Few will argue that football has at least challenged, if not surpassed, baseball as the most popular sport in America. But over the United States’ collective timeline, no sport has better epitomized the American experience as well as baseball. The social landscape of the nation can be seen by holding a mirror to the so-called National Pastime. It could be argued that baseball set the tone for societal change. Jackie Robinson breaking the color line in 1947 helped set the wheels of integration in motion. In 1968, as social unrest spread across almost every urban area in the U.S., the Detroit Tigers’ World Series title helped raise spirits in Motown. Some have even asserted that it kept the town from boiling over that summer and fall. Baseball has reflected this country and at times it has also led the way.

The history of baseball and its interwoven nature with this country is on display in St. Louis with the “Baseball as America” exhibit at the Missouri Historical Society in Forest Park. The traveling exhibition, which was put together by the Baseball Hall of Fame, has been in St. Louis since December 19 and will remain there until April 24. The exhibit explores the nation’s obsession with baseball and how it has affected pop culture, history, social change and sports as a whole. The displays take a look at baseball in movies, music, TV, toys, history and theater. But there are also some very serious moments which the exhibit highlights. When Hank Aaron broke Babe Ruth’s career home run record he was both cheered and jeered. In one display, a letter from an adoring fan can be seen. Right next to it is a piece of hate mail, complete with racial slurs. The exhibit deals with baseball’s journey in an unflinching and honest nature, which is evident in the Hank Aaron display. The history of baseball in St. Louis is explored, with memorabilia from not only the St. Louis Cardinals and Browns, but the St. Louis Stars of the Negro Leagues, as well. St. Louis is the sixth city to host the exhibit since the tour began in March of 2002. Houston, Oakland and Detroit will host it next.

[Images, L-R: St. Louis Browns cap worn by Hall of Fame pitcher Satchel Paige; Single-season record-breaking home run bats used by Babe Ruth, Mark McGwire, Sammy Sosa and Roger Maris; Collage of baseball-related memorabilia including: MLB lunch box, transistor radio, electronic game, “Slugger” phone and “Ken” doll; The legendary “Doubleday” baseball from baseball’s mythical first game in 1839.]
Related web sites:
Baseball as America link