Maltz Museum’s Baseball Exhibit Examines Sport’s ‘Richness and Diversity’

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Hank Greenberg and Joe DiMaggio. - DONATED BY CORBIS
  • Donated by Corbis
  • Hank Greenberg and Joe DiMaggio.
A few years ago, Ivy Weingram, associate curator at the National Museum of American Jewish Heritage, began putting together a story about our national pastime. Two-and-a-half years later, that exhibition, Chasing Dreams: Baseball and Becoming American, would open in Philadelphia. And this summer—concurrent with much of baseball season—it's on view at the Maltz Museum of Jewish Heritage in Beachwood.

“I had this idea to do a baseball exhibition after seeing the documentary Jews and Baseball,” says Weingram, from the Maltz Museum offices. “I thought the richness and diversity would make for an exciting exhibition. Baseball lends itself to great storytelling.”

She culled together objects from 50 collections around the world and even has a few things on loan from a private collection based in Hong Kong. In all, there are some 145 artifacts on display (including some Northeast Ohio-specific memorabilia on loan from the Cleveland Indians and the Baseball Heritage Museum). Baseball fans will be happy to hear that names like Al Rosen, Moe Berg, Jackie Robinson, Roberto Clemente, Justine Siegal and Mark Shapiro are represented.

“We also have things from everyday families who went into their attics and scrapbooks and locked cabinets,” says Weingram. “That speaks to the nature of the exhibition. It tells the story not only of players but also of the extended baseball family, the fans, the vendors, the journalists, the novelists, the songwriters, who have combined to create this national pastime. The exhibition tells the story of how baseball has served as a way for immigrants to become American and embrace and express American values and culture from the 19th century through to today.”

When the exhibit was on display in Philadelphia, the interactive elements were a big hit (pun intended). At one display, you can virtually catch balls hit by major leaguers.

“It was popular with everyone,” says Weingram of the interactive fly ball display. “Literally, everyone and their grandmother played.”

At one listening station, you can hear about a dozen different versions of “Take Me Out to the Ballgame," a recognizable tune that has been recorded hundreds of times, sung by the likes of LL Cool J and Aretha Franklin. Hall of Fame-quality artifacts on display include vintage photos of players such as Hank "The Hebrew Hammer" Greenberg and Joe DiMaggio (whose rookie uniform is on display). In one display, you can see just how Sandy Koufax through those wicked curveballs. You can also see the last home plate from the last home game at the Polo Grounds in New York.

The exhibit is on view at the Maltz Museum until Sept. 7. Then, it travels to Los Angeles and will be on the road through 2016.

“We’re excited it’s going to baseball-proud cities like Cleveland that will appreciate the significance of this national story and can identify with it so well, not just in terms of baseball but in terms of the exhibition’s themes of diversity, inclusion, exclusion, and identity,” says Weingram.

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