From Cooperstown to our town - blockbuster baseball exhibit comes to St. Paul

For the first time, more than 500 artifacts from the National Baseball Hall of Fame and Museum have left their legendary venue in Cooperstown, N. Y., and are traveling to the home towns of fans across the nation. "Baseball As America" is the first major exhibition to examine the relationship between baseball and American culture. It will open at the Minnesota History Center on Friday, Nov. 24.

The exhibition is organized by the National Baseball Hall of Fame and Museum, and culled from its unparalleled collections. "Baseball As America" is packed with the stuff of history and legend. There are baseball "firsts" such as the first ball pitched by Cy Young in the first World Series in 1903; historic photographs and artifacts from Babe Ruth, Jackie Robinson, Joe DiMaggio and a host of other heroes; baseball nostalgia of all kinds; and interactive displays where visitors can heft a bat or learn how to throw a curve ball. The exhibition has toured 10 cities to date, including New York, Washington, D.C., Chicago, Houston and Los Angeles.

"Baseball and America have grown up together. In fact, the game is such an integral part of our culture that we often take for granted its deep day-to-day significance in our lives," says Jane Forbes Clark, chairman of the board of the National Baseball Hall of Fame and Museum.

"In bringing this exhibition to people across the country, it is our hope that we can learn more about ourselves as a people who possess a shared set of values, as reflected through our national game."

Nina Archabal, director of the Minnesota Historical Society, thinks the timing of the exhibit's arrival is particularly good. "When Major League Baseball came to Minnesota in 1961, the stage was set for what is now nearly a half-century of exciting plays. Hall of Famer Harmon Killebrew - affectionately known as 'Killer' - got us off to a great start with his brilliant performances at the plate, and now our 2006 Twins have given us another great year of baseball."

The fans, the myths, and the heroes

"Baseball As America" is organized in thematic sections examining such aspects of the game as the rituals and experiences of fans; myth making and the role of heroes; the impact of technology on the game; segregation, integration and immigration; the game's evolution as a business; the physics of the home run and the curve ball; and baseball's presence throughout popular culture.

During the exhibition's run at the Minnesota History Center, in addition to "Baseball As America," an adjacent gallery will feature baseball photographs from the Star Tribune. The Society's Library is also mounting a modest exhibition of baseball-related items - photographs, artifacts, books and pamphlets - from its own collection.

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