August 28, 2020 was Jackie Robinson Day. 73 years ago, Jackie Robinson broke Baseball’s color barrier when he made his historic MLB debut. This year on August 28, the game of baseball honored Jackie’s legacy by celebrating his life, values and accomplishments.
Recollection by Lina Broydo:
By: Lina Broydo: March 28, 2014
The magic of spring is here. The snow is melting, the trees are abloom with pink, white, and lavender and the sun is shining. But the fun of Spring Training has ended. Sorry, Oakland A’s general manager Billy Beane, who commented, “To me, Spring Training is my favorite time of year for baseball. It’s the most relaxing time as an executive.” Well, the relaxing time is over, Billy. The 2014 Major League Baseball season is starting this week. So, let’s play ball!
Our infatuation with baseball is very emotional, interesting and, surprisingly enough, deeply engraved in the history of America’s favorite pastime. And it is evident more than ever in Chasing Dreams: Baseball and Becoming American, the new exhibit which just opened in time with the start of baseball season at Philadelphia’s National Museum of American Jewish History (NMAJH).
With major support from the National Endowment for the Humanities, in close collaboration with Major League Baseball, and featuring important loans from the Baseball Hall of Fame (which is celebrating its 75th anniversary this year), Chasing Dreams features more than 130 original objects, including historic photographs, game-worn uniforms, game-used objects, original films which feature interviews with baseball executives and everyday fans, players correspondences, newspaper accounts, board games, awards, baseball cards, and signed baseballs.
Jewish ritual objects, ballpark giveaways, stadium seats, Little League memorabilia, and much more reconfirm that baseball is more than just a sport, it is a journey of many people who found their way to the land of vast opportunities and freedom and whose contributions to baseball history went far beyond batting averages and stolen bases. And as the exhibition’s collateral material states, they did not just play the game, they changed the game.
Chasing Dreams: Baseball and Becoming American is the first large-scale exhibition which tells the story of these game changers and – just as importantly – the fans, ideals, and culture they inspired. The exhibits showcase the story of Jews and baseball and of how immigrants and minorities of many different backgrounds, including Italians, Asians, Latinos, African-Americans, and many others, become American.
“Since the nineteenth century, baseball has been an exhilarating metaphor for America, a land of so much promise,” says Dr. Josh Perelman, chief curator and director of collections and exhibitions at NMAJH. “For minority communities in this country, the sport has long served as a path to learning and understanding American values, representing a shared American identity and sometimes highlighting our differences. It is, in short, a mirror of America.”
According to the museum’s press release, Chasing Dreams explores baseball’s legends and myths, its heroes and flops, its struggles and its moments of triumph. The exhibition celebrates and tells the story of well-known Jewish heroes such as Hank Greenberg and Sandy Koufax, whose unparalleled athleticism yielded millions of flashbulb memories and whose decision not to pitch the first game of the 1965 World Series because it fell on Yom Kippur unexpectedly made him a hero.
Chasing Dreams also provides several opportunities for pure, playful fun of interactive games with baseball greats, as well as the chance to build your own virtual “dream team.” As a celebration of passionate fandom, the Museum’s concourse level features Koufax on the Koncourse, an interactive experience complete with Koufax’s rookie jersey and a pitcher’s mound that invites baseball fans of all ages to don a reproduction jersey, then pick up a ball and try their hand at pitching like the indomitable Dodgers’ ace.
Chasing Dreams highlights the iconic baseball pioneers like Jackie Robinson, Joe DiMaggio, Roberto Clemente, Ichiro Suzuki, and Justine Siegal, the first woman to pitch major league batting practice, and pays special tribute to baseball’s extended family of vendors, team owners, minor leaguers, amateur players, scouts, broadcasters, journalists, novelists – and most of all, fans.
Why do fans love baseball? Michael Giltz, who is the co-host of Showbiz Sandbox, says, “I never imagined I would be so obsessed with a team, feel such joy over winning a game or clinching a post-season berth. You don’t say, ‘They won!’ You say, ‘We won!’ And you mean it. It’s high-fiving the person next to you when you’ve never seen them before and don’t even know their name. It’s starting fresh every spring season. It’s baseball.”
Some of the best sports movies of all time have been baseball movies: Bull Durham, Pride of The Yankees, Bang The Drum Slowly, Eight Men Out, Field Of Dreams, and Fear Strikes Out. I love movies, but was not interested in baseball until the time my emotions erupted when I watched my kids and my grandkids play the game. Mark Broydo, an avid baseball fan and an SF Giants season ticket holder, expressed his view when I asked him to give me a short quote on baseball, “Aha, you’re on your way to understanding that baseball is a game that defies short comments. That’s why I like it.”
One of the items in this exhibition is the sheet music for “Take Me Out to the Ball-Game” by Jack Norworth and Albert Von Tilzer, from 1908. And me? I’m ready!
After closing in Philadelphia on October 26, 2014, Chasing Dreams will tour to museums nationwide. For information on the exhibit visit www.NMAJH.org.