WASHINGTON – Al Kaline could spend days wandering through the National Baseball Hall of Fame and Museum in Cooperstown,N.Y.
The former Detroit Tigers right fielder likes old ticket stubs from the times when a ball game cost only a nickel to watch,and memorabilia from “the old timers – the Babe Ruths and the Ty Cobbs.”
Thursday,Kaline,now 69,was able to see some of the Hall of Fame items in Washington,during the preview of “Baseball As America” – the newest exhibition at the Smithsonian's National Museum of Natural History.
The exhibit – organized by the Baseball Hall of Fame – is on its sixth stop of a four-year,10-city tour. Kaline,who accumulated 3,007 hits and 399 home runs in his 22-season career,was joined by 25 other Hall of Famers for the opening.
At the entrance sits a peeling,green and white ticket window that was used from 1910 to 1990 at Comiskey Park in Chicago,former home to the White Sox.
Inside,patrons can see some of the game's most revered relics,including the “Doubleday Ball,” from what some believe was the first baseball game in 1839; “Shoeless” Joe Jackson's shoes; record-setting bats used by Mark McGwire,Sammy Sosa,Babe Ruth and Cal Ripken Jr.; a near century-old book of baseball jokes; and a plethora of jerseys,cards and photographs.
The exhibition is designed to represent the impact baseball has had on how Americans perceive themselves,and it explores issues of immigration,technology and popular culture.
One of the items on display is a baseball found by a firefighter in the rubble of the World Trade Center after the Sept. 11,2001,terrorist attacks.
“It really strikes to the heart of baseball being America,” said Jane Forbes Clark,the Hall's chairwoman.
The exhibition also includes a short video documentary. Watching some of its black-and-white footage of old games,Ferguson Jenkins – the first Canadian member of the Hall of Fame and the 1971 Cy Young Award winner – wondered aloud how the old greats would fare against some of today's players.
“I just don't know,” Ferguson said. “There's been so much improvement in the past 30 years” in equipment and gear. The exhibition details advances in baseball technology,including the first catcher's mask.
One part of the video shows actor Humphrey Bogart talking up baseball: “A hot dog and a game beats roast beef at the Ritz.”
The “Baseball As America” exhibition,which is sponsored by Ernst & Young and Bank of America,will be on display at the Smithsonian's Museum of Natural History through Oct. 3.
After that,it will stop at the Missouri Historical Society in St. Louis,the Museum of Fine Arts in Houston and two other cities.