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tv   American Artifacts Baseball in America - Origins Early Days  CSPAN  August 7, 2021 1:12am-1:35am EDT

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sglrchlts next we visit the baseball museum to learn about baseball's origins and early days. welcome to the library of congress. i'm the curator. this was a collaboration. we've got some incredible things here on display. let's start with some of the earliest. so right now, we're standing in
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the front of the exhibit looking at origins and early days where we've got some interesting artifacts that suggest that baseball as a history that's much longer than the 19th century. in fact, we've got an example here from a medieval manuscript. these were part of the border of a book produced in 1934. we have a monk and a nun with a ball and a bat in what would have been a very primitive outfield. but what this shows you is that bat and ball games were being played for centuries before europeans began calling different kinds of games baseball. our next stop here is this cute little book i absolutely adore. it is one of my favorite items. it is a little pretty pocketbook from 1987, and it includes here a wood cut drawing of children playing baseball with three
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posts. the word "baseball" is printed there and there is a poem suggesting that a boy runs home with joy. the word "baseball," the term "home," this was produced in 1744 in britain. it is not until it comes to the united states in 1787 that the word first shows up in print in america. as a parallel item to that, we've got this diary from 1786. john ray smith, who is attending the college of new jersey that later becomes princeton university. and on wednesday, march 22nd he writes, a fine day, played basketball but am beaten for i can't catch or hit. he's not a great player. and then the following year the college faculty will ban baseball as being unbecoming of a gentleman. but this is the earliest written
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reference we have to baseball. so already the game is on college campuses. already it's being played by boys much older than children. these are probably older teenagers who are playing this game. a couple of other things to note here in the early going of the game, we have examples from the 1850s from the new york game and the massachusetts game. you can see in the new york game the very familiar diamond that we're all used to, but massachusetts had a competitive rival game which was in the shape of a rectangle. those battled for supremacy. but it is the new york game that with the popularity of the new york press, their enthusiasm for the game, their constant coverage of the game. eventually it is the new york game that's going to win out. of the things we have just shown you, everything in here is original with the exception of this blow-up of the illuminated
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manuscript. one of the things that surprises a lot of people when they come to the library of congress and they see this exhibit or they hear us talk about it is that we have very large sports collections. we are a premier secret sports archive if you will here at the library. through copyright, we have received everything from early rule books to team directories or handwritten histories of leagues and things. so there is a great deal of material that we have here to work with no documenting not just baseball but a number of sports. next i want to show you something that was recently rediscovered that had been hidden away from a desk drawer for years. these are the founding documents of american baseball. so here we are in front of what's been called baseball's magna carta. these are the founding documents
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that were used at the 1857 baseball convention in new york city that laid out the rules of the game that we have come to know as american baseball. and what happened was the knickerbockers baseball club of new york gathered a dozen other teams and presented a series of rules they could all adopt to develop a standard uniform game. up until that time, teams played by different rules and you couldn't have meaningful competition until that went on. so dock williams drafted the rules of the baseball, combined with the match games of baseball which addressed issues on playing conditions of the field and umpires. and through those two documents, they put together this red ribboned document, laws of baseball that the rules committee used at the convention. it is here out of these sessions that several major essential fundamental rules were developed. nine players to a side.
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nine innings in a game. 90 feet between the bases. so some of the things we have some to accept as the essentials of baseball, this is where they are agreeing to these rules. the documents were not known to really exist actually until 2016. after the convention, they eventually wound up in the hands of william's granddaughter. she kept the papers in a desk drawer. they were collected into a box of maps and went on auction in 1999. no one realized their value then. but when then they went on auction, historians were able to do some analysis and determined that these were incredibly valuable papers. so they have not been seen widely. this is the first major exhibition that what's called baseball's magna carta has been on display. we're really excited these are
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in the library. so next we'll take a look at how baseball spread across the united states. so we're continuing here with baseball's origins and early days. and a good way to demonstrate that is with the earliest baseball coverage of an intercollegiate game. this first game was between williams amhurst was in 1859. they were playing by the massachusetts rules and the scoring was clearly a little bit different. but the importance of this document, which is probably the only original which survives is that this is an early stab at sports writing. a lot of the coverage involves how the players arrived at the game site, how they liked their hotel, the accommodations, things like that, so it is an unusual document. the game was part of a double header, baseball and chess. so one day they played baseball.
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the next day there was a chess match and coverage of the chess match is on the other side as well. we have here an early box score. not long after that, after the civil war, what we have here is what's considered a prototype for baseball cards. and it is considered the earliest existing baseball card. it is the brooklyn atlantics champions of america. they went to the studio, had their photo taken, made copies and then they would pass this out to their fans and admirers as well as opposing teams. it is not for 20 or more years before manufactured baseball cards as we come to know them are being produced. this is probably the earliest example of a trading card. up here, this is an example of the game spreading across the united states. the civil war was actually a huge catalyst for spreading baseball. a lot of the northern soldiers
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introduced it to southerners in prison camps. this is an original print that was produced during the war. so you see a game going on. as the war continued, the likelihood they were playing baseball in prison camps greatly diminished. but early in the war, there are documented instances of this happening. finally after the war just a few years later, 1869, the cincinnati red stockings become the first team that is openly paid and not long after that, other club owners decide, we aren't going to have amateurs in the game any more. we're paying everyone. this is a commemorative print of that team that had an undefeated season in 1869. next now that we've got professional teams and soldiers after the war who are taking the game west ward, more and more people are playing and let's tack a look at those those folks are.
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this is a section we have on who is playing back in the 19th century. and just about everyone is, but the only people who are really being paid for it are white men on major league baseball teams. what we have here is an uncut sheet of baseball cards from the first year they were produced. tobacco companies would tuck in individual cards into their cigarette packages as a way of promoting not only their product but you could collect a number of packages and then submit it later for a nicer, bigger card. what is interesting about the washington baseball club cards here is that they are uncut. those are pretty rare. you don't find them often. this was submitted here for copyright at the library of congress. just as a juxtaposition, we have a larger position submitted for copyright. although some of the poses have stayed the same, the diversity of the players has changed tremendously. and we've got a lot more black
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and hispanic players, which you certainly did not have in the 1880s in the major leagues. one of the most important people of that era and in fact in baseball history is john montgomery ward. he wrote this book baseball, how to become a player, and he is one of the first to write such a book. it was also an attempt to look at the actual historical origins of baseball. he spends most of his time as a pitcher and later as a shortstop also working to improve the life of the average baseball player who usually picked up low paying jobs in the off season as a farmer, as a railroad worker and he fought against what became known as the reserve cause in baseball. this was a clause included in all contracts for players in which their rights were held by the club in perpetuity. he had no say in where he played or how much he was paid. this reserve clause is something
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baseball players battle throughout much of the 20th century as well. but it starts with john montgomery ward. in 1890, he single handedly forms the players league which was in opposition to the national league and the american association. it became the third major league in baseball. it only lasted one year because even though he was able to attract a lot of star players to his league, they could not compete financially against the established teams in the national league and the american association and ultimately it fell apart after a year. but this was an early attempt among baseball players to control their own destiny to determine how much they were paid and how much they were worth. so from the 1880s on until 1947, major league baseball was played only by white men, but that starts to change. and we'll take a look at the negro leagues over in the next case. so for black players who were
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not permitted to play in the major leagues, a lot of them started their own barn storming teams. we have an example of a team here in the 1880s in danbury connecticut. foster establishes the actual negro leagues, which is a professional league. there are a number of incarnations, a number of teams participated in that. but we have examples here from the indianapolis clowns, a program from one of their games, a signed baseball, a phenomenal pitcher who got his start and spent many years in the negro leagues. doesn't become a rookie until he's 42 and continues to pitch until he's 59 in the major leagues, actually. while that's going on, while africans are having to make their way with their own leagues, other brands of baseball are developing. what we have is an image of the world champions baseball team. indoor baseball was invented in
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1887 in chicago. it was a way for teams to keep in shape in the off season, in the winter, but almost immediately indoor baseball moves outdoors. what characterizes indoor baseball is larger balls, smaller bats, smaller diamonds, and it is not until 1926 that indoor baseball adopts the name that most of us know the game as, and that's softball. another thing to point out here is that while black players were not getting nearly the publicity that white players were, they also were not appearing on baseball cards that were being issued by tobacco companies. that was the domain of white players. what we've got here is a fantastic collection of really early baseball cards from 1887 to 1914. all of these cards are original. they all represent a different set or brand of cards that appeared. you have got a couple of small cards that are only about two inches long. you can see here at shortstop and second base.
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we have ty cobb down there batting. the card that you see with matthewson, that was called a turkey red. those were premium cards. if you sent in enough cigarette packages to show you had bought all these tobacco products, you should trade that in and receive a large premium card. these are part of the benjamin k. edwards collection. not only of baseball players but of trapeze artists, circuit performers, billiards players and all kinds of athletes appeared on these cards. but it was baseball that won out. the popularity of baseball was that most people were interested in collecting those cards and eventually tobacco companies turned to producing only baseball cards. the other people not featured on baseball cards of course were female players, but women were playing on organized teams and organized leagues early on as well.
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we'll go over to this next case and take a look at them. other people were women. even in the 19th century they had barn storming teams. this is 1913, the new york female giants. their captain, the woman holding the two bats there excelled in every sport including cliff diving. she later had a short show business career on the stage on broadway and in hollywood doing silent films. but most people have learned that the first professional leagues developed in world war ii, the all american girls professional baseball league, it was established as a way to entertain the home front during the war and to provide professional baseball while most of the men were away. here we have the original jersey wore for the peaches. she led the league in steals. you can imagine that was a pretty difficult record to achieve given that she was
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having to slide in such a short uniform. some of the sleeves here show some of the wear and tear over the years. but she wound up stealing 461 bases in her ten-year career. then we also shed some light on girls breaking in to little league. a number of lawsuits were filed in the early 1970s. so it is not until 1974 that girls were able to join little league teams. then when you take that to its furthest debris here we have mone davis on the cover of "sports illustrated" after she threw a winning game in the world series in williamsport for little league. jackie robinson is playing for
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the dodgers. that is where we were able to draw a couple of items, including this letter from jackie in 1950 written to branch ricky, who is leaving the dodgers. and robinson is writing to let him know just how grateful he is for the breaks that branch ricky gave him in signing him to the dodgers, letting him know that he was a trusted friend and that he hopes that ricky will think of him as a friend in return. and it is a very heart felt letter thanking him for everything that he had done for himself and for his family. so what we have here is the original first page of jackie robinson's letter. and then on the back is a reproduction. in order to preserve this letter and keep it from being affected by the lights and kind of the wear and tear of being on exhibition, we will eventually swap these out. what we will have on display then will be the original signature of jackie later on in
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the exhibition's run. so what we have seen here so far today is only about half of the exhibit. so there is a lot more to see. so if you are in washington, d.c., please come to the library of congress and check out the exhibition.
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