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Old 10-19-2009, 06:20 AM   #1
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Default Historical memorabilia Book inside the Library of Congress

'Baseball Americana' showcases impressive Library of Congress collection

..Which institution houses the world's largest collection of baseball artifacts? The Baseball Hall of Fame and Museum in Cooperstown, N.Y.? The Smithsonian Institution?

Surprisingly, it's the Library of Congress that actually holds the distinction.

Because the U.S. copyright registration process involves submitting duplicates to the District of Columbia-based national library, the institution is home to an exhaustive supply of photographs, magazines, postcards, trading cards and sheet music related to America's national pastime.

More than 350 of those images were included in "Baseball Americana: Treasures From the Library of Congress" ($29.99, Library of Congress and Smithsonian Institution Press), edited by Harry Katz, a Del Mar resident who held the advantage of a 14-year stint as head curator in the library's Prints and Photographs Division. Through its carefully selected images, the book is a visual journey through the game's evolution from the late 18th century ---- the oldest image in the book is a woodcut illustration from 1787 ---- and baseball's longstanding place in popular culture.

"Being able to tell a story and then to have the visual memorabilia to back that up, that's how you make history come alive," Katz said. "What's unique about this collection is that a lot of people would expect to see Babe Ruth in a baseball book, but you don't expect to see him like this."

"This" is a newly discovered 1924 photo of Ruth lying unconscious on the outfield grass after he collided with a concrete wall at Washington's Griffith Stadium. Ruth is surrounded by fans, teammates, coaches, trainers and even a hot dog vendor. The caption says the Sultan of Swat woke up and insisted on staying in the game ---- and playing the second game of the doubleheader, as well.

"That's not the response you tend to see from modern-day players after an injury like that," Katz said.

Katz, who retired from the Library of Congress in 2004 and now splits his time between Southern California and Washington, assembled a team of co-editors to help sort through the library's extensive baseball collection and narrow the selections. Co-editor Frank Ceresi, an appraiser and a member of the Society for American Baseball Research, was formerly curator of the MCI National Sports Gallery in Washington.

Ceresi said it was a challenge to dig through thousands of images to select the ones that would best tell the story of baseball.

"The breadth and scope of what the Library of Congress has is awesome," said Ceresi, of Arlington, Va. "The more you dig, the more you find. ... It's riches beyond your imagination."

Ceresi pointed out the rarity of such items as an uncut sheet of 1887 Old Judge tobacco cards and the original Paul Thompson photographs that were shot in 1910 for the American Tobacco Company's landmark T205 card set.

"I knew the beauty of those (T205) cards, but it was such a surprise to see the shots that produced those images. The craftsmanship was outstanding," Ceresi said.

Another highlight of the book is a wide photograph by Ansel Adams ---- best known for his celebrated shots of Western landscapes ---- of Japanese-Americans playing baseball at an internment camp in northern California during World War II.

"(The book) is as much a social history of America as a history of baseball," Katz said. "The internment camps bothered Adams on a human rights level, a civil rights level. But he saw people who were attending classes, playing baseball, living their lives as any American would. It's a powerful statement."

Bill Hickman of Rockville, Md., who has served as chairman of SABR's Pictorial History Research Committee for the last six years, said "Baseball Americana" was true to its title.

"It gives the reader a glimpse of many aspects of baseball," he said. "They sprinkled the book with a variety of illustrations. I was very pleased with it."

Staff writer Jacob Pomrenke is a member of the Society for American Baseball Research and vice chairman of SABR's Black Sox Scandal Research Committee. Contact him at or 760-740-5405.


Harry Katz, editor of "Baseball Americana: Treasures From the Library of Congress," is scheduled to make several upcoming publicity appearances in San Diego County:

-- 7:30 p.m. Thursday at Warwick's Bookstore in La Jolla

-- 2 p.m. Nov. 1 at Del Mar Public Library

-- 7 p.m. Dec. 2 at Ducky Waddle's Emporium in Encinitas

'Baseball Americana' showcases impressive Library of Congress collection
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