Baseball As America at Florida International Museum

Treasures from The National Baseball Hall of Fame and Museum Reflect the Evolution of the Game…and the Nation. Florida International Museum Hosts "Baseball As America" Exhibit St. Petersburg, FL (October 16, 2003)

Since the sport first took shape in this country, baseball and America have shared the same values, responded to the same events, and grappled with the same social and economic issues. See how our national pastime mirrors and influences our evolving culture in Baseball As America, December 13, 2003 through March 6, 2004, at Florida International Museum. The exhibition is organized by The National Baseball Hall of Fame and Museum, Cooperstown, New York. The national tour of Baseball As America is sponsored by Ernst & Young.

For the first time ever, more than 500 artifacts from The National Baseball Hall of Fame and Museum have left Cooperstown, New York, and are traveling to ten world class museums across the nation. From the legendary “Doubleday baseball” to a promotional ball rescued from the rubble of the World Trade Center, Baseball As America is packed with the artifacts, history and compelling stories.
There are baseball “firsts” like the first ball pitched by Cy Young in the first modern World Series in 1903; historic photographs and artifacts from Jackie Robinson, Joe DiMaggio, and a host of other heroes; baseball nostalgia of all kinds; and interactive displays where visitors can heft a bat, learn how to throw a curve ball and visit the virtual Hall of Fame plaque gallery. And only at The Florida International Museum can you see a selection of objects from the Hall of Fame that illustrate the history of baseball in Florida.
“ Baseball is the National Pastime,” said Hall of Fame Chairman Jane Forbes Clark. “The Game symbolizes the fabric of our society in its sportsmanship, ingenuity and teamwork. As the institutional and spiritual home of The Game, we have an even greater responsibility to examine the deeper significance of Baseball and reveal its enduring relevance to this great country and all Americans.”
Since its earliest days, baseball has been a source of American ingenuity and inspiration,” said James S. Turley, chairman of Ernst & Young, national exhibition sponsor. “Baseball's values, especially leadership, teamwork, diversity, innovation, opportunity and performance excellence are the hallmark of the American experience and core attributes of the people of Ernst & Young. Through the sponsorship of the Baseball As America exhibition, Ernst & Young is helping to ensure that these values-along with the remarkable artifacts that represent them-will be celebrated and cherished as never before.”
The American people’s game

You don’t have to be a fan to appreciate the insights this exhibition offers into the hearts and minds of Americans. Baseball As America explores themes that are central to the nation: immigration, race relations, business and labor, technology and invention, popular culture, and patriotism. Here, as in baseball itself, you can see the reflection of our democratic foundations, our entrepreneurial spirit, and our sometimes contradictory values.

A baseball game is America in microcosm. The ballpark brings together total strangers - across the social barriers of age and race, language and social status - without self-consciousness or animosity. It unites them in highly vocal rivalry. It’s an urban game played on a grassy field, a game of mind as well as body - a fitting model for our national pastime.

“ Baseball got an early hold on America,” says Kathy Oathout, Executive Director of The Florida International Museum. “Long before football and basketball became popular, kids and adults were watching professional baseball games, then going home to play it themselves.” It’s an accessible sport, she points out - one that many people can both play and watch.
The exhibit covers an expanse of historical subjects related to America’s Game in each of Baseball As America’s seven themes. In “Rooting for the Team,” visitors can find the cowbell used by legendary Brooklyn Dodgers’ fan Hilda Chester. In “Weaving Myths,” the trophy presented to Lou Gehrig by his Yankee teammates the day of his famous farewell speech is on display. In “Invention and Ingenuity,” bats of the greatest home run hitters of all-time rest next to equipment such as the Thayer Mask and early fingerless fielders gloves, displaying how science has been applied to all facets of the game, improving both safety and performance. “Ideals and Injustices” features among other items, Jackie Robinson’s jersey and a home plate used by Japanese-Americans held in an interment camp during World War II, detailing the exclusion and acceptance of different groups in American society throughout history. In “Enterprise and Opportunity,” visitors will find one of the most sought after baseball cards of all time, the Honus Wagner T206 series card from 1909, and the jersey worn by 3’7” Eddie Gaedel when he took center stage in one of owner Bill Veeck’s greatest promotional stunts. Among the items in “Sharing a Common Culture”: The Three Umpires original painting by Norman Rockwell and Roy Hobbs’ uniform as a member of the New York Knights in the motion picture The Natural.

Publication: Baseball As America, Seeing Ourselves Through Our National Game
Baseball As America, a richly illustrated album exploring baseball’s place in American culture, serves as a companion piece to the exhibition. The book brings together 45 newly-commissioned and 30 classic essays by dozens of authors, from Walt Whitman to Dave Barry. Among the others are speeches by Ted Williams and Jackie Robinson, letters from Franklin Roosevelt and Fiorello LaGuardia, excerpts from Bernard Malamud, Shirley Jackson, and W.P. Kinsella, and works by Roger Angell, Roger Kahn, Bill James, Eliot Asinof, and George Plimpton. Large format, 320 pages, and more than 200 photographs, many in full color. Published by the National Geographic Society, 2002; $35.

Public programs
Florida International Museum is planning an array of public programs, films, guest speakers, and other special events highlighting baseball’s role in American culture. For programming updates, please visit our website at www.floridamuseum.org.

The Florida International Museum has extended hours during this exhibition. Monday through Saturday - 9 a.m. to 5 p.m., Friday - 9 a.m. to 8 p.m., Sunday - 11 a.m. - 5 p.m. Closed Thanksgiving, Christmas and New Year’s Day. Last tickets are sold one hour prior to closing. For general Museum information call 727.822-3693 or visit our website at www.floridamuseum.org. Page 5
Location and travel information

The Florida International Museum is located at 100 Second Street North, St. Petersburg, Florida. Low-cost parking is available nearby.

National tour
After The Florida International Museum, the exhibition will continue its 10-venue national tour to five other museums throughout the U.S., including: National Museum of Natural History, Smithsonian Institution, in Washington, D.C., April 3, 2004 to August 15, 2004; Missouri Historical Society in St. Louis, January 29, 2005 to April 24, 2005; Museum of Fine Arts, Houston, May 21, 2005 to August 14, 2005.

Baseball Hall of Fame
The National Baseball Hall of Fame and Museum preserves history, honors excellence and connects generations. An independent, not-for-profit educational institution dedicated to fostering an appreciation of the historical development of baseball and its impact on our culture, the Hall of Fame was established in Cooperstown, New York in 1939 as the definitive repository of the game’s treasures. Comprised of the Museum, with over 35,000 artifacts, and the Library and Archive, which houses more than 2.6 million documents, recordings, and photographs, the Hall of Fame exhibits and interprets its vast collections for a global audience. The Hall of Fame also bestows the highest individual honor awarded to players of our national pastime by marking their achievements with a plaque in the Hall of Fame Gallery. For more information on the Baseball Hall of Fame, please call 888-HALL-OF-FAME, or visit baseballhalloffame.org. To learn more about Baseball As America, please visit baseballasamerica.org.
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The Florida International Museum is a non-profit educational institution supported, in part, by the Institute of Museum and Library Services, St. Petersburg/Clearwater Area Convention and Visitors Bureau, Florida Arts Council, State of Florida, Division of Cultural Affairs, and the City of St. Petersburg. Other major sponsors include Progress Energy, Renaissance Vinoy Resort & Golf Club, and St. Petersburg Times.