Baseball plays a major role in America’s history, as well as the history of Lehigh.
The “Batting Around America’s National Pastime” exhibit is on display in Linderman Library. The collection, put together by Digital Archivist Alex Japha, Humanities Librarian Heather Simoneau and Data Librarian Mark Scott explores baseball’s story.
The exhibit began with a donation from T. Lorraine Graber, who gave the school her husband’s collection of juvenile baseball fiction. Graber’s husband, Ralph Graber, ’46, ’48G, collected the “Frank Merriwell” books by Gilbert Patten.
Simoneau said these books are her favorite part of the exhibit.
“(Merriwell is) this larger-than-life kid who was honest, smart and strong,” Simoneau said. “He could take a punch but he loved his mom — he was the American apple pie ideal. When I saw that we got a donation, I thought this would be a great exhibit.”
Ralph Graber’s collection included numerous books, which inspired the baseball theme. Three months later, the exhibit was complete.
Items in the exhibit come from the Lehigh Athletic Department, Lehigh’s special collections and donations from people like T. Lorraine Graber.
The exhibit officially opened on July 17, featuring a wide range of mediums such as literature, photography, art and movies.
Items include the first issue of “Sports Illustrated” from 1954, a letter signed by Babe Ruth and classic baseball films like “Field of Dreams,” “Eight Men Out” and “The Sandlot.” The collection also includes a 1903 Ursinus versus Lehigh baseball program and a ball from an 1892 Lehigh versus Lafayette game. Additionally, the wall space outside of Lucy’s Cafe holds pictures of Lehigh baseball teams, one for every decade since 1885.
“You can track the development of Lehigh students over time using baseball photos,” Japha said.
He said the goal of the exhibit is to examine baseball not only as a sport but also as a key inspiration for both the history and culture of the U.S. and the university.
One section of the display focuses on underrepresented groups in baseball, specifically highlighting women and the ‘Negro League.’ Japha said since the official integration in professional baseball, people seem to have forgotten about the early days when it was racially exclusive.
“When you think of culture, it’s almost synonymous with artwork or literature,” Japha said.
He said baseball is not just a physical sport, but that it is also about morals, ethics and the social lives of the people playing.
Cameron Menna, ’21, discovered the exhibit while studying at the library.
“It’s interesting because you don’t see sports looked at in an academic or cultural way that often,” Menna said. “I liked how it didn’t just show the national history of baseball, but also (showed) how it developed over time here at Lehigh.”
The exhibit remains on display until Dec. 18 and is open during the regular operating hours of the library. All objects are also available to view online.
“We are really fortunate that we have such a rich collection here at Lehigh,” Simoneau said.
Editor’s note: A quotation was removed and an exhibit contributor was added to more accurately explain “Batting Around America’s National Pastime.”