For the past decade or so, Dave Filipi, Director of Film/Video at Columbus' Wexner Center for the Arts, has presented a program of archival baseball footage at the Cleveland Museum of Art
This year's program comes to the museum at 6:30 p.m. on Wednesday, May 9. It features clips from 1924 to 1944.
Locals will appreciate seeing footage of Walter Johnson managing the Cleveland Indians in 1934.
“It’s a clip of him in spring training in New Orleans with the team, and he does a corny welcome to the cameras and players,” Filipi says. “Even though he was the manager, there are a good 30 seconds or so of him pitching. Anytime you can see a great Hall of Famer in action from that time period, it’s valuable footage.”
The program also includes a 1943 news reel that features a reporting asking the question about whether there should be baseball with World War II going on.
“To a person, everyone says there should be sports,” says Filipi. “It’s interesting to see that it was a real question back then whereas we are not faced with those types of choices today. The closest thing I can think of was after 9/11 when baseball was shut down for a period of time.”
There’s also a video of 13-year-old Samuel “Red” Solomon signing a contract with the Chicago Cubs in 1929.
“It’s obviously a publicity stunt with the kid,” says Filipi. “They’re at the Polo Grounds in New York. The kid was a schoolyard legend and an exceptional baseball player in the New York area. He plays catch with some of the Cubs in the clip. From what I could gather, I think the kid thought it was real, and as he got into his teens, he was a little disappointed and disillusioned that it was purely a publicity stunt. He’s a really cute kid, and it’s a funny clip.”
Another highlight features an uninterrupted interview with Hall of Famer Ty Cobb.
“It’s not particularly revelatory though the interviewer asks him about some of the toughest pitchers he's ever faced,” says Filipi. “I don’t remember seeing anything like this with Cobb or any player, really. Babe Ruth is featured in all kinds of footage, but it’s pretty rare to have such a candid interview.”
In another clip, Lou Gehrig goes to the Stock Market right after the Crash of 1929, but the event isn’t ever referenced.
“It might be something that was staged,” says Filipi. “The clip shows Gehrig with Walter Koppisch. They went to Columbia together and Gehrig played football with him. Koppisch had a brief career in the NFL but then went into finance. The clip is Lou getting information for Walter, and they have a conversation. It’s raw footage, so you see them mess up their takes. It’s very light-hearted. You see Gehrig in a more relaxed moment.”
Some clips show amateur teams like the House of David, a baseball version of the Harlem Globetrotters, playing with manager Grover Cleveland Alexander and require a bit of explanation. As a result, Filipi will be on hand for the screening to introduce the various films.
Tickets are $11, or $8 for CMA members.