The Brooklyn Dodgers, New York Yankees, and a southpaw from UVA
From poet Walt Whitman to President Franklin D. Roosevelt, baseball has been touted as our national pastime.
I see great things in baseball. It’s our game, the American game. It will repair our losses and be a blessing to us. (Walt Whitman)
Baseball has been called the national pastime and rightly so because it stands for the fair play, clean living and good sportsmanship which are our national heritage. That is why it has such a warm place in our hearts. (Franklin D Roosevelt)
I agree with Whitman and Roosevelt, and I have a particularly biased opinion of our national pastime, because it was part of my life for more than twenty years. As a Chesterfield, Virginia, native who played in the local South Richmond little league system and then went on to pitch for the recent runner-up in the College World Series, the University of Virginia Cavaliers, I’ve been involved in this wonderful game since I was five years old. As a result of my passion for our national pastime, I’ve decided to highlight a few of our collections items related to baseball in this blog.
The Virginia Historical Society collections are full of unique baseball memorabilia that tell the story of both the country’s and Virginia’s national pastime. The collections range from jerseys and baseballs to baseball cards and photographs. They tell the stories of little leaguers, hometown heroes, all stars, and hall of famers.
Highlights of the collection range from photographs of Hall of Famers Babe Ruth and Ty Cobb to a signed jersey of All Star and Cy Young award-winner Justin Verlander. However, about a month ago, a truly special baseball collection came to the VHS.
It was a relatively normal day at the society when one of my colleagues brought in a box of donated items. They stopped by my office and asked me to take a look at some of the items. As I sifted through the box, I picked up a baseball that caught my eye. There were two very distinct signatures on the ball—“Mickey Mantle, Yogi Berra.” I couldn’t believe it! As I continued to look at the ball, I found other names of Hall of Famers scattered on the ball. It was a 1958 New York Yankees autographed baseball. Now that my heartbeat was racing, I continued to peer into the box hoping to find another jewel. (And I did.) I couldn’t believe my eyes as I picked up another baseball peppered with signatures. This one included the signatures of Jackie Robinson and Roy Campanella. It was a 1956 Brooklyn Dodgers baseball. After further investigation, I discovered that the Brooklyn Dodgers lost to the New York Yankees in the 1956 World Series, and the New York Yankees defeated the Milwaukee Braves in the 1958 World Series. Despite these baseballs being national treasures, they also have a distinct Virginia connection. From 1956 to 1964 the Yankees farm team was the Richmond Virginians.
If you would like to learn more about not only these World Series baseballs but also the many more items in our collections related to our national pastime, then please contact the Virginia Historical Society.
Greg Hansard is the Manager of Web and Digital Resources at the Virginia Historical Society.