By Ron Leir
My colleague Kevin Canessa recently covered an exhibition in Nutley of old-time Base Ball as it was played at the turn of the 19th century.
The two teams assembled probably made some ardent fans of the national pastime long for the days when players without gloves were called on to show their mettle and spitting tobacco was a thing of art.
Well, if you’re of a mind to savor more of the same, then I recommend you trek down to our nation’s capital and stop in at the Library of Congress about a month from now to see an exhibit of “Baseball Americana.”
Among the artifacts to be displayed will be a 14-page handwritten document called the “Laws of Base Ball,” equivalent to the Holy Writ of the Faithful because it’s a draft of the rules of the diamond and adopted as such way back in 1857.
That’s right – even before the Civil War – when a convention of New York area Base Ball clubs voted to codify those guidelines and eliminate the many inconsistencies that prevailed depending on what version of the game was played and where.
As reported May 21 by The Star-Ledger, that historical archive is being loaned to the nation’s literary repository by Hayden J. Trubitt, a San Diego lawyer who describes himself as a “fan” and “not a collector.”
Trubitt was quoted as saying he mortgaged his house to buy the document at auction for more than $3 million two years ago when the historical papers surfaced after being lost for 100+ years.
Too bad Mets’ owner Fred Wilpon couldn’t have tapped this “fan” for some spare cash to pick up some decent players. But that’s another story …
Anyhow, maybe you should schedule a vacation trip to D.C. this summer and include the Library of Congress as part of your itinerary. The exhibit opens June 29.
Fans of history who like to connect the dots between one era and another may want to venture into another field of equally sparkling dimensions.
To that end, why not consider checking out a traveling exhibition on “Rockwell, Roosevelt & the Four Freedoms.” now ensconced at the New-York Historical Society, 170 Central Park West, in Manhattan, through Sept. 2.
As outlined on the society’s website, the exhibit “explores how [Norman] Rockwell’s 1943 paintings – Freedom of Speech, Freedom of Worship, Freedom from Fear and Freedom from Want – gave visual voice to [President Franklin] Roosevelt’s call to the defense of freedom worldwide and took their place among the most enduring images in the history of American art.”
Aside from those paintings, the visitor will find other Rockwell artistry (notably Rosie the Riveter and Liberty Girl) plus “historical documents, photographs, videos and artifacts; interactive digital displays; and immersive settings, some using virtual reality-technology, all on the theme of the Four Freedoms, from FDR’s initial enunciation of them as a reason to enter [WWII] to their powerful post-war legacy.”
After its New York stopover, the exhibit travels on to other stateside locations in Michigan, Washington, D.C. and Texas —e e e as well as the Memorial de Caen in Normandy – before ending up at the Norman Rockwell Museum in Stockbridge, Mass., which organized the expedition.
Rockwell’s Four Freedoms set were originally printed in sequential issues of The Saturday Evening Post in February and March 1943 and the paintings went on a 16-city tour to promote the sale of more than $130 million in war bonds.
Perhaps local Boards of Education could weigh in by organizing summer field trips for highly-motivated students who would likely find ample parallels between a politically-charged United States of the ‘40s and today’s America.
In any case, sounds like it’s well worth a trip across the Hudson to review American history in the making.
A personal footnote
This will be my last column written for The Observer as I plan to take a second retirement from journalism. (The first came in May 2009 when I took a buyout from The Jersey Journal.) Don’t worry, I have no plans for a farewell tour.
I have appreciated my apprenticeship in West Hudson and environs and I thank all of The Observer readers for their patience, forbearance and suggestions. It has been a pleasure to serve you.