Trace the history of baseball through the Library of Congress' new Baseball Americana exhibit

- There are All-Star Game events happening all over Washington D.C. and it turns out baseball’s history is already on display in the nation’s capital.

The Library of Congress has a brand new exhibit called Baseball Americana where some of the game’s most valuable treasures are safe at home and on display.

When you think of the Library of Congress, you probably think about reading books. But the library has cleared some shelf space to play ball.

Within these walls of the library, our national pastime is traced from its very first mention in a small book from the 1700s to the original handwritten “Laws of Baseball” in 1857. There are also drawings of early fields that look more like houses than diamonds.

There are historic artifacts from early women’s leagues. The uniform of Dottie Ferguson resides in the exhibit. She played in the All-American Girls Professional Baseball League and led the league in steals.

Susan Reyburn, the curator of the new exhibit, said she grew up bleeding Dodger blue. One of the library’s prized possessions is a letter from Jackie Robinson to Brooklyn Dodgers President and General Manager Branch Rickey. The pair together ended baseball’s ban on African American players in 1947.

“He’s thanking him for all of the kindness Rickey has shown Jackie, his wife and his family through what was a really difficult time,” said Reyburn.

There is also a 28-foot-tall grandstand with 17 rows inside the exhibit so you can see what baseball players see from the ground.

Other things you can view – Babe Ruth’s shoes, Bryce harper’s first lineup card, diagrams of D.C.’s old Griffith Stadium, the first MVP trophy, historic baseballs and the mitts and bats that tried to catch and hit them.

“This notion of community was really appealing to us,” said David Mandel, the chief of the Interpretive Programs Office at the Library of Congress.

Mandel is the head of the exhibitions at the library and he said the goal is to show how baseball has brought America together. And yes, he’s got a few favorite items of his own.

“I’m from Chicago originally so the bits about the Cubs winning the World Series are especially meaningful after a lifetime of failure and suffering,” he said. 

Ups and down – it is an important lesson to remember – in both baseball and life.

Baseball Americana will continue to run until the summer of 2019.

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