By Rob Hunt
The Eugene and Marilyn Glick Indiana History Center is hosting an exhibit of artifacts related to the earliest days of baseball and the history of the sport in Indiana. While this exhibit is focused on baseball, this showcase should appeal to a wide range of visitors. With a rich blend of Indiana history, art and baseball, “Hoosiers Win The Pennant” is a look into our past, dispelling some myths and legends of the sport and provides a glimpse into the role Indiana had in the early days of baseball.
While most Hoosiers are aware that there is a professional baseball team in Indianapolis, the Indians, many would be surprised to learn that Indiana was the home of four Major League teams during the late 1800s and early 1900s.
This exhibit contains early scorecards, advertisements, and Indianapolis newspaper articles chronicling these teams and their exploits. There are photographs of baseball teams from the late 1800s that show blacks played professional baseball long before there was a color barrier for Jackie Robinson to later break in 1947. Also contained in this exhibit is a picture of women playing baseball in the 1890s, 50 years before characters portrayed by Geena Davis and Madonna had a “League Of Their Own” during World War II.
This exhibit will also appeal to the many people who collect or have ever collected baseball cards. Many of the earliest cards, used to advertise tobacco, are included and are among the most valuable baseball cards in the world. One of the most surprising elements of the baseball card portion of this tour is the revelation that trick photography was used more than 100 years ago in the making of these cards.
For visitors who are fans of literature, there will be a display devoted to many early 19th century books that show that baseball existed long before Abner Doubleday was purported to have invented the sport following the Civil War in a field near the current location of the National Baseball Hall of Fame in Cooperstown, New York. Many of these books, including a children’s reader, date back as early as 1815 and 1832. Included in this display is one of the earliest known color lithographs depicting a baseball game from 1872.
Many artifacts will simply appeal to fans of baseball and the history of the game. Among these include a late 1800s baseball (which more closely resembles a present day softball) and a late 1800s bat that weighs about the same as three bats used today by baseball players. Fans of the game will be excited to see early scorecards that show that the art of keeping score at a baseball game has not changed much in more than 100 years. A 4-3 putout now was a 4-3 putout then. Long-time baseball fans will have their breath taken away by a baseball that includes many signatures of Hall of Fame players including Ted Williams, Satchel Paige, Stan Musial, Warren Spahn, Ernie Lombardi, Bob Feller, and Don Drysdale, among many others. Fans of baseball will be further surprised to read the newspaper articles detailing how baseball’s now controversial anti-trust exemption has its origins right here in Indiana.
This is an awe inspiring collection of baseball memorabilia as well as surprising historical documents. “Hoosiers Win the Pennant” is highly recommended for anyone having even the most casual interest in baseball, history, Indiana, books, and learning something new. The Indiana History Center has definitely hit a grand slam with this showing.
IUPUI students can take advantage of a 50 percent off admission discount with their JagTag ID card. Also, the Glick Center is just a five-minute walk from campus at the corner of Ohio and West.
The exhibit can be viewed from September 9th through November 15th. For further information on hours of operation as well as admission rates, please visit The Indiana Historical Society.