Triple Play: Baseball at the Albany Institute

FEBRUARY 7—JULY 26, 2015

The Albany Institute of History & Art is excited to present three exhibitions celebrating our passion for baseball! The centerpiece is Baseball: America’s Game, organized by the Bank of America’s Art in our Communities program. It is complemented by two community-supported exhibitions, Play Ball! Baseball in the Capital Region and The Clubhouse: Baseball Memorabilia. Many items were borrowed from regional fans, community collectors, and museums. All three exhibitions contain nationally or regionally significant materials, such as photographs, signed bats and balls, stadium seats, trophies, pennants, jerseys, and more. We have an exciting rose of related events too, so be sure to check out our calendar!

Triple Play! Baseball at the Albany Institute is sponsored by an Anonymous Donor, Michael & Margaret Picotte Foundation, CDPHP, Times Union, the Albany County Convention and Visitors Bureau, and Wallace and Jane Altes

Baseball: America's Game

Ernie Banks (sitting), Larry Doby, Matty Brescia, Jackie Robinson, Martin's Stadium, 1953, photography by Ernest C. Withers, gelatin silver print, courtesy of Bank of America

Baseball is part of our shared heritage, something that helps define the American experience. It infuses our popular culture, our literature, and our politics- our everyday lives. The same ecokes childhood- both our own, and the nation’s. Baseball was born in the mid-nineteenth century, and its rhythms echo that bygone era; for all the high-tech trappings of the modern age, baseball is at its essence the same game you could have watched being played by barefoot kids in an Ohio pasture, circa 1890.

This exhibition celebrates baseball’s place in the American story- its portrayal, in arts and letters, as the game and the nation have grown up together. Photographers such as Wayne Miller and Terry Evans capture the game as it’s played on sandlots and suburban diamonds, and writers from John Updike to Jimmy Breslin have chronicled the heroics and the hilarity of the sport. And thanks to illustrators such as Norman Rockwell, J.C. Leyendecker and Lonie Bee, baseball graced the covers of Collier’s Weekly, The Saturday Evening Post and many other magazines of a time long past.

Baseball’s Baseball’s most electrifying moments live on in iconic photographs and in the frenzied poetry of a radio announcer’s voice, many on view and available to listen to in the exhibition. Bobby Thomson’s “Shot Heard ’Round the World,” Don Larsen’s perfect game, Stan Musial’s 3000th hit – captured forever on film and audio, and so live on in our collective memory.

The game came of age during the Linotype era, flourishing during the mid-twentieth century when a magazine featuring Ted Williams or Willie Mays on the cover was guaranteed to sell out. One of the greatest baseball feats of the last twenty years – Cal Ripken, Jr.’s setting a new “Iron Man” record for consecutive games played – is preserved here in offset plates from The Baltimore Sun, history captured for all time in three-tenths of a millimeter of aluminum.

Baseball helped give birth to American sportswriting, spawning a distinguished fraternity that includes the likes of Ring Lardner, Grantland Rice and Roger Angell. Even so, some of the finest baseball commentary has been written by non-sportswriters; it is a mark of the game’s broad appeal that poets like Marianne Moore, historians like Doris Kearns Goodwin and former ball players like Jim Bouton have all put pen to paper in its tribute. One of the best-known chroniclers of the game uses not a pen but a camera: documentary filmmaker Ken Burns, whose Baseball and The Tenth Inning offer a lovingly exhaustive history of the National Pastime.

The familiar baseball shrines of yesterday have, one by one, given way to the stately pleasure domes of a new age. Of the 26 major-league stadiums in use back in 1982 – preserved in Jim Dow’s classic series of photographs – only six remain open for business today. At a time when we most needed heroes, major-league baseball provided the nation with them – and many are captured here in George Brace’s elegant photographic portraits.

Baseball: America's Game is sponsored by Bank of America's Art in our Communities Program

Play Ball! A History of Baseball in the Capital Region

Babe Ruth, Albany Mayor Thacher, Lou Gehrig at Hawkins Stadium, 1929, Museum of Innovation and Science, General Electric Archives

Play Ball! chronicles the Capital Region’s baseball history. It features close to 100 baseball artifacts, many on public view for the first time. The Capital Region has significant firsts in the national pastime, ties to legendary players, local ballparks, and deep-rooted amateur and professional teams. Archival photographs, rare game footage, signed bats and balls, historic jerseys, stadium seats, score cards, posters, and more help show how baseball was integrated into the community and how the community has helped preserve that history.

Organized baseball in the Capital Region dates to the 1860s. In 1871, the Troy Haymakers joined the first professional major league featuring the first Jewish major league player, Lip Pike, and the first Hispanic major league player, Esteban Enrique Bellan. Several early Hall of Famers played on the National League Troy Trojans, while in Schenectady the Mohawk Colored Giants were the area’s most famous Negro League team.

Perhaps the region’s best known minor league team was the Albany Senators. They play major league teams like the Yankees in barn-storming games at Albany’s Hawkins Stadium that featured Babe Ruth, Lou Gehrig, and Yogi Berra. Hawkins is famous for being the first ballpark in the Capital District to have field lights installed by General Electric of Schenectady.

Founded in 1930, the Albany Twilight League (ATL) is the oldest continuously running amateur baseball league in the county. The league got its name from its propensity to begin games in the evening, illuminated by the sunset. In the late 1930s the Albany Black Sox joined the ATL, making the league one of the earliest to incorporate black teams into their structure. In 2012, the ATL’s Albany Athletics won their first American Amateur Baseball Congress Stan Musial World Series.

In the mid-1980s, the Albany-Colonie Yankees played at Heritage Park in Colonie. In the early 1990s, the team featured many future Yankee players, including Bernie Williams, Jorge Posada, Any Pettitte, Mariano Rivera, and Derek Jeter.

The semi-professional Albany-Colonie Diamond Dogs play at Heritage Park from 1995 to 2002. That same year, the Tri-City Valley Cats, the A affiliate of the Houston Astros, began playing at Joe Bruno Stadium in Troy. The Valley Cats won the New York-Penn League championship in 2010 and 2013 and continue to cultivate an enthusiastic spirit for baseball among Capital Region fans.

Play Ball! A History of Baseball in the Capital Region is sponsored by Courtney and Victor Oberting III

The Clubhouse: Baseball Memorabilia

Tom Seaver jersey, New York Mets, 1971, wool, signed Tom Seaver lower right, Private Collection

Baseball fans (short for “fanatics”) are like curators. They assemble collections that speak to their love of the game. The Clubhouse includes rare objects and well-cherished pieces of memorabilia collected by community members.

There are balls signed by Joe DiMaggio and President Richard Nixon, seats from Yankee Stadium and Fenway Park, a locker from Shea Stadium, players’ jerseys including a signed jersey that belonged to Mets pitcher Tom Seaver, signs, scorecards, and a dugout lineup card. There’s even a larger-than-life letter E from Yankee Stadium’s façade.

In addition, there are pieces of “fandom” like World Series ticket stubs, team pennants, baseball cards from major, minor, and women’s leagues, pins, photographs, posters, programs, and materials from major league teams past and present. Also featured are contemporary works by New York State artists. More may be added as the community continues to contribute to this show.

The Clubhouse: Baseball Memorabilia is sponsored by Lois and David Swawite