea given the distances involved). Cooperstown is one of those beautiful little towns on the edge of the Adirondacks and they've done a very smart thing by trying to keep visitor cars on the edge of town and providing trams for the town's numerous museums (one for James Fenimore Cooper). There's something to be said about a place where the Sheriff's Department appears to be in an old Victorian house.

The Baseball Museum is a beautiful structure that despite it's relatively modern construction (1936 I think) fits in beautifully with the town. The actual Hall of Fame, with the bronze plaques is just a small part of it. There's an initial multi-media show to start off your museum experience, and the people running the place have done a beautiful job of making things accessible. Truly a marvelous place to visit.

The Wagner baseball card is extremely rare for an interesting reason. There are only a handful of them in existence (about 75). Wagner was a non-smoker who didn't want to encourage his young fans to start. When he found out about the card he demanded that the tbacco company that made it cease and desist - that he owned the right to his own image. They did.

Unknown said...

Thanks for the great comment, Brent. At least Alvin has the Nolan Ryan museum. Maybe I'll have to do a post on that.

Kent Morgan said...

I'm like you, Bill, Cooperstown is a place I always wanted to visit, but I doubt if I will ever make it. The closest I may get is reading a new novel titled Cooperstown by Eugena Pilek that I just bought. It sounds like something you might like and the following is a cover blurb.

"A hilarious farce matching up oddball characters, national myths, local politics, historical forces, psychoanalysis, high school sports legends, gossipy neighbours, explosive secrets, and damn good writing."

Stewart O'Nan, who wrote Faithful with Stephen King called it "a loopy tribute to both baseball and the small-town upstate novel."

Bubble gum cards never made it to northern Manitoba when I was growing up so I had to settle for the larger exhibit cards that you got out of machines at carnivals and summer visits to boardwalks at our lakes. I know exactly what happened to mine as I gave them to a younger kid who lived across the back lane. I hadn't heard tell of him since I left The Pas, but he surfaced this year on a school site I'm on. The first thing that I asked was "do you still have my exhibit cards?" I believe he was telling the truth when he said no because he's now a minister.

Unknown said...

Cooperstown sounds pretty good, Kent. I'll check it out.

Anonymous said...

Okay, you mention him so I have to get on my Ryan Express box...

Nolan Ryan is one of the most underrated pitchers of all-time. Yes, he gets props for K's, but very few people know that he pitched on some of the worst defensive teams in all of baseball during his days.

Add to that the (about 8 or 9) years of his career where his teams were ranked near the bottom in offense.

If he'd had 2/3 the run support or defense that Roger Clemens played with, Ryan would own a few Cy's and be talked about with the greatest greats.

*=taking nothing away from the Rocket, just saying Ryan's incredible talent has never been appreciated.

Unknown said...

Nolan is of course a hero here in Alvin. So you don't need a soapbox if you ever visit. And you don't need to change the blogroll, either. Just leave the old title there, and no one will be the wiser.