You don’t have to travel to Cooperstown, New York, to catch a glimpse of extraordinary items from baseball’s past. In a special ceremony Aug. 16, the Smithsonian’s National Museum of American History accepted 14 artifacts used by baseball legends who played for six different major-league teams from the private collection of Thomas Tull. Tull, former chairman and CEO of Legendary Entertainment, serves on the museum’s board of directors.
The items will be added to the roughly 6,000 objects in the museum’s sports collections, which bear witness to the vital place of sports in the nation’s history.
The centerpiece of the donated assemblage is a baseball signed by Babe Ruth and 18 other members of what many consider to be the greatest baseball squad of all time: the World Champion 1927 New York Yankees. That was the year that Ruth hit his record 60 home runs.
Also from the New York Yankees are a bat and glove used by Yogi Berra. The Boston Red Sox are represented by a Ted Williams hat and jersey; the San Francisco Giants by a hat, glove and shoes worn by Willie Mays; the Baltimore Orioles by a glove used by Brooks Robinson; the Milwaukee Braves by a glove and bat used by Hank Aaron; and the St. Louis Cardinals by a jersey and glove worn by Ozzie Smith and a jersey worn by Stan Musial.
In accepting the gifts, John Gray, director of the National Museum of American History, remarked: “To understand the history of American sports is to look at American history and explore the triumphs and complexities of our history and our lives. From Muhammad Ali’s training robe from the ‘Rumble in the Jungle’ to Sandy Koufax’s glove, the story of American sports underlies America’s richest stories, from civil rights to politics to every aspect of our democratic culture. So let me conclude by sharing how we are using the power of sports — and baseball — to make history come alive in personal and deeply meaningful ways. The eminent cultural historian Jacques Barzun famously wrote that, ‘Whoever wants to know the heart and mind of America had better learn baseball.’”
The National Museum of American History is located on the National Mall on Constitution Avenue NW between 12th and 14th Streets. Hours are 10 a.m. to 5:30 p.m. every day except Dec. 25. Admission is free.